With the market booming ValueMyStuff decided to sit down to learn more about our Super Hero expert to get his view on this thriving collecting category.
What led you to get involved in comics?
I have been reading comics for 40 odd years now and during that time I have gone from casual reader, to ardent collector, retailer to comic consultant and all things in-between. Having found a passion for older comics and an unparalleled eye for grading, I quickly became one of the country’s foremost experts in the acquisition of rare and expensive comics for clients. This in turn led my career path to opportunities that ranged from Consignment Director at the then leading Comic Auction house in the U.K., to Editor of the Price Guide for U.K. Comics, which for many years was the go-to bible for pricing of all U.S. and U.K. comic books.
Nowadays I consult for a number of large comic organisations, ranging from the largest comic convention in the UK, to the leading supplier of old comics in the UK as well as a number of overseas ventures, and off course Value My Stuff.
Unlike pretty much any other collectible, you have the on-going nature of the stories and characters that have evolved over timeWhat do you love about Comic Books?
First and foremost it’s the fact that you can become totally immersed in a storyline, but unlike a good book, you also have the coupling of the visual element, which allows your imagination to be guided. Next I would have to say it’s the rich history of the characters and the fact that unlike pretty much any other collectible, you have the on-going nature of the stories and characters that have evolved over time. Be it something published from this month or something from 50 years ago, there is something for everyone and all genres are catered for, from the Superhero to the Horror genre. From Crime Fiction to Mythology, there is a dearth of material available and all it takes is time and the willingness to find what appeals to you.
Do you have a favourite(s) series or a favourite character?
As a young boy, I was encouraged to read anything and everything put in front of me, and as a direct result of that, I grew up literally reading every comic that I could get my hands on. It’s therefore quite difficult for me to pick a favourite amongst the many hundreds of characters, but I would say I am more partial to Spider-Man & the Justice League of America titles, than many of the others.
The comic book market seems to be growing even some of our own employees are massive fans of comic books; why do you think this is? Do you see it continuing to grow & why?
Comics are a visual media and as such help young people especially, to find reading enjoyable. In today’s current environment, with children being presented with an overwhelming amount of alternative interests to occupy their time, many parents have turned to comics, to encourage their children to read. With schools now having segments of dissecting comic graphic novels within the English syllabus, more and more people have become aware of the medium, which in turn has led to a surge in popularity. This coupled with the films, which seem to constantly be reaching an ever-increasing audience, have brought comics to the foreground in many people’s minds.
Will it continue? I would like to think that we have only touched the tip of the collective consciousness of comic readers in the UK. If some of the other European countries like Holland, Belgium and France are anything to go by, comics will spread into mainstream reading, which should result in a long and prosperous future for the comic collecting community.
Why do you think people collect comics?
Collecting comics, like collecting coins, stamps or pretty much anything else, stems foremost from a predilection to collect. Comics have the unique aspect of continuing stories that sometimes run through multiple issues and titles, which also helps foster a collecting mentality amongst readers.
Are there any misconceptions about comic book collecting/collectors?
The most popular misconception in the 80’s and 90’s was that there were no female readers of comics. Whilst this was factually incorrect at the time, there was unfortunately only a small minority of female readers; something that I am happy to say is not the case now. With the growth in more alternative comics, away from the superhero genre and more towards the noir and supernatural, a very large female fan base for comics has formed, something that can be seen at most large UK comic conventions.
What are some simple tips to give people just starting to collect comics? (What should they look far?)
Collect what you like and don’t necessarily follow the herd. There is a plethora of good material out there, and be it for investment purposes or purely for pleasure, you should always look at purchasing items that interest you. I would always caution all new collectors that before you spend large amounts of money on any individual comic, that you ask the advice of older collectors or dealers in grading techniques, as the difference of one single grade out of the 25 grades assigned to comics, can make a difference of hundreds if not thousands of points.
What are the biggest mistakes you see collectors make? And do you have any advice?
Without a doubt the biggest mistake is not learning how to grade, as this forms the foundation of pricing. Having a grounding in this can help you negotiate a better price when purchasing, and in some circumstances help you avoid the pitfalls of purchasing restored or reprinted comics, due to your understanding of common faults that arise in comics from the various time periods.
Another common mistake is starting a collection and leaving the purchase of the most expensive issues till last. Unfortunately whilst this sometimes is as the result of financial necessity, if you have the ability to do so, I would always recommend the purchase of key or expensive issues earlier rather than later, as appreciation in these issues is not always limited to single digit percentage increases year on year.
Marvels very first superhero, The Sub-Mariner issue 1 valued between £7,000 to £8,000. Recently sold on AuctionMyStuff.
What are some of the best comics you have ever sold? Do you have a dream comic book you would one day get to value?
During my 25 year career I have been fortunate to have purchased and sold most of the top 50 most expensive comics, sometimes many times over. These range from Detective Comics #27 (1st appearance of Batman), to Amazing Fantasy #15 (1st appearance of Spider-Man).
There are a number of harder to find pre hero comics from the dawn of comic publishing in the 1920’s and 30’s that I would love to appraise, but given that some of these are known to only have single figure quantities in existence, I can but hope that somewhere out there, another copy will be found.
Original Comic Art is growing in price as well. Why do you think that is? And how can collectors find the original artwork for comics?
Original comic art has seen a massive upswing in the last decade, due in part to the fact that the internet has helped people discover artwork on websites and auction listings around the world. Where once sales, were limited to niche publications which came out monthly, now thousands of listings can be seen on a daily basis around the globe, on both dealer websites and some of the world’s largest auction sites. The fact that every piece is a one of a kind original piece of artwork has also increased the popularity of this collectible, as everyone loves to say they own a one of a kind collectible.
What should people know before buying original comic art? Does age matter?
I would always caution any new collectors that are starting to collect comic original art, that they should consult someone more experienced than themselves as to the authenticity of the art. Given that the majority of comic art is produced in black and white and pencil and ink only, it takes a trained eye to be able to spot the differences between light boxed and inked versions and the true pencil and ink versions. In most cases, due diligence will always be rewarded, and remember nothing beats research as your number one friend in this hobby.
What is your approach to a valuation/ what do you look out for?
Valuations via email will always be different to valuations conducted in hand, but I start by asking that clients inspect the comic, page by page, as this will ensure that there are no pages missing, or coupons clipped out. This will be followed up by the submission of high resolution photographs or scans of the front and back covers of the comic, which allows me to make an informed decision as to the overall grade of the comic. Whilst obviously not as accurate as having the item in hand, it will at least allow me to assign a grade range and therefore a price range to most comics.
There is the obvious caveat of restoration, which unless of an amateur nature, cannot be spotted from scans, but generally this is not commonplace in all but the more expensive and rarer comics, and therefore not something that the majority of clients need to concern themselves with.
After many years in your field, do you continue to have to conduct research or do you rely solely on your experience in the field?
With 100 years of comic history to cover, and some 1,000,000 + issues to learn about, I never rest on my laurels and always look at improving both my history and staying up to date with current pricing and market research.
What do you like about working with Value my Stuff?
Value My Stuff is the latest and most exiting venture bringing comics and their collectability to the masses. As such and given the cross appeal of so many other collectibles that you are covering, I’m certain that there are quite a few latent comic collectors lurking in the backgrounds, waiting for the opportunity to have their beloved possession valued.
The uniqueness of Value My Stuff, allows for an unbiased valuation of your comic and gives you the opportunity and peace of mind to deal with experts in the respective fields, that can give you an accurate reflection of the insurance valuation that you may need, or even the best course of action to selling any given item
Why would you recommend customers to have their stuff valued?
Peace of mind and the security that no ulterior motives (like profiteering from the purchase of your item at a reduced price) are influencing the pricing of the comic when going through Value My Stuff.
Would you recommend collectors to insure their comic books?
Comics for the main can be replaced, but the financial cost of doing so, especially on collections that have taken years to amass, can make the process untenable for most.
Past experience has shown me that unless you have an insurance broker that understands your collection, and the fact that sometimes a collection of pieces is worth more than the individual components, you are doing yourself a disservice. I would always advise that any insurance you take out, is done so via a broker that specialises in insuring your collectibles, and one that you can speak to regarding your individual high priced comic or comic collection.