Monday, December 31, 2007

Tips For The Overwhelmed Collector

I just went through my comic book collection the other day, tossed 1/4. I do this periodically with all my collections -- comics, books, DVDs, toys, even clothes. I do this because I know I have a tendency to be a pack rat. And knowing is half the battle.

Are you an overwhelmed collector? With the New Year upon us, now might be a great time to take stock.

1. Has your collection squeezed you out of essential living space?

2. Do you have parts of your collection either in your kitchen or bathroom -- not by choice?

3. Does your collection make you fill up with joy or dread?

4. Do you have visions of you passing away and your family struggling to get rid of all your stuff?

5. Do you want to relocate, but your collection has become so unwieldy that it would be cost-prohibitive to move it?

6. Do you keep stuff you feel no love for just because you think they might be valuable some day or just out of the principle that you must keep everything you buy?

7. Do you spend more time with your collection or other human beings?

8. When a piece of your collection gets damaged, do you get disproportionately upset?

9. Do you keep your collection in their original packaging and not touch or read them?

10. Have you ever skipped meals because of a financial deficit caused by a past, present, or future collection purchase?

It's fine to collect things. But we must not let our collections gets out of hand or distract us from what is really important in life. Here are some strategies:

A. Please keep in mind the Zen idea of Impermanence. Everything in this world is impermanent -- finite. Everything you own will eventually end up in thr trash heap. Everything you own will eventually get damaged and crushed and turn to dust. Even that museum-quality Iron Man helmet you bought.

B. Please keep in mind that YOU are impermanent. Your days are finite. Get a calculator and figure out roughly how many years, weeks, and days you might have left. I know that sounds ghoulish, but it's a wake-up call. Decide how you might want to enjoy your time left on Earth. Certainly reading comic books and the thrill and hunt of the collection are valid ways. But being obsessive over your collections or limiting the amount of time you spend with others might not be so valid.

C. Human beings grow and evolve; their possessions reflect that evolution, or they should. If you have surrounded yourself with He-Man figure from when you were a kid but you've psychologically moved past that era, those toys in-your-face are going to drag you down. Having one or two would be okay -- having Castle Grayskull mint in box in your living room while you have totally grown out of that is not okay.

D. If you are keeping the majority of your collection mint in package without touching them, you have a problem. Unless they are vintage Megos, in which case it's okay.

E. Comics and toys of past eras have ended up going up in price because back in the 40s-70s people were not that savvy about collecting for investment. But now they are. So the prices will never go up that much for new items. Unless they're Marvel Legends, in which case it's okay.

F. Every six months you need to go through your collections and cull 1/4 of them for irrelevant items. You need to be ruthless. Never keep comic books you feel "meh" about. Because comic books add up, multiply, have babies, take over your house.

G. Some comic books are worth more as recycled paper. Meditate on this one.

H. It is hard, but not impossible, to get a person to sleep with you when you have 300 pairs of action figure eyes staring down from the shelves in your bedroom. If you are considering sharing your life with somebody who may not be into the same hobbies as yourself, you might want to put those toys or hardcover collections of Witchblade in a den or living room instead.

I. If you want to get rid of large irrelevant parts of your collection but are agonizing about how to get rid of them for more than three months, go now and toss them in a garbage bag and just dump them and run away. Then come back and read the rest of my post.

J. A lot of times we purchase items for our various collections not out of a joy for the item being collected but out of a deep emotional need. Pay attention the next time you buy a comic book or toy or other collectible whether you are buying it because you will get enjoyment out of it or because you are feeling lonely/empty/bored. Learn to recognize the difference.

K. Never buy something because the purchased item might be useful/valuable for some indeterminate time in the future. Never buy a DVD if you have a stack you haven't watched yet. Never buy two of something for "investment." Never buy because you think your unborn child might get a big kick out of it when they're 30. Believe me, when they're 30, they'll be zipping around in their Jetsons cars.

Finally -- and this is more esoteric so bear with me -- the future will place less and less importance on owning "things." The trend will be not to have a big DVD collection but to either keep purchased copies on your hard drive or disc or to stream them anytime you want. As climate changes get more unpredictable and the economy more unstable, things like relocation becomes more and more an issue. You need to be flexible. You can't be burdened by tons of stuff in your house or apartment that impedes you from being mobile. If you have ever moved a big comic book collection, you know of which I speak.

People have been collecting objects they have an affinity for and amassing little libraries since ancient times. That's great. That's human. But -- like everything -- "all in moderation."

Except if it's those cute little wind-up robots from Japan, in which case it's okay.


  1. ""all in moderation.""

    I dunno, Val...Doug Stanhope tells me to exceed in moderation. Don't just drink a few beers every night - wait until the end of the month and drink ALL the beers! Don't just take a few stems of the mushrooms every week and see a few colors - wait and then take them ALL and see GOD!

    Seems a better philosophy...if I want to be dead by the time I am 45. (Which is still undecided...still having a hard time getting used to being 30.)

    Hey, as a PS, the last thread I posted on gave me quite a bit of food for thought and great material for discussion - and your post regarding reboot vs. succession plays a part in this. Will post as soon as I can organize my thoughts. Just didn't want to leave the impression that I ignore what is said to me.

  2. Great post. I need to do a massive cleaning up soon. I have a feeling a lot of stuff will just end up in the recyclable stuff.

  3. Another tip:

    If there's something you want now, wait a day or even a week before purchasing it. Something you think you want may not seem as important after you've had some time to think about it.

  4. I saved all my Star Wars toys to give to an unborn child. Now that child is six years old and obsesses with Star Wars. So in my case, the "saving the toys for the unborn child" worked.

    But usually, yeah, totally.

  5. I just horde books.


  6. Anonymous7:19 PM

    Whoa, check out those Star Wars figurines! You could seriously take over the galaxy with that.

  7. AMEN!

    I'm in the process of a culling and it is liberating watching things I haven't looked at in years just go away and along with it a strange feeling of reclamation.

  8. "Having one or two would be okay -- having Castle Grayskull mint in box in your living room while you have totally grown out of that is not okay."

    I like your writing, and I check this blog almost every day, but what I thought when I read that was, "Fuck you and whatever you think is 'ok' for me." It seems presumptuous to tell strangers what's 'ok' and what isn't.

  9. Screw dumping these comics! Send them to me instead! Why not just offer to send them to people on the blog if they pay shipping???? Or use ebay to sell a bunch of them! That's insanity!

  10. Great post, Val. I've been thinking about this alot latey and been very aware of point J specifically. I'm getting better at it, but there's lots of room for progress.

    You should expand on this and publish it as Zen and the Art of Geek Consumption. I'd buy two copies, and one to give to my unborn kid (d'oh).

    Re: culling a collection, has anyone ever used this service:

  11. great post. after reading, i thought I'd take a little bit of initiative and pruned my collection a bit, and now I have a 40 gallon trash bag full of comics.

    I was going to throw them in the recycling, but then, I remembered, UC-Santa Cruz just opened a Comic Book Library. So I emailed them and I'm probably gonna take this Legion of Rejected Books up there on my day off and give them a new home somewhere that's NOT in my bedroom, where other people can enjoy them.

    if you're thinking of getting rid of some books, I'd highly encourage doing a quick google search to see if there's a comics library any where around. I know this won't work for everybody, but its definitely worth a shot.

  12. I have a huge problem with buying and hanging on to things and I think eBay's making it worse. I hate to throw anything out if I think I can sell it on eBay, because I feel like I'm throwing money away. The problem there is that I'm never motivated enough to engage in the hard work of taking appealing photos and listing these items, especially when it's some goofy little trinket that I might be able to get five bucks for, tops.

    Re: your comments about opening new toys... I've been eyeing my unopened DC Direct stuff, but I just can't bring myself to do it. What if I decide I want to try to sell any of this stuff in the future? Again, it's like I'm throwing money away.

  13. I think giving the comcis to someone, a comic library or a charity shop or flogging them up ebay is a better idea than chucking them. let someone else love them for a while! spread the joy! plus, less stuff ends up on landfill. which is bad.

  14. Best Post Ever!

    Had to give some love after you gave my man Booster crap.

    I think I'm going to do some evaluating today, though I do feel better about my stuff after seeing the pics of the Star Wars and comic collections :)

  15. Decluttering is a great thing. Our possessions can own us more than we own them and recognizing that our capacity to amass material goods aren't really what matters in the end is important.

    At the same time, instead of throwing them out, why not give them away? Or see them in a single lot auction online and donate the money to a charitable organization?

    Here's one that I volunteer with that will accept comics as a donation to resell:

    Wetlands Activism Collective
    PO Box 344
    NY, NY 10108
    Phone: (775)871-7473

    This is a group that works on things like promoting fair trade policies, preventing animal cruelty, preventing destruction of forests by promoting use of recycled paper by catalog companies and comic book publishers ( , teaching kids in low-income neighborhoods to build their own bicycles out of discarded parts, --oh, and exposing unnecessary waste of usable goods (hint).

    Of course, I'm sure there are lots of other organizations out there that would similarly value such a resource.

    Simply tossing seems unnecessarily wasteful.

    Other alternatives: -- find the page for your cit and post to free section. -- find the groups for your area.

  16. Great post and food for thought -- especially the comment about why one is buying something.

    But I'm only about 150 issues away from that complete Valiant collection.

  17. By the way, I'm a different Scott than the previous one.