Comics / Cult Favorite

A Modest Proposal...

By Philip Schweier
February 26, 2009 - 17:48

Ah, to be young and care-free, of an age when the important thing was enjoying reading the latest adventure of Spider-Man or the X-Men. We’d sit at the kitchen table after school, our fingers grubby with chocolate or peanut butter (or both), staining the cover and interior pages, allowing it to lie in a tiny puddle of milk. Yes, comic books take quite a beating from children.

Then, somehow, that child either moved on to other interests or, if you’re reading this article, became a “serious” collector. It was no longer enough to buy the comic book, one had to buy the plastic bag and backing board to preserve it, keeping it in as near-mint condition as possible. After, it was going to be valuable one day.

But what becomes of the earlier casualties – those with torn pages and missing covers? “Reading copies,” they’re called, but dare I suggest ALL comic books are made to be read?

Those beaten and battered issues make their way from garage sale to flea market to some amateur dealer who has heard one too many stories about near-priceless comics being discovered in someone’s attic. His expectation is that he can set them on a table in his stall at the antiques market and sell them for $1 a piece. Yet every time he returns, there they are, often undisturbed.

To a collector, these copies are worthless, and as they have virtually no re-sale value, they are also worthless to retailers. As individual issues, a comic book retailer isn’t going to buy one, but they often come in as part of a larger collection bought en masse from a longtime collector. A dealer buys the dross because it comes with some of the treasures of a collection that may date back to the 1960s.

So, what is a store owner to do with them? Toss them in the trash is one idea, thereby making other copies slightly more valuable. However, that’s hardly constructive. Since many regular customers are in their 20s or 30s, it’s safe to say they have children of their own, and rather than share one’s potentially more valuable comics with the kids, obviously a coverless issue of Batman may be the way to go.

Sure, it’s a fairly isolated situation, but the overall suggestion is to place a box of unwanted and tattered comic books up near the cash register, all in color for a dime. Who knows what might be in the box, and what might catch the eye of a customer? Maybe their grandma bought them Superman #249 when they were a kid and never read how the story ends in #250. Maybe it’s the one issue that will complete the original Marvel Secret Wars maxi-series.

Granted, placing them on the corner of a table fails to work for the guy at the antiques mall, but I can’t help but feel he’s barking up the wrong tree. Most people who go to such places are looking for something specific, and since comic books have their own market, chances are they’re not looking for comic books.

Regardless, making poor condition comic books available for a pittance is worthwhile to anyone who sells or reads comic books. It’s a cheap way to “spread the gospel,” so to speak. There is no way of determining what comic book in the hands of what person will spark an interest, and when they are made ridiculously affordable, any given person becomes a possible regular reader.

• Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? E-mail me at

Last Updated: June 23, 2021 - 00:29

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