The unpublished, never-before-seen pre-Peanuts daily try-out comic strip original art — bridging the gap between Charles Schulz’s Li’l Folks and the appearance of Peanuts in 1950 — is expected to bring more than $20,000 when it comes across the auction block at Heritage Auctions, Thursday, May 5. It will be part of an auction of vintage comics and original comic art at the Fletcher Sinclair Mansion.
The original artwork is being offered by the family of the late Frieda Rich, a lifelong friend of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and the inspiration for the character of Frieda, with the famous “naturally curly hair.” Also being offered by the family is the original art to three of the first four “Frieda” strips, dated March 6, 1961 (est: $10,000+), March 8, 1961 (est: $10,000+) and March 9, 1961 (est. $10,000+).
“Frieda Rich was an art instructor who Schulz met while working at the Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis,” said Aaron White, Consignment Director for Heritage Auctions. “Schulz autographed and inscribed the first of the ‘Frieda’ strips, ‘To Frieda with every best wish and fond memories of all the good ol’ days — Sparky.’ He then gifted her with the other two strips, as well as the try-out strip.”
The unprecedented pre-Peanuts art provides a rare early peek at an incredibly important, previously unpublished three panel strip featuring characters who bear more than a passing resemblance to Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Schulz’s early L’il Folks strips ran from 1947 to early 1950 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and always in a rectangular format with separate panel cartoons contained within — Li’l Folks was never a daily format comic strip.
“In 1948, Schulz tried to get his feature syndicated, incredibly with no luck,” said White, “The first Peanuts strip is dated Oct. 2, 1950. From the first, Peanuts dailies were always in a four-panel format, and stylistically this three-panel example seems solidly from late 1949-50, placing it squarely towards the end of L’il Folks and the beginning of Peanuts.”
Judging from how very similar Snoopy and Charlie Brown are in comparison to the unnamed characters in this strip, it’s not hard to make the logical connection that this newly unearthed comics treasure is indeed a long unknown try-out strip for Peanuts.