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