Charity shop's first-edition Beano set to raise a Lord Snooty-sized fortune

A COPY of the first Beano annual from 1939 has turned up in a pile of donations to a charity shop in St Andrews.

Cancer Research UK hopes the annual, which is in almost mint condition and features popular characters such as Lord Snooty, will raise thousands for the charity when it goes up for auction on the internet.

Experts predict the value of British comics could be about to soar – after three early editions of US comics sold for $1 million each at auction in America.

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Malcolm Phillips, of Comic Book Auctions Ltd which is selling the annual, said: "It is a very exciting find. Our estimate is between 1,500 and 2,000, but we are hoping it will do a bit more than that – particularly because all the money raised is going to charity."

The highest price ever paid for a British comic was 20,350, which was paid for a mint copy of the first copy of The Dandy comic, published in 1937 and complete with a free whistle on the cover.

Before that, the record was 12,100, for the first copy of The Beano, published in 1938. The 1938 first edition of The Beano, of which only 12 copies are believed to exist, is still the number one prize for collectors of British comics.

Mr Phillips said The Beano annual found in St Andrews was in remarkable condition.

"A lot depends on the grade and this is a particularly fresh example. This particular Beano annual had a lot of detailed illustrations of characters on the spine. The only damage is a tiny scrape on the bottom of the front cover."

The annual – known to collectors as Beano book number one – turned up in a pile of donations given to the St Andrews shop.

Volunteer Matthew Harris, 24, said: "As soon as I saw it I thought it looked old, but well cared for, so I fished it out and had a proper look. It's in great condition, so I knew it might be worth more than the average comic book, but when I checked it out online, and learned it could be worth more than 2,000, I could hardly believe it. I immediately called the publishers in Dundee – DC Thomson – to check. They confirmed that we've received a really special and generous donation."

Tammy Kernohan, manager at the St Andrews shop where the book was spotted, said: "All the staff here are really good at picking out the valuable donations, but we're delighted that Matthew spotted this one."

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Adrian Roose, director of Paul Fraser Collectibles, a company which specialises in high-end collectibles, said comic books and annuals were an increasingly attractive investment. "It is very likely that the UK market, compared to the US, is undervalued."

Three US comics have sold for $1m and more this year alone. Action Comics number one, featuring the first Superman strip, sold for $1m. Mr Roose said: "We are seeing a rise in nostalgia-driven investment. Our advice is to get looking in the attic."

The auction goes live at on 16 May with bids closing at 8pm on 1 June.