More than twenty-five years after it was last published, Calvin and Hobbes remains a beloved comic strip. To illustrate the point, a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip sold for $480,000 Thursday at Heritage Auctions, setting a new auction record for the work by Bill Watterson.
Calvin and Hobbes, an incredibly popular daily newspaper comic strip running in more than 2,400 newspapers, was published by Universal Syndicate from November 18, 1985 to December 31, 1995. Created by Watterson, it follows six-year-old Calvin and his best friend, a stuffed tiger named Hobbes who, from Calvin’s perspective, is a live tiger and as real as anyone else in the strip.
The Sunday comic strip original art, dated May 24, 1987, comes from the collection of Watterson’s late editor Lee Salem. The strip shows Calvin and Hobbes planning to use their red wagon for a time-traveling trip to the future. When their trip takes them to the bottom of the hill instead of another time, Hobbes laments, “Things haven’t improved, I’m disappointed.” Watterson added a note in the title panel for his editor that reads, “For Lee with best wishes – BILL.”
The previous record-holder for Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes strip was sold by Heritage September 8, 2022, when a daily comic strip from February 1992 went for $216,000.
A second Calvin and Hobbes illustration from Salem’s collection, sold for $120,000 Thursday during the first session on Heritage’s Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction. The one-panel illustration shows Calvin and Hobbes discussing the tragedy of adult illiteracy.
“All of us here, and every collector we’ve talked to, feels Calvin and Hobbes is at the very top of the entire history of newspaper strip art, so it’s very gratifying to see the final prices reflect that,” Heritage Vice President Todd Hignite said. “Not only were these extraordinary works, but they belonged to the man who discovered and nurtured Watterson, and we’re thrilled we could represent Watterson and Lee Salem’s family in this history-making sale.”