By Devin T. Quin
Collecting comic books is a fabulous hobby! It combines some of the nicer aspects of Asperger’s syndrome with the never-ending sights and smells of rotting, musty paper. Shun humanity while you’re constantly reminded that matter decays! See you in the grave!
The best part about comic book collecting has to be the mythological heaps of money to be made from selling off you comic books. Yeah, let me be the first person to tell you: That’s not going to happen.
THE WAY WE WERE
You see, back in the 30’s and 40’s comic books were one of the chief forms of entertainment in America. They were cheap, exciting and covered a wide assortment of subjects and interests such as westerns, romance, detectives and yes, even Superheroes. Comic books were so inexpensive, so wide spread that it was totally understandable to read one a few times, lend it to a little brother and then throw it out. The dang thing only cost you a nickel, and there’d be stranger tales of weirder heroes on the newsstand tomorrow.
It was a comic book paradise. It was comic’s “Golden Age.”
The hard boiled citizens who made comics their fun time du jour grew up to be what we now call “The Greatest Generation,” the people who guided us through the depression, WWII and into the new age. The sixties brought new talent into the fold, and sparked a new generation of comic reading fans, what we now the “Silver age.” We don’t call the fans who grew up with 1960’s comic books the “the Greatest Generation,” however. We call them “hippies.”
Many of these enterprising people became wealthy, EVEN some of the hippies, and they wanted to recapture the fun and energy they had as kids from reading their favorite old comic books one last time.
Enter supply and demand.
THROUGH THE NOSE
Since no one ever thought much about a raggedy five cent bundle of ads and art generations weaned on the funny pages looked around to find that most comics where gone to the trash incinerators! Suddenly it was only the pack rats, the hoarders and the obsessives who had the comics. Now it was revenge of the nerds, payback time from all the little school-yard milquetoasts who had been taunted by stronger kids for reading comic books instead of drag racing, malt drinking and attempting to get to second base.
It was time for a good old-fashioned American price war. It was time to let the market decide what was a fair price.
One such generational schemer was Steven A. Geppi, a mail carrier in 1970’s Baltimore who saw his nephew reading a Batman comic and remembered how much fun he used to have pouring over similar books. He then wisely deduced that if he had a pining for the old and familiar, lots of other guys his age and older might, too.
He bought a huge stack of old comics off of a sweet old lady on his route and began selling comic books full time. Geppi’s organization grew in size and popularity until it became what it is today: Diamond Distributions, the exclusive distributer of comic books and comic book materials in America.
Geppi for his part is now filthy stinking rich. He owns half of the Baltimore Orioles as well as a few newspapers, magazines and the fantastic Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore’s Camden Yards. There Geppi displays the spoils of his toils: mint conditions of Detective Comics #1, the first appearance of Batman and Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman which introduced the Superhero to our consciousness, as well as many other incredible pieces of comic book history.
Most recently Geppi sold his old mansion for 10 million dollars.
The success of Geppi and others like him gave America the impression that comic books would appreciate with age, that buying the issue of Action Comics where Superman was killed would someday garnish future generations of their wretched progeny a nifty profit!
As I said, not going to happen.
HAY IN A HAYSTACK
What makes a comic book from 1930 valuable is its scarcity. The modern comic book industry flogs tons of books to suckers thinking their piggy bank is growing thanks to #1 issues, event comics (like the death or marriage of a character) or variant covers. The fact of the matter is these books are printed in huge qualities and then saved by mass audiences expecting a payday.
The catch-22 of these “collectors items” is that they are virtually worthless to collectors. Long after the last human being has died there will be countless copies of “The Death of Superman” sitting in dank basements across America.
The really valuable books today are books that no one will ever identify: Tomorrow’s big box office hits will have their origins in today’s small, indie comic books. If you really want to make money off of comic books then go to the weirdest comic book stores you can find and buy every obscure, photocopied piece of crap, drawn by art school drop-outs and written by mental out-patients they have in stock.
Who knows, maybe one of those cheap turds is tomorrow’s Bone, Scott Pilgrim or The Goon!
I did say maybe, but really they aren’t. You should just give up.