Comics / Cult Favorite

Wear and Tear - A Collector's Curse


By Philip Schweier
Jul 3, 2014 - 11:29

This week, while visiting my friendly neighborhood comic shop, the clerk pulled my comics from the cabinet and said, “This one came in slightly damaged. We have more on re-order, if you’d rather wait.” I asked to see it, and other than a faint crease down the center of the cover, it seemed okay by me.

I’ll admit there was a time when I wanted every issue in pristine condition. But I soon discovered that after reading an issue more than three times or so, the comics picked up some small degree of wear and tear. Nothing major, perhaps a finger rub or a small crease in the corner. Also, as I started buying more back issues to fill out my collection, compromises needed to be made in an effort to keep costs down.

When I was in high school, I was a serious collector. I catalogued every issue, noting its purchase price, and tracking its value according to the Overstreet Price Guide year-to-year. Everything was bagged and boarded, stored in long boxes in my bedroom closet at my parents’ home.

But then a funny thing happened: my parents kicked me out. Not in an angry “Don’t ever darken our door,” fashion. In my latter years of college I came home (must have needed to do laundry or something) to discover my bedroom was now Dad’s office, complete with a day bed for when I came to “visit.” All my stuff was still in the closet. Another year or two later I was invited to clean it out. Well, why not? I had my own address.

What my address lacked was adequate storage space, so I had to weed things out. Generally disgruntled with the comics of the early 1990s, I sold off about 70 percent of my original comic book collection.

Despite my meticulous tracking of their values, my comics sold for less than 20 percent of what I hoped to get. Overstreet over-estimated, as did everyone who convinced me that my collection represented an investment that would one day pay off. Well, perhaps so, but not that day.

Some of my collectibles, such as the Star Wars memorabilia, were donated to my niece, who has probably since sold it off. I don’t grieve over that; she enjoyed its rewards, emotionally and financially.

After about a five-year hiatus, I got back into reading comics. Like any relapsed addict, I was lured back by a friend. He gave me a copy of Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come, and since then I have re-built about 90 percent of my original collection, but with a much more discerning – dare I say, mature? – eye.

To me, comics are to be enjoyed. Read and re-read again and again. But one can’t do that if one is worried about potential wear and tear. But wait, you say. What about the collected editions? Yes, it’s all very well to have those trades available. However, they diminish the monetary value of the original comic books. Not much of a loss, I suppose.

Thanks to the Internet, comic book retailers and buyers have sales avenues that were unheard of a generation ago. Online dealers such as Mile High Comics, Midtown Comics and serve their customers on a global scale, and collectors have access to dealers who can provide almost anything for the right price.

Yes, I collect comic books. I buy them, read them and store them in mylar bags. I almost never board them anymore. Think about it: if a box is more than 80 percent full, is a board really necessary? And how much weight and space do all those boards add to a single short box?

Yes, I collect comic books. I have complete runs of many titles, and significant issues from others. I have obscure titles from the independent boom of the 1980s, and work by talented artists who are seldom recognized by anyone under the age of 40; Doug Wildey, Jim Aparo and Mike Nasser to name a few.

Yes, I collect comic books, because I enjoy them. I am entertained by the adventures, and re-reading them at my convenience is a pleasant pastime. But if I concerned myself too much with keeping every single one of them in perfect condition, in the hopes of an eventual payday, I probably wouldn’t enjoy them as much.

Yes, I collect comic books, but I regard myself as a comic book reader, not a comic book collector. When the various publishers stop producing material I can enjoy, then I’ll stop, as I did once before.

I’m not addicted. I can quit any time.

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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