Location, Location, Location!

I have quickly realised in my 3 years of collecting that Australia is not the best place to be trying to build a comic collection. The reason for that is simple, anything from before the mid eighties is difficult to find here du. To the fact that there were hardly any comic retailers then and the population was a lot smaller. This means there are very few books from this era in the country. I have only found one shop that stocks books that old to any significant degree and that store is run so badly that the back issue section is rarely even open to the public.

This leaves eBay. Again there are not many books available for sale in Australia, but shipping is so costly from America that it not really worth it unless you buy a lot of books.

For example, I have been working on building a run of Detective Comics books. from around 450 to 700. The books from 600-700 have been easy enough to find with the odd exception, but below about 580, they start becoming incredibly uncommon, in fact issues 575 and 576 have not shown up on eBay Australia in the two years I have been looking. I am in no doubt that if I were in America this run would be pretty much complete by now and I probably wouldn’t have spent much more money on them, but here I am still looking for close to 100 books. None of these books are that expensive so the shipping cost from America would be more than the books are worth.

At least it controls my spending a little I suppose. It does however make me wish I’d started collecting before I had emigrated here from the UK, though you then get into the price variant minefield! I suppose I need to just keep telling myself that old adage, that the thrill is in the chase, though I’ not sure the person who coined that phrase was talking about comics. I would love to find those two issues of Detective Comics though!

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We’re Going To Need A Bigger House!

I just realised it has been over a year since my last post so I figured an update was way over due. The problem I have is I feel that although I get excited every a new delivery of books arrives on my door step, it is not the most exciting thing for others to read about. In the past year my collection has grown significantly to about 9 short boxes of comics, so not far off reaching the 1000 mark! My collecting has gone through phases where I am heavily focused on a particular book, but these seem to change back and forth every few months.

Daredevil is still my favourite current book so far, though I have no idea why Marvel have restarted the numbering again. Mark Waid’s writing is excellent and Chris Samnee’s art is also very appealing to the eye (mine anyway). I have also enjoyed the recent mini-series too.

With my back issues, I have been switching between Avengers vol.1, Detective Comics Vol.1 and Daredevil Vol.1, with a few other titles mixed in. I am close to having an unbroken run of Avengers books from #120-300 which I am very pleased about and my Detective comics collection is closing in on 200 books. The problem is that is becoming harder to find books to fill the gaps. The best comic shop for back issues by far in Sydney is Comic Kingdom, however their management have decided to cover their back issue section with boxes and make it inaccessible to customers! This has been the case since at least October so I have been limited to eBay and collectors fairs mainly for my comics fix. This just seems like crazy management to me. The stores major attraction is its back issues and they have basically closed that section for six months. This is so frustrating, particularly when you have taken an hour train journey each way just to check out that part of the store (twice).

On the plus side, I have discovered a couple more collectors fairs recently, although it seems these events focus more on toys than comics. eBay has been frustratingly slow too recently and their are a couple of issues I have been looking for for over two years now.

One thing I have enjoyed over this last year has been listening to Kevin Smith’s ‘Fatman on Batman’ podcast. He has had some really interesting guests on his show talking about their careers. Personal highlights have been Mark Hamill, Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Kyle Higgins, but best of all was the three part interview with Neal Adams. Wow, that man has had such a huge influence on the industry! It inspired me to purchase his Batman illustrated graphic novels, which I love! The art is very different to the modern image of Batman and the stories are quite old fashioned but they are so good to look at and read, I am now intending to start another section of my collection for the Brave and the Bold comics.

Anyway I have bored you enough with my comics so I will sign off there, although writing this has got me wondering what might be my 1000th comic? I may have to count them and make it a special book. I’ll keep you posted (hopefully in less than a year this time!)

 

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The Importance of Good Grades.

One of the things I quickly figured out about collecting comics was condition is everything, now that doesn’t sound to surprising, but when you look into it further it is actually quite a complicated job to grade a comic on its condition. It is dependent on many factors, such as corner condition, spine condition, staple tightness, page colour just to name a few. Things like pen marks, even where prices are altered bring the condition down a lot, and use of stick tape to repair any slight tears destroys the grade and therefore the value.
All these things are used to give a grade (something that should be easy to deal with for a teacher like me!) but the terms used for grading can a little confusing to a newcomer. When you see the word ‘good’ associated with a grade, you may think this is a positive thing, but in reality a ‘good’ grade is really quite low. Grades seem to drop quickly and have a huge impact on value. For example, if you were lucky enough to own a Daredevil #1 from 1964 in near mint condition (9.4), it is estimated to be worth $10,000, but a copy in good condition (2.0) is worth only $250.
I picked up some comics early on in my collecting days from the 70’s and to an untrained eye they look in great condition for their age, but in the opinion of the seller they were only fine (6.0), and in reality they are probably a little less than that as a seller is always going to be slightly optimistic in their grading. They were part of a set of a set of six books with Jack Kirby art called “The Sandman”. Over the following months I gradually completed the short run and issue one remains the most expensive book I have bought. Thankfully that book is probably in the best condition of the lot and is also the most valuable so it shows I was learning!

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It really is a minefield. As it is really all based on opinion, there is a lot of disagreements over grading, which is clear from the descriptions in many ebay auctions which often state “I am not a professional grader” in the hope of avoiding negative feedback. I quickly realised that studying photos carefully is very important to help you avoid over paying for books. A grading guide is also helpful and I have found the comics price guide website invaluable in assisting me with my purchase decisions. However even this is not perfect as there are many discrepancies between this and the over street price guide used by retailers.
The biggest problem I have faced with my collecting is finding reasonably priced books in Australia. The choice of comic book stores is limited, as is the number of sellers on Ebay from Australia. This means you need to either accept lower grade books than you really want, and pay slightly more than their estimated value or pay high shipping charges to bring books from America or Britain in better condition. You then have to accept the increased risk of damage in posting, defeating the whole purpose of buying from abroad. You also have to watch out for British price variants, which are identical except for the price in the corner, but worth a lot less. I have only really found this an option when buying large numbers of books, to spread the shipping cost across all the books. I have done this a few times, but only when I want a specific issue that is in available here.
I often think it would be so much easier to be a comic collector in America! Or at least that I should have started collecting when I lived in England. I certainly will be visiting some stores next time I visit the UK to visit friends and family!

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Completely Obsessed!

It took me a long time to get into comics. sure I read them as a kid, but that was mostly ‘The Beano’, ‘Action Force’ (the British version of GI Joe) and Roy of the Rovers. Other than the odd book, I didn’t really get too many superhero stories. It was strange therefore that I should have kept only a couple of books from my childhood, and they happen to be Detective Comics and a UK version of Secret Wars.
Even when I got back into them at the ripe young age of 35, it took me a while to start picking up the individual issues, sticking to the more approachable graphic novels which contained a complete story. The biggest problems for me with individual issues were first of all where do you start?
As a newcomer, you couldn’t just pick up a random issue of Batman as it is likely to be part way through a story which would be a little confusing to a newcomer and annoying. Also which character do you buy? Batman was the obvious choice, particularly Detective comics whichI had one shabby issue of already, but there were around 900 back issues of that, and even as a newcomer, I knew some of those would be impossible to get without robbing a bank.
Second of all I knew that as soon as I started collecting, it would be difficult to stop, as like many people, I like to complete things, whether it is the 1986 football Panini sticker album, a set of Garbage Pail Kids cards, the Return of the Jedi sticker book (which i did complete and still have!) or even the French football league book I once bought on a 2 week holiday there when I was 9. Sure, I haven’t completed every collection I’ve started, but I have a good go at it and it usually ends up expensive! Like many men (and women) I have a large CD, DVD/blu-ray and book collection as well as quite a few autographs, not to mention all those things in my parent’s loft like bookmarks, stamps, coins, model plains, Warhammer figures and football programmes. I knew once I started, I was going to feel the urge to complete sets of books!
Wisely I started with some short collections. A six book series of Sandman from the 70’s, and an 8 book series of Elektra by Frank Miller. But listening to ‘I Sell Comics’ got me interested in the Avengers due to Michael Zapcic’s enthusiasm for the stories, so I looked up some good story lines, found a story that was part of a short run, and got on eBay. The first book I bought was #161, part of a two book run, which was quickly followed by #162.
But I should have know better than to think a 2 book story would be enough. Another story had caught my eye, the Korvac Saga (thanks to Michael Zapcic’s again!). I picked up the trade paper back of this, but decided it would be good to also own the individual books, so I started ordering them. It turned out these we’re very close to my first two books in numbers, so of course I thought I should ‘bridge the gap’ – a bad habit I still can’t get out of!
This then turned into ‘I’ll just get books 150 – 200, but some of these were a little expensive for a newcomer, so I am still working on that, in the meantime I saw an auction for 6 books around #230, so I bought these, so the intention of 50, turned into an intended run of 100, then I saw a copy of #63 at a really low price….
Anyway, I am still working on the Avengers collection, which I think is up to around 100 books now including my latest additions pictured below. Unfortunately, I have also started collecting Uncanny X-Men, Daredevil, Iron Man and Detective comics ( yes, the volume with close to 900 books!). I thinks in it for the long haul! At least I have the self control to restrict my spending and I have not yet been able to bring myself to spend over $25 on a book, but I’m sure I will have to eventually. This is going to be an expensive hobby, especially with the cost of bags and boards to protect my collection added in! I hope I can keep it under control, but if you see me selling my left Kidney on eBay, then I’d be grateful if you could call around and stage an intervention.

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Marvel Right Now!

So it’s been a while since my last entry and my collection has grown steadily. My pull list has ballooned and my bank balance has shrunk. I have tried lots of new titles and to be honest I’ve liked most of what I have read.

My focus has shifted away from Batman a little, although he is probably still my favourite character, but with a whole shelf of Batman Trade paper backs in my collection I felt I needed to broaden my horizons a little. I finally ventured into the world of the cross over story lines with Secret Wars, and enjoyed it.

I also sampled several titles in the Marvel now series, some of which are excellent like All New X-Men, and some less so. I sampled Deadpool and was surprised to find I enjoyed the humorous style of story telling in his dead presidents story lines, but was disappointed with Iron Man which was the title I thought I’d enjoy most. The first few weeks of the Marvel Now launch proved expensive, with some titles seeming to be releasing every week to begin with, but thankfully that seems to have calmed down a lot.

One title I was looking for in the Marvel Now launch was Daredevil, which I am surprised to say has become another of my favourites. I didn’t expect this, maybe due to the Ben Affleck movie. Anyway it has yet to appear so instead I picked up the End of Days story arc. WOW! This has turned out to be one of my favourite stories yet (so far anyway, I’m only up to the end of issue 3). If you are into comics and haven’t read this yet then you really should. I also managed to pick up a copy of the Daredevil Yellow trade paper back which I have been seeking out for a while now, it is on my ‘to read’ pile, I’ll let you know how I get on.

Meanwhile, my eBay habit has continued, and barely a week goes by without at least one parcel arriving on my door step, usually containing an old Avengers comic or four.

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My latest additions

I just love arriving home from work to find a parcel on my doorstep and today I had 2! Both contained eBay purchases of comics that I wanted to complete story arcs or just extend runs of comics I already have. All were in great shape other than a small pencil mark in the corner of the action comics, which I am annoyed I didn’t spot in the picture on eBay. It might encourage me to take a little more time to examine pictures in future!
eBay is so dangerous for collectors, especially with an iPad. It is so easy to just sit and browse and before you know it, you’ve ordered something else. Fun though.

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Part of my growing collection.

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October 21, 2012 · 3:50 am