Confessions of a #Comic Book Reader

In this post, I express my personal opinions. Some people might disagree, and I invite respectful disagreement and dialogue. Just keep it civil, please.

I discovered comic books as a kid in the mid-1980s. Like most kids, I quickly started a collection with no real sense of taking care of them. I loved to read the stories.

Flash forward. My collection has gone through many, many incarnations. Believe it or not, I still have quite a few of those issues that I got as a kid. In the meantime I have also lost some to floods and moving (many times), sold some on Ebay, and even given some away to adult collectors and kids who “liked Spiderman” (for example). I have gone years without buying a single issue at times, and have spent hundreds of dollars a week at other times. (Most recently I went about 9 years without buying a single issue, from the time I found out my wife was pregnant, until my daughter reached about the age that I was when I started reading.)

All that time has given me a little bit of perspective.

X-Force 1Comic books are not an investment. I have known “collectors” who bought whatever was hot and immediately bagged & boarded it. Heck, I’ve even been that guy a couple of times. The focus was on collecting for collecting’s own sake, rather than enjoying the comics for what they are. I remember buying copies of 1991’s pre-bagged X-Force #1 (in multiple variant covers) and never reading it. I didn’t want to break the seal on the bag, because that would bring down the value.

Interestingly, some might point to this precise issue as one of the turning points in the history of comic collecting. So many people did what I did, that there was no back issue market. The values assigned to comics in Overstreet, etc., are based on the back issue market. Despite a hot artist/writer team and a hot property, the value never really went up. The market was simply too saturated. There were a few more years of gimmicky issues in various titles, but eventually they learned their lesson. The Wolverine Origin series was short-printed, creating the aftermarket that had been missing. In the 30 or so years since I bought my first comic book, the market has had highs and lows. Characters, titles, and artists have alternated between hot and cold. “Values” go up and down.

My father once told me, when I was a kid, that nothing is worth more than someone is willing to pay you for it. Wise words. As a 13-year-old, when I would tell him how much a certain book was worth, he would ask me if I was selling it. Of course I said no, and he would reply it’s not worth any money at all. My dad liked comics too. (Just last year the two of us went to a bookstore and were flipping through graphic novels for almost two hours. I actually had to convince him it was time to go.)

So I read my comics. The stories are what originally brought me to them. I don’t wear white cotton or plastic gloves like some collectors. I buy bags and boards for some of them, but I protect them only so I can read them multiple times. I do take care of them, to the extent necessary to maintain them. I don’t care if it’s Gem Mint, or Regular Mint, or Near Mint, or Pepper Mint, or not mint at all. I care whether I enjoy it or not. If I buy a book and don’t like the story, I won’t buy the next issue—even if all the expert collectors talk about how good it is or how much it’s gonna be worth.

What do you all think? Do you buy comics to collect them or to read them?

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