A rare copy of a Rupert the Bear annual is set to fetch £30,000 at auction – because it features the cuddly hero with BROWN fur.
The comic character was originally drawn with brown colouring when it was created in 1936.
But when artist Alfred E Bestall’s draft cover illustration of the 1973 annual reached the publishers they decided the brown blended into the background too much.
So they changed his colouring to white without consulting Bestall – who was so incensed he refused to ever draw another Rupert annual cover.
However, the colour was never changed back and Rupert has remained white ever since.
The controversial annual goes on sale at Dominic Winter Book Auctions in South Cerney, Glos., on June 17th and is expected to sell for up to #30,000.
Auctioneer Dominic Winter said: ”Bestall was incensed when he discovered what had been done behind his back, and never drew another cover for a Rupert annual.
”What made it worse was that the editor didn’t think to reintroduce the shading and shadows that were there in the original version, giving the white-faced Rupert a rather strange and ghostly look.
”In an attempt to appease Bestall his signature was disguised on the covers of the white-faced annual – but of course the damage had been done.”
Rupert was created by Mary Tourtel and first appeared in a comic strip in The Daily Express on November 8th, 1920.
Bestall took over drawing the black-and-white cartoon in 1935, and the strip became so popular that annuals were issued starting in 1936.
Unlike the monochrome strip inside, the covers were in colour and featured Rupert with a brown face, brown hands and brown boots.
In 1973 he drew the happy-go-lucky bear as usual, smiling as he sits in a tree with his usual brown features.
But when the first few annuals were printed and sent to the publishers, the Daily Express, for approval the editor complained that the bear was blending into the background.
He decided to change Rupert from a brown bear to a white bear – without consulting the illustrator.
It is thought only a dozen or so of the original brown-faced 1973 annuals were ever printed, making them exceptionally rare.
The annual remains the ”Holy Grail” of Rupert collectors and two copies sold in 2007 for £23,000 and £22,000 respectively.
This copy is expected to sell for up to £30,000 when it goes up for auction in Winter’s children’s book sale on June 17th.