At least once a month, a new or potential comic book fan will walk through the doors of my shop interested in becoming a reader of the characters they’ve seen in the latest superhero films and TV shows. While scanning the wall of the newest available issues, they’ll ask “So which ones will be worth money?” At this point, I usually feel my teeth clench but I can’t blame the customer for posing the question. This is a leftover problem coming directly from the speculator boom of the 1990’s. And that problem is the faulty mindset that comics are for collecting.

Don’t get me wrong, I love collecting comics. Nothing beats the rush of adding a sweet silver age book to my collection to fill a hole and complete a storyline. Like any fan, I have certain creators that I adore and follow, gobbling up their newest releases and hunting down their older works to add to my library. Always the constant is the love of the art, the story and the history of the characters. Much like sports fans, dedicated comic readers can debate over the most miniscule Spider-Man stat or comic continuity error with all the passion of any great NFL weekend warrior. Amassing a collection becomes a natural outgrowth of following your favorite series and watching certain books rise in value adds an extra element of enjoyment to the hobby.

The hobby as an investment turned into the investment as a hobby in the 1990’s, brought on by big event storylines like The Death of Superman. Comic books were now bought to be horded and tucked away, now considered to be a commodity instead of entertainment, unread and unopened for fear of losing any future value. Many of these issues sold in the millions, but failed to sustain their numbers and inflated fan base. This mid 90’s boom eventually went bust and it took almost a decade for the industry to fully recover, leaving almost all of these speculator comics worthless. Countless articles have been written pointing the blaming finger, but it comes down to one basic truth. If you are collecting comic books like you’re buying stocks without ever enjoying the creativity inside those front and back covers, you are unlikely to return each month to continue following the adventures and drama of the many quality series being published.

This brings me right back to that dreaded question and the need to change that way of thinking. I enjoy the opportunity to steer people in the direction of comic books for reading and entertainment first and investments second. I instead answer them with a quick rundown of some storylines of current titles and a couple will usually grab them and excite them to start reading. This is where true comic book collecting should start from and it’s a joy to talk to a returning customer who just has to get their hands on the next issue or trade paperback of a series to find out what happens next. If you are only concerned with the value of a book, you will most likely miss rather than hit. Of the few current comics that have jumped in price, they were ones that existed under the radar for some time before shooting up in value. Not many people bought Walking Dead #1 when it was first released and the series trudged along for several years with a small fan base before the television show made it a household name. If you were lucky enough to buy a copy of the first issue for cover price, you would have succeeded in making a sizable profit from your initial investment. If you never dared to open that now iconic front cover and read it, then you’ve missed out on the real wealth inside.

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