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Saturday at the Purge

Our friend Carla called the other day with a problem.

Now, I don’t know if you get this in your life, but we get it a lot. We are everyone’s go-to Geek Index whenever they have a question about something nerdy.

“Doug asked me to organize his comics,” she said. “I’m trying to enter them in a database.”

I winced. “I hope you are getting money or sexual favors or something for it, then,” I told her. “That’s an awful job. Julie volunteers to organize mine for me every so often and I always tell her hell no, it would take months.”

Carla laughed. “Well, he took me out to dinner, and to see Star Trek, so I got that much. Anyway, I had some questions and I thought of you.”

I had a hunch where this was going. “Is he just trying to organize them or is he thinking of selling them?”

“Well, kind of both,” Carla said. “Mostly I’m trying to figure out what some of these are worth. He’s got, like, a lot of number ones and stuff.”

How many times have you had that conversation with a non-fan? I was going through my basement and I found a box of old comics, what are they worth?

I have something like eighteen of these to go through. If I dragooned Julie into trying to do that for me, she would probably cease to love me.

The only real answer to that is “Whatever you can get some idiot to pay for them,” but that’s never the answer people want to hear.

These are not Doug's. This is the generic picture that came up when I Googled for 'organize comics.' But it's kind of like what Doug's living room floor probably looked like, except these books are largely better than his.

“There are a couple of places you can look to get a ballpark figure,” I told her. “NewKadia.com, or Mile High Comics.” I gave her the web addresses. “But you have to understand something. The back-issue market for comics is incredibly depressed right now. The idea that you can finance your kids’ college education through a bunch of rare comics is an urban myth. That’s not going to happen. He’s not getting rich.”

“He understands that,” Carla assured me. “Some of these I think he even forgot he owned. He’s got a lot of weird stuff here…. what’s Kamui? That’s a number one.”

“I think it’s manga. Is it in Japanese? Is it, like, a digest?”

“No, it’s a regular comic.”

“Ah. So that’s from Eclipse Publishing then?”

“Yeah!” Carla sounded amazed.

I see these in quarter boxes everywhere.

I felt ridiculously smug.

“In the 1980s,” I explained, “Eclipse Comics got the rights to reprint a lot of Japanese manga, doing translations. But they cut the digests up and reformatted them so that they looked like American comic books. It did pretty well for them for a while — I think their biggest successes were Nausicaa and Mai the Psychic Girl — but they don’t have any back issue value. Not since the actual digest reprints started showing up over here. We get the Eclipse ones out of quarter boxes to give to my students, most of the time.” (Not Kamui, I hasten to add. That one’s a bit much. But they really liked when I brought in a bunch of Mai The Psychic Girl Julie found in a dime box at a Seattle Center show.)

We went through a few more like that. I identified several books from Carla’s descriptions, and in each case, it turned out that something she thought was a valuable piece turned out to be a dealer’s shuck or overblown marketing.

“Here’s a Beowulf,” she would say.

“From DC?”

“No, this is like a paperback.”

“From First Publishing?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Well, it’s a nice book, but it’s not very valuable. I got mine from Amazon for three dollars last year.”

“This was $6.95 when it came out!” Carla said, shocked. “It went down?”

“Used books depreciate.”

And so on.

(Julie, who was on the other end of the couch, could only hear my end of the phone conversation, but it amused her to watch my increasing exasperation at Doug’s dilettante buying habits — it was becoming clear that he’d fallen for every collector myth out there.)

For example, when we got to Longbow Hunters, Carla said, “It has a sticker that says, ‘first printing.’ I don’t get that.”

I looked on eBay. 99 cents is the going rate for this. A dollar-fifty for a first printing.

“It means he probably paid way too much for it,” I said. “Look. Almost all comics are first printings. They’re magazines, they only get one printing. Longbow Hunters went back to press a couple of times because it was incredibly popular and DC was starting to figure out that maybe they should act more like a book publisher. Book publishers do multiple printings — first, second, third editions and so on. And they differentiate them. They’ll change the cover art, stuff like that. But I don’t think the Green Arrow books even got any kind of trivial differentiation. The colors might have been altered a little or something. So there’s no real difference, and more, because everyone who wanted a copy pretty much was able to get one when it came out, there’s no one really looking for it now. Plus, the whole story was collected in paperback, so the people who just wanted to read it and missed it when it came out bought one of the paperbacks a year or two later. The only people that care about first printings are book people– I mean serious book people, antiquarians. There, first printing means something. But most comics fans don’t care very much, except for the bragging rights. Buying something that’s a bagged first printing of Longbow Hunters from a dealer is just snobbery. There’s no intrinsic value, all the later printings looked pretty much the same. He might get a buck or two for it. But it’s not really very valuable.”

“So a lot of these collector things are just scams?”

“Most of the time. It’s like anything else. Supply and demand. The things that make a comic book valuable are scarcity in tandem with popularity. There are lots of number one issues that are scarce, but they weren’t popular, so no one gives a damn. Like Stalker, or Starfire.”

I totally want this. I bought #1 and #2 off the stands when they came out and really liked them. This I also got right off the stands, but it was pretty blah. Might be worth a look if I run across it again though.

Although, I thought, I’d totally love to get hold of the original Stalker, just to have to read again.

Carla was still curious, so I explained. “Rarity is kind of a dicey proposition. It’s not enough by itself. The only back issue comics that are genuinely rare, any more, are the ones that came out before there were comics shops all over the place. Anything up to around 1984. After that, it’s probably not worth anything. And even with the older ones it’s like pulling the lever on a slot machine. Might be worth something, might not.”

“How can you tell?” Carla asked immediately. Well, I guess I’d invited that one.

I explained that you looked at the listed price for a quick visual check (anything under sixty cents = probably pre-1984) and where she could find the indicia to get the year and the publisher and so on. “Here’s the thing. There’s two markets for comics. There’s the collectors, who are obsessive about original editions and condition and stuff, and the readers, who just want the stories. But today, publishers have figured that out, and they put everything in paperback collections.

I'm such a heretic. My favorite Metal Men stories were actually their team-ups with Batman in BRAVE AND THE BOLD. I do occasionally think of picking up the Showcase though. But I have a lot of other ones I want more.

“What that does is largely eliminate the reader market for those back issues. So even though Doug has some old Metal Men there, and those have some value, they don’t have as much value because now the people who just want to read the stories get the paperback instead. See?”

“Yeah, I get it,” Carla said. “That makes sense.”

“Look at it this way,” I went on. “Spider-Man’s very popular. And Amazing Spider-Man #1 is really scarce, plus it’s got historical interest. So that’s a hugely valuable comic book even though it’s been reprinted several times in paperback.

Still a real score.

“Web of Spider-Man #1 was a first issue of a pretty popular series, but it came out at the beginning of the comics-shop era, so it’s not terribly scarce. A lot of the people who wanted it got it when it came out. But it’s been enough years that you might get five or six bucks, since I don’t think it’s been reprinted anywhere.

I remember this as being a pretty good story.

“Spider-Man #1 from Todd MacFarlane was one of those phony collectors-item shucks I was telling you about. It sold in the millions, so it was popular, but as a back issue it’s almost worthless because they printed so many. No scarcity at all. Plus the story wasn’t very good. You might get a buck for it.

My copy of this eventually went to Goodwill, I think.

“And finally, Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 1999 was an awful story and an unpopular book, it didn’t sell all that well even when it came out despite being a #1. That’s one you see in quarter boxes.”

This was one of our disposables we gave away for Halloween one year and I felt guilty about even implying it had THAT much value.

“Okay,” Carla said. “I think I got it now. So you don’t think there’s much valuable stuff here?”

“I’d have to look,” I hedged. “But probably not. Really the only way to be sure is to look online and see what a particular book sold for on eBay, look at closed auctions.

This particular eBay auction closed for, I believe, about five dollars plus shipping. That's a hell of a lot more than I'd have guessed.

“That gives you the real dollar figures that someone actually got for the book in question. Anything else is, at some level, wishful thinking.”

She thanked me for my help, we said our goodbyes and that was that. But it reminded me how very many times I’ve had that conversation, explaining to people how their old comics are probably not all that valuable.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, we’re coming off a move…. my comics are in the still-unpacking phase, for the most part, which means this is a good time to go through them. Which I’ve been doing, a little at a time. And my problem is about a hundred times more complex than what Carla’s dealing with.

First of all, I’m not really looking to sell anything. My issue is more organization, access, and storage. Right now those things are in short supply. The mission statement isn’t make money off old comics so much as it is create some elbow room and pare it down to the books I actually want.

What’s more, even if I did want to sell off my old stuff, I’m discovering that– even though I like to think I have a better eye than Carla’s boyfriend Doug– most of my comics are just about as valueless. If I wanted to spend the next five years or so selling them on eBay as single issues, I might get back half of what I put into them. But there’s no guarantee I’d be rid of all of them, and honestly? That’s my primary interest.

Because I’m not a collector. Not really. I have my moments where I look at a completed run and gloat a little, like, say, the Shang-Chi comics I spent the last couple of years tracking down…

This was actually the one Shang-Chi book I had when I started picking away at them. Bought it when it came out because it was done-in-one and had Iron Fist in it.

…but that’s because I like reading them. I’m a reader.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I enjoy picking through back issue bins, the act of shopping for them, the hunt. I always have one of those that’s kind of simmering on the back burner. Right now my current collector thing is Marvel’s black-and-white Planet of the Apes magazine.

I have about half of these. The latter half of the run are almost impossible to find, but that's the challenge that makes it fun.

But that’s mostly because I think those are cool books to read. I enjoy the challenge of the hunt, and it’s not likely to be reprinted so I feel justified in getting the back issues… but the prize is still a comic I enjoy, it’s not any kind of a showpiece.

Which leads me to the first of the criteria I have been applying to the books as I’m going through them. Do I enjoy reading it? If the answer is no, over it goes.

That is followed by Am I likely to reread this? That question’s a little trickier to answer.

We’ll take Teen Titans as our test case. I like most of the iterations of the Titans from Wolfman and Perez on up, I have a lot of those books. But where in the past that meant the longbox of Titans books would be an automatic “keep these” and move on to the next series, today it’s not nearly as cut-and-dried.

I have most of the originals… a lot of the older stuff from the early 1980’s, and everything from when the book was relaunched in the nicer format on up.

This series hasn't aged well, but I do still like it.

Do I enjoy those? Well, some of them. Up to about, oh, the Grummett era when the wheels really started to come off the wagon. Somewhere around #80, #85.

Just not good comics. And everyone had a mullet.

The ancillary spin-off series definitely don’t make the cut. I got rid of my run of Team Titans long ago, and the Deathstroke book that launched around this time is also going to be history. I didn’t enjoy them that much and I won’t be rereading them. So there’s no real reason to hang on to the Titans books from this era either; if I’m honest with myself, I will be cutting things off a lot sooner, probably somewhere around the “Who is Wonder Girl” story that began in #50.

But I might be even more ruthless than that. Because — here’s the part where it gets tricky — the stories I am likely to reread are all reprinted in trade paperback.

Yes, I have the early edition of this with the ugly cover.

And I have those, too. Bought them to take to class, the kids were into the Titans when the TV show was on and they were always hounding me to “show us the real one!”

This collection covers almost all the other Titans material I'm interested in. With this and the other three, my Titans needs are largely met.

With these paperbacks, the single issues are redundant… and am I likely to reread the others? Probably not. The Barreto stuff is okay but I’m probably not going to pull it out again. I haven’t for the last six years. Again, if I’m honest with myself, these books largely meet my Titans needs.

So everything else goes except the books preceding the relaunch in the new format. Those I’ll hang on to.

What about other Titans books? The Jurgens crew?

Damn it, I ENJOYED these, especially the trip to Skartaris. It was a fun book while it lasted.

Those got dogged a lot and they tanked pretty hard, but I still sort of like them. The run’s not that big and I probably will read them again someday. Plus they’re unlikely to be collected.

And the Devin Grayson revival?

I enjoyed this crossover well enough. But the ongoing that followed it was, I have to say, a lot of well-intentioned SUCK.

The JLA crossover that launched it was okay. I’ll hang on to that and put it with the other JLA books. The rest can go.

That frees up most of a longbox. Now — what to do with them? I already gave Rachel all my X-Men books. But I can’t dump these on her.

Some for eBay, I suppose. Might try selling some of the Perez ones there. But realistically, no one is going to want the Grummett stuff, or the truly awful Jaaska issues. Probably Goodwill for everything that doesn’t go to my students or the neighbor kids at Halloween.

I admit that as much as it pains me in my OCD collector’s soul to ‘break up a run’ like that, it only hurts for a second. After that it feels… wonderfully freeing. Seriously, I feel about fifty pounds lighter every time I do that. One longbox down… seventeen to go.

The next time I see one of those breathless news articles about how you can make a ton of money by selling old comics? I think I’ll invite the guy who wrote it over here and tell him he can have the proceeds from selling everything I’m getting rid of if he carts it all out of here.

Truthfully, when I heard Doug was interested in back-issue comics I toyed with the idea of making him that very offer; it’d take him years to figure out the books were dogs. But then Carla would be stuck with organizing them, and that’s just mean.

Besides, she’d just call me again.

See you next week.

31 Comments

I still occasionally run across back issues of Stalker (there were only about four issues or so, right?). Never actually seen an issue of Starfire, though.

The problem of having too many comics to keep or get rid of is something I am trying to avoid. I’ve only really been buying and reading comics as an adult for the last two years and I have been trying hard to keep my collection small. Everything I have could fit in 4 longboxes and I actually keep all of it on IKEA bookshelves for easy access (1 shelf for comics I’ve read and plan to keep, 1 shelf for comics I have yet to read, 1 shelf for trades I’ve read and am keeping, 1 for trades I’ve yet to read). I also keep an empty longbox and slowly fill it up with stuff I either buy that turns out to be crap or just stuff I had that I no longer want as much as other stuff I have. Once that box is full I take it down to my local shop and sell off the entire box for about $150 in store credit. Granted, that’s probably only about 15% of what I paid for it all, but its a solid system that keeps me refining my collection little by little and rewards me with 2-3 weeks worth of store credit every time I trade in. Also, I have absolutely no time to sell stuff in bits and pieces using ebay or other methods (if you couldn’t tell from the fact that I have 2 longboxes worth of stuff I want to read but have not had the chance to yet).

Does anyone else have a system like this? Do most comic readers have a system at all or is the prevailing theory just longbox them all and think about it later?

Now that I’m old, fat and lazy, I’ve switched to short boxes. They fit better in the hall closet, too. But I really need to thin the herd as well.

I’ve been collecting since 6th grade (1990) and I have way too much stuff. I recently switched over the the drawer boxes to help me save some room and it really helped. I can stack those up and still get in the bottom boxes without giving myself a hernia. Still, I have nearly 40 boxes full of stuff and I won’t reread most of it. I have a bad habit of trolling through $.25 bins and picking piles of crap. I have nearly a whole run of Ultraverse, Valiant (post Unity), Alpha Flight, Darkhawk, Defenders, and 90’s Ghost Rider from the cheap stacks. Those all just take up valuable space but I can’t bring myself to part with them. Its a sickness.

“I explained that you looked at the listed price for a quick visual check (anything under sixty cents = probably pre-1984) and where she could find the indicia to get the year and the publisher and so on. “Here’s the thing. There’s two markets for comics. There’s the collectors, who are obsessive about original editions and condition and stuff, and the readers, who just want the stories. But today, publishers have figured that out, and they put everything in paperback collections.

I’m such a heretic. My favorite Metal Men stories were actually their team-ups with Batman in BRAVE AND THE BOLD. I do occasionally think of picking up the Showcase though. But I have a lot of other ones I want more.

“What that does is largely eliminate the reader market for those back issues. So even though Doug has some old Metal Men there, and those have some value, they don’t have as much value because now the people who just want to read the stories get the paperback instead. See?”

I don’t think this statement is entirely true, since not everything is in paperback (but we ARE getting there). I used to have quite the Incredible Hulk collection; then I sold off most of it when I became bored with the series a few years ago. My interest in the character was reinvigorated recently, so now I’m trying to rebuild what I sold off. Trades have helped, but out of the 140+ issues that Peter David wrote, only 50-some have been collected in sequence (and Marvel’s been releasing them at an appallingly slow rate, IMO). I’ve started buying the back issues again to fill in the gaps.

I’m sure this is true for any collector. There’s astonishingly large blocks of any given character’s history that haven’t been collected, and possibly may never be due to lack of demand. I doubt there’s a huge demand for those Jurgens Titans issues to be collected, so you’re probably wise to hang onto those issues if you value a complete Titans set.

"O" the Humanatee!

June 28, 2009 at 12:17 am

I’m not sure how this affects things in the era of e-Bay, but it at least used to be the case that the comics market was incredibly artificial, dominated top-down by the Overstreet Price Guide. (I believe the prices in the guide were/are based on a sampling of store prices, but I don’t think the sample was/is necessarily large or representative.) I once went to a comics store trying to sell off copies of what were nominally fairly high-value issues – first appearances of Wolverine, Punisher, and the like. The store said, “We don’t need those.” I said, “But you’ve got them up on your wall priced at several hundred dollars.” They said, “Yeah, but they’re not moving.”

Now, in a classical market (and let’s not get into a debate over how much such markets ever exist), if things don’t move, you drop the price. But I suspect that store was simply working off the Overstreet guide, and wouldn’t drop its price below that (unless they figured that their inventory costs were low enough not to make it worth their while to lower the price, but I didn’t get the feeling that was the case).

Anyone else look at that pic of the comics laid out and think “Got that, had one of those ?”

IIRC Web Of Spiderman 1 is reprinted in the Birth of Venom trade.

Working in a comic book store in the early 90’s was a nightmare for this kind of thing. You’d have these people bringing in all these fairly worthless comics expecting you to buy them at outrageous prices. When you told them how little they were worth, they’d think you were trying to screw them out of something valuable. They almost always left in a huff.

I haven’t figured out if I’m a collector or an accumulator. But when I go through boxes at conventions, it’s rarely condition and price I worry about, and more, “do I want to read this”?

I empathize with retailers who have people wanting to sell at book value, only to be informed there’s a difference between it’s “worth”, and what a dealer is willing to pay for it.

I live by the credo, sonething is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. And if that’s nothing, then that’s what it’s worth.

Cheers,

B

I’m not sure how this affects things in the era of e-Bay, but it at least used to be the case that the comics market was incredibly artificial, dominated top-down by the Overstreet Price Guide.

That’s why I always tell people to start with eBay or dealer sites. Those are the folks that actually sell comics. Overstreet and Wizard, I’m pretty sure, are mostly just about selling their price guides. I’d be surprised if they did even as much research as I suggested to Carla.

Danielle Leigh

June 28, 2009 at 6:31 am

“In the 1980s,” I explained, “Eclipse Comics got the rights to reprint a lot of Japanese manga, doing translations. But they cut the digests up and reformatted them so that they looked like American comic books. It did pretty well for them for a while — I think their biggest successes were Nausicaa and Mai the Psychic Girl — but they don’t have any back issue value. Not since the actual digest reprints started showing up over here. We get the Eclipse ones out of quarter boxes to give to my students, most of the time.” (Not Kamui, I hasten to add. That one’s a bit much. But they really liked when I brought in a bunch of Mai The Psychic Girl Julie found in a dime box at a Seattle Center show.)

Except for the little “Viz” logo at the bottom there (which tells us about a lot about the history of now #1 manga publisher in the U.S., Viz Media), I’d have to turn to Frederick Schodt’s “Dreamland Japan” to remember what “Eclipse Comics” were. Your knowledge is scary impressive, sir.

Your knowledge is scary impressive, sir.

Ha! Well, about useless nerd things. Julie knows the important stuff, like cooking or how to put in a new car battery.

I know about Eclipse because I was a fan of a lot of their original comics– Ms. Tree, Miracleman, Prowler. You probably know a lot more about Viz than I do. It just depends which door you’re coming in by.

Bored Yesterday

June 28, 2009 at 7:09 am

Nice writeup. I’m been thinning the herd myself all weekend. I managed to pull 5 and a half long boxes to go, leaving 25 short boxes to keep and savor.

The effort required to sell these on eBay is going to kill another couple weekends in the future.

But it’s fun, any excuse to go digging through all the comics is as much fun as reading them.

Anytime you want to borrow my run of “Stalker,” Greg, you just say the word.

Jurgens’ Teen Titans was one of my favorite books in the ’90s. The series was like DC’s Generation X but with a much more stable creative team.

It’s been pretty damn disheartening to watch the characters get manhandled, mistreated, and shoved aside in recent years. Does Risk have any limbs left?

Sigh.

The subsequent Devin Grayson/Jay Faerber Titans run was absolute crap, though, yeah, due in no small part to editorial interference. Best to get rid of that one.

Like Greg, I’m a reader, not a collector. (The only reason I even have a comics collection is because comics used to be (relatively) cheap. Most comics today are just too expensive. Not to mention depressing.) Like many of us, I *never* intended to part with the comics I bought, even if I never reread them. People would sometimes ask me why I was keeping them and I’d tell them they would be worth something someday- but that was just the excuse I gave them. I knew they just would not understand collecting something for its own sake.

Hey, Starfire! Now that’s a comic I’d heard of but never seen. She looks like a Sci-Fi version of Red Sonja. Except Brunette. Still sexy. :P Was she? A Sonja takeoff, I mean. And, has she ever appeared in the DC Universe?

I have a bad habit of trolling through $.25 bins and picking piles of crap.

I’m the same way. I’ll take a chance on damned near anything if it’s cheap enough.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I used to go every month to a dealer’s convention down by the stadium complex, and come home with literally hundreds of comics, most of which I paid less then a dollar for. It was wonderful; I’d have a big stack of comics that it would take me a week to read. But the downside is that I soon had an unwieldy collection, particularly for a studio apartment. By the time I moved, I had 40 longboxes full of stuff. So I had to make the decisions that you talk about, which was not always easy. Do I keep Atari Force? Well, Garcia-Lopez, so yeah, that stays. But it’s amazing how easy it was to dispose of so much of it, once you’d put your mind to it. In fact, I had the very same Teen Titans purge that you described (except that I never bought the Jugens or Grayson stuff).

Once you’ve done that, it becomes much easier to stop buying comics you don’t really like for the sake of buying them, and to wait for trades. I still go to shows and hit the cheap boxes, but not with the same gusto that I used to. Sometimes I miss those days….

My comics “collection” is completely worthless. I don’t bag and board. I keep them all in paper boxes I lucked into (since they outgrew the giant filing cabinet). The ones I read as a kid have had the covers read right off of them, and the ones I’ve bought as an older, more careful reader are just succumbing to poor storage and gravity. And hell, most of them were purchased out of quarter and dime boxes, so why would they be worth more than that anyway? I don’t think I paid more than a third of a dollar, at best, for any issue of Justice League Europe, and that’s one of my favorite comics. So, yeah. Worthless. And I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

I just don’t know how to get rid of the damned things once I realize they’ve gotta go. I’m sure I’ll never read most of them again, but I also know I will never be able to throw them away; so that leaves dumping them on some poor schmuck at a comic shop (assuming those still exist at this undetermined future point), basically asking him to throw them away.

I put up a big list on the trading thread here at CBR, and it’s working out great so far. I put up the list, and basically other people do the work of going through my collection. It hasn’t reduced the size of my collection, but I think it’s improved the quality.

The other side of the current comics market is that it’s a great time to be buying. Almost the entire history of comics is available extremely cheaply, either in print or on the vast online secondary market. I’m as acquisitive as ever, but I’m spending a lot less money by being smart.

I’ve quit buying new comics–I can take that $4 and spend it on a single issue, or I can buy the trade of the whole storyline for $6 in six months. Plus, every time I pick up a new issue, I look at it and think, “I can buy this one comic, or six comics I’d like just as well from that 50 cent box.”

I bag and board because I had a house fire once and the comics that were not bagged were ruined by the heat and water (The comics were not in the room on fire) The comics that were in bags and boards were fine after the comics were cut out of the bags.

My favorite way to keep my collection manageable is to strike while the iron is hot: Free Comic Book Day! Both this year and last year (the two FCBDs that I’ve been managing a comic book store), I sat down with my collection in April and shrewdly cut as many corners as I could. I have a general number in my mind (4-5 longboxes), and pare down until I get into that ballpark. The first year, it was harder. This year, I actually managed to give away more comics than I had purchased in the past year!

If you can manage to put up with the clutter as it builds over a year, I also strongly suggest this being an annual “organize (or re-organize) the collection” event. We all wish we could have such stringent back issue filing policy as our local shop, but we can’t. Once a year is not at all difficult; I took care of my stuff over the course of two or three weeknights.

But what to do with the stuff that doesn’t make the cut? Since I’m the manager of a comic book store, I bring my stuff in and put it next to the Free Comic Book Day stuff. Sure, people will come in cynically for some free throwaway Wolverine story on mini-paper, but when they see your vintage 80’s Uncanny X-Men stuff (we’re talking Inferno issues, a second print of #248, maybe some of the Australia storyarc), for FREE, they’ll flip. It really makes FCBD a fun event when you can genuinely surprise someone with a deal so good, they feel like they have to get those comics home NOW! :)

If you’re like me (and Greg, as mentioned above), you probably don’t want to see your extensive runs broken into piecemeal, even if it is by people with such innocent reasons as “that one had a cool-looking cover”. Thus, also during FCBD, I organize a fun little event called Comic Book Trivia. I ask a few easy questions, hint strongly at the answers, then reward my contestants with applicable runs of comics. One of my customers answered three Daredevil-related questions on FCBD ’08, and took home the entire Bendis run of Daredevil. Crazy? Only if I was ever going to read it again, I guess… and I assure you, as much as I enjoyed it once, I was never going to go back and re-read it.

Of course, we don’t all have such an outlet. Our local comic shop owners might look at us with a funny eye if we say “here, give away these 80’s Uncanny X-Men books for me! Sure, they could sell for something, but I just want a warm fuzzy feeling instead of dollars.” Some of the less scrupulous ones might even eBay them for themselves. Greg’s other ideas are still good, though. There are plenty of children out there looking for something to read. Libraries can put comics to good use. Halloween is a great time to give away comics instead of candy.

I think back on all the comics I’ve given away in the past two years, and the emotional reward of seeing people overjoyed at reading these books far outweighs any good feeling I could’ve bought with the money I’d have made.

Greg:

Check your monkeyspit email address – “No One” wants some of those Grummett issues. ;-)

If you don’t have that email address anymore, then email me at louisbrightraven@yahoo.com

Great article, Greg. It reminded me of when a friend asked me not too long ago what the most valuable comic I thought I had was and I told him that I was pretty sure none of them were really worth much at all. He then looked confused as to why I would even have a collection, so I equated it to Uncle Scrooge’s money bin… nothing really appreciates in value in there, but occasionally I just love to swim through it all. Lately, though, I have been thinking about it cutting back a bit. I recently moved and the long boxes proved a bigger pain than some of the furniture pieces to move. Today, as comics pile up all over the house, I’m rapidly approaching the need for yet another box (not to mention convenient storage space)… so its nice to hear from someone else that its actually okay to get rid of some of this stuff.

Can you be a collector AND a reader? Cuz I’m pretty sure I’m both.

I pretty much just buy books I want to read, or read again (at least, that I think I will read again) but at the same time, the OCD in me can’t break up a run, especially a lengthy one, even if it is peppered with some bad books.

So the pleasure I get is both from READING comics, and from knowing I HAVE certain comics.

All my books are bagged and boarded, not because I want to maintain their condition for value, but because I want them to last as long as possible so I’ll always have them to read.

For the most part, I try to avoid duplicating graphic novel reprints with single issues, but there’s some exceptions. I’m trying to complete a run of X-Men and Avengers, and while I have all the issues in one form or another (either trade or single issue) already, I want single issues of both runs. I want to read a musty old comic that some kid read in the sixties, I want to know I have every ISSUE ever printed.

I dunno. Maybe that makes me a bad comic fan. But that’s how it is.

I will say, as I’ve recently been culling my 50+ long box collection due to space considerations (and switching over to short boxes for back pain considerations) I’ve found a perverse joy in finding stuff to get rid of. Mainly crappy short-lived Image comics from the 90s or random limited series I’ll never read again. I tried to sell some of it on eBay, but there were no takers. So now I take a box at a time down to Half Price books. I may only get $30 a box or so (a mere fraction of what I paid) but at least I’m clearing out some space, and can use that money to pick up a few used trades or something. I’d donate them, but frankly, I don’t want to wish this stuff on anyone. :)

“Halloween is a great time to give away comics instead of candy.”

Is it? I haven’t even seen a trick or treater since… 1995. When I lived in Nevada, nobody brought the kids around to the house; even the neighborhood kids went to a Halloween party at the school in town instead of trick or treating, and we only had like 20-30 homes in the entire subdivision. It’s not like we didn’t know who lived where and what was what. And when I moved to SC, well, we had nobody come by the house last year. I’m told the area’s “too church happy” (Like that’s going to stop the kids from dressing up to get FREE stuff?), but I think it’s just that society has become less trusting in general and people are more concerned about unknown child molesters, would be terrorists and that sort of thing.

Damn, that’s depressing, when you think about it. We’re all so worried about everything that’s effed up in the world, that we can’t even enjoy life.

Count me among the readers rather than collectors. About the only thing I buy now are trades, and the occasional annual or special edition (if I kind find them cheap enough). Even during my comic-ready heyday when I was a kid, I hated how quickly comics accumulated and often gave away the stuff I wasn’t reading to other kids or donated them to the local church whenever they had fund-raising flea markets. The big purge came around 1986 when I essentially gave away my entire collection for peanuts – out went Miller’s first Daredevil run, a big chunk of Claremont/Byrne’s X-men, a similarly big chunk of Byrne’s FF run, New Teen Titans, etc. etc. I know some of that stuff is actually worth something today, but I can’t say I’ve ever really regretted it once I got back into comics a few years ago – with the notable exception of all of those digest-size reprint books that DC (especially) and Marvel were churning out in the late 70s/early 80s, some of which I ended up buying again…

Oh, I almost forgot to mention – since you posted the pictures: I actually had the whole run of Starfire, although I hardly remember any of it.
As for Stalker, that’s another of example of Ditko’s DC output that should be collected (despite the paltry four issues), together with Shade and that underrated Starman series that ran in Adventure Comics…

Can we have a sequel to this article? LOL

Yeah, I agree with everything being said. Hard to sell many books on eBay nowadays. I’ve been trying, that’s for sure. But the nice thing is that what I do sell, I use the money to bid on the cheap ones to check out the books I missed the first time around, like Savage She-Hulk and Adventure Comics with Starman and Plastic Man in it.

I’m a reader, so I have complete or near complete runs of many Marvels (DC’s are impossible to have a complete runs of). I like to find books that’s interesting to read, so I normally don’t care about the condition of the books I bought back then. Now that I’m trying to sell them, I find myself saying, I wish I had bought the better conditioned issues, but life goes on.

Some titles sell easily, Batman being the obvious, but surprisingly, Superman in the Bronze age are hard to sell.

You’re generous in your parameters; when asked, I usually tell people that almost nothing published after 1973 has any real value. I think I could come up with maybe a dozen post-’73 books that are actually valuable based on the popularity-scarcity continuum. Of comics published in the last 20 years, I think the “pulped” World’s Finest 80-Page Giant featuring Kyle Baker’s notorious “Superman’s Baby-Sitter” story is possibly the most rare and sought-after.

The only comics I’m actively seeking at the moment are Inferior Five #6 and the first 30 issues of Gerber’s Howard the Duck, though I would certainly grab any copies of Metal Men or Angel & the Ape that crossed my path.

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