I previously wrote about my odd habit, from bygone art selling days, of flipping coins occasionally to determine the final price of a piece. The original post was about a deadbeat, the only time anyone had ever reneged on a flip, you can read about it by clicking here. Today’s story is also about a flip, and just as unique in the way it transpired, but with a much finer conclusion. Actually, I can’t think of any other flip that was so memorable or as much fun.
It happened maybe 13 or 14 years ago. I was set up at a comic convention, don’t recall which one but probably a Great Eastern show at the Javits Center, on the far West Side of Manhattan. Klaus Janson stopped by my booth as he was making his rounds, checking out the dealer’s wares. It was always nice to see Klaus; we were friendly acquaintances who used to run into each other on line at movie theaters, usually to see the new Woody Allen picture.
As Klaus and I exchanged pleasantries and caught up he checked out my display of original art. Hanging in the center was a drop dead gorgeous Jack Kirby pencil drawing of Dr. Doom. It was big, about 17 x 22 inches, and with a sticker price to match: $5000. Klaus liked the piece very much but at five grand he wanted to think it over. Who wouldn’t? He asked me to give him a call in a few days if I still had it so we could discuss.
The drawing didn’t sell at the show so early the following week I phoned Klaus. He said he’d like to buy it but the price was a bit steep; could I do any better? Sure, I’d knock off ten percent, making it $4500. Klaus laughed and said what he’d like to pay is $4000. I thought for a second and posed a question: was he a gambling man? “Why?” he asked.
I said to Klaus, “You can have the piece for $4500. Or we can flip for it, $4000 if you win, $5000 if you lose.” I can’t describe with any degree of justice the response I got back. Simply put, he said, “What do you mean?” But that doesn’t begin to convey the excited glee behind those four little words. If you know Klaus you know he has a great laugh. This was a hybrid of that; half laugh, half scream: “WHATTAYOU MEAANNN??” I explained it to him one more time, in greater detail. Once again, and in the same manner, “What do you mean?” was his response.
When he wrapped his head around the concept he said, “So when would we do this?” I told him we could do it right now. He said, “On the phone?” I said, “Yeah.” Then Klaus offered, a bit sarcastically, “And I suppose you’ll flip it!” I said, and probably with a certain degree of flamboyance, “No, you flip it, I’ll call.” For the third and final time, and just as before, Klaus said, “What do you mean?” “Go ahead,” I said, “I trust you!”
Klaus thought about it. I think it was a feeling of outlandish adventure, coupled with the sheer, unabashed idiocy of the proposal that pushed him over the edge; he agreed to the flip. So, with me sitting in my Upper East Side apartment and Klaus in his Greenwich Village one, we decided to go for it. The ground rules were simple, same as every flip; the coin goes up and lands on the floor, it’s legal no matter what it hits or where it lands. Klaus had a quarter in his hand and told me he was ready. All at once he yelled, “Call it!” I shouted back, “Tails!” There was a moment of incredible anticipation as I waited to hear the outcome. Suddenly a shrill scream came over the line: “SHIT!!”Dr. Doom as drawn by Jack Kirby. From the collection of Klaus Janson.