Friday, September 28, 2012

The “Keys” to collecting

With NYCC just around the corner it is possible that some of you will be making their first foray into the murky waters known as BACK ISSUE COLLECTING. With that in mind here are a few random thoughts.

• Before wandering onto a convention floor filled with dozens of dealers and thousands of books, none of which you are familiar with, check out your local comic shop! Chances are they already have some of the books you are looking for and will give you a great break. Even if they don’t, you can get some great tips AND a comic book price guide from your regular comic shop (which for the discerning comics connoisseur is of course COMICBOOK JONES!)

• Speaking of price guides, DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT ONE! While price guides are just that, GUIDES, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is the standard for most of the dealers you will meet at any show.

• Prepare a want list and a budget. Going in prepared will not only make your shopping more efficient, it will almost certainly save you money.

• If you see that book you MUST have but is outside your budget, my advice is to pass it up. Comics have a way of coming back around at your price sooner or later.

• Don’t be afraid to haggle. If you are polite and reasonable any good dealer will cut you a deal. Just don’t waste his time (and yours by offering $100 for a book worth $5,000).

• On any significant purchase it is perfectly acceptable to ask the dealer to remove the book from it’s bag so you can confirm to your satisfaction that the book meets the grade you are paying. Mylar bags can often make a book appear to be in a higher grade than it really is. And don’t forget, comics have BACK covers too!

• Bring along a box to protect those purchases. It can be a mailing box or anything comic book sized that you can then carry in your bag. A lot of books get damaged AFTER collectors buy them. IF you just slip the book, even a bagged and boarded book, into your bag it WILL get bent!
• If you are planning to buy CGC or “slabbed” books it pays to check out and . Slabbed books often go for well over the prices in your comic book price guide. It pays to do some research before you overpay! Check out Ebay and search on closed auctions for that book you are looking for to see what the current market will bear.
And now a word about KEY issues

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!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Superman's Godfather

Whether you realize it or not every single artist who draws Superman today is influenced by the late great Curt Swan, who was the lead artist on the character for nearly thirty years. But it was Wayne Boring who would define the look of Superman from the late 40’s and through the 1950s’ In fact it was Boring who created the look of the entire Superman galaxy, including Metropolis and Krypton as envisioned by Mort Weisenger (Editor and DC’s Keeper of The Superman Mythos). Boring’s work still influences artists today. Together Boring and Weisinger defined the Man of Steel through a renaissance that lasted for over a decade.

In 1937, he began "ghosting" (drawing for hire without credit) on such comic-book features as Slam Bradley for the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster . In 1938, Siegel and Shuster's character Superman was published in Action #1 and Boring became a ghost on the soon spun off Superman newspaper strip eventually becoming the credited artist.
Boring became the primary Superman artist through the 1950s. Swan succeeded him the following decade, though Boring returned for sporadic guest appearances in the early 1960s and then again in late 1966 and early 1967.

Where Swan created a sleeker, more athletic, more realistic looking Superman, Boring’s man Of Steel was barrel chested, chiseled of jaw and bursting with power. During the Boring years Superman would regularly be seen knocking whole planets around like so many billiard balls. Superman was never more powerful than when drawn by Boring.
By the mid 60’s Wayne’s role with Superman was diminished and he was let go from DC in 1967. Though he did make the occasional guest appearances in the mid 1980’s .
Boring died of a heart attack in 1987 at age 81.

That’s 30!