Let's address the issue of ownership...
The art is NOT stolen. At least not from a legal prospective. At the time that the art went missing it was the property of Marvel--not the artists. In some cases art was gifted back to artists and returned, but it was always a gift not a return of their property. Marvel never filed a police report that any art was missing or stolen so they have given up their rights to the stolen property. The statute of limitation has certainly run out long ago for Marvel to recover that art.
I don't think legal ownership is the issue if there are indeed covers In hiding as has been suggested. I'd think it's more of a public relations problem for any ex staffer sitting on the art.
It was not my intention to reopen the discussion about the stolen art which has been discussed here and in Comicart-L ad nauseam
But don't you think that it's slightly incoherent that you state that it was not stolen from a legal prospective and at the same time to state that it could be a public relation problem for whoever has it now if he belonged to Marvel's staff? If it was not stolen, why this would harm the reputation of whoever took away the art from the Marvel warehouse or offices? It was legal since Marvel didn't move a finger to prosecute it...
AT THE TIME IT WAS CLEARLY STEALING. IT'S NO LONGER A PROBLEM LEGALLY BECAUSE MARVEL LET THEIR RIGHTS LAPSE BY NEVER PERSUEING IT LEGALLY. EX MARVEL STAFFERS MAY STILL ENJOY WORKING WITH OR FOR MARVEL FROM TIME TO TIME. I THINK MARVEL MIGHT FROWN UPON HIRING THEM IF IT CAME TO LIGHT THEY STOLE IN THE PAST. HENCE THE PR PROBLEM.
Why then all the hassle for the art dealers to hide the art inside their booths in Cons when Kirby approached? According to you it was still property of Marvel, and they didn't filed a police report in spite that Kirby's rep at that age demanded for it to Jim Shooter. So they had not the need to hide it.
I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THIS. MAYBE AT THE TIME THE LEGALITIES WERE STILL IN QUESTION? I DONT SEE ANY DEALERS HIDING KIRBY ART NOW. THE KIRBY'S MAY STILL HAVE A CASE AGAINST MARVEL FOR NOT CARING FOR HIS ART THAT WAS IN DISPUTE BY THEM. PERSONALLY I THINK KIRBY WAS SCREWED BY THEM, BUT REGARDING THE ART THERE'S NOT A LOT THE ESTATE CAN DO TO RECOVER IT LEGALLY ANYMORE?
There's a theory that Marvel was interested to let it go in order to remove proofs that could be used by the artists to claim property on characters. Hence that Kirby got NO X-Men art when it was officially returned. ZERO pages from the first 12 complete issues listed in Vartanoff's inventory in 1986. But hey, he can't complain, it was Marvel's property!http://ohdannyboy.blogspot.com.es/2011/04/marvel-worldwide-inc-et-al-v-kirby-et_04.html
I really think if this stuff all exists that the recent high prices realized would have driven more of these things into the open. Why not sell pre 1965 covers that are not key issues? Those are for the most part the covers missing. There are plenty that could be sold for lesser amounts that wouldn't raise eyebrows. What about all those nice Rawhide Kid covers that Kirby did or the Strange Tales covers? Those could be sold and no one would concern themselves with where they came from. Why aren't they being sold? Why haven't they popped up into the open. My theory, they no longer exist.
Well, as Len pointed out, many people got many of those covers bought in the 70s when they costed $50-100, as seen in old ads of Comics Buyer's Guide. Since then, their value skyrocketed to several thousands, as you know perfectly. Why to sell it now when the market still has not reached the top and prices still grow? (although maybe artificially...). Unless I was desperate, I wouldn't sell it...