Four-colour trea­sures

Comic col­lec­tors and deal­ers on a con­stant quest to find hid­den gems.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By CASEY PHILLIPS

A30-YEAR vet­eran of comic col­lect­ing and sell­ing, Leroy Harper, 52, stores an in­ven­tory of 16,000 to 20,000 at his home in Pa­d­u­cah, Ken­tucky. The show­piece items, such as first is­sues of Bat­man and Cap­tain Amer­ica, are kept in his of­fice. Run-of-the-mill, low-value books end up in the garage.

The most tired and tat­tered ma­te­rial, how­ever, goes out with the trash. Dur­ing a late Jan­uary trip to Chat­tanooga to find new in­ven­tory, Harper es­ti­mates he and his part­ner, Pete Przysiezny, spent about US$20,000 (RM66,000) buy­ing 12,000 to 14,000 is­sues from lo­cal col­lec­tors, a load so big it filled a Dodge Car­a­van mini­van and a mid-size SUV to the brim. But not ev­ery­thing made it back. “It was so much stuff, we had to leave boxes be­hind. That was a first,” Harper says. “I didn’t think we’d go down there and not be able to haul ev­ery­thing back.

“It wouldn’t sur­prise me if I throw from 500 to 1,000 away be­cause they’re so beat up that they have no value.”

A bit­ter pill

To many life­long col­lec­tors, the thought of comic books they squir­reled away as in­vest­ments wind­ing up in a bag on the kerb is al­most painful. Even af­ter ac­count­ing for in­fla­tion, a sell­ing price of US$3 or US$4 (RM10-RM13) for a 1980s-era Fan­tas­tic Four would be a pretty high re­turn on the ini­tial 65-cent cover price, but comic hounds tend to have high ex­pec­ta­tions of their col­lec­tions’ value.

But some col­lec­tors say their most cher­ished is­sues would never end up on Harper’s eval­u­a­tion ta­ble. Oc­ca­sion­ally, sen­ti­men­tal value, not mar­ket de­mand, can ren­der is­sues essen­tially price­less to their own­ers.

“As far as my per­sonal col­lec­tion, it would be Power Man And Iron Fist # 83,” writes Keith Finch of Rossville, Ge­or­gia, a mem­ber of the Face­book group Chat­tanooga-Area Comic Col­lec­tors. “Some­one left it in my desk in math class in sev­enth or eighth grade and never claimed it, and that se­ries has ended up be­ing one of my favourites.”

At­lanta’s Bran­don Wood­son, 40, be­gan read­ing comics more

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