Sunday, December 26, 2004

"Just Thinking Back"

After posting that Classics Illustrated cover yesterday it got me to thinking about my personal "history" with comic books. That particular issue was given to me at Christmas in 1955; in fact, everyone in my Sunday School Class got one as a present from my teacher then. It's the earliest comic book I can remember owning, therefore, Christmas 2005 will mark 50 years of my love of the comic book.

I regret, occasionally, on what comics I've had and let go over the years. I think I first started seriously collecting in the middle of 1963. Comics had always been around my household. My late brother was 6-1/2 years my senior and had bought them (mostly DC titles), and my Aunt Katy would get a stack of comics almost every week from a local grocery distributor. They'd be retainer issues which the company sold to her wholesale and then she'd resell them for a nickle each. I read many a issue of some late 1950's/early 60's issue of some Archie, or Super Comic there. The Super Comic reprint issues were my first exposure to Golden Age characters (although I didn't realize that at that time).

I think the first time I noticed I actually had a "collection" of sorts was mid-1963 when my brother came home for leave from The Marine Corps and I showed him a box of comics I had stuck under my bed. He asked me "Where I had gotten so many comics?" And I told him I had been collecting them, so I date that as the beginnings of my first actual collection.

They were mostly DC titles like Blackhawk and Tomahawk and Jimmy Olsen, Superman, Lois Lane, Justice League,(etc.) with a smathering of war and western titles. There were some Marvel titles, like Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt and Gunsmoke Western, among others, and I had been asking other kids in my class if they had any comics, which a lot of them did, so we'd trade. I'd get rid of books I didn't care for and that's when I pretty much discovered Marvel Comics. I can recall trading book-for-book for such issues as Amazing Fantasy 15, Journey Into Mystery 83, Sgt. Fury 1, The Avengers 1, The X-Men 1 and MANY more! It was a GREAT time to be a comic book collector because of the beginnings of so many characters at that time.

A couple of years later I got a job working part-time washing dishes at a local restaurant which paid me fifty cents an hour. I'd work maybe 8 to 10 hours some weeks, and my mom would make me save back 1/2 of what I made; but I was free to spend the OTHER half on whatever I wanted. Naturally, I bought comics with the money and it was usually more than enough to purchase most anything that was new out that week. My collection grew quickly that by the end of the 1960's I had amased over 5,000 comics, which included a full set of Marvel silver-age books (except for that elusive Incredible Hulk #1, a large run of Showcase (including a #1), full runs of the silver-age Flash and Justice League's( in their own titles ), large runs of titles like Brave & The Bold, Superman, Action, Adventure,,etc.,etc.,plus full runs of the Archie, Tower, Charlton, Dell, Gold Key, Lightning, ACG super-heroes and probably anyone else who was publishing super-hero type titles at the time. I had so many comics from the 1940's to the late 1960's, that a reporter caught wind of it and wrote up a story with photos and published it in the magazine section of a local newspaper. I caught a lot of flack from that article, people calling me childish and the like, and I think that's part of the reason that I ended up selling that first great collection around late 1970.

Oh, I'm sure that's not ALL of the reason "why", but a good part of it. By then my attention had moved on towards girls, and cars and the like. The world was changing around me, and I with it, so I sold that wonderous collection to a fellow collector for a for a lot less than its true value.

I never lost my interest in comics altogether, however. Friends of mine still bought them and I'd read their issues, and I started buying some more off the stands around 1972 or so, but didn't put together a large collection until around the mid 70's. In 1977 I moved to Bowling Green to take a job at a "head shop" as manager, and got involved in things I really shouldn't have, I guess, and ended up selling that collection as well. But, well...you know me. After that whole job thing was over I moved BACK North in Kentucky to my hometown and yet another collector showed me some titles and there I went back into it again. This time I collected pretty good up until the mid 1980's and put together yet nearly another complete set of Silver-Age Marvel's, and tons of DC's and others until around the Winter of 1983 when I fell on some hard times and simply needed cash and sold my collection, yes, again. I really don't regret selling it that time because it got me through that time and paid a lot of bills. And later on I started back collecting around the late 1980's.

At one time in the 1990's I had what was the largest collection of comics in my life; around 15 thousand of them! Even tho' I had a lot more books than I did in the first collection, it was nowhere as good; in fact, I'd traded it even for my original collection at any time, but still, it was a damn good one! I had many EC's and Golden Age comics in that collection. But once again, bills kept sticking their ugly heads up, plus I needed some essentials like dental work and new eyeglasses which I didn't have the extra money for, plus some credit card bills that needed paying off, so a dealer who I'd been buying from offered to buy my collection. I told him I would "think about it". First I went thru the entire collection and pulled out 9 or 10 boxes of what I really wanted to keep. Not all of them were high value books (I had probably 40 boxes,total); most were just things I enjoyed or of which I had certain memories. Then I called him to come down and look at the collection and make an offer. He went through several boxes and told me he'd get back with me as he had a partner who he'd have to consult first. That was fine, but I didn't rely on just him as a buyer. I told a couple other dealers who ALSO looked at the boxes and they made me an offer "on-the-spot". I told them I'D think about it and get back to them. I called the other guy up to see what his offer was and told him I'd already had one offer; he told me that he'd top anything they offered by fifty bucks, so I told him he could buy them,and he agreed to a price and set a date to come by the pay me and pick up the books.

After he loaded the comics into his van, he gave me a check, but it was only for 1/2 the amount, saying that he'd have to sell some of those to make up the difference but that he'd have the balance in 30 days. I told him that was alright; it was more money at one time than I'd ever gotten before for a collection, and I trusted him because he'd ALWAYS done me okay in the past deals. That was a bit of a mistake it turned out. The 30 days came and went and he never got back to me, and I had to finally call him to see when he'd pay me the balance. He said he'd be down in a few days to bring me "some money". He made a couple more payments, then finally just to get anything more from him I had to end up taking other books back as part of the balance. After my dealings with him, I never offered him another thing for sale. BUT...

The books I had kept were still worth quite a bit of money, so I went thru them yet again and pulled about 1/2 of what was in the boxes. Some of them I sold in a "lot" to one dealer, and later on when ebay began, some friends sold the others on commission for me. In the end, I made MORE than the initial offer, plus got some things free, like money for new eyeglasses, the dental work, plus my first computer, all of which I didn't have an extra dime invested in due to the on line sales.

And, you can't keep a good collector down. I started back collecting again after that. My collection currently totals over 6,000 comics, about 25% silver and golden age, 50% bronze and the rest modern. That's my current collection and the one I plan on having until the day I die (I hope). I figure in the past 50 years of comics with me I've had something like 40 to 50 thousand comics, the same issues several times, maybe 25 thousand different books. There's a LOT of comics I'll never have again, just because today they are so darn expensive, so I collect reprint volumes of them instead (which helps keep me from buying pricey books and re-selling them later on).

So, here's lies the story of a man who loves comic books. I'm still collecting.

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