“China’s Silver” (August 15, 1939) by Mischa Richter

“China’s Silver” (August 15, 1939)
by Mischa Richter (1910-2001)
11 x 8 in., ink and wash on paper
Coppola Collection

80 years ago!

Mischa Richter (1910-2001) was a well-known New Yorker, King Features, and PM newspaper cartoonist who worked for the Communist Party’s literary journal “New Masses” in the late 1930 and early 1940s, becoming its art editor in the 1940s.

In this piece, from the August 15, 1939 issue of the New Masses, you see a cartoon that was published just a week before the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Nazis and the Soviets, which included the secret division of Poland, whose invasion was only two weeks away, on September 1. UK PM Chamberlain, depicted here, was still up to his armpits in appeasement as a policy, and in meaningless negotiations with Hitler that would not prevent the start of WWII.

The Sino-Japanese war, considered the unofficial opening to WWII, had been ongoing since 1937. Britain had backed China, and Japan was now in a strong position of power in China. The cartoon accompanies an article describing how Japan was starving the British investors through the return of silver reserves.


Appeasement in the Far East revolves, in large part, around whether for not the British will hand over the fifty million ounces of Chinese silver, property of the Chungking government, now stored in the Tientsin concession. That is what the Japanese want, for the Chinese silver would bolster their foreign exchange, and upset Chinese relations on the international silver market. The United States would be forced to abandon its silver purchases in order to avoid virtual subsidy to Japan. The world price of silver would fall, thereby embarrassing the treasury of India, and incidentally react against nations such as Mexico for whom silver is vital.

August 1939 is a historically interesting month.

On August 1, Hitler forbade Jews from buying lottery tickets, in the continued effort to remove normal rights. Glen Miller recorded the classic standard “In the Mood.”

On August 2, Albert Einstein signed the famous letter warning FDR about the potential for Germany to develop an atomic weapon, which prompted FDR to start the Manhattan Project.

On August 3, the medical licenses of Jewish physicians were nullified.

On August 8 and 11, the first air raid defense tests, and blackouts, were carried out in Britain.

On August 14, FDR moved Thanksgiving from the last Thursday of November to the next-to-last Thursday, mainly due to pressure from merchants to extend the holiday shopping season.

On August 15, the day this cartoon was published, the Wizard of Oz premiered in Hollywood.

On August 17, Hitler closed the border with Poland.

On August 18, the first step in the Nazi child euthanasia program began, as medical personnel were ordered to report any child under the age of three who showed signs of physical or mental disability.

On August 19, Italy barred immigration into the country by Jews.

On August 22, Hitler briefed his commanders about the impending invasion of Poland.

On August 23, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed.

On August 25, the Louvre was closed, ostensibly for repair, to begin the packaging and relocation of some of the collection.

On August 28, the border between Germany and France was closed.

On August 31, the Soviets ratified the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact… Hitler issued the directive to invade Poland on September 1, and the first-ever Marvel comic (Marvel Comics #1, with an October cover date) was published by the Timely company, featuring the origin of the Human Torch and the first appearance of the Sub-Mariner.

1881-S Gold U.S. $5 Liberty Head Half Eagle

1881-S Gold U.S. $5 Liberty Head Half Eagle
Mint: San Francisco
Mintage: 969,000
8.359 g 0.90 gold, 21.6 mm
Coppola Collection

 Designer: Christian Gobrecht

 The half eagle is a United States coin that was authorized by The Act of April 2, 1792. It was the first gold coin minted by the United States, and was produced for circulation from 1795 to 1929. The face value of half eagles is $5.

In 1839, the coin got its third major design. The obverse was designed by Christian Gobrecht and is known as the “Liberty Head or “Coronet head.” The reverse design remained largely the same as the previous version. This design was used for nearly 70 years, from 1839 to 1908, with a modest change in 1866, when “In God We Trust” was placed on the reverse above the eagle.

“Sub-Mariner” 43 p 26 (November 1971)

Sub-Mariner 43 p 26 (November 1971)
by Gene Colan (1926-2011) and Mike Esposito (1927-2010)
13 x 20 in., ink on paper
Coppola Collection

Mindquake! / Chapter 2 “…And the Power of the Mind!”
Mindquake! / Chapter 3 “The Changeling War”

Namor makes his way to Boston, where he comes across a mysterious cult led by Tuval, the Mind Master (queue up the strings of doom soundtrack). Tuval turns his attention to a group of teenagers enjoying an outdoor concert and begins absorbing their youth. Spoiler alert: Namor defeats Tuval and frees those under his influence.

The Marvel comics dated November 1971 bore three distinct changes.

(1) The phrase “Marvel Comics Group” moved from the upper left corner to a band across the top, which stayed in place until September of 1983.

(2) The cover art was placed inside a love-it-or-hate-it, solid-colored “frame,” which was mostly “hate-it” and faded out by the end of 1973.

(3) A price increase from 15¢ to 25¢ (with a concomitant change in format to 52-page “giant-sized issues”).

Historically, this last one is seen as the opening move in a gambit that finally made Marvel the industry leader.  The Marvel publisher had a handshake agreement with his counterpart from DC, to make their inevitable price changes in tandem. Unlike DC, Marvel used mostly new material to fill those extra pages (hence the two chapters in this issue).  One month later, Marvel returned to the classic 36 pages (including covers) at a new 20¢ price. With DC locked into a long-term printing arrangement for its own reprint-heavy format, Marvel used their lower prices to dominate the market (at last).

“Ambiguous” (October, 1894)

“Ambiguous” (October, 1894)
by Charles Jay “C J” Taylor (1855-1929)
11.5 x 15.5 inches, ink on board
Coppola Collection

Taylor originally studied law at Columbia University, then moved to art at the Art Students League, the National Academy of Design (with Eastman Johnson) and City College of New York, as well as in London and Paris. He contributed illustrations to the New York’s Daily Graphic and magazines like Harpers, Puck and Punch. His book ‘Taylor Girls’ gained him international acclaim.

Fortunately, this one was easy to track down. In pencil it says “One of Taylor’s He-She Cartoons for Puck… Oct. 2, 1894”

The best digital archive of Puck issues includes some of the English ones and some of the German translations. I found this cartoon in a scanned copy from the German edition.

Puck (German Edition)
October 24, 1894 (pp 113-128)
No. 944; Vol 19 (8) p 123
(English Edition, Vol 36)

The caption is “Zweideutig” which means “Ambiguous”

The text is a dialog:

She: Apropos, hast Du Dir gestern aus dem Ball das Costüm betrachtet, welches die Soubrette – na, wei heiBt sie doch gleich? – richtig, Fräulein Di Diablo trug?

He: Ja, so sehr viel habe ich nicht daran sehen tönnen.

She: Ich auch nicht!


She: By the way, did you notice the costume from the ball yesterday, which that soubrette – well, what’s her name? – right, Miss Di Diablo was wearing?

He: Yes, I did not see it that much.

She: Neither did I!

No conversation that begins “By the way” is ever “By the way,” is it? (I think not)

“Soubrette” is a late 19th century term for “showgirl” that comes from meanings that include coy and flirtatious (is it now a term that applies to a voice at a certain type of operative voice/character.); it’s perhaps fair to say that its use here is less than flattering, as the woman rolls her eyes “well, what’s her name” (she knows), “right…” (she knows) “Miss Di Diablo” (um, right)

His reply? “Yes, I did not see it that much.” Is the zweiduetig in this episode.

And she brings it home the same way “Neither did I.”

Wanli shipwreck: Peony Dish (ca. 1625)

Peony Dish
Recovered from the Wanli shipwreck (ca. 1625) by Sten Sjostrand
21.5 cm (8.5 in.) in diameter
Provenance: Nanhai Marine Archeology (Sjostrand Collection) W-2162
Coppola Collection

In the year 1625, a Portuguese vessel set off from China on a voyage to the Straits of Melaka. Onboard were tons of chinaware and pottery that would bring lucrative profits for the Portuguese.

However, the ship now named “Wanli” never reached the Portuguese fort of Melaka as she sank half way sailing through the South China Sea. The wreckage was discovered buried deep in the ocean off the coast of Terengganu, together with her precious cargo, six miles off the east coast of Malaysia after pottery appeared in fishermen’s nets in 1998.

This is a very rare peony decorated dish, painted in “reserve” (where the background, rather than the motif, is painted in blue).

The peony is the symbol for value and nobility and considered to be one of the most exquisite flowers. The peony design was popular already in the Tang Dynasties and became known as the “king of flowers” because it was often seen in palaces. Being a symbol of spring, the peony is also used as a metaphor for female beauty and fertility. When shown in full bloom, as on this dish, it symbolizes peace. The dish is totally intact and shows good contrast in its well-rendered decorations.

There are some short sections of “tender edges” on the rim (or as the Japanese more graphically described it, ‘moth-eaten’ edges). These are a technical fault in early 17th century porcelain. The effect is seen when the glaze breaks off in patches along sharp edges in a rather irregular manner and particularly common on the rims of bowls, dishes and plates. The cause is complex, but is mainly due to the physical properties of the raw materials and the varying surface tensions of the ingredients of the body and glaze. The fault was overcome in the later part of the 17th century when the potters adjusted the proportions of raw materials.

Tender edges are a commonly acceptable factor for authenticity and are not mended, as a principle,  as it adds to the provenance of the ware. The ‘faking’ of ‘tender edges’ is not possible as the edges of the broken off pieces cannot be made as sharp at the original.

According to Sten, this is one of the best peony dishes from the shipwreck. The glaze is in excellent condition. The painting is crispy blue and well executed.

Mytilene, Lesbos: 1/6 Stater (a Hekte), 377-326 BCE

Mytilene, Lesbos: 1/6 Stater (a Hekte), 377-326 BCE
Laureate head of Apollo (r) and
Head of Artemis (r), in linear square, hair in sphendone, serpent behind
Isle of Lesbos, Mint: Mytilene
Strike grade 5/5; Surface grade 4/5; 10 mm; 2.55 g Electrum (ca. 42% gold)
NGC AU, Bodenstadt 100 and Sear 4250
Coppola Collection

Lydia is the name of the kingdom comprising the western edge of Asia Minor (the Asian half of modern-day Turkey), and it existed from about 1200-550 BCE (the area was conquered by Alexander the Great in 546 BCE and brought into the Roman Empire).

Lydia was one of the first places to stamp coins using precious metals. Electrum was a natural alloy of gold and silver, available locally, and was largely controlled by the Lydian kings who turned some of it into coins by applying a design on lumps of electrum of consistent weights.

Lesbos is the large island tucked into the Asia Minor peninsula, about 10 miles from the coast (south of Troy, north of Izmir). Mytilene was its capital city. The electrum coinage from the Mytilene mint (447-326 BCE) had an average gold content of 42 +/- 14% (according to Bodenstadt’s analysis of over 50 coins from that era).

The typical weight of a coin was 4.7 grams, and this was considered 1/3 of the standard (stater). Three of these coins (1 stater or “standard”; 0.50 ounce or 14.1 g) was about one month’s pay for a soldier. The 1/3 coin was called the trite (third). This coin is a hekte (sixth), coming in a 2.3-2.5 g or about half of the trite. The denominations went down to 1/96 (about 0.005 oz). Electrum remained as the coin of the realm until about 350 BCE, when coins of more predictably purer gold and silver began to take over.

Bringing ‘Em Over

“Bringing ‘Em Over” (01/27/1944)
in “Out Our Way”
by James (JR) Williams (1888-1957)
13 x 13 in., ink on board
Coppola Collection

Out Our Way first appeared in newspapers on March 20, 1922. The single-panel series introduced a variety of characters, typically labor and blue collar slice of life scenes.  Anecdotal stories indicate that more Williams’ cartoons were clipped and saved than were other newspaper comics.

I’m not 100% sure about the context for this one.

It could refer to the “War Refugee Board.”

The War Refugee Board was established by FDR on January 22, 1944 ( Executive Order 9417). The Board was formed to aid civilian victims of the Axis powers. The Board was, in the words of historian Rebecca Erbelding, “the only time in American history that the US government founded a non-military government agency to save the lives of civilians being murdered by a wartime enemy.”


Mid-Ohio Con 1987 (sketches)

Mid-Ohio Con 1987 (sketches)
8.5 x 11 board, ink and marker and whatever
Coppola Collection

The Mid-Ohio Comic “Con” (Convention) was founded in 1980. Over the years, the show often raised money for various high-profile charities. Initially, the convention was held in various venues throughout central Ohio before settling in Columbus, where it has been located since 1993. The original founder retired in 2008, and after a couple of years of bouncing around, Wizard Entertainment acquired the Mid-Ohio Con in 2010.

In November 1987 (Fairhaven Hall, Richland County Fairgrounds, Mansfield), the guest of honor was Dave Sim (Cerebus), and other notable guests included Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (TMNT), John Byrne (two years into his Superman reboot), and Matt Wagner (Mage and Grendel).

This board of autographs and sketches was collected at the 1987 Mid-Ohio Con.

Featuring (from the upper left), and what they were doing at the time:

Mike Grell (1947-) writer; self-portrait as “Green Arrow”
Chuck Dixon (1954-) writer; First Comics “Evangeline” and Eclipse Comics “Airboy”
John Byrne (1950-) writer/artist; DC Comics at the height of the “Superman” reboot
Dick Giordano (1932-2010) editor; DC Comics (earlier, noted inker on “Batman”)
Matt Wagner (1961-) writer/artist; Comico “Grendel” and “Mage” (first series)
Kevin Eastman (1962-) writer/artist; Mirage “TMNT” (just prior to 1988 licensing)
Stephen Murphy (ca. 1960-) writer; Aardvark One International: “Puma Blues”
Scott Beaderstadt (1962-) writer/artist; Comico “Trollords”
Paul Fricke (1964-) artist; Comico “Trollords”
Michael Zulli (1952-) artist; Aardvark One International: “Puma Blues”
Dave Sim (1956-) writer/artist; Aardvark Vanaheim “Cerebus”
Gerhard (1959-) artist; Aardvark Vanaheim “Cerebus”
Lurene Haines (1958-) DC “Green Arrow”
Steve Bissette (1955-) artist; DC “Swamp Thing” (swamp thing eye)
Peter Laird (1954-) writer/artist; Mirage “TMNT” (just prior to 1988 licensing)