Collecting Comic Books: What To Collect And Why

If you’re an old pro at the comic book collecting game, this article probably isn’t for you. If you’re new to the world of collecting comic books, welcome! Let’s see if we can get you up to speed on what to collect and why.

First Rule: Collect What You Love

Like super-hero comic books? Spider-Man and Batman your thing? Dive in! Archie Comics or old horror comics more your speed? Get. Those. Books! The point here is that to a degree the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, etc. If it makes you happy, do it. Don’t let the fad of the week or “hot book” of the moment distract you from what makes you smile. In the end (is there ever an end to collecting?), it’ll just be you and your boxes of comics. Make sure that what you have is what you love.

Besides, you never know when your favorite comics will someday become everyone else’s favorites too. Much like fashion, these things tend to go in cycles.

If you only take away one thing from this whole article it’s this: COLLECT WHAT YOU LOVE!

Variant Comics: Good Stuff Or Killing The Industry?

In simpler times, there was just one version of any given comic book. No second printings, alternate covers, or gimmicks to blow a single comic into 30 different variants. I believe they call that the “Golden Age of Comics”, but I digress.

Today, most issues from the main publishers will have several variants, usually in the form of different cover art. If you tried to collected every variant from every issue of most titles you’d eventually die broke. Prices on these variants can range from cover price all the way up to thousands of dollars. They’re released usually specific store variants, or as ratios like 1:2, 1:50, 1:100, etc. meaning for example that for every fifty regular covers, there’s one of the variant. It gets out of hand fast.

Some would argue that variants are killing the comic book industry. Maybe, maybe not, lots of things have “killed the comics book industry” over the years, it’s still here.

We tend to look at variants a little different. First, you don’t need all variants, that’s crazy. Don’t be such a completist in this collecting game that you go nuts (or broke) trying to get all 80+ variants of Star Wars (2015) No. 1 … or maybe do? I mean, if Star Wars is your thing, and it’s the only title you’re obsessing over, got for it. Or maybe you collect a specific artist or character, and variants related to them? If that’s the case, have at it! Just don’t expect your investment on all those variants to ever pay off, because in general they won’t.

Variants tend to explode in value the week or month of their initial release to peak prices, then gently settle down to a fraction of that peak. That is when the common man can (somewhat) usually afford them. If you’re in it for the variants, patience will definitely be a virtue.

If you’re curious about which single issues have had the most variants released with them, we keep a list here. Let us know if we’re missing one!

Taking Care Of Your Comic Book Collection

It may seem simple, but making sure your comics are in protective bags with boards and safely tucked into a comic book short or long box is paramount. There are lots of opinions on whether or not tape should be involved to keep the bag’s flap secured (we’re okay with a small piece frosted Scotch tape, milage varies), but however you do it just make sure moisture stays out.

If you’re a real hardcore comic book collector, over time you’ll probably end up dedicating a whole room in your house (sorry loved ones) to your collection. Comic books do take up space, prepare accordingly as your collection grows, and avoid rooms that are too hot or too humid. Paper hates hot and humid.

Organizing And Valuing On Your Comic Book Collection

As your comic book collection grows into the hundreds and thousands, you’ll need some means of organizing that sucker. We’re obviously bias, but online software such as Zap-Kapow Comics can help you do just that.

Keeping your collection organized (and in your pocket) is key when you’re at a comic shop, garage sale, flea market, or comic book convention and stumble across a box of comics. Do you already have this issue? Is it worth what the seller is asking? Having your collection organized in a digital format you can quickly scan will help you answer these questions quickly.

Software like Zap-Kapow Comics can also help you organize the dozens and dozens of boxes you’ll be accumulating, and help keep track of their overall estimated value. You might not care much about the value (after all, you’re just collecting what you love, right?), but knowing the value can help you with insurance claims, potential selling opportunities (when you run out of room in your collection room, you’ll likely have to make some hard decisions and sell a few boxes), and more.

Or maybe that’s your collection’s goal. Not necessarily collecting tons of issues or a specific title, but maybe just the right “key issues” that make you happy. If you love Wolverine, for example, you don’t need every issue of The Incredible Hulk (1968), but you might want one — No. 181, the beloved X-Man’s first appearance.

Whatever you collect, just make sure it brings you joy. After all, that’s what comics do best!

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