A Collector’s Journey – Worthless Books

by Dan Gagnon

Thunderbolts-166-198x300 A Collector's Journey - Worthless BooksWe all have them.  Those comic book series that seemed like a good idea at the time but are now merely taking up space on a shelf.  eBay will laugh at you if you try to recoup your cover price there.  Should you leave them in that bottom long box hoping that one of them just might hold that first appearance of a future big screen character?  Could you hand them out as a Halloween surprise to encourage young readers?  (I’d need a lot more trick or treaters to get rid of all mine).  Does the strange lady at the end of the street need something to line her parakeet cages with?

“Update Comic Values”

This was never a concern of mine until I cataloged my collection using the CLZ Comics app.  This app coordinates with the GoCollect site to give you the latest updated comic values.  Each month I click “Update Comic Values”.  After a short pause, the app returns its new value.  I then proudly show this to my wife in an effort to justify why those big white boxes are taking up so much room in my office.  Because comic books are a surprisingly good investment right now, my collection invariably shows a nice bump in value from the last month.

However, my wife reminded me once again that she is smarter than I am.  While I gloated over my latest CLZ Statistics report, she pointed out the fine print on the bottom.  “The total is based on 2171 comics,” she astutely stated.  “But don’t you have over 7700 books?  What about those other books?”

Thunderbolts-1-197x300 A Collector's Journey - Worthless BooksWhat About Those Other Books?

I am a great comic book reader but a poor comic book collector.  While loyalty is an admirable trait to have, it can certainly hurt you when applied to comic collecting.  I loved the concept of villains turned heroes when The Thunderbolts debuted in the late ’90s.  Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Mark Bagley put together some great stories, but the book never seemed to reach the next level in popularity.  As the creative team changed the quality of the series steadily declined.  Still, 174 issues later I was still reading them then sticking them in a box.  That’s where they sit now with only issue #1 and #4 showing any value at all in the GoCollect database.

Green-Lantern-181-196x300 A Collector's Journey - Worthless BooksI started collecting Green Lantern Volume 3 just before long time hero Hal Jordan was replaced by Kyle Rayner.  135 issues later the series ended with only a handful of issues earning any value.  Undeterred, I scooped up Volume 4 when it came out.  This Volume not only featured the return of Hal Jordan, but it also led to a major feature film starring a big name actor.  Typical of my luck, I jumped on the Ryan Reynolds bandwagon one superhero film too early.  My 67 issues of Volume 4 have only six issues showing any GoCollect value.

Speaking of superhero movies… one would think a big hit like Aquaman would produce a bump in his comic series’ values.  Unfortunately, this was not the case and 100+ recent Aquaman comics with very limited value are stuffed in the back of my Green Lantern box.

Aquaman-52-193x300 A Collector's Journey - Worthless BooksA Call for Help

I know it is not really fair to call these comics worthless.  I’ve read each one and enjoyed most of them.  So to me, the comic reader, they’ve already earned their cover price.   However, I am working on my transition from reader to collector, and these books seem to have very little value to a collector.  This week’s call for help is what to do with these “worthless” issues.  A dollar per comic would make these 5500 comics far from worthless.   Even fifty cents would make it well worth my time to ship out some series.  Or am I wiser to sit on these books for a few years, hoping a new movie or comic storyline turns a few of these into “key issues”?  I’m hoping to hear from some of you in the comments below with suggestions and recommendations on what to do with these “worthless” comics.

FOOTER_Comic3-scaled A Collector's Journey - Worthless Books

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Pepper3923 October 28, 2020 - 9:36 am

I have started to sell some of my ‘worthless’ comics lately and with all these $1 bin comics suddenly spiking just because of movie spec or deals in the making, I have the same question as you. Do I just sit on all my unpopular books until a tv show or movie or first appearance suddenly causes some of them to increase in price? As a reader, I question why do I pay cover price for all these books when 90% of them I could pick up for half or less a year later online or at Half Priced Books. Sure I miss out on ‘hot’ books like ASM #4, but I am the type of reader that is fine with buying that book in poor condition just to get that part of the story.

Gary Colemere October 28, 2020 - 10:10 am

I held onto about 5 long boxes of worthless comics for 30 years. If they didn’t have value by then, they probably never would and they just take up space. If you can get any value on the lot through Craigslist or elsewhere, go for it. Otherwise, just purge them.

I am the opposite of a hoarder, so I kept maybe 10% that had any potential at all and dumped the rest. I felt a little guilty about just trashing them, but in reality, that is what many of them were at that point. Now, I feel much better since my collection is pared down to just the good stuff.

Dan Gagnon October 28, 2020 - 7:54 pm

Gary, I am jealous of your ability to purge. Perhaps you could come over to help with my collection AND my garage!!! 🙂

Dawn October 28, 2020 - 11:06 am

I have found that if I can’t sell them for 50¢ then they are given away to people who I know would enjoy them. I just have to buy TBP and leave the predictions to the fantasy football people. Plus I need money and room for Golden age books

Warren S October 28, 2020 - 12:28 pm

Good article. Coupla things …

First, your own quote: “I’ve read each one and enjoyed most of them. So to me, the comic reader, they’ve already earned their cover price.” says it all. Unless you’re in it 100% as a collector/speculator, then this quote itself means a helluva lot.

Second, as for what to do with those “worthless books” … first I’d look at each book and/or series and figure out if YOU like it. If you do then the answer is simple: Keep it/them! If not, and if eBay is truly laughing in your face, then try your local comic book store. Yeah they’ll give you pennies (or maybe penny??) on the dollar, but it’s something and it’s quick. I asked my go-to place recently, just for kicks, and they said $25 per short box or $0.10 per book, and they will look at specific books that may hold some value individually.

Another option is to give them to a charity. Write off the value of those books. Will take some time to value each one, or go with a general per-book value, but this way hopefully someone else may get a chance to begin a new hobby. No idea where, but I’m sure there are plenty of charities that give comic books to kids in need. Can help them learn to read too!

Dan Gagnon October 28, 2020 - 7:49 pm

Thanks Warren. Cool idea with the charity. Does anyone know some specific ones looking for items like this?

Derek R October 28, 2020 - 1:46 pm

Great article, Dan. I. too, was on the Thunderbolts bandwagon – at one time I had the entire run (finished more recently than I care to admit). I loved the first 50 or so issues, but I don’t think I ever got around to reading the rest before I unloaded them. I have a used book store nearby that buys or trades for comics, so I have an outlet to unload books. However, it is usually pretty disappointing to see what kind of trade credit they bring (and I won’t even mention the pittance of the cash value).

Another series I thought might take off, and I ended up having to giveaway was 1963 by Image. Luckily it only ran for about 6 or 7 issues, so its dead weight didn’t take up too much space.

Dan Gagnon October 28, 2020 - 7:47 pm

Thanks Derek. Way in the back of head I keep wondering if the original few Thunderbolt issues would transfer to the big or small screen some day.

steven Centonzo October 28, 2020 - 1:51 pm

I just tossed out an entire box of 1980’s black and white garbage. Gangrene Kung fu gerbils, samurai penguin, miami mice, x-thieves….uuuggghhh

Dan Gagnon October 28, 2020 - 7:45 pm

I love reading comics, but I’m not sure even I would grab that box, Steven.

Clifford October 28, 2020 - 3:43 pm

I got rid of a full long box of “worthless” comics back in 2002. Later on I realized it had the first appearance of Apocalypse and New Mutants #98…

Dan Gagnon October 28, 2020 - 7:44 pm

Ouch… That’s the part that scares me a bit.

octoberland October 29, 2020 - 11:04 am

IMHO you should not let that scare you. Sure, a book could hit but Deadpool, while very popular, had a massive print run for his 1st. While you could argue, rightly, that having so many appearances and his own title ought to lead to an increase in price, the level it shot to was and is astounding. I’m not sure most saw that coming. And Apocalypse…well, villains are tough. His book(s) will have a flash and then die back to maybe flash again like it is at the moment. That again is not predictable but his usage makes it not such a long shot.

I’d just let them go unless you know they already have some heat. But if you are hesitant, take some time to look up ‘key’ issues and see about those characters. I tend to do a very simple search to see how many appearances they have had. If the character has been around and is constantly popping up in their own series (long or short) or keeps circling other popular entities, perhaps hold the first apperance. After all, you already have it and are in at cover. But if they just do not seem to be a popular character I think it’s pretty safe to let them go.

Granted, it means you might miss on some randoms like in GotG. But if that really worries you, do not sell any of them as that puts nearly every character in play.

Another side to consider is sustained value. Often times there is a spike and then flat line or decline. I know I have, and many of my friends, held too long and then even though there is ‘value’ of $20 (or what ever), you cannot get that as no one cares. Unless you plan on putting quite a bit of time into timing and selling, it’s not as easy. Even that NM98 is not the highs it was. Still high, but you see the point.

It sounds to me like you are a well versed reader, so I would encourage you to trust your gut. You likely know or have a sense of what might fly. That is what speculation is. Buying a book the market is already onto is investing. Those are two different choices with very different approaches. If you have a gut feeling about a book and can support it, even thinly, I’d hold the book. But be ready for a long road. If you really have to squint to see it, I’d just move it.

Lastly, whew, look at your PC. If you love the Thunderbolts and you already own them, just hold them. I have nearly the entire Fables run, minus the final 10. I gave up and then they announced the end, but I had disconnected so let it go. However, there are some great moments in the series. Some TV show stole the idea and sucked at it, so I think what would have been a great property for the small screen is now dead in the water, but I like the series and will likely keep it in my PC. There are also random books from my youth I have circled back to buy high end copies to preserve my nostalgia. PC is a valid ‘space’ to keep comics.

I’m not sure I helped as much as went on a walkabout here, but hopefully something is lands. In short, if you love it or can see a popularity outside yourself (involvement with other properites / characters / teams / video games), hold it. Else, it’s okay to let it go. As you and someone else noted, you’ve already extracted your value from them by reading them.

Dan Gagnon October 29, 2020 - 4:23 pm

Thanks for taking the time for a long and well thought out reply. I love your insight on the Fables series (a TV show could have been awesome). I (and I hope many other readers) appreciate your input on this tough decision.

Gurpreet Singh October 28, 2020 - 6:23 pm

You could wait for prices to go up OR maybe trading your sets with others that also have low-value comics could provide a different type of value – reading pleasure! A marketplace where you can exchange stuff like this would be great, meant for readers not collectors.

Maybe this is a way to salvage all the $ spent on comics. Think of it as a prepayment of a subscription service which you are finally taking advantage of. 🙂

Dan Gagnon October 28, 2020 - 7:43 pm

What a great idea! Hopefully someone with the skills needed to launch something like this will take note!

sdc2027 October 28, 2020 - 8:41 pm

If you are on Reddit, they have a swap/sale area – https://www.reddit.com/r/comicswap/

Dan Gagnon October 28, 2020 - 9:16 pm

I was not aware of this. Thank you!

Nick Chatzigeorgiou October 29, 2020 - 4:51 am

Nothing is to be tossed away and nothing is garbage..
Those comics may not have much value now, but some time in the future they will surely rise above their cover price.
Its just a matter of how many years in the future that rise will come..
People just dont care because most of the collectors-investors expect their 1.95c to rise to 100$ to say..”
ah thats meaningfull..”
but if your 1.95c goes to 3$ or 5$ then dont you have profit nevertheles?
You just happen to be a small time dealer..
All those major dealers that are selling comics for all those years..you think that they hold their stocks for one or two years..?
Guess again..

Dan October 29, 2020 - 12:24 pm

It sounds like you’re not transitioning from a “reader” to a “collector”….you’re actually transitioning from a “reader” to an “investor”. Collectors collect, it’s what they do. Collectors enjoy their collections regardless of said collection’s value…investors or speculators care less about the collection per se, as long as it’s “worth money”. Personally, books I no longer read or have room for, I give away in hopes they will ignite the imagination of some other kid and do my part to help grow the hobby.

Dan Gagnon October 29, 2020 - 4:03 pm

That’s a great point, Dan. I’ve really got to consider your “investor” vs. “collector” comparison. Thanks!

Johnny Rich October 29, 2020 - 2:28 pm

I think you and I are of similar opinion. I was just going to through a Thor collection I own last night, and thought to myself “I’m probably never going to read these again”. But I also just really enjoy these. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I go through them. The only one that I can think of off the top of my head that has any real value is Thor #337 (First app of Beta Ray Bill).
I recently came into a huge collection that I’m going to try and sell, but it has a bunch of old, small-time keys. So the collector in me is like “HOLD HOLD HOLD!” but the complete-ist in me is like “If you keep them, you’ve gotta catalog and organize them in a sane and logical manner” which is fine, but there’s over a thousand books o_o

Dan Gagnon October 29, 2020 - 4:00 pm

I can sure relate to your collector vs. completist comparison. Good luck!

Randy W DeBower October 29, 2020 - 6:17 pm

I’m going to throw an “old-timer’s” perspective into the mix here! Having a collection of about 10,000 books ranging from the 1940’s to ’90’s I’ve got my share of duds. Sure, the full run of Lee Kirby Fantastic Four books is my pride & joy, but it seems to make my run of Jemm-Son of Saturn an embarrassment by comparison. -But I did buy them for Gene Colan’s great artwork. thus I’m reluctant to get rid of them. Besides, I’ve got quite a few other books that didn’t “blossom” until fairly recently. Black Panther #1, Eternals #1 &2, Savage She-Hulk #1, and Shang-Chi first appearances come to mind. -All of which I purchased multiples of new -just in case they might become “collectible”. Of course, not everything will jump like these did, but It’s OK. -Not everything will be “Key”. They don’t have to be to be enjoyable. Of course it’s easy for me to say this since I don’t have a storage problem, thanks to the “Drawer Boxes”(TM) that I use. Best storage & access solution I have ever found! -Bottom line is–KEEP “EM ALL!! When you retire you’ll have the time to re-read your ‘library” and appreciate them all over again!.Thin it out after that. -Trust me, I thinned my collection many years ago and found I let too many go before they matured. Avoid the regrets if you can!!

Dan Gagnon October 30, 2020 - 2:01 pm

Great advice, Randy. Thank you!

crashcolony October 30, 2020 - 8:22 pm

Dan, nice column! I don’t have any words of advice for you because I am just like you. I wanted to say that one sentence, in particular, literally jumped of the screen when I read your piece: “I am a great comic book reader but a poor comic book collector.” That is totally me. I don’t have as many comics as you do, but some I like (such as Aquaman) probably won’t bring in much for resell. I still love reading them, though!

Dan Gagnon November 1, 2020 - 5:44 pm

Thank you. I really appreciate how willing the experts out here are in giving their advice. I hope the comments section helps you as much as it does me!

Gurpreet Singh November 1, 2020 - 8:39 pm

Another thought, since this thread is booming… With the rainforests burning down across the world, finding logwood to burn in fireplaces will become tougher. The solution? Old comics that were once worthless, and are now in hot demand to help with campfires!!

You only gotta wait another 100 years or so. Hang in there!!! Live long and prosper!!


Dan Gagnon November 3, 2020 - 9:40 am

Ha! Perhaps instead of storing them in longboxes I should start rolling them into tight logs for future campfires.


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