Collecting Tintin Memorabilia

Herge, the author of Tintin was born on 22 May 1907 in Etterbeck, Belgium. He developed a passion for art during his school years between 1914 and 1918 in occupied Brussels and he used to fill his schoolbooks with random sketches of the German invaders. He enrolled in the Boy Scouts while studying at college and contributed various illustrations to Scouting magazines.

By 1925 he was fortunate enough to be offered a position at the Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siecle. Here, under the guidance of editor Norbert Wallez, his first cartoon series – Totor – was published, followed by a variety of pieces for a children’s supplement.

Many of us were introduced to Herge’s hero Tintin as children and collecting Tintin memorabilia takes us back to our childhoods. After completing his military service in an infantry regiment Herge became a cartoonist and photo engraver and later married Germaine Kieckens.  It wasn’t until Wallez asked him to develop his own comic strip that the idea for Tintin was born.  His only brief was to create a young heroic character that would fight for good against evil all over the world.

Appearing in the 11th edition of Le Petit Vingtieme from January 10, 1929, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets was the beginning of a series that would eventually have a huge cult following.  Along with his faithful sidekick, a white fox terrier called Sowy (Milou), ollecting Tintin memorabilia takes us back to our childhoods. After completing his military service in an infantry regiment, Herge became a cartoonist and photo engraver and later met and married Germaine Kieckens.  It wasn’t until Wallez asked himn to develop hiTintin the reporter set off on an action-packed adventure in the Soviet Union.  Issued in album form in 1930, 500 copies were printed and signed with the names of Tintin and Milou.  Although hard to find, these early examples are extremely sought after and highly prized.

Herge’s imagination and knack for taking ideas from real life and giving them a distinctive twist captured and audience of both adults and children alike.  Inspired by Herge’s brother Paul, Tintin with his blond quiff and golfing trousers is probably Belgium’s best export since Hercule Poirot.

Captain Archibald Haddock was known for declaring ‘Blistering Barnacles’ or ‘Thundering Typhoons’ whereas Tintin would utter ‘Great Snakes’ in moments of surprise.  The deaf genius, Professor Cuthbert Calculus, hated being called a ‘goat’ and the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thompson are based, it is thought, on Herge’s father and his twin brother who wore matching bowler hats.  Even the home of Professor Calculus and Captain Haddock, paid for with money earned from selling a shark design submarine in Red Rackham’s Treasure, was the palatial Marlinspike Hall which Herge based on Cheverny, a chateau in the Loire.

The early books took about one year to produce before being released by the Casterman publishing house.  By befriending fellow artist Chang Chong-jen, Herge learnt the importance of depicting an accurate portrayal of the the places Tintin visited.  He showed his appreciation by adding a fictional Chinese character in his 1936 book, The Blue Lotus.

When the Second World War broke out Herge was enlisted as a reserve lieutenant.  With Belgium’s subsequent occupation by the Nazis, Le Petit Vingtieme was shut down, resulting in Herge producing a Tintin strip for the French daily, Le Soir.  Paper shortages affected the size of the strip, causing him to create faster-paced action in a limited space.

Now a meticulous researcher, Herge made extensive plans for each of the adventures.  His attention to detail was legendary and he took great pains to ensure that all his facts were correct.

After the war Herge was barred from newspaper work for two years as a result of the mistaken belief that he was a Nazi sympathiser, a claim that was unfounded, and his ban was lifted in 1946.  He threw himself into his work when his marriage hit a crisis, and suffered a nervous breakdown, but after a brief respite he continued to work from rooms in his house at 17 Watermael-Boitsfort, in a suburb of Brussels.  Here he would work out each plot, before breaking the story down into a set of frames, and preparing a rough draft in pencil, adding speech bubbles to bring the characters to life.

Herge overcame this difficult period in his life when he wrote Tintin in Tibet, and then witnessed his character being used for merchandising, advertisements and the production of a small selection of animated films.  He divorced his wife, married Fanny Vlaminck and enjoyed the success of his work by travelling the world.

Tintin collectables cover a huge selection of memorabilia from models and mugs to stamps and stickers.  There are 24 adventures in the series, illustrated and written by Herge in English, along with various other special editions, puzzle books and biographies of the creator.  There are many foreign language editions which you could collect once you have the complete English set.

English first editions are not that expensive, but American first editions, published by Golden Press Books, fetch a lot more money.  You would need to spend upwards of £30 for an edition in fairly good condition.

Collectors should look out for The Black Island – set in Scotland and first published in French in 1938, but published in London by Methuen in 1966, and Tintin in Tibet – first published in English in 1962 – which have recently been sold for in excess of £50 each.  Try to find copies of the Tintin magazine on sale between 1946 and 1993 – a Dutch version called Kuifje was also released.

Unusual items like Tintin pop up books can be difficult to find, but puzzle and activity publications are easily sourced and are often sold for under £10.  For serious enthusiasts there is a whole host of companions, guides and biographies.  One of Herge’s biggest fans was reporter Michael Farr, and he produced the Complete Companion as a guide to the artist and the fictional characters, and it makes essential reading for any fan.

The first Tintin stamp was released in Belgium on 1 October 1979 and other issues have followed with a variety of countries contributing to Tintin’s appeal in the philatelic world.  Most can be had at a reasonable price, but a mini sheet featuring Tintin in America is quite rare as only 4,200 were printed and you should expect to pay upwards of £10.

In February 2004 the Belgian Post Office issued a set of five stamps entitled Tintin and the Moon the commemorate the 75th anniversary of Tintin and the 50th anniversary of the book Explorers on the Moon.  It also coincided with the 35th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moon landings.  Presentation packs can be bought for as little of £5.

Explorers was the second of a two-part adventure that started with Destination Moon and it is interesting that both were written well over a decade before the moon landings and space flight.  The ship used in Tintin’s expedition resembled a V2 rocket and went on to feature in a US pop-up book, a Viewmaster and various other collectable items, including phone cards.

Resin figures were also very popular and a numbered, limited edition piece would set you back around £100 plus.  Tintin and Snowy in the Shark Submarine is difficult to find below £150 while figures from the Nostalgie Collection designed by Marie Leblon go for over £300.

In recent years exhibitions of Herge’s life and works have been held at the Greenwich Maritime Museum in 2004 and the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2006.  Simple advertising leaflets, handed out for free at the time, are already fetching upwards of £5 each.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *