Robot 6

What do you do with 46,000 comics?

Hulk 181There’s a bit of irony to this story of a comics dealer and a collector going to great lengths to acquire an intact comics collection … which they apparently intend to break up by selling off the comics individually.

Matthew Lane, the reporter who got the story for the Kingsport, Tennessee, Times-News, puts the allure of the collection right in his lead:

Imagine coming across a rare comic book collection, complete runs of Marvel and DC dating back to the beginning of the Silver Age of Comics. The first appearances of Spider-man, Iron Man, Wolverine, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

Indeed, that’s what makes this collection so interesting — its completeness. Seeing an entire run of issues, watching iconic characters pop up in the context of their times, is a special experience (albeit one that can now be duplicated fairly easily with digital comics). The collection of more than 46,000 comics seems to have attracted some attention among dealers, and it was ultimately purchased by retailer Brian Marcus and collector Charles Bond.

The backstory is a bit poignant: The collector was a hospital administrator who died of a heart attack at the age of 61, leaving no family; his will was in the front seat of his car. Clearly, the collection had been a labor of love. Marcus and Bond believe he was getting comics from a variety of sources, including comics shops and storage locker sales. Each comic was carefully bagged and arranged chronologically. The comics were left to the Scottish Rite Mason’s Lodge in West Virginia.

According to the article, Marcus and Bond will get the rarer comics graded and sell the collection off online, at conventions, and in Marcus’ own Cavalier Comics store in Wise, Virginia. So it sounds like the collection will be broken up, although it’s likely that many issues will go to fill the holes in other collections. Their plan absolutely makes sense from a retailer’s point of view; they estimate the collection is worth $250,000, a figure that no single buyer is likely to match, and most people don’t have the space or resources to store such a collection. (Although it would be nice to see an academic library such as the Billy Ireland library at Ohio State University, or the Columbia University library, snap it up.) Still, it’s a little sad to see such a carefully curated collection get broken up. While it’s true that you can approximate a complete run of Marvel comics on the publisher’s Marvel Unlimited digital service, it’s not quite the same as thumbing through a stack of the originals.

“You’ll hear once or twice a year of a decent collection surfacing, but it’s harder and harder to come by these days,” Marcus said in the article. And this is exactly why.

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11 Comments

Articles like this bring out the grouchy old man in me – the same one who wishes he could still shop at Tower Records, Blockbuster, and Borders.

Can’t fault the retailers for making money off the collection, especially if the now-ex hospital administrator had wanted the collection preserved, he could have donated it to one of the aforesaid universities.

Well, I have the opposite problem. I would love to sell my 23K comic book collection that dates back to the Silver Age (not all complete runs, but going back to Avengers 1, X-men 2, Iron Man 1, JiM 83, etc.) but we can’t sell the collection as a whole.

Despite the fact that they’re well cared for, kept in mylite in long boxes with every issue 0, 1, anniversary and 10th issue with an acid free board, I can’t get anyone to even offer half of what it’s worth as a whole. I keep getting told to break it down and sell off ‘the good stuff.’

It looks more feasible to just donate the collection to a library and take the tax deduction.

I don’t expect to make a mint off of it, not by any stretch of the imagination, but with over $3,000 in bags, boards and boxes and with first appearances of the Avengers, Thor, Wolverine and Punisher among others, getting offered $15K for the whole collection is just sad.

There are quite a few precedents for this. Numerous important, historic collections have been acquired and then sold off in pieces, with each book getting a permanent “from the X collection” identification. The Mile High or Edger Church collection is probably the most famous.

I’m in a similar position. My collection is of a similar number, going back to the 50s. Between about 1965 and 1985, I bought pretty much everything from DC and Marvel — and I honestly don’t think I have a chance in hell of getting what the books are supposedly worth. Maybe I need to look into the donation angle.

I didn’t start collecting comics with the aim of making a profit or recouping the cost of my hobby. It’s cost me thousands of dollars over the last 37 years ( not to mention the additional cost of the toys, statues and DVDs and Blurays ) but countless joy as well. Money well spent. I have two boys and I’ve told them that when I pass away ( I’m only 41 ) they can do whatever they want with it. One of my sons has an interest in keeping the collection intact, but I’ve told him that he doesn’t need to if push comes to shove. He can sell it as a collection, or if he has to, sell it off piece by piece – a lot of it was accumulated in that manner, so who am I to begrudge a comic collector also trying to fill some holes in his collection?

@Poochy–Amen brother! My collecting started in the ’90s and while not as valuable as others that go back to the ’60s, etc. im passing it on as well. I’m enjoying it, can’t take it with me.

I’ve got about 40K in my collection, as well. Too bad most of it is from the ’70s forward. In other words “crap.” Spent a lot buying it over the years. Won’t ever see that kind of money if I sell it. Guess I’ll leave it for my son and let him deal with storage.

I had a large collection from my early teen years. Mostly late 80’s early 90’s. So not a lot of cash value. My nephew got into comics and lived in South Dakota. There was no comic store for over an hour. So when my wife went to visit. I had her bring 8 long boxes of my comics out to him. He just turned 16 a few months back. He still loves comics. I sent him out a couple of comics that I knew he would like. I have been collecting key issues over the past few years. It is cool that I have someone to turn them over to and pass the torch…

“Crap?!!?!?”

Shadow, how can you say that about the Bronze Age? As far as I’m concerned nothing’s better than that era. Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-In-One, Man-Thing, Rom, Aparo’s Brave and Bold, World’s Finest, DC Comics Presents, Machine Man, Power Man and Iron Fist, Super-Villain Team-Up, Human Fly, Jack Kirby’s 4th World, Tomb of Dracula, all those Marvel Premiere, Spotlight, etc, the Defenders, all through the short-lived DC Implosion up to John Byrne’s DC work!! I love that era!!!

Sure, the 90s had a lot of turkeys, but there was still a lot of great stuff!!

To all of those people looking to sell their collections, look me up….

Rob

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