Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BAB Re-Run: How Do You Interpret the Word "Collecting"?

Doug: We are re-running a post that originally appeared in the dawning of this blog, back in November of 2009. At the time it got no comments -- probably due to the fact that we had not-too-many readers back then. Several times in the past few weeks, our readers have commented on various purchases they've made lately that hearken back to the Bronze Age. I commented that Karen and I, too, are always looking for that next nugget that we'll parlay into a post or comics review. So, it sounds like we're all still, to some degree, buying old comics. And that brings us to today's (or way-back-when's) topic, which I've turned into an Open Forum question -- How do you interpret the word "collecting" in regard to your buying habits these days?

Doug: Thanks in advance, as always, for your participation.

Doug: Several posts ago, I made a remark about collecting comics. My posit was that I am more of a "possessor" than a "collector". I related a story about my mission of the late 1980's-early 1990's to amass a complete run of my favorite title, the Avengers. While I didn't chase after "reading copies", I was willing to accept some issues in the Good to Very Good range. Obviously, Fine or better was preferred, but as I got closer and closer and it was the very early issues that remained to be purchased, I compromised any investment potential.

Doug: While I was building the Avengers run, my friend Don was seeking to buy the entire Lee/Kirby run of the Fantastic Four. However, he was much stingier than I; consequently, he never achieved his goal -- but what he has (including FF #4) is in really, really nice shape.

Doug: I guess I somewhat fancy myself these days as having a comics library. I own a fairly nice collection of books about comics history, creator biographies, encyclopedias, and trade paperbacks/hardcovers from favorite stories/series. I would say the cornerstone of my collection these days are the four Marvel DVD-ROMs that I own -- complete collections (through about 2006) of Amazing Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Iron Man. These discs have largely turned me away from collecting comic books themselves.

Doug: Of course the complaint about the DVD-ROMs is that you have to have a computer handy, and if that computer isn't a laptop then you can be talking about doing some uncomfortable reading. However, I'd argue that just the fact that each disc contains approximately 500 issues of continuity makes them a no-brainer economically. At the retail price they originally sold at, my four discs give me around 2000 comics for roughly $200. Do the math -- 10 cents an issue? DC's Archive Editions and Marvel's Masterworks offer you 10 issues for about $55 ($5.50/issue) and DC's Showcase Presents and Marvel's Essentials reprint 25 comics for around $16 (a little over $1.50/issue).

Doug: Now I do own several Archives (the complete Legion of Super-Heroes, for example) and Masterworks, as well as Essentials -- these are great things. The Essentials are especially nice, as they include complete stories, even when crossovers were involved. That would be one of the negatives about the DVD-ROMs -- no Giant-Size issues, for example. But here I am back to my original suggestion that I have become more of a possessor than a collector (as that term is generally applied to those who buy comics). To have, regardless of the format, has become my goal.
Doug: And therein lies part of the problem: what about that issue that can't be acquired in reprint form? A few posts ago we discussed the Secret Society of Super-Villains -- not available (to the best of my knowledge). How about some of the other short-lived series of the 1970's? Black Goliath, The Cat, and others? Not available. So, am I saying that I would never buy back issues that might rekindle those childhood four-color memories? No. But I guess I no longer go out of my way to find them. I sort of envy those fans who browse through the dollar boxes to find that hidden gem. But somewhat-sadly -- it's just not me any more.

I think I am now a possessor as well. While I like having the original comics, it's just too expensive for me to try to buy them all, even in Good condition. Now that I have the DVDs, and a number of Masterworks, I feel I've filled in a lot of gaps. I can see myself spending my comics money on Masterworks for more obscure titles, or buying original comics of series that aren't too expensive. I just don't feel the need to have a NM copy of Avengers #1 - I just want a copy I can read, whatever the format.

Karen: That being said, I wish the Masterworks were like the DVDs and included ads, bullpen bulletins, and letter pages, or at least the letter pages. I like the ease of the masterworks (no computer necessary) but miss those elements.


david_b said...

Good question on the intent of collecting vs. Having a library.. I was surprised recently to uncover how many VG comics I had. Most of us are eager to fill holes (as one of your captions say, 'ain't nothing like the real thing', the CD box sets and Masterworks lines would be a great space and money saver.

That money in return would be best used for the 'first issues' and other landmark beauties. That'll most likely be my strategy next year. I've only got a meager 300+ coLlection now, down from twice that at one point..

Although my hobby's climbed up a bit since participating here.

Fred W. Hill said...

I've always been more of a possesser -- I prefer to have the originals, with letters pages and all that, but I rarely go out of my way or budget to get them, especially when I already have the story in some format. So far, the most I've ever spent on one comic was $25.00 for Avengers #93, which I got sometime back in the mid-80s and it was essentially an impulse buy -- it was available at the comics store, it was a classic issue I'd heard much about, and I could afford it, so it became mine! Eventually I got many other original back issues of the Avengers, from most of Thomas' run until Englehart took, which was when I started regularly collecting it.
These days, the only series I regularly collect is Fables, but until recently only the collections -- last week while on vacation in Pasadena I stopped in a comics shop and picked up a couple of recent issues. I also got a Back Issue, with a cover by Jim Starlin, focusing on death in comics.
I still have enough of the collecting bug to make those sort of purchases every once in a while, yet I'm not nearly as much into it as I was about 30 years ago.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I can honestly say I never collected comics with the hope of resale and have rarely done it. Even in the 80s when the comics market was still growing, I never saw comics as an “investment.” Actually finding people who would pay the supposed Comic Book Buyers Guide value seemed pretty remote to me even them.

Then and now, I collect comics because I like the stories – and if I enjoy them then I am not interested in casting them away. Memories are great but they fade. Even better is to be able to re-live that reading experience and as long I have the comics I can still do that.

I do peruse comic stores but I am more likely to just look through the bargain bins. The Essentials volumes have enabled me to expand my collection at bargain prices. While I do miss color, I like the value for my dollar it gives me.

William said...

Great topic as always. I too have most of those 500 comic "40 Years" of Marvel DVD collections. I have Spider-Man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the X-Menl. I don't have Captain America or the Hulk. I recently took them all and backed them up to an external hard drive so now all I have to do is plug that in and I can access any of the more than 2500 comics without having to switch discs. It also preserves the original copies and makes eading the comics much faster. I really like them, and find them to an invaluable resource, but they still can't completely take the place of an actual physical book.

I've replaced a lot of my collection over the years with trade paperbacks and hardbound collected editions. I've sold off X-Men #10-16, Avengers #2 and 9, FF #18, 39 and 73, and a few early issues of Daredevil. Although I couldn't bear to part with the Wally Wood original issues that I own, even though I also have them reprinted in a Masterworks edition. I also sold off all of my Byrne Fantastic Four and X-Men and Frank Miller Daredevil comics and replaced them with hardcover and trade paperback collections. I like to re-read my comics and I love the convenience of having them all in a few collected editions. So, I just didn't see a good reason to keep and store the originals.

The one thing I can't seem to part with however is my original Spider-Man collection. I very nearly have every Spider-Man comic book ever printed. Including every single issue of Amazing Spider-Man (along with a very nice copy of Amazing Fantasy #15), Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Sensational Spider-Man, all the mini-series, specials and annuals, etc., etc., etc. However, I also have the 40 Years of Amazing Spider-Man original CD collection, the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Vol. 1, as well as many Marvel Masterworks editions (I did sell the first 3 of those once I got the Omnibus, hey I'm not obsessed or anything) numerous trade paperbacks, and other assorted reprint collections. One of the saddest days for me was when I finally gave up and quit buying any new Spider-Man comics. Including my beloved Amazing Spider-Man :(. I just couldn't take seeing something that always meant so much to me being systematically destroyed piece by agonizing piece!

That said, I still enjoy reading Spider-Man and other Marvel comics very much. (Just not the new stuff). I will however continue to collect and read older comics and collected volumes of the same.

J.A. Morris said...

Doug wrote:
"A few posts ago we discussed the Secret Society of Super-Villains -- not available (to the best of my knowledge)."

But it will be available soon,and for a reasonable price!:


I'm with you folks, I'm more of a possesor now, getting reprint books instead of back issues when I can. I've also bought,shall we say "unauthorized" reprints of series like 'Master Of Kung Fu' in CBR format. When it gets released properly I'll be the first to preorder it.

Redartz said...

I too have adapted by collectimg habits in order to live with economic reality. Where I once purchased only original printings, now I have such titles as Marvel Tales and Marvel's Greatest in the boxes. Like many, I have added the Masterworks (and other volumes).

I still haunt flea markets for bargains, and try to hit the occasional convention; there is still no fun like adding a newsprint rarity to your collection. As my tastes are rather eclectic, many of the books I pick up are unavailable in reprinted form ( Dells, Disneys, Indies, Archies, etc.). Frugality again requires acceptance of lower grade books, which is fine as the pleasure is in the reading. Happy hunting to you all!

Edo Bosnar said...

Great topic, and great comments from everybody - I really enjoyed reading them.
Anyway, I share Inkstained's stance about collecting; as a kid I just liked reading them and I don't think I ever seriously entertained any notions that my comics stash would make me money some day (besides, many of them were hardly in decent condition as I read them repeatedly, and my storage involved stacking them in cardboard boxes or packing crates...) And I did not in fact make any money when I unloaded my big collection during my senior year of high school - I pretty much gave it away for peanuts.
Now that I'm into comics again, it's pretty much the same as when I was a kid: I just enjoy reading the stories, and almost exclusively buy collected editions in whatever format - my current collection of floppies consists of about 50 random issues tops.

Ram said...

William, I'm just curious which was the last Amazing Spiderman you bought?

William said...

Hi RAM, I'm not 100% positive but it was somewhere around issue #650 (one of the ones where he was wearing the "TRON" costume) but my distaste for the direction of the series had been building for many years, dating back to the JMS era. I was finally honest with myself and realized that I just was not enjoying the book at all any longer. In fact it usually just made me angry more than anything else. I came to the sad realization that the series was never going to be what it once was, and at $4.00 a pop, it just wasn't worth it to me anymore.

ASM was just about the only "modern age" comic I was still reading. So now I don't even go to the comic store at all anymore. These days I just buy trades on Amazon and back issues on Ebay.

Fred W. Hill said...

I'm with Edo & Inkstained -- I always bought comics simply for the pleasure of reading them, although for a while it became more out of habit than pleasure. Anyhow, I didn't go to much trouble to keep them in pristine condition as I never purchased any of them with the thought of trying to sell them later. Eventually I did sell a box or so of them, but to my recollection none of them were exactly hot collectors' items that would've gone for a bundle.

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