Monday, February 21, 2011

And now some items the “Collecting 101” archives….

(A side note here. The “Collecting 101 Archives” are actually stored in a secret government warehouse just two shelves over from the Lost Ark, but as we have misplaced the Ark, it is unlikely that the Archives will surface any time soon.)
First up – The “Keys” to collecting.

If you have been collecting for more than about 20 minutes some other collector, dealer or publication will refer to a certain issue of a certain comic as a “key” issue. A key issue can be:

1) A first appearance of a character (Superman, Spiderman etc.)

2) The first issue of a new book (Avengers #1, FF #1 etc.)

3) The death of a significant character (Gwen Stacy, Johnny storm etc.)

4) A significant change in the direction of a book, character or universe. (Crisis On Infinite Earths, Civil War etc.)

5) The beginning of a run for a creator or creators who make a big impact. (Neal Adams on Green Lantern or Frank Miller on Daredevil etc.)

Not all books that meet this criteria can be considered keys of course. While Daredevil #1 certainly IS a big time Marvel key, one could hardly say that about The Human Fly #1 . The “key’ word to keep in mind is SIGNIFICANT. If the event does not make a big change, it can’t be considered a key.

There are two compelling reasons to keep track of key issues. First, these are landmarks in the evolution of your favorite book/characters and generally have long term impact on the universe they “live” in. Second, keys tend to increase more in value as collectibles than non-keys.

To the second point, there has been a tendency over the last couple of decades to label marginal or obviously insignificant events “keys”. Why? Because it generates a short term spike in the “value” of that book on the back issue market.

My personal favorite of the non-key, keys is the numbering snafu. Every now and then a company will put a book on hiatus and then restart at #1. This is done to reignite interest in a given book or character and to bring new readers into the fold. Sound marketing strategy to be sure. But that does not make the new Iron Man #1 the actual Iron Man #1, especially when the company will, sooner or later revert to the original numbering. You will see dealers at shows bump those books up a few bucks. Beware. They almost always come back down in value. Renumbering does not generate keys.

Variants are not keys. While they are very nice and I collect a lot of them myself, variants are just a different cover. Even variants that are short printed only rarely hold elevated value, and in any event are more in demand because of low print runs. Not because they are keys.

So there you have it. Key issues are fun to collect and will broaden your appreciation of your comics and it’s history, but they are not nearly as plentiful as we have been lead to believe.

Now for something truly mind numbing!

Have you ever gone online to buy a back issue and seen the following…

“Action #242 – VG Solid Grade (CFO,CVR CRS, AD)” and said to yourself…HUH?

Well then you have been exposed to Comic Collector Abbreviation Hell! Few who enter can ever expect to come back alive…unless they have my handy dandy cheat sheet.

Now if that Action #242 ad had actually been written in English it would have said:

“Action #242, Very Good Solid Grade (Center Fold Out, Cover Crease, Arrival Date on Cover)”

That’s a lot clearer BUT also a lot more typing. However those facts might directly effect your decision to buy so you really need to know those abbreviations or it could cost you MONEY!!! With that in mind here are all the abbreviations you will ever need!

ad = Arrival date
bc = back cover
bndry = bindery
brc = bottom right corner
brttl = brittle
bttm = bottom
chew = chewed
chp = chip
cfo = center fold out
cl = cover loose
clr chp = color chip
coa = certificate of authenticity
ct or clr tch = color touch
cnr = corner
crs = crease
cvr = cover
cvrlss = coverless
dst shad = dust shadow
dtch = detached
ext = extra
fc = front cover
fd = faded
fxng = foxing
gl = glossy
grs pncl = grease pencil
int = interior
lft = left
lt = light
lt sub crs = light subs. crease
mnr = minor
mrvl chp = marvel chip
mssng = missing
owp = off white pages
pc = piece
pg = page
pll = pull
r = restored
reinf = reinforced
restpld = restapled
rll = roll
rstd = rusted
slvrfsh = silverfish damage
smll = small
splt = split
spn = spine
stckr = sticker
stmp = stamp
stn = stain
stpl = staple
sub crs = subscription crease
tn = tan
tny = tinny
tp = tape
tr = tear
wp = white paper
ws = water stain
wtr dmg = water damage


By the way – P=Poor, G=Good, VG=Very Good, F=Fine, VF=Fine, VF/NM=Very Fine/Near Mint, NM=Near Mint and M=Mint (good luck with that last one!)

That’s 30!


1 comment:

Cat Jones said...

Why do you bad mouth The Human Fly so much? While I agree that it's hardly a comics collecting 'key', the book itself was quite entertaining (and the character was based on real life stunt man Rick Rojatt). The character did stunts to benefit charities, and that's how he can into contact with the criminals he fought. On a side note, while collecting keys may be fun, I find people that seek out key issues for series that they don't read are nothing more than bandwagon fans who want to own it just for the sake of owning it.