21st August 2015 at 3:35pm
Next up in Collectors’ Corner, we take a look at a hobby that many people dabble in during their youth, but increasing numbers are enjoying well into adulthood: collecting comic books.
Once seen as light entertainment for kids and teens, comics have grown into a major industry over the last century, with hugely talented artists, writers and other creative talent involved in their creation, and a vast array of specialist shops, conventions, blogs, magazines and price guides all dedicated to helping fans navigate the ever-expanding range of publishers, series and cross-over titles.
To find out more, we spoke to Craig Neilson, an editor at the Big Comic Page, a Glasgow-based site featuring comic reviews, news, features and interviews with well-known and emerging writers and illustrators. Like many collectors, Craig’s childhood hobby eventually became his adult passion. “I used to collect comics when I was younger, but fell out of the hobby for a while during my late teens and twenties,” he explains. “I’m not sure why – I just sort of drifted away from it.
“It was actually DC’s ‘New 52’ event that brought me back in, as they reset all of their issues to #1s and it seemed like the perfect jumping-on point for me. That was around four years ago, and I’ve been avidly collecting comics ever since.”
Comics as a collector’s item
Many people grew up hearing stories about certain rare and valuable comics selling for massive sums, or complete collections kept in a shoebox for years eventually turning an impressive profit at
auction. For a period in the 1990s, comic books even became the subject of intense speculation, as collectors eagerly snapped up special editions and allegedly “significant” issues, before carefully
preserving them in mint condition in the hope that they would eventually re-sell for a small fortune.
Unfortunately, the reality is that comics that command these kinds of prices are few and far between and usually they are genuinely rare editions from the Golden Age of comics in the 1930s through 60s. Most of the “collector” comics from the 90s boom period failed to appreciate in value, and nowadays most collectors choose their comic books to satisfy their own personal tastes and interests, rather than as a potential source of profit. For every vintage comic sold for a small fortune, there are hundreds of thousands that change hands for pennies, simply because collectors like them and wish to build their own collection.
Craig agrees: “While there are definitely some die-hard collectors out there who can probably make a decent living out of sourcing elusive issues and re-selling them at a mark-up, for me it’s all about the stories, the artwork and the sheer enjoyment.”
So what makes a comic book collectable?
“That’s a tough one,” Craig admits. “It usually tends to be significant issues (first appearances or deaths of characters) that have the most appeal for collectors. These days, however, print runs are so large and there are so many copies of every issue out there that the value of comics themselves tends to be fairly negligible.
“That said, there are still some gems out there for collectors, usually from independent publishers who have smaller print runs. First issues of titles that went on to be massive hits, like The Walking Dead or Saga definitely have the most appeal, which leads to a lot of collectors picking up issue #1s on the off-chance that the title makes it big.”
We then asked Craig some questions about his own collection – and his responses highlight the importance of choosing comics that have personal significance or appeal to you, rather than simply
trying to guess what might be valuable in future:
What’s your rarest comic book?
“I treated myself to a copy of Iron Man #55 a few years back, which featured the first appearance of the villain Thanos, a personal favourite of mine and one of the key players in Marvel’s upcoming cinematic universe. That’s from back in 1973, and is still in pretty decent condition, so it would definitely be my ‘rarest’.”
Which comic book could you never part with?
“Probably the same issue, if I’m honest. I have other issues that have a lot of sentimental value – like a copy of American Vampire #1 signed by the writer and artist – but yeah, I think the Iron Man #55 would be the last book I’d ever get rid of.”
Which comic book would you most like to get your hands on?
“Being a massive fan of Swamp Thing, I’d absolutely love to get my hands on a copy of his first appearance in House of Secrets #92 from back in 1971.”
What do you enjoy most about collecting comic books?
“I’m not really one for searching out valuable back issues, but I definitely enjoy collecting the single issues of titles I’m currently reading. For me, it has never really been about the possibility of re-selling them for a profit, but more for the pleasure of being able to go back and read them should I feel like it. I like having a comprehensive collection that I can flick through whenever I’m feeling nostalgic about certain stories.”
So if you enjoy reading about the ever-evolving adventures of your favourite characters and have an appreciation for imaginative storylines and original artwork, comic collecting could well be a great pastime to explore – and with the ever-increasing selection of characters and storylines on the market, there’s always something new to experience.