Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

IRS Puts Up Lottery Winner's Comic Books for $128,559,but Collectors Didn't Bite; ONE MAN'S TREASURE FAILS TO COLLECT

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

IRS Puts Up Lottery Winner's Comic Books for $128,559,but Collectors Didn't Bite; ONE MAN'S TREASURE FAILS TO COLLECT

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Pantazi

Robert Sage won the lottery in 2001 in Jacksonville, bought a house, and expanded his comic book collection. But he didn't pay all his taxes, and now the federal government came for what it thought was most valuable: his comic books.

Before the Tuesday auction began, the comic book collectors and fans entered the Embassy Suites on Baymeadows Road with a question on their minds:

Just how valuable are Sage's comic books?

Certainly, the dozen or so in the room decided, not $128,559 and 87 cents.

That was the opening bid for the 24,000 comic books.

Sage owes the Internal Revenue Service $123,432 and 6 cents for not paying his income taxes for two years. He hoped the auction would erase his tax debt.

After winning the lottery, he agreed to receive $345,000 after taxes every year for 30 years rather than receive $7 million in a lump sum payment.

But he used the money as collateral, and the 45-year-old said he doesn't receive the same amount he used to, but he didn't say exactly how much. It's not enough to pay his taxes, he said.

The IRS took his comic books, evaluated them and told Sage he could buy them back at a price. He didn't, so the IRS hosted an auction to pay off his debt to the United States.

After bidding off the comic books in 22 separate bins, the bidders said they were willing to part with only $5,100 for all the comic books. The owner refused, and the IRS closed the auction and rejected the bids.

Sage got his comic books back, and now the IRS will try to find something else of his that it can take and sell, unless he can find another way to pay them.

Comic-book enthusiasts and small-time sellers came to the auction. So did big-time seller Joe Peace from near The Villages.

Peace hosts shows across the state where he sells thousands upon thousands of comic books of all values.

Twenty-two bins of comic books isn't a big deal to Peace, who kept proclaiming something like "I already have two of those," when bidders found certain rare comic books in the bins.

Sage collected the big titles, but almost all of the comic books were from the 1980s and later. Comic books from the last 30 years just aren't as valuable, all the perusers agreed.

The Florida Times-Union asked Justin Foose, a loss prevention expert and a small-time collector and seller, to give a guide through the world of comic book sales.

"It looks like they have a lot of '80s and '90s," he said, and in those decades, comic book publishers flooded the market with lots of comic books. Now they don't hold much value.

"It's almost like the stock market," he said. He specializes in buying "speculation comic books." He buys relatively cheap comic books in the hopes that film studios will decide to make movies out of the comic books. …

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