Comics / Cult Favorite

Comic Book Collecting for Fun and Profit, part 2


By Philip Schweier
August 12, 2015 - 12:24

DISCLAIMER: This article is way overdue, and my excuse is that my computer ate my homework. I suffered a catastrophic failure of my hardware, and it’s taken me a few weeks to get up to speed. My data was recovered, but due to limited space, I’ve spent the past week and half combing through all an alphabet soup of JPGs, DOCs, PDFs and other files, pruning, culling and harvesting.

I know my readers (both of them) don’t really care about excuses. I’d just rather head off any questions ahead of time.

And now, back to our regularly schedule essay.

Recently, a friend asked me to search my bookshelf for a particular series that came out in the mid-1980s. Kidding around, I said I would check my archives, which is what I laughingly call the many boxes of comic books stored in my closet. He then commented, “I figured you’d have the trade paperback (TPB),” knowing that many “serious” comic book fans prefer the collected editions, but I indicated I preferred the single issues over trades.

Mrs. Wife caught this exchange, and later asked why I prefer the single issues over trades. She lovingly indulges my interest in comics (she goes so far as call it an obsession; funny girl). When I’m dead and buried, it will be her sad task to dispose of my archives in such a way that doesn’t involve a can of gasoline and a match. So safe to say she has a vested interest.

So here’s my reasoning:

  1. It’s very rare that comic book stories are launched in trade paperback form. Usually they begin in the monthly comics, either as part an ongoing title or a limited series. That is never a guarantee there will be a trade. If the title doesn’t sell well, what incentive does a publisher have to repackage the material as a TPB?
  1. Once I’ve amassed the individual issues, what do I need the TPB for?
  1. Older originals (from the 1960s-1980s) often contain extra material not found in the trades, such as letter columns, text pages and the like. House ads will often provide a small window as to what else might be going in comics at the time. These can be mildly entertaining, like watching toy commercials from old videotapes of Saturday morning cartoons.

In the past, many collectors believed that their “archives” would accrue in value over the years, as some issues became more in demand. However, since the advent of the trade paperback, many of those originals have become redundant. Some have to weigh the merits of buying individual issues from multiple online sources versus buying the TPB for a fraction of the cost.

I once believed my comic books were an investment. If I took care of them, they’d be valuable someday, and would finance my retirement. Uh-huh. You really think that after a lifetime of collecting, I’d part with them just so I can live in a slightly better nursing home? Doubtful.

To me, the collection is not a cash cow. They are entertainment. Some hold a greater interest than others due to who wrote them or drew them, or the characters they featured. Some are simple, juvenile stories that provide a greater diversion when life becomes a fist.

Trade paperbacks are fine for those who are perhaps very serious about their fandom, but I am not – at all. I’m a comic book collector, not a trade paperback collector.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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