ARRRGH|The Different Types of Collectors

Comic collecting draws all kinds of different collectors. When I first started collecting, I was very young, and was really only interested in Richie Rich comics. Well, that’s not entirely true. I liked all the Harvey comics. Sad Sack, Hot Stuff, and of course Casper the Friendly Ghost were among my favourites.

When I first started, I wasn’t really into “collecting”. I merely wanted to read the stories I hadn’t read yet. I think that’s probably how a lot of collectors start. They pick up one comic, then another, and another. Before they know, they have a small collection of comics that really aren’t doing much of anything but collecting dust or maybe pet hair.

So there I was with a little pile of comics, made up of ragged issues of Richie Rich Millions, and others. When Harvey folded, I was left with still wanting to read something so Marvel came along and filled the void.

But it wasn’t until I stepped into a comic book store that I realized that there was an entire community that was out there collecting and cataloging their comics. They were probably going through similar events that I had gone through, which really was just wanting to read more comics, and out of a lack of reason to get rid of them, started stockpiling them.

However, what happens next is interesting because different types of collectors start to emerge:

There are the collectors that buy comics on a regular basis because they want to just read the stories. These kinds of buyers usually have pull lists at their favourite stores and religiously attend their weekly worship every Wednesday at their favourite store. Generally there are titles they follow or characters that appeal to them for one reason or another. Perhaps it’s the fun loving Spider-Man’s witty banter or maybe just Batman is the coolest character ever created. For whatever reason, these buyers are really the bread and butter of the comics community and really without them, there wouldn’t be a comics industry. They keep the lifeblood of the community going and support local businesses.

From these collectors, two additional types of buyers emerge. There is the collector who really doesn’t care about what condition their comics are in. They buy the comics for the love of the medium. And then there is the buyer who carefully reads the comic and puts it away so it is kept in as perfect condition as possible. Why do they do this? Well perhaps they are hoping that they may make money on them one day. Or perhaps they just like to keep things as nice as possible (kinda like that good crystal a guy or gal owns and only brings out for special occasions).

Then there are collectors who buy older comics because they are trying to complete runs of certain titles. This is what I would call a “Completist”. A lot of collectors are like this. The collector would attempt to get every issue of a particular series of comics. Perhaps they want every issue of Captain America, or maybe something more recent like Bomb Queen. Either way, they try to hunt down all the issues of that series. Again, two types of collectors emerge from here; Those that try to get nice, near mint or mint copies and those that just want every issue. Depending on the series, the latter may be extremely difficult to obtain, especially if one were trying to get every issue of Action Comics, where #1 may cost in excess one million dollars. Leniency is afforded for occurrences where issues get extremely costly in higher graded issues, so that they may actually be able to get one without mortgaging the house.

Along those same lines as collecting all the issues of a particular series, other forms of collecting emerge, such as collecting favourite characters, artists, or writers.

Finally I would say that there are also collectors that try only to collect comics purely on speculative reasons. They buy only comics that are first appearances or first issues or some sort of key book with a high resale value. Generally these collectors try to get the highest grade possible because the return is exponentially higher for better graded books.

Of course there is always collectors who are mix of all these too. There is no rule or reason as to why anyone collects anything. Some people buy books just because they like the cover. Like this one comic bought here: Jet Dream. Who doesn’t like Kung Fu Counter-spies?

Chris Owen
Chris Owen

Chris Owen co-hosts the Radio Show Comic Culture with CBD's own Walter Durajlija. He's not only a fancy dresser but also one of the foremost experts on Power Girl in the entire Galaxy."

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I, Warren
I, Warren
13 years ago

I guess I’m in the “Completist” category.

Some of the most fun I’ve had at a comic convention is coming up with new themes to look for. After scouring the dealers to complete runs of title “X” or “Y”, or getting stuff by certain writers/artists I try to think of new themes I may be interrested in collecting.

Covers featuring skeletons, gorillas, pop culture guest stars, super-hero funerals, Superman being a jerk etc etc.

One of the best/oddest/funniest criteria I’ve heard? You know it, Mr. Owen: “is she crying?”

Kevin Boyd
13 years ago

I used to buy comics to read them, but I wanted to be able to re-read them and/or possibly resell them so I took great care with them. I still do, when I get a comic. When I bought comics I dove into the back issue bins to catch up on what I missed. I usually would try to get the best condition I could, but getting a copy was the priority. I tried to complete certain runs over the years and moved from title to title.

Than I went to university and I preferred to get trades and hardcovers because they travelled better, and I wanted to bring my favourite comics stories with me. I still bought new issues and some back issues at that time.

After university I started to dabble a bit as a dealer, and the more shows I went to, the more comics I encountered, the less interested I was in back issue collecting and gradually stopped. Moving around from apartment to apartment, I began to appreciate the trades and hardcovers and enjoyed displaying them and having them around for easy access.

Now I’m pretty much exclusively graphic novels, hardcovers and some trades. No interest in single issues at all really. Sold a good chunk of my comics collection as well. At one point I had about 60,000 comics. Now I have about 8,000 and that number drops regularly. The only monthlies I buy are Green Lantern and Invincible.

I, Warren
I, Warren
13 years ago

I’m right there with you, Kevin.

Many of the back issues I have were bought in lots (whole “Marvel Team-Up” run off of ebay, etc) and while I got them to read them I still have to go hunting for a replacement copy or two.

Once that’s done, though, and with plenty of time to kill at Cons, I start looking for the “gimmick” covers.

Otherwise, I’ve been sticking to trades and hardcovers. (“Marvel Omnibus” editions, you will be the death of me) 🙂