Thieves steal ‘priceless’ books, comics from Portland collector days after his death

A comic and book collection estimated to be worth millions of dollars was stolen from the home of a Portland collector days after his death.
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 7:10 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A comic and book collection estimated to be worth millions of dollars was stolen from the home of a Portland collector days after his death.

James Strand died over the summer in his Lents-area home shortly after his 88th birthday. His niece and next of kin, Susie Hasty, was notified while she was out of state.

It was shocking. It was just shocking,” Hasty said. “His 88th birthday was August fourth, so you just don’t even know how to think about it.”

When she returned to Portland, she found his house had been ransacked, and she says the thieves got away with a comic book and book collection she had never known about.

“The house had been broken into eight times,” Hasty said. “Every time the thieves went in, they would take more and more and more.”

Luckily, Hasty has had help from experts in the bookselling business like Scott Brown, who owns Downtown Brown Books.

“Honestly, without his help I would have no idea, I would have no idea what he had, what the value was, what I should even be thinking about,” Hasty said.

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Though many people didn’t know Strand well, local booksellers like Brown are now learning more about him and his priceless collection.

“James Strand was one of the most important horror book collectors and he collected all the way back to the early 20th Century,” Brown said. “He collected a lot of original manuscripts, letters, irreplaceable items, artwork. So, those items, if they get lost, they’re gone forever.”

Brown only knew the items were stolen because potential sellers repeatedly brought the valuable books into his shop with receipts linked to Strand. When he felt something wasn’t right, he went to adult protection services, and eventually, the FBI.

“Every single day, people would call and offer things that were obviously stolen from his collection so there were lots of lots of books being offered to lots and lots of people,” Brown said.

The FBI is now hoping to alert the community and other book sellers about the stolen collection – with some items ranging from $500 to $6,000, and others so valuable a price cannot be placed on them.

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In the last week, comic books were recovered by the FBI, and Brown received a tip on the stolen books from Canada.

“Our best estimate is probably around a $2 million value, but it’s likely that’s going to go much higher given the fact that we’ve been told by various collectors locally and elsewhere that his collection in value is actually exploding over these last couple of years,” said FBI agent Kieran Ramsey.

Hasty says not only has she learned more about horror books and her uncle, but also the importance of staying connected with loved ones.

“My only regret is not knowing him better, not knowing him closer,” Hasty said. “So, the lesson I’ve learned is, ‘don’t hold back.’ Take the time, reach out to those you may not reach out to very often and just say ‘hello,’ tell them you love them.”