Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Feng Shui Of The Obsessive Comic Book Collector

The Feng Shui Of The Obsessive Comic Book Collector

Act I: "It Can Only Go Up In Value"

I am currently helping my friend pare down his comic book collection and get some of it in storage so he can move. This is the same friend who, in my memoir "Goodbye To Comics," had collapsed. The one who had so many collectibles in his room that initially the EMS could not locate his body until I pointed it out.

My friend has two rooms piled to the ceiling with comics, genre books & magazines, and toys. Working with him to manage this collection is sheer animal torture. Because every last comic, TV Guide, and newspaper "might be worth something one day."

"It can only go up in value."

The reality is, he cannot bring everything with him to his new apartment, and the storage costs would be phenomenal. So some of it has to be either sold, given away, or thrown out. Most of what can be sold, in today's comic market, will go for relative peanuts -- dimes or quarters.

My friend does not want to hear this.

"It can only go up in value!"

Comics like "The Nth Man." The Robocop II movie adaptation. Every multiple cover for "X-Force #1" -- sealed in their polybags, of course!

There are also quite a bit of DC and Acclaim comic books. This is because I used to work for both companies, and, in my infinite wisdom, gave my friend boatloads of freebies. Me and my friend also used to work at the same comic book store. We got boatloads of freebies and discounted books from there, too.

Picture thousands upon thousands of comic books. Picture the smell of all that ink!--

"It can only go up in value!"

I can talk frankly about this condition -- the condition of the obsessive collector -- because I was once one myself. I used to own hundreds of mint-in-package action figures and dolls. About 15 long-boxes of bagged-and-boarded comic books. And countless books.

It all made me feel so secure, so safe. It gave me an identity. It replaced sex.

It disgusted me. Because I knew that I was hiding behind my collection so I didn't have to face myself. Also, men had problems fucking me in the midst of buckets of old He-Man and She-Ra action-figures.

"I can't...they're all looking at me! With their little eyes--"

One solution, of course, was to go out with another collector and merge our treasures. We'd have a kick-ass mega-collection, and we would never have to change.

But eventually I got so sick and tired of my toys and my comics and my fanzines and my crap that I began selling it off. Then I just started throwing it out in mass purgings.

It took about four years to get rid of 90% of it.

The need to collect is still there, though, lurking. I still have several hard-core collector friends and when I see their stuff I just get set off, I just want to hop on eBay. I picture a day when I'm solvent again and comfortable and I have a mate who understands and I can just buy up all those McFarlane "Movie Maniacs" again and just have a dusty crowded chaotic cluttered home-office stuffed to the gills with all my "preciousssssses" and empty styrofoam "Dunkin donuts" coffee cups crammed with cigarette butts. And I can totally backtrack on everything I just wrote and have a collectibles orgy.

And my mate would be like:
"Let's go to the Con -- let's buy more shit!"

And we buy up all this shit -- autographed pictures of wrestlers, old Megos, back-issues of "Ms. Marvel" and "The Human Fly" from quarter bins -- and then we come home and open it all up and pass out on the sofa in complete and total ecstasy.

There might even be sexual intercourse -- maybe. If we have time. If we're done watching our bootleg DVD sets.

Yeah, I know: I'm weak, I'm a backslider.

But like Jules in "Pulp Fiction" I'm trying really hard to stay on the straight-and-narrow.


Next: In "Bring Me The Head Of Shari Bobbins," I discuss what happens when a silly female has the nerve to stop the collectibles-flow, and how she must pay...and how she must pay! (da-dummmmm...)


  1. ...I could SO do someone even with all the little action figures around like that.

    It's best to try to explain to your friend certain economics behind WHY certain comics go up in value over time and why others just retain their pricing or go up only slightly. Action Comics #1 is worth thousands because there are so few of them and it's around seventy years old. Superman #75 is practically worthless because there are so many of them and it's only around ten years old. You might get a LITTLE value out of it if it's still in its original polybag with all of the extras, but not that much. Furthermore, there has to be some initial value to the product to begin with. Action Comics #1 is highly sought out because its the first printed appearance of Superman. The Robocop movie adaptation is not highly sought out because no one gives a damn about the Robocop franchise enough to warrant placing a MOVIE ADAPTATION COMIC at a high value. Now, some stuff might still have some value decades down the road, especially if there's a resurgence of popularity among certain characters or if enough time has elapsed for someone to say, "WOW! This comic is older than I am and it features a certain character for the first time!" But there are few and far between enough characters of iconic status in recent years to warrant such a thing fifty years from now. Could some of them be worth money in the future? Yes. Most of them? No.

  2. Both my wife and I have tried to minimize the constant march of collectibles that follow us home into our apartment.

    If she hadn't already begun to slow her buying habits before we met, her Star Wars toys combined with my still-growing collection of comics would have completely edged us out of our apartment by now. As it is, her old room at her parents' house has enough plastic bins of the stuff to serve as Magneto's prison.

    They shan't join us until we've found a big enough house for them.

    And the funniest thing? I suspect our Christmas tree will stay up until Spring, because it serves as a lovely display for our Hallmark Star Wars ornaments.

    Somehow, I imagined that I'd always be the geekier half of any relationship I was in. It's a relief for that not to be the case.

    - Andrew

  3. I used to be like that. Well, I didn't have the money to put together a real collection of any volume, but organized, collated, and indexed geek crud with the best of them.

    I realized that the stuff I had was not, in fact, worth a damn thing. This was in like '96, so I was really going against the grain

    I gave up collecting action figures, except the ones that I like, break out of their boxes, and use to decorate my den. I don't 'collect' comics any more, I read them. I don't collect DVD's and CD's any more, I watch and listen to them.

    One thing that's really helped me is the ability to keep them all on damn digital media. I know I have hundreds of gigs of geek crud in my den, and it doesn't take up more space than a few CD tubes. Do you know how much fits on hundreds of gigs of CD? I can still organize, collate, and index it (really, its just coveting it), and it doesn't disrupt our storage space. It's rather nice.

  4. Oh, the curse of too much stuff! After getting rid of two longboxes of comics, which I'd spent hundreds of dollars amassing, I have very little urge to actually purchase loose issue comics anymore. I'll just buy the collections, you know? They're sturdier and take up less space. As for the toys... God help me, the toys! The fact that I have two bins of toys (all stripped of their packaging and most of their accessories) that havent' been taken out of their bins in almost three years is a big sign that I shouldn't buy any more of them. But the urge! It's so strong! Ugh.

  5. All true, all true.

    I'm sitting in my home office, with one wall completely lined with about 24 longboxes and a dozen shortboxes of comics, not to mention the two closets that have boxes of toys in them.

    Thank goodness my husband doesn't collect anything--I don't know where we'd put it.

    At age 40, I recently came to the epiphany that "she who dies with the most comics does not win." Thus, I've begun thinking about selling off and giving away some of my collection.

    It's a daunting thing, considering I have two small boys with a burgeoning interest in all things superheroic. I'd hate to get rid of something they'd appreciate someday, but at the same point, find myself desperately wanting space.

  6. I am in the same boat. After collecting for 15 years and spending an estimated $75,000 on 10000 comics, about 1000 toys, and about 200 statues, I realized that I am now over it and rather use the money instead to do things like get a car, a new computer (current is 5 years old), maybe a kickbutt plasma TV. Or just go on a date.

    Sadly, I have discovered that while my collection has some gems, most of it is barely worth using as toilet paper. I almost want someone to rob me blind as I would get more from insurance then sellling it.

    It doesn't go up in value. Not anymore when people have a form of ADD when it comes to entertainment and people save everything, you know just it case it becomes valuable. The highest offer for 10000 comics books so far, $1000. eBay turned out to be a bust also as the only people interested is other collectors and they are anal pain in the asses who want something in perfect condition but not pay for it. The effort to get that buck becomes not worth it.

    So now I have huge collection of crap I don't want anymore and if I even manage to sell it, its looks like $10000 might be the most I will get for something that took 15 years to build. If didn't need the money I would just give it all away to be done with it.

    Long story short, its better to just read the comics and sell them in 3 month or so increments. That way if the comics you bought got hot, your in that window where the book tends to be worth the most so might actually break even on the buying vs selling.

    Collecting is an addiction and I want to quit but the market right now isn't helping.

  7. Yeah, I went through my comic collecting dork phase, too. Not that collecting comics is inherently dorky, but the way I was doing so was (a combination of "it will only go up in value" and just plane old obsession). I only had around 8 or so longboxes at my peak, but still it was such a relief when I finally sold off 80% of them (on consignment... no idea how much I got, but I would doubt I paid off the initial investment... especially if you factor in the opportunity cost of all the time and energy I put into bagging and organizing them instead of having a life).

    I still like having my books, DVDs, music and comic books, but I try to collect just things I like. And if it were to suddenly vanish one day, so be it. My stuff does not control me. I hope.

    Great blog, btw.

  8. I am glad that I have never been a "collector," as I enjoy comics just to read them.

    Of course like a novel, you don't just throw it away when you are done because you may go back and read it again one day.

    So we have book cases upon book cases (really awesome ones from Ikea) filled with comics.