When the Reprint Mint closed in late November, Telegraph Avenue and Berkeley lost another portal to our past. It was an important cultural institution for more than 50 years.
Don and Alice Schenker opened the Print Mint as a picture-framing shop on Telegraph Avenue in 1965.
The Schenkers and Moe Moskowitz, founder of Moe’s Books, were friends from way back and way far away, and the businesses started joined at the hip.
The Print Mint eventually moved out of Moe’s, and expanded, first as a retailer of posters and fine-art reproductions and then to rock posters and to underground comics.
For several years, underground comics were the lifeblood of the store. Below is their catalog of comics from the early 1970s:
Many were one-issue comics. Many were crude. All rejected society’s norms. All were creative and bright manifestations of a changing culture.
They produced, published and distributed from Telegraph and a warehouse/print shop on Folger Avenue (above).
The Schenkers were arrested and charged with publishing pornography, in the form of Zap Comix #4. After Simon Lowinsky, owner of a gallery on College Avenue, was acquitted on similar pornography charges, the city dropped the charges against the Schenkers.
Read this Quirky Berkeley post to see a collection of sometimes-rude comic covers published by the Print Mint.
In 1975, the Print Mint split. The Schenkers took the retail store, and their business partners took the wholesale and publishing business. The Schenkers sold the store in 1985, with Don Schenker planning to devote the rest of his life to writing. A month later, he discovered he had metastasized prostate cancer. He died in 1993. Take a look at Schenker’s poetry.
Generations of Berkeley students have decorated their dorm rooms, apartments and homes with posters and art reproductions from the Print Mint. For a decade, it was also one of the Bay Area’s essential destinations for underground comics. We were better for it, and its departure is a cultural and historical loss.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.
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