Four Cheap Old Comic Books

    The time to get into collecting anything is before anybody else thinks of it.  If you wait until the market is established, rarities agreed upon, and prices set, you will look in vain for legendary items and have to settle for lesser choices. 

    Do keep in mind, as you look over that last sentence, that it simplifies matters.  If you want to make money in collectibles, you must also be sure to collect something that people will eventually yearn for.  Your collection of ice cream sandwich wrappers may be definitive, but no one but a reporter from the Sunday paper, or the staff of Hoarders, is going to be interested.  Similarly, if you’re planning a profitable collection, you need to dispose of it while the iron is hot: not like all the people who went into beer can collecting because everyone else was doing it only to realize everyone else had moved on to collecting pogs, and nobody wanted to buy those precious bits of tin and aluminum.

    In fact, the best advice I ever read on collecting came from book collector A. Edward Newton, who suggested collecting things you like.  Then even if you never make money, you’ll enjoy the stuff.

    I was really starting for another destination at the beginning of this blog.  I was going to note that I came to comic book collecting much too late.  The time to start collecting was really around 1954, when the comic books which had survived the World War II paper drives were still affordable and horror comics were in their prime.  The new age of superheroes was right around the corner, and somewhere around the time The Fantastic Four first appeared, people started collecting comic books in earnest.  By the time I was interested, that first Fantastic Four was selling at prices in four figures, and the legendary issues, like Action #1 (first Superman) or Detective #27 (first Batman) were sneaking up to six figures.  I had to settle for what odds and ends I could pick up (baseball cards were not as hot at that moment, so I wound up swapping my duplicates—which would have been worth a cool profit just ten years later—for a World War II Batman and some 1920s comic strip reprint booklets.)

    I pored over the price guides, dreaming of what I MIGHT find at some garage sale, and sent away to comic book archives for photocopies, so I could read the not very classic adventures of the Rubber Robot, Invisible Scarlet O’Neil, and the Blue Blaze (whom I have hitherto nominated for one of the dumbest origin stories in the world of superheroes  He was, like Spider-Man, a scientific accident, but all Peter Parker had to do was get bitten by a radioactive spider.  The Blue Blaze got dressed up for a costume party just before an earthquake struck, throwing him in front of his father’s experimental ray gun, after which he was buried alive for about eighty years until grave robbers dug him up and….  He was also easily one of the grimmest of superheroes: Superman may have matched him in the invulnerability department but Superman never picked up an evil scientist and walked through the scientist’s river of acid, knowing HE would come out of it okay but the villain would be dissolved to a mere skeleton.)

    But the great finds always eluded me.  One garage sale—involving the sale of the estate of someone rumored to be a fence, so everything there was under suspicion of being stolen—turned up a number of Animal Comics featuring early Pogo stories, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to buy all of them and, as usual, picked the ones that ,looked like fun but were worth the least.  And that was about the extent of my rare finds until just recently while hunting online for things to sell to buy pretzels and cheese during the pandemic, I bid on fourteen comic books I’d HEARD about but never expected to hold in my hand—not superheroes, it’s true, and not by artists people were yearning for, but….

    Oh, I see that’s all the room for today’s column.  Next time, then, true believers.

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