The Comic Purge: Learning to Have Less to Get More

by Ryan Kirksey

the_purge_1280-300x169 The Comic Purge: Learning to Have Less to Get MoreIf you’ve ever endured psychology or behavioral economics class, you’ve likely run across the phrase “endowment effect.” You might have seen it as an “ownership effect” or something similar, but the basic meaning behind the phrase is that we tend to value goods or objects we own more highly than an identical item that we do not own. I recently learned this bias was weighing my collection down and led to an interesting personal story – how to perform a comic purge to get higher valued collectibles.

The Epiphany

If I was to compare my CGC 6.5 Hulk Annual #1 with another CGC 6.5 copy, I would subconsciously find more things wrong with the one I don’t own and therefore internally justify that the one I own is actually worth more. This is silly. They are identical items, but one of them seemingly has more value because it’s MINE.

new-mutants-98-194x300 The Comic Purge: Learning to Have Less to Get MoreAbout seven months ago, I caught myself looking through boxes upon boxes of comics I had accumulated over who knows how long. I had these thoughts about the value of my collection.

“I bought this CGC 9.2 New Mutants #98 for $230, but I really think it’s probably worth about $100 more to someone out there.”

“Altogether, I spent about $140 for this entire run of Secret Wars, but actually I think it’s worth about $200. Someone will buy it for that.”

So every once in a while I would try to sell something through Instagram, eBay, or Mercari and I wouldn’t get any bites. Inevitably, I got frustrated and began to wonder how am I going to be able to afford the books I REALLY want but have so far been out of reach.

What I Considered

It wasn’t until I remembered about the endowment effect that I could fully have a series of revelations about my collection:

  1. How I value these comics are irrelevant. How the buyer-side market values them is the only thing that matters. (Corollary: The price I paid for them could not be more irrelevant)
  2. What I own in these boxes does have value, maybe even significant value to someone. If it’s not me, how can I use this knowledge to get what I really want?
  3. Many of the comics I own are keys, some of the major keys. Even more of them are desirable. But do they make me happier with my collection or do I have them because they are “good books to own?”

Buttressed by this epiphany, I began to develop a plan: Turn all of these comics that I am holding for speculation or because you are “supposed” to have them in your collection or people praise you because you grabbed one into the books that I really want. Or more simply, make my collection more complete by purging.

What I Purged

I then began to dig into the GoCollect data on my slabbed books and recently sold data on my raw books and develop prices I thought the market would like, not necessarily what I thought I was right. It became clear that I might not make a profit on every book I wanted to purge, but if the goal of owning a comic is to have X% of a return on your investment, it might not be a hobby for you anymore.

Armed with this information, I ran three claims/BIN sales over the last seven months, had more direct message conversations on social media than I can count, and searched out people looking for the specific books I had to sell. Altogether, I sold more than 150 books including my New Mutants #98, a Spider-Man #50, a Nova #1, a Fantastic Four #52, and countless other minor keys and runs.

Were those all great books and ones I would love to have as part of my collection? Absolutely. Did they make me truly happy sitting in a box waiting for the day when I would do something with them? Not even a little bit. What would make me truly happy came next.

The Payoff

hulk-annual-1-214x300 The Comic Purge: Learning to Have Less to Get MoreOver the past several weeks, I was able to turn the funds from those 150 books into about 10 books that are on my Grail list:

Daredevil #1 – a CGC 3.5 copy – my ultimate grail
Hulk #5 – a raw GD copy
ASM Annual #1 – a CGC 3.5 copy
Tales to Astonish #35 – a CGC 4.0 copy
Tales to Astonish #59 – raw FN copy
Marvel Premiere #1 – a CGC 8.0 copy
Fantastic Four #67 – raw FN copy
Hulk Annual #1 – a CGC 6.5 copy
X-Men #141 – a CBCS 9.4 copy
A CGC certified Chip Zdarsky signed and sketched Daredevil #1 from his current run

Along the way I have also been able to pick up a few minor things – some Bronze Age Daredevil issues to help with my run, some interesting Hulk books since I collect his keys, and a couple keys recommended by the writers here at GoCollect that look to be some strong speculation books.

Takeaway

At the end of the day, my entire collection is now down to about three short boxes. One for my Daredevil #1-300 run and two more for raw books, plus a small box of slabs. It was frightening at first to cut my entire collection down by about 70%, but the more I began to realize other books would make me truly happy and the books I owned didn’t do that, the more comfortable I became with the decision.

So for me, it is true that less is more. Will the collection build back up over time? Most assuredly, I mean I am addicted after all. But I know in the future my collection won’t exist to make others happy. It will be something that makes me satisfied with what’s in those boxes.

Have you had a similar experience? Does the phrase “less is more” apply to you? Let me know your experience in the comments.

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25 comments

Tony C May 31, 2020 - 2:01 pm

I purged my collection of about 1200 comics 5 years ago—best decision I ever made. I currently own 14 comics that I have displayed in my office at home. I plan on slowly upgrading and always having only 10-20 comics at a time. I find I get way more enjoyment out of my smaller collection, and I’ve added several personal grails. I loved this article and truly believe in Quality over Quantity!

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Ryan Kirksey May 31, 2020 - 3:08 pm

This is definitely where I have landed as well.

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VooDoo Maestro May 31, 2020 - 4:28 pm

I just sold off a bunch of my collection in order to get my ultimate Marvel grail, X-Men #1. Some of the comics were favorites of mine. A few I’ll probably repurchase someday. But the sacrifice was worth it to get my Grail. Without sacrifice, nothing’s worth it. You don’t need spec books if you have a classic. Those are always going to be worth money. Those are always going to go up in value.

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Ryan Kirksey May 31, 2020 - 5:01 pm

I know you worked hard to get that one, I don’t think you’ll ever regret it.

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Tony C May 31, 2020 - 5:45 pm

X-men 1! Wow congrats!

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Brett The Comic Guy May 31, 2020 - 7:12 pm

I do the opposite, I buy as many comics as I can. I built a “Vault” that is attached to my house which it temperature and light controlled, fire resistant will full security. I have over 100,000 comics which are all bagged and boarded which each key character having their own box or boxes. You never know what will increase in value so I keep everything.

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Ryan Kirksey May 31, 2020 - 7:57 pm

If you’ve got the resources and capacity, I say do it!

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comicbookcollect.wordpress.com June 1, 2020 - 8:14 pm

Great article, Ryan. I am actually like you now, trying to downsize a little. Brett The Comic Guy if you are ever in Maryland, I would love to sell some of my comic books to you.

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Pete June 1, 2020 - 3:21 pm

How many issues of your Daredevil run 1-300 fit in the short box?

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Ryan Kirksey June 1, 2020 - 3:39 pm

Only about 140 or so, so that one has actually moved into two short boxes by now…

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Tito DeJesus June 1, 2020 - 3:50 pm

You know that in the past year i purchased a large amount of books. Some books i liked and some i bought solely to sell. I spent HOURS hunting for books, only to realize, just recently, that i was hunting for the wrong reason. I was hunting to sell books that were ” hot”. After February, I basically sold every single key comic I owed. At first i regretted it, but by the middle of April, i realized that i did the right thing. I sold books i didn’t want. I sold books i thought i wanted because of the communities pressure to buy certain books. Now, i am in a rebuilding stage, and i caught myself, once again, purchasing books i didn’t really want. In fact, there are only 5-10 books i really only want. So, luckily, I do not have the large amount of books like i had built up in 2019 and I can sell what someone else wants!

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Ryan Kirksey June 1, 2020 - 4:26 pm

Great plan, I know how hard you have been working to do that. But now you have a goal and it’s full speed ahead to achieving that goal.

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nigel June 2, 2020 - 1:10 pm

i want to purge my collection so badly and i don’t even have an affinity to most of them but the thing i find hardest is letting go and then seeing them jump in value, its almost a kick in the teeth. Do you have a lot of regrets on some comics you have got rid of only to shoot up in value and do you have a way of dealing with this.

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Ryan Kirksey June 2, 2020 - 2:25 pm

This is an incredibly tough question, one that I struggled with also. I think the first thing I had to come to grips with was understanding it’s not “if” some of them increase in value, but rather “when” they increase. Some assuredly will. I sold an ASM 361 in really good shape the day before the Venom 2 trailer come out. I could have sold it for probably $50 more than I did if I waited one day. But I remembered that it got me what I needed and planned for and that helped me get closer to the goal of the comics I really desired.
For me, it came down to which books do I have an emotional attachment to. Some I was just holding onto in hopes that something moved on them in the future. And I realized that enough of those piled up to equal the cost of a book I really wanted. Good luck!!

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nigel smith June 2, 2020 - 2:54 pm

Thanks Buddy , i had a lot of early marvel comics incl amazing spiderman , hulk etc when i was a kid and i have no idea where they went after i read them , i had no idea of value back then and as far as i was concerned they were just comics to read and probably ended up at a jumble sale or something. I could have probably retired had i kept some of those early issues and its probably why i have a problem letting go today
Having read your post I’m going to give it a go though

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Ivan R Roliz June 2, 2020 - 6:49 pm

Oh, goodness, I get it. I purchased a bunch of books and now I am trying to sell almost everyone of them. It is taking some time but I slowly working through it. I have so many books and it takes a lot of time to move and sell them. My goals it purchase grails. I have only a few books that really do pull me and at I times I forget my goal and purchase minor books but then I realize that I need to look into owning the books that matter emotionally and financially.

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Ryan Kirksey June 2, 2020 - 7:27 pm

Good way to describe it: what are the books that “pull me” toward them? If i am just hoping to flip a book or something, those are the ones I’m purging first.

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Pugilisticphilosopher June 4, 2020 - 12:49 am

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this idea that ‘less is more’ as of late. Specifically, I was looking at the prices of the Classic EC Horror books and pondering whether it may be a good idea to trim down on some other books I have plenty of and invest in a really nice Tales From The Crypt issue. These books are so damn cool and hard to find in high grade. It sure would be nice to own a slabbed copy or two of these great comics. Superheros are where the money is at but EC Horror is EC Horror !

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Blaster June 4, 2020 - 7:36 pm

Great approach. I expand and contract, move in and out of OA, raw and graded books based on my interest. The one constant is a requirement; I must be able to let items go!…Not required to sale, but able. To your articles point, it puts things in perspective. The collection doesn’t own me; I enjoy the history, Pedegree and story I have for the items. Those memories will always be mine. Part of the story can, or could be, when I let some go to get another. And the wheel keeps spinning.

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Ryan Kirksey June 4, 2020 - 7:39 pm

That’s a great way of looking at it. Memories, stories, and connections to the comics are what helped me define what I wanted.

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Ivan R Roliz June 6, 2020 - 9:54 pm

Thank you again for this blog.

I started purging my collection, I am writing an account of my purge to help encourage those who want to purge their collection. This is written in a formulaic process and development.

Plan #1: Sell each book one at a time:

– Post 6 books a day for a entire year = 2190 books listed.

It worked for the first weeks. I sold a lot and made a lot. The sales started to slow down by the second week but by the fourth week my was not working.

Main Issues (no pun intend):

– inventory was not moving fast enough
– 1 book takes about 8-10 minutes from start to finish.

If you are wondering, I mean everything (scanning, posting, replying to customers, packaging, and shipping.).

At best 8 minutes per 2190 books= 17,520 Minutes or 292 hours of time I don’t have.

Result: first purge attempt unsuccessful/sustainable 🙁

By week 4, in desperation, I came back to your blog hoping to contact you for advise. Instead, I reread your blog. Your message gave me an epiphany. Plan #2 was uncovered from the pain and stress of not accomplishing my goal. I needed to sell all of my flip books and slow moving books regardless of the loss. I let go of so many books that I believe are valuable. My purging quest is coming to fruition. Plan #2 was uncovered from the pain and stress of not accomplishing my goal.

Plan #2: Sell all minor books in bulk and sell key flip books individually.

Results:

Part 1: Flip books were sold at surplus! (Felt Great!)

Part 2: Collect and sell minor key books in bulk.

In three hours and hiring my roommate to help with two of them. We completed the following in three hours.

8 books per cellphone picture
1 comic lot posting Template
1 box to safely hold 32 books
7 boxes of books
_______________
284 books will be listed! 🙂

P.S. Use the cheapest shipping option possible and let your customers know.

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Ryan Kirksey June 6, 2020 - 11:57 pm

That is an awesome example of the stick-to-it attitude it seems to take to do this. Besides from actually deciding to sell the books, the hardest thing for me by far was finding the hours and willpower to actually put in the work. Looks like you’ve got a great plan and I am glad it has started to work out.

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joe curcurio June 17, 2020 - 10:01 pm

I started my purge about a year ago. I love reading comics so I never really was looking at what was ‘hot’ or ‘valuable’, I just wanted great stories. And I found them. Lot of them. Too many of them that lead me to having a far larger comic collection than I ever imagined. I was running out of room and my wife was sick of all the comics laying around in my office waiting to me filed away, many not to be looked at or read again for a long time.

So I looked into the value of my collection and found that I had some great books but far too many meh books. I bought CLZ as my filing system. Went through ever box I owned. Scanned in all the comics. Printed out a .CSV of my inventory and looked through it. I found a good 2k books I wanted rid of immediately. They weren’t worth anything and I had no attachment once it was read. I figured I could always buy the trade if I wanted to read the run again or go to the library and check out the trade.

But what to do with them? Fortunately, my wife works at a school where one of the teachers was using comics to interest ESL and other kids to read. I donated all the books to the school and she now has a 50 kid strong comic club. It was really cool to see. However, it was a sunk cost I didn’t want to repeat so I had to start selling books.

I started out with single books and them put up runs of titles I was willing to let go of. It was difficult but I finally moved on to getting rid of books I still liked but the prices were just too good to turn down. By getting rid of a couple of my really high value books, I’ve been able to buy books I want to own. In the past year I’ve been able to get ASM 50, FF 49, X-men 50 and lots more. It’s been so satisfying to let books go that aren’t for me anymore and letting someone who really wants them to get them at a good price. Collecting for me has been way more fun by focusing on the ‘less is more’ philosophy and really focusing on books I have to have because of stories or artist or cover.

Anyway, great article.

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Ryan Kirksey June 18, 2020 - 9:52 am

Yes! Great story about how the hard work can pay off to get what you want. I love the part about donating the books. I should look into that.

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joe curcurio June 18, 2020 - 12:09 pm

Schools are your best bet. Many will take them, age appropriate of course, to use as incentive to get kids to read. I’ve also found some folks on twitter who work in youth centers and other places where they use comics in the same way. They especially love runs of titles so kids can read an entire story. It’s been rewarding and a great way to give back to the community. Comics have given me so much enjoyment over my life so it’s great to pass that enjoyment on to a new generation of kids who probably can’t afford $4 a comic.

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