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Dime Novels and Nickel Weeklies

Posted in Collectibles For Sale,Dime Novels on July 17, 2015 @ 12:49 am

What do Nick Carter, Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick, Frank James, Seth Jones, Bob Brooks, Jack Wright, the Liberty Boys, Young Wild West, Wild Bill Hickok, and Tom Edison Junior have in common?

Two things—at least. First, they were all heroes of dime novels and nickel weeklies published during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Second, I’ve now got at least one sample of each available for purchase here in the site’s Collectibles section.

These desirable examples of early blood-and-thunder fiction are hard to find in their original editions due largely to the fact that they were thin pamphlets—16 to 32 pages crammed with microscopic text on two- or three-column pages—on cheap newsprint paper. Probably most were shredded upon their initial readings, especially since so many young boys had to stuff them into pockets or under mattresses to keep from getting caught with this forbidden fruit, which resulted in stern tongue-lashings at best and a whipping behind the woodshed at worst.

So fondly remembered were these lurid little proto-pulps that their original consumers, as successful adult men decades later, paid as much as several dollars each for surviving specimens. And that was during the depths of the Depression, when a dollar bought a steak dinner with all the trimmings.

During the Thirties, thanks to “Reckless Ralph” Cummings and other hobbyists, the dime novel became a legitimate item of interest. A core of collectors calling themselves the Happy Hours Brotherhood coalesced around a fanzine called Dime Novel Round-Up, originally published by Cummings (and still being issued today). Rare issues were frequently offered for sale in the zine’s pages.

www#1 copy

In 1945 Cummings and Brooklyn-based fan Charles Bragin, recognizing that demand outstripped supply, began offering high-quality facsimile reprints of particularly desirable issues. Like the originals, they were printed on newsprint and untrimmed, with perforated edges along the top edge. A few, including the first issue of Frank Tousey’s popular Wild West Weekly (which is one I’ve listed for sale), had four-color covers, but for the most part Bragin reprints sported black-and-white covers.

Over a period of several years Bragin published dozens of dime-novel facsimiles. Now even those are collectibles, the earliest ones being seven decades old.

Some years ago I came across a small cache of Bragin reprints, most of them unread copies with the perforated top edges unopened and side edges folded but untrimmed. I’ve culled nearly 20 duplicates and am offering them here.

You occasionally find Bragin reprints for sale on eBay, and more than one ignorant or unscrupulous dealer has tried palming them off as original dime-novels. Actually, given the yellowing newsprint and the high quality of reproduction, it wasn’t that hard to do. Believe it or not, some sellers have asked $20, $30 and even $50 for these things. I’m asking $10 each (postage included) for my dupes, with the exception of the color-covered Wild West Weekly #1, which I’ve priced at a fat $12.50. That’s as much as these things should go for.

If you’re a fan of pulp fiction—and I assume most readers of this blog are—you owe it to yourself to try some dime novels and nickel weeklies. Yeah, you’ll find lots of purple prose and stilted dialogue, but you’ll be surprised how many plot devices, character types, and storytelling techniques were grandfathered into the pulps, whose early writers were, after all, mostly enlisted from the ranks of dime-novel scribes. Take a good look at the covers accompanying my listings; clicking on the small image will bring up a larger one.

75 thoughts on “Dime Novels and Nickel Weeklies

  1. “Young Wild West” is referenced in 1941’s THE MALTESE FALCON when Bogart’s Sam Spade sarcastically compares Elisha Cook’s Wilmer to the character.

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