Comics' Worth

By | Wednesday, May 04, 2022 1 comment
Found comics
A friend of mine emailed the other day asking if, on the chance that he might move sometime in the not-too-distant future, would I want any of the comics that he doesn't want to try packing up and shipping to wherever he moves. He was relieved when I said 'yes' because he didn't really know a way of getting rid of all of them otherwise. (Well, I presume a reasonable way of getting rid of them. If he just wanted them gone, I'm sure he could think of "a match.")

So what's interesting to me here is the formula at work. While any specifically cited issue has some value, comics in the broader sense are worthless. I've heard several stories of people trying to unload good sized collections, and getting little to nothing for them. I picked up around 6,000 books for free literally off the curb a few years back, and passed around 1,000 of those on to a friend's brother. People trying to sell comics in bulk are maybe given a token amount based on the weight of all the comics that are brought in, not unlike if they'd taken a truck full of scrap metal to a recycling facility. And it seems that a number of people don't feel it's worth the bother.

A comic, singular, is specific and has value.

Comics, plural, is not specific and has no value.

You know the basic laws of supply and demand, right? The more supply of something you have, the harder it is to get rid of and the price therefore goes down. However, the more demand for something you have, the harder it is to obtain and the price therefore goes up. That's why a piece of original comic art is generally more expensive than any comic that it's printed in -- there are thousands of copies of the comic, but only one original. There's a much higher demand than there is a supply.

If you're trying to track down a specific issue for your collection, you will have to pay some not-insignificant amount of money for it. How much of course depends in large part on the rarity of the issue (rarity = low supply). But even if it's a not particularly rare or collectible issue, if you want to get a copy of that one issue from six years ago that your dog tore up last week, you'll probably have to pay at least cover price to get it. Possibly also shipping or an admittance fee to a convention.

But if you're just looking for a pile of comics and you don't especially care what issues, or even titles, they are, you can find a good number of them for free and/or exceptionally low cost. I talked a while back about how I was able to pick up about seven years of Fantastic Four issues for less than a buck apiece. I was basically just going through back issue bins and pulling out whatever cheap FF's were there. But once I got down to a handful of issues, they became harder to find and the more costly they were when I did find them. I never paid more than cover price on any of them, but three bucks for a single issue is considerably more than four for a dollar!

So how do you get rid of a collection? You can sell off those individual issues that people are looking for; you'll probably get a fair price for them but it will be time and labor intensive. Depending on the size of your collection, that might not be even remotely practical to begin with, much less cost-effective. You could sell off everything in a single lot but, as I stated above, you'll get a small fraction of their worth at best. Or you could give them away -- a friend perhaps or..? I don't think most libraries would take floppies, but maybe gently used trade paperbacks and hardcovers. I've heard stories some hospitals take them, but not large collections and certainly not all hospitals. You pretty much have to know someone who would actively want them.

A comic, singular, is specific and has value.

Comics, plural, is not specific and has no value.

Just a really weird dynamic that I don't think many people have given much consideration to.
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Matt K said...

This is a great way of framing it!