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Comic Book Collector

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They've been around in some form for more than 100 years and have entertained millions of young boys and girls. From Popeye, Superman and the Green Lantern to the Crypt Keeper and crime-solving detectives, comic book characters have played a large role in many lives.

And as those young comic book readers grow up, the desire to keep connected to the world of comic books has created a market for collecting comics.

"Collecting comics became real popular in the early 1960s," says Michael Naiman. He is a freelance writer with many published articles on comic collecting. He's also an avid collector. "After the Overstreet Price Guide [a collector's guide to the prices of comics] came out, the monetary involvement and interest grew tremendously."

Comic book collectors buy, sell or trade both new and old comic books. For some collectors, it's about buying books that will increase in value. For others, it's about the simple pleasure of reading the comics or enjoying the artwork.

James Armstrong is an event coordinator with Hobby Star Marketing, a company that stages an annual comic expo in Toronto. He also collects comics. For him, comic book collecting is about "rediscovering great adventures."

"The comics I enjoy most are the really good ones I have read dozens of times," he says. "I guess you can only do things first once, and then everything that follows is a variation of a theme, which usually smacks of not being very original. It is very nostalgic, but that is what I like."

Today, the world of comic book collecting appears to be getting smaller. Comic books have to contend with everyone else who is competing for the attention and dollars of young people.

Dan Shnier is a graphic artist who considers himself a comic book reader more than a collector. He believes that fewer people are interested in collecting as the core group ages. As a result, the comic industry is having trouble attracting new readers.

"A kid with $5.00 can no longer walk away with an armload of comics, which I believe is discouraging to the new collector," he explains. "If they can't attract readers at a young age they are losing the entry-level collector and they are unlikely to attract them later. It's about reading, not collecting."

Getting Started

Anyone can get involved with comic book collecting. You can do it on your own, find people who share your interest online or join a local group. Above all, experienced collectors advise newcomers to enjoy what they are collecting.

"I would encourage one to get involved only if they have an intense desire to learn about the history, writers and artists who came up with this unique art form," advises Naiman.

Shnier agrees. "Do it if you like to read comics, not because you think there is money in collecting."

Still, you should have some knowledge about what you are buying. Buying a good pricing guide, finding a mentor and developing relationships with your local comic retailers are all good ways to learn.

Deciding exactly what you want to collect is also helpful. Many people collect specific titles, like Batman or Green Lantern. Others look for certain genres, writers or artists.

"You name it and there's a collection that focuses on it," says Naiman. "There are westerns, Disney, superheroes, love comics, Archie comics -- there are probably hundreds of different ways to collect." So decide what you like, and start shopping.

How much you spend can range from five to 10 dollars a month to hundreds of dollars on a single purchase. Naiman says a new collector could spend, "whatever their budget can afford. If they are buying new comics, $20 to $30 a month might work. If they are purchasing old comics...the sky's the limit."

But how could a simple comic book be worth hundreds of dollars? A comic's value is determined by several factors, including its age, its condition and how rare it is. So a book in very good or mint condition from the 1950s that is quite rare is going to be worth quite a bit more than a 1980s book that is easy to find. But if you like that 1980s comic, buy it. Read it, enjoy it, then put it away for 20 years and see what happens.

In addition to the books themselves, you will want a pricing guide and a grading guide. The grading guide will help you determine the condition of your comics, while the pricing guide lists how much they're worth.

Proper storage materials are also a good investment. These can include cardboard backers and plastic bags as well as specific boxes sized to fit the comics.

Your local comic book shop is a good place to start for new titles, especially if you can develop a solid relationship with the owner or manager. Many stores also carry older titles, but you aren't likely to get much of a deal on them. Storeowners know exactly what the books are worth, and that is the price you'll likely pay.

If you're after older titles, garage sales, flea markets and comic conventions can offer up some great finds. And, of course, there's always the Internet, as well as other, new areas of collecting.

"There are now online comics that may be the next step for attracting new readers," suggests Shnier. "I have also noticed that people scan and share comics online much like the trading of mp3s."

Like the heroes that populate their pages, comic books seem poised to face the challenges of a changing age.


Includes regular departments, articles and tips on collecting and selling comics

Comic Book Resources
Tons of news, columns and additional resources

An academic approach for serious comic collectors

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.