So you want to collect the Simpsons?
This article will discuss in detail what your options are and the probable costs.
The Simpsons started in 1987 as a series of shorts and continued through 1989. As this was their birth, the characters are delightfully cruder than the more recent shows with pointier hair and features, etc. Also, the introduction of characters such as Krusty the Clown happened only at the end of the last season of the Tracey Ullman Show. The Simpsons segments proved so popular that in 1990, the Simpsons as we know them sprang into being.
As most collectors know, the Simpsons recently celebrated their 200th episode and have recently surpassed the record-holding Flintstones in terms of number of episodes. Does that mean that collectors can pick and choose as they like from any episode? Unfortunately not, for a number of reasons. First off, the Simpsons program (Fox releasing Simpsons animation art) has been around since 1991. That means that art has been steadily released for the last 7 years and a lot of pieces are already in the hands of private collectors. Secondly, Fox only releases selected cels about 3-4 times a year, and galleries have no control over what they release or how many. It is usually not more than a couple hundred at a time which as you may imagine is not a lot considering that they have to satisfy the worldwide demand for Simpsons animation art. Thirdly, the programme is currently releasing art from a few years ago, so the episode you saw last week or even two years ago (!) will not be available for quite awhile. Lastly, Fox does not release any pieces with famous individuals – U2, Paul McCartney, etc. Nor do they release pieces with original backgrounds any longer. They did at the very beginning of the program, but for some reason they no longer do.
So what can I collect?
I think it’s best to pick character/characters you like, and then find a nice pose including them. For example, something with Homer in it, or something with Homer eating. Not Homer in his Mr. Plow jacket in his underwear with the key to the City around his neck – “That would be cool!” It would be cool, but it also may not be released for years, or has been released and sold to another collector never to be seen again. You will probably find yourself disappointed. Cels of this type usually range from US$400-700 (GBP275- GBP500) depending on who the characters are (Bart is more expensive), how many characters are in the cel, and if there is a matching drawing. Homer alone is generally US$400 (GBP275), Homer and Barts are usually US$600 (GBP400), add a matching drawing and you’re up to about US$700 (GBP500). See how easy it is?!!
Fox also releases a few “Couch Gag” scenes. These are cels from the very beginning of the shows which has the family in various crazy poses. Examples are them dressed like Mickey Mouse, in squares like the Brady Bunch, etc. These cels sell for US$1800 (GBP1200).
There are only two ways to buy a drawing.* The first is to buy one that matches a production cel released directly from Fox. Not all cels are released with the matching drawing, but some are, and they should add about US$75-125* (GBP50-75) to the price. Fox does not release the drawings separately. If you want a drawing alone, the only option is to get it from a dealer who has acquired it from a private collector who had purchased both the cel and drawing together and has then sold it or them back. Also, no rough drawings are available. If you do see one, it can be considered stolen property, and I advise you to stay away. Drawings can be priced at whatever the gallery chooses. I usually charge around US$75-150* (GBP50-100) depending on detail and characters.
There are a few limited editions that Fox has currently released.The Halloween piece is US$2500 (GBP1800). It is quite an impressive piece, large with loads of characters. What is also unique about this piece is that it is <3-D>, and it is also the only piece that Matt Groening is currently signing. Edition size is 300. There is also Moon for Misbehavin’ which features a naked green Bart being chased by Homer and recreates a scene from Bart the Genius. The edition size is 200, and the price is US$750 (GBP500). There are also some character model limiteds of Homer and Marge, and one separate one of the three kids. These feature a recreated cel over a background of many different poses. This is a new release and the details are not known at the time of printing. There have been a few others released over the years such as Who Shot Mr. Burns, and Bat’s Entertainment but they have been sold out for quite some time.
A sericel called Bart-O-Lounger just recently sold out, and was quite good, as it had the whole family in it. It was also very reasonably priced at GBP95. The current sericel available* is the Simpsons On-Line which has 20 characters in it, and is about 3 feet long. It is a very popular piece, and although at the time of this writing, is still available, should be selling out soon. They are US$295 (GBP225) unframed. The edition size is 2500.
Also available, although rare, are Tracey Ullman cels if you can find them. I have been fortunate to have acquired a few from a private collector who got them from a charity auction years ago. These are the first ones that I have personally seen, and have absolutely kept a few for my own collection! I think it’s really fun and special to have pieces from the birth of the Simpsons. I think it really rounds out the collection. Also available yet rare, are cels with master backgrounds. Again, these have to be acquired from a private source and must be early pieces to have been released properly. Tracey cels will not bear the Fox seal since they were not released through the program. The master grounds may or may not have seals- just make sure that your unsealed ones are early, early 1990s. Expect both types of these cels to be about 2-3 times their “normal” counterparts.