Show Off

My pal Chris Owen sure does seem to inspire a lot of these posts, he’s a good kid that one.

Chris and I will sometimes show each other books from our PC. I can’t tell you how much of a good time it is, and its always the little gems that win the day. I remember once Chris showing me his and I went goo-goo over a nice tight crisp and very raw copy of a Gold Key Jet Dreams #1. I wanted it so bad and the SOB would not sell it to me. Let’s leave that hurt aside and focus on what was really happening, Chris was showing off his collection for someone else to see. There’s something to that and I want to see if I can find it, lets poke around together in this post.

Comic collecting used to be a loner hobby, our collection sat in closed boxes in a closed closet hardly ever seeing the light of day. Every now and then, when we needed to re-bag or when we needed to move them we may have taken an hour or two to peruse the boxes for our own enjoyment but we never really invited another comic person over to just revel and gawk at all the goodies there.

We old time comic collectors were not that good at showing our books off.

Thankfully today there are options available to us to show off our collections, CGC has a Registry Set ranking where you are in the list of “best this set or that set”, who wouldn’t like to have the #1 ranked set of CGC’s Detective Comics! But the CGC registry set is a bit too impersonal for me and the books are all slabbed.

I like social media as platforms to show off our books. Instagram is a great one, I’ve seen many posts of happy buyers showing off their latest acquisitions. The problem with Instagram though is that it is a stream of posts and that nice find you bragged about yesterday will be lost in the current of other posts by tomorrow.

Do any of us show off our books in our homes or in our offices? I’ve been to a few nice homes where prominent paintings by prominent artists hang on prominent walls where all can see. I’ve also seen the site comicartfans.com, it’s a site that has a marketplace for buying and selling art but it also has a very prominent and heavily visited gallery where comic art owners show off their prized possessions.

Is there a site like this for comic books and even more specifically, raw comic books? I guess Pinterest comes close but it is a massive platform with thousands of categories to roam through. I’m thinking of a more specific place to go just for comic book fans.

It seems like the only time I ever get to see anybody’s comic collection its when they bring it into the shop because it is time to sell, my pal Chris Owen the showboat excluded. How many Jet Dreams type books are lying about in your collection, books that would surely bring joy to others if only they could see them.

I’ve been thinking about devoting a showcase in the shop to a dozen or so books that I’d like to show off, not necessarily big money books but big smile books when people see them. The problem is I know I’d get flack, there’d be guys begging to buy some of the books, just like I was begging to buy that Jet Dreams. I’m afraid putting up an NFS note would just make the people make silly high offers just to get the books … hey, wait a minute …

I can tell through our comments section that many of you have nice comic collections. Do you show your books off? How? Who do you show them to?

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1578

17 Comments

  1. One of my youngers buddies, Alex Grand (Cimicbookhistorians.com) has a wall of CGC copies in his large “comic rooom”…they are easy to hang. And switch out.

    In my office, decades ago, when I owned Edgar Church’s pulp COVER collection…he cut the covers off about 4000 pulps…I had a wall of my favorites. But that was before I realized florescent lights fade print color. So I pulled them down after a few months, but I think they lost some color. So am now reluctant to display print materials for long, ever where the sun will touch or even reflect on them. Mostly comics stay in their boxes, walls are for artwork or prints.

    I have an original wood Dell Comics rack in a “studio”/guest room. I circulate comics on and off, but only my occasional vistor see this.

    But…we have several collectors in nearby Sacramento, 60 miles from me. We try and get together on a semi-regular basis, inviting others from as far away as the San Francisco Bay (2 hours). We do show-and-tell, everyone brings things. I love bringing my latest acquisitons, especially if there is a story behind them. Some like me bring mostly bring raw books, others slabbed rarities. We also bring old artwork, comics pages, fanzine covers, old ads for comic stores, and we have plenty of stories to swap. Maybe 5 to not more than 8 people. Hard to get too many together.

    No trading or selling, just a fun visit. I wish we could do it more, its always fun. We swap off who hosts.

    When I first discovered fandom and other collectors, in 1965, when I was 13-14, we did Friday nite meets at one guy’s house. His mom made us treats, we swapped comics and did show and tell. Some of those kids remain my friends 55 years later…Dick Swan (Big Guy’s Comics), Jim Buser (once of Comics & Comix), Comics historians Michelle Nolan and Jim Vadeboncoeur.

    Sadly my buddy John Barrett, whose parents played host, he passed away. But he and I became partners for 15 years in C&C, and he set up at a zillion shows. I bet some of you might have met him. Michelle Nolan may hold the record on show attendence, though, never a dealer but still 100% fan.

    That longitivity of friendships is one of the best take-aways of our hobby. And it all comes around, still sharing comics and stories…

  2. That was meant to be Comicbookhistorians.com, typo there. A website well worth checking out. See “articles” on the home page.

  3. Great idea, would love to see this type of thing somewhere. For myself, a section of my permanent art wall has four of those openable plastic frame cases which I can switch out to showcase different comics every couple of months. Keeps me engaged with my comics. I just have to get a frame for my solo golden age comic.

  4. Walt! Great topic. Not sure if you this is just a ploy to get my Jet Dream or not. Either way, I like it.
    Bud, please continue to tell stories of early fandom. Love hearing about it and what you would do “back in the day”.
    Tim, I wish I had your diligence in swapping out books. I made some custom frames about 13 years ago and was going to swap them out every month. I have yet to change them.
    The problem with displaying books is that it leaves less space for displaying other stuff like original artwork, statues, prints, brickabrack, whatever. I like the idea of having like a cover exchange network. Maybe there is an app for that?

  5. Well, I have been displaying my comics for 45 years. I suppose I was always impressed by going into comic shops and seeing issues push pinned up on the walls by the corners of the bags… in fact I am sure you can still see that in some stores! So I took to putting up cork and wood pin board slats and do the same thing but by one corner… so all the books slant the same way. My display is primarily for me… however I do get the occasional visitor who is duly impressed even if they don’t know about comics or pulps. Of course at that point I begin explaining until their eyes glaze over…
    But I have no direct sunlight In my room, I change out displays based on seasonal things like holidays, or change my display based on current collecting habits! Yes, I do have a pinhole in the corners of bags but I don’t see that as a problem as the comic is not harmed. I have one large display of 22 books and two 6 book displays so I usually have a variety of silver/bronze, golden age and pulps. I did have a comic collector friend by a couple years ago and he nearly salivated over my display of FF 43-65 that I then had up… so I know I am not alone in the desire to gaze upon my four color collection!

  6. Yes Chris… I made sure I had enough room to hang some framed newspaper pages if Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and a couple of what were called veloxes of Lil’ Abner strips sent to newspapers of the weelky strips… and shelves of books!

  7. Well it sounds like some of us do show off our books, Bud those gathering sound like so much fun and I love the fact you guys share the stories on how you got each book.

    I like the fact that some of us are displaying our comics and switching them around too.

    I still think we need a show off site for raw comics!

  8. Bud’s comment about sharing stories of interesting acquisitions during get-togethers brought to mind some press coverage in recent years concerning the preference of younger people for spending their money on experiences rather than using their funds to acquire stuff. If that means a preference for a dining experience over a trip to Target, I get it. But, when it comes to old comics, the buying/trading process is very often both experiential and also acquisitional. The excitement of certain auctions (especially when books were purchased from a “state of nature”), flea markets, antiquarian bookstores, comic shows, unusual comic shop visits, thrift store finds (when that was still fairly common), and so on, will stay with me for the rest of my life. So the comic isn’t just the thing in my hands, its also the adventure that put it there. While in this day and age a pretty fair number of comics that you might want can be had just by paying the seller’s asking price (and if not, another copy is readily available), others require patience, persistence, diligence and luck. The lucky finds and the rarities are what have created my favorite experiential memories in the hobby.

  9. Great comment Mike and so true, I remember stories each time I pick one of my books up. Another funny thing, sometimes life takes me on these little trips around Ontario and it’s amazing how many times I find myself saying things like “hey I remember coming up here to look at a collection, the books were in the guys shed out back and they all smelt like raccoon piss” as I’m driving through a place like say Listowel Ontario.

  10. I have several coverless ģolden age comics that I bought over the years. I was thinking of photocopying a cover for each, made up of pictures from the internet but they don’t look good. What are facsimile copies and how can I make them? I read that they look good when compared to photocopies.

  11. Mike, nicely thoughtful take on our acquisition experience. I liked it. I agree, the tougher the book is to find, the more likely you’ll remember and value the experience. I wish I could still remember more acquisitions but after 55 years, only the high points stand out. Early flea market finds, first visits with collectors or dealers, Early trades, the occasional collection, favorite show finds…

    I kept a journal of finds from 1965 to 1971, which includes first conventions, trades with buddies… so I am super lucky to have some of this documented.

    One thing I do now, I keep records on each Golden Age or Silver Age comic, on the back of the mylar or written on the backing board…where it came from, what the cost was, maybe date acquired…Price stickers And dealer tags get moved to the back side of the bag or mylar. Not every single time, but as much as I can.

    In the antiquarian book field, this is called provenence…tracking the former owners of rare books, which often can add to their story. In comics, we have only pedigrees and the occasional celebrity owner, Nicholas Cage for example. But I like going through my comics and knowing this one was my original 1960s copy…this was buy I made with a buddy years ago,,,that one was from an old friend, maybe a condition upgrade…this is from a dealer who grades really tough…this I won in an auction in 2005. It helps me add to the story of each book, or at least the more special ones…

    Klaus, that is a good question. I understand some folks, such as restoration guys like Tracy Heft or Matt Nelson (?) will make a facsimile cover from stored scans, but these are not cheap. I have not found any free online images that are high rez enough but someone else might know. Terry’s Comics will download and copy a lo rez cover and put it on a coverless copy…better than nothing, but not very satisfactory. I have a bunch of Wenker DCs Terry did this with, from tough pre-Superman 1930s comics.

    Its rarely possible, but sometimes I can make a good hi rez scan to later print out, or direct good wuality color photocopy On my home copier, borrowing a friend’s copy…that works great. One in a while a great book might pass through my hands, say that I am sending it to auction for someone. I finally realized I can at least photocopy the cover and maybe the back cover in color, No harm to the book. I have that cover if nothing else…or if a coverless copy may come along, bingo.

  12. I have never bought a coverless comic mainly because a facsimile cover will not improve a grade but only make it ‘presentable’ if shown in a run or grouping. I have purchased a couple nice looking golden age books without the centerfold. There I might marry a centerfold from a coverless book and slightly increase my value. Now I have also bought books with a partial back cover missing like Hulk 3 as it was the most affordable issue I could get… and I got a Weird Tales pulp with the famous Margret Brundage ‘Black Gods Kiss’ cover… without back cover primarily for that front cover… and it was cheap!

  13. Thanks, Bud. I’ll look into facsimile printing more.

    Gerald: I have a small group of nice coverless comics from which I thought a coiple would benefit from a facsimile cover. It doesn’t change the grade but it will look nicer.

  14. Gerald, here’s my one great coverless story. I bought a coverless Captain America #1 about 20 years ago as part of a large Timely collection that a buddy and I went in together on. He poo-pooed me taking it. Back when Timelys were going for 1.5x guide or more, consistently. We got about 40% off guide, so we did well, and I paid $400 for it. That got me back into collecting Timelys, which has been great fun.

    Anyway, I knew I’d never own a complete copy, even then. Managed to get #2-10 eventually, in various conditions, since I love all of S&K’s work.

    Nice, clean VG/FN coverless copy with a not-great facsimile cover. I thought about getting a high quality facsimile cover made, but never did.

    Anyway, started thinking about selling it around the time #1 was fetching $25k for a Good-only copy. So I sent it to Heritage about 2 years ago….hammer price, $9k, so with buyer’s premium it went for $11, 800!! Nice profit, and I enjoyed owning it for all that time. But I can buy a alotta other comics for $9k, that’s my attitude when something gets up into that lofty realm of value….not often, surely, but that’s my coverless success story.

    I buy coverless copies of Centaurs and pre-Superman DC (New Fun, More Fun, New Adventure) because thay are SO hard to find in ANY condition, and decent copies are so expensive. I bought some amazing pre-Batman Detectives from the Wenker collection, coverless. Jaime Graham, who had bought all the Wenker copies with Terry O’Neill (very DC but 22, 1935 to 2000), had just marked them down to half price, on the last day of a San Diego Comic-Con. #4, 7, 18, 20…books I never would have thought I would own, for a couple hundred to a few hundred each. Love ‘em, so fun to look through….

  15. I might be induced to buy a Cap #1 at $400 too if coverless! I saw a couple years back a guy had a certified back cover to Amazing Fantasy 15… which there is NO reference to Spiderman… and it was up for auction at $3000! Not for my money!

  16. How were they able certify it?

    Don’t back covers tend to run across the board for several months and issues at a time, so the best they could narrow down would be the approximate group of months and issues?

    In the 60s, I have multiple issues of different series released over several months that had identical back covers, both inside and out.

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