What Happened to the Vintage TSR Art
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Post Posted: Sun Mar 21, 2004 5:07 pm 
 

Muaddib5 pinged me to ask what happened to all the vintage TSR art, and I thought the answer might interest others, too, so I figured I'd post the reply.

Up until the mid 1980s, TSR kept all of the artwork that was produced by its staff illustrators. Then, at some point in the mid 90s, they destroyed almost all of it -- just threw it in the trash. The major stock of things that survived were actually pulled from a dumpster by Diesel (DSL) and subsequently sold.

I know of only three major paintings that have survived -- Gary Gygax has the Player's Handbook cover, supposedly. A collector I know owns the original Monster Manual cover, and another owns the original Deities and Demigods cover. Several of Jim Roslof's pieces survived as well -- Jim was art director for a while, and took all of his stuff with him when he left.

Other than that, there are miscellaneous inks floating around out there, and the odd off cover (I had and sold an unused Bill Willingham cover for a variant of L2) but that's it. I've never seen a published module cover appear from Otus, Willingham, Tramp, Sutherland, or Dee. I've never been able to get in touch with Sutherland or Willingham, but I know that Tramp owns nothing but his Wormy pages, and Erol has only a few inks.

It's really very VERY sad, but that's the way it goes . . . .

The later stuff is around because the artists actually began to get most of their stuff back from TSR. Starting with the Caldwell/Easley/Elmore/Parkinson era, pretty much everything survives.


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Post Posted: Sun Mar 21, 2004 5:14 pm 
 

tsrart wrote:Then, at some point in the mid 90s, they destroyed almost all of it -- just threw it in the trash.


Thanks for the history lesson Pat  :) .  Some bumb in Lake Geneva, WI had some cool artwork in their cardboard box!!



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Post Posted: Sun Mar 21, 2004 7:49 pm 
 

Hi Pat---

I've been in touch with Willingham to see if he's available to hire for gaming artwork, which alas he's not due to his DC contract.  If you want his contact info, ping me :D


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Post Posted: Sun Mar 21, 2004 9:49 pm 
 

Okay... Here's a thought... and bear in mind.. JUST A THOUGHT...

I've read that in landfills, you can pull up a 50 year old news paper and read it because paper takes a LONG TIME to break down.

I'm just a-wondering... if... we could figure out which landfill that TSR garbage got taken to.. with the right archealogical gear and a map of how they filled in the landfill (ARound here, they actually can tell you when they were using what part of a landfill and how many days they filled it).

Then... dig.

Okay, so... it's crazy.. but would you dig through a mountain of trash for a lost Rembrandt?  HELL YA!  Now.. consider this, D&D is only 30 years old.  The Genre of RPG game playing seems to be getting a toe hold in the public consciousness and we all know it's fun.

Ergo.. I think these things will have value even if they are damaged.

NOW... Who wants to fund the expedition?


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Post Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 8:04 am 
 

Ok. I can buy the part about pitching the art in the trash. Sounds very TSR-like to me. But the real kicker is the fact that it happened circa mid-90s.

If they did it in the early 80s, you could almost forgive them. There was not much of a collector market around and the art show at Gen Con pretty much sucked - still does for that matter. But we are talking less than 10 years ago. People were collecting - the Gen Con auction was huge, and they ran it so they can't claim ignorance. Even if they went in another direction, say contacting the artists - pick your stuff or we are dumping it. I'm sure more would have survived.

But I think it gets worse. If they tossed art, they surely dumped manuscripts galore. Think of all the cool stuff they would have had. Proof copies, edited manuscripts, mock copies of unreleased products, etc. I know we see some of this stuff surface from time to time, but it is mostly some editors copy he brought home and left in an unused closet to collect dust.

Definately a tragedy for the rpg collector world. TSR strikes from the grave. :evil:

And no, I'm digging through a waste dump. With our luck, it went to an incinerator anyway. We use those in the midwest. Hell it could be in Canada - Michigan ships trash there as well as using landfills.


And I could've bought these damn modules off the 1$ rack!!!

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Post Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:22 am 
 

JonOakes wrote:I'm just a-wondering... if... we could figure out which landfill that TSR garbage got taken to.. with the right archealogical gear and a map of how they filled in the landfill (ARound here, they actually can tell you when they were using what part of a landfill and how many days they filled it).

Then... dig.


Just posted some pictures of historic rpg sites in Lake Geneva on my home page.  Maybe I'll go back up there this weekend and take a look through some dumpsters  :D !!



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Post Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 11:28 am 
 

You incinerate all your trash in the mid-west?  Wow.. Probably efficient, but kinda sucks for hoping to pull out a dumpster full of TSR art doesn't it?

I mean... those paintings belong in a museum like the Smithsonian!  (And I'm not at all being fanboyish or sarcastic here!)

... gumble... guess I have to get back to work on my time machine project...


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Post Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 2:46 pm 
 

It's not really that surprising; it's the answer I already guessed after I saw that art/photocpy/correspondence auction go through awhile ago.

If TSR were an Evil Overlord (tm), they'd build a lair in an active volcano with a huge red button that says "Base Destruct - Do Not Press" on the only console located in (of all places) the Captured Agent Interrogation Chamber.  Standard operating procedure, I still can't to this day figure out why that company went down in flames.
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Post Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 3:53 pm 
 

Jon - I don't think we incinerate everything. It's spotty depending on if you live close/in Detroit or not. But if TSR were here, they'd be right next door to said incinerator. Shit, they'd probably have a shute that led right to the damn thing. :wink:

Now the smart man would have gone through TSR's dumpster on a daily (nightly) basis. Think of the posibilities... 8O


And I could've bought these damn modules off the 1$ rack!!!

New modules for your Old School game http://pacesettergames.com/

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Post Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 4:14 pm 
 

tsrart wrote:Muaddib5 pinged me to ask what happened to all the vintage TSR art, and I thought the answer might interest others, too, so I figured I'd post the reply.

Up until the mid 1980s, TSR kept all of the artwork that was produced by its staff illustrators. Then, at some point in the mid 90s, they destroyed almost all of it -- just threw it in the trash. The major stock of things that survived were actually pulled from a dumpster by Diesel (DSL) and subsequently sold.

I know of only three major paintings that have survived -- Gary Gygax has the Player's Handbook cover, supposedly. A collector I know owns the original Monster Manual cover, and another owns the original Deities and Demigods cover. Several of Jim Roslof's pieces survived as well -- Jim was art director for a while, and took all of his stuff with him when he left.

Other than that, there are miscellaneous inks floating around out there, and the odd off cover (I had and sold an unused Bill Willingham cover for a variant of L2) but that's it. I've never seen a published module cover appear from Otus, Willingham, Tramp, Sutherland, or Dee. I've never been able to get in touch with Sutherland or Willingham, but I know that Tramp owns nothing but his Wormy pages, and Erol has only a few inks.

It's really very VERY sad, but that's the way it goes . . . .

The later stuff is around because the artists actually began to get most of their stuff back from TSR. Starting with the Caldwell/Easley/Elmore/Parkinson era, pretty much everything survives.


Pat


    Reminds me of the stories about the original pages from early Marvel comics artists...legends like Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four), Steve Ditko (Spiderman), Don Heck (Avengers), John Romita (Spiderman), John Buscema (Thor)...their stuff sat for decades in storage boxes, some of which were leaked on and destroyed, some of which were stolen by unscrupulous Marvel staffers.  Finally in the early 90's due to a lot of pressure within the industry the pages that were left were returned to the original artists or their heirs to do with what they wanted. Also many stories about the unbelievable stuff that has been disposed of in Hollywood over the last 50 years or so, old films and tv shows whose original reels were just tossed into dumpsters when studios needed more room...entire runs of 50's-60's comedies, dramas, soaps, variety shows, etc simply don't exist anymore.  Many of the Honeymooners episodes were saved from a dumpster by a devoted fan who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, parked in front of a dumpster where a studio staffer was throwing out boxes and boxes of tapes containing outakes, lost episodes, specials, etc.  He managed to stuff his car full, contacted Jackie Gleason, and was able to present Gleason some of the only copies in existence of that classic show. Many of the old time "serials" that ran before the Saturday morning matinees are gone, meeting the same fate.  Pretty sad.
   There is a lesson in here for all of us though:  Imagine if someone had happened to call the TSR offices and inquired about buying original artwork sometime in the early 90's...they might have gotten some classic stuff for almost nothing!  It never hurts to ask, there are plenty of stories out there concerning disposal of items that, if some enterprising soul just been in the right place, might never have happened!

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Post Posted: Mon Mar 22, 2004 6:09 pm 
 

The phone rings at TSR HQ...

Secretary: Hello. This is TSR, home of the game wizards, how can I help you...

bbarsh:  Hi. My name is Bill Barsh and very interested in some old module art from the late 70s and early 80s.

Secretary: Let me connect you....

Ominous Voice: Yeah, what do you want!

bbarsh: Bill Barsh here.  I am in the market for some orignal pencils or inks from the ....

Ominous Voice: Hold on...

2nd Ominous Voice: Why are you callling ME!

bbarsh: Well, my name is...

2nd Ominous Voice: I really don't care who you are. What do you want, already. I'm extremely busy...

bbarsh: I am looking for original artwork from early age modules. There doesn't seem to be much of an outlet to get ...

2nd Ominous Voice: I-don't-have-time-for-this...hold on...

click...beep...beep....

3rd Ominous Voice: God damn it, I don't care what the distributors say, print another 60 million starter sets of Spellfire!!!

bbarsh: um...I was looking for someone that can help me track down some artwork...

3rd Ominous Voice: Who the hell are you?!! ....(muttering to himself) .... Must have hit the wrong line...Shit. Just a minute...

click...beepbeep...beepbeep...

Automated voice: You are now activated on conference call...

4th Ominous Voice: You friggin idiots...what the hell are we gonna do with 1.5 billion dragon dice?

5th Ominous Voice: We can hand them out as "free" samples at Gen Con, but we'll actually raise admission by 20 bucks a day.

6th Ominous Voice: Perfect!

4th Ominous Voice: Ok, I guess that'll work.

bbarsh: I'm sorry, but I got transferred to this line. I'm looking for someone who can help me with an art question.

4th, 5th and 6th in chorus: Shit!!!

click...beep...beep...

Secretary: Hello. This is TSR, home of the game wizards, how can I assist you...

bbarsh: Yes, well, it seems I've been transferred around. I'm looking for someone to help me track down some artwork.

Secretary: Oh, you'll want to speak to the janitorial staff...

bbarsh: Wait a sec...who have I been talking to?

Secretary: (Proudly) Those were our interns! We like to call them apprentice wizards. The real wizards are in Costa Rica for the next six months doing ...ah ...research.

bbarsh: Ok. Thanks. I'll call back later...


And I could've bought these damn modules off the 1$ rack!!!

New modules for your Old School game http://pacesettergames.com/

Everything Pacesetter at http://pacesettergames.blog.com/

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Post Posted: Thu Mar 25, 2004 11:01 am 
 

THROW AWAY ART?!!!  Why in the seven Hells would anyone do such a thing!? It's such a shame and makes me FURIOUS!  Artists are rarely given any respect for their talent/ work and creative types in general seem to be pushed around by stupid idiots who opperate from insecurity rather than from a love of what they are doing.  If Karma really does exist, there is a whole lotta frustration and misopportunity headed that way(... if it hasn't hit already) !!!
Somebody give me a vorpal sword and I'll personally suck the life outta those responcible!
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Post Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 5:55 am 
 

tsrart wrote:A collector I know owns the original Monster Manual cover.

The later stuff is around because the artists actually began to get most of their stuff back from TSR. Starting with the Caldwell/Easley/Elmore/Parkinson era, pretty much everything survives.


Pat


Any chance you might have a picture of the Sutherland Monster Manual and the Easley Players Handbook?

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 9:37 pm 
 

Since this thread has bounced up again, I've been in touch with Jim Holloway who confirms that he burned almost all of his TSR art back in the 90's because he was so angry at his treatment by TSR and didn't think anyone would want it anyway.

  

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Post Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:14 pm 
 

VermilionFire wrote:Since this thread has bounced up again, I've been in touch with Jim Holloway who confirms that he burned almost all of his TSR art back in the 90's because he was so angry at his treatment by TSR and didn't think anyone would want it anyway.


8O  :(
Dam...

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Post Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 12:53 am 
 

VermilionFire wrote:Since this thread has bounced up again, I've been in touch with Jim Holloway who confirms that he burned almost all of his TSR art back in the 90's because he was so angry at his treatment by TSR and didn't think anyone would want it anyway.


Good god!  8O


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Post Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:35 am 
 

andrews wrote:Somebody give me a vorpal sword and I'll personally suck the life outta those responcible!
:twisted:


You need a Life Stealer to do that, not a Vorpal.
Now if you're into decapitation.....


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Post Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:02 pm 
 

VermilionFire wrote:Since this thread has bounced up again, I've been in touch with Jim Holloway who confirms that he burned almost all of his TSR art back in the 90's because he was so angry at his treatment by TSR and didn't think anyone would want it anyway.


:(  Sorry to hear that!

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Post Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 3:55 pm 
 

Tsrart wrote:

I know of only three major paintings that have survived -- Gary Gygax has the Player's Handbook cover, supposedly. A collector I know owns the original Monster Manual cover, and another owns the original Deities and Demigods cover.


I know of one more… The 1st edition DMG painting by David Sutherland is alive and in capable hands  :wink: . It's in nice condition as well. :D

David unfortunately has passed away, and his family sold what art was remaining in his possession around the time of his death.

I was fortunate to correspond with David before his passing and was entrusted to a few unique items he had in his old TSR treasure chest.

But one item that's not the most valuable, but definitely has the most sentimental value to me - would be Dave's own play-copy of the DMG. Out of love and respect for the man, and not to forget he was first a gamer through and through, we keep it on the shelf with our other play-copies. I know in my heart Dave would want it that way, in fact I joked with him about it before he passed away.

I'm getting a little sentimental right now, so I've typed enough…

Photos of the Book-

Image

It's the center DMG.

Image


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Post Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:29 pm 
 

what a terrible story. Damn.. if I were one of those artists i'd have been a bit pissed that my art was just tossed away.

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