Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When I saw it, I just had to have it!

No, no. I'm rich, but I'm not this rich-- rich enough to pay $1.1 million for a near-mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man (before he was amazing). You just know this guy is going to read it sitting on the toilet, with the covers rolled back. He'll probably lick his fingers while turns the pages, too. After he's finished doing his stinky business, he'll just toss the comic into the brass magazine rack along with his wife's Cosmopolitans and Food Network Magazines, plus some battered Times from two or three years ago.

The most valuable comics I ever owned were X-Men (when they were "All-New, All-Different," but before they went and turned all uncanny on us) numbers 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 and 100, plus the first and second issues of Conan the Barbarian. I once bought Cerebus #5 for a quarter at a flea market, then traded it for the first issue of DC's The New Teen Titans-- which, if I'm remembering correctly, was much more popular than X-Men at the time. The cover of which I managed to dot with a sticky piece of a Chewy Sweettart. So if you have a The New Teen Titans #1 with a tiny pink speck on the cover, it's from candy. And it's mine! And I want it back!

How much did I pay for that broken run of early X-Men? I believe it was around 15 bucks, plus the use of my left-handed fielder's glove during PE. This was before we had any idea you might sell a comic book and become fabulously wealthy and live in a gilded palace. Not long after my friend and I completed this transaction, I saw a Mile High Comics ad-- and X-Men #94 was going for $60! That seemed insane. How was it even possible? It wasn't even the first issue! Let's just say my friend was a little... unhappy... when I told him the news. You'd think he'd have shared my joy; after all, if it hadn't been for him, I'd have never known what a Wolverine or Nightcrawler was.

Learning they were approximately as valuable as uranium didn't stop me from taking those X-Men comics to school and passing them around during study hall. Or reading them dozens of times. Eventually a couple of comic book shops opened in our town and I learned you were supposed to seal your comics in vinyl sleeves and store them in acid-free "long boxes." By then I was addicted to comic books and justified my illness to my parents by telling them comics were "valuable collector's items." I learned how wrong I was when I got sick of them and tried to sell them at a comic book show. Apparently, my "key issues" weren't in very good condition. I could trade them for more comics-- yuck-- or sell the entire longbox for about $100. There went a complete John Byrne run on Fantastic Four, almost all my X-Men (except, strangely enough, a few issues from the "Dark Phoenix" era, which I still have hidden away) and close to 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man including #252.

What do I have left of my first comic book collection? Well, a few odd issues of Cerebus, some New Mutants, Kitchen Sink's The Spirit reprints... and that's about it. During the comic boom of the early 90s I added a lot of Valiant titles and overpaid for New Mutants #87, only to watch it steadily decline as Cable-fever burned itself out through massive print runs and the realization that these stupid things aren't even scarce! I even have X-Force #1, and all the premiere issues of those Image titles you used to hear so much about.

One day, a million idiots will simultaneously attempt to sell their pristine copies of New Mutants #87 and the resulting letdown will cause a miniature existential black hole which will suck the last remaining hope of comic book riches right out of their souls.

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