What do you do with 46,000 comics?

by  in Comic News Comment
What do you do with 46,000 comics?

There’s a bit of irony to this story of a comics dealer and a collector going to great lengths to acquire an intact comics collection … which they apparently intend to break up by selling off the comics individually.

Matthew Lane, the reporter who got the story for the Kingsport, Tennessee, Times-News, puts the allure of the collection right in his lead:

Imagine coming across a rare comic book collection, complete runs of Marvel and DC dating back to the beginning of the Silver Age of Comics. The first appearances of Spider-man, Iron Man, Wolverine, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

Indeed, that’s what makes this collection so interesting — its completeness. Seeing an entire run of issues, watching iconic characters pop up in the context of their times, is a special experience (albeit one that can now be duplicated fairly easily with digital comics). The collection of more than 46,000 comics seems to have attracted some attention among dealers, and it was ultimately purchased by retailer Brian Marcus and collector Charles Bond.

The backstory is a bit poignant: The collector was a hospital administrator who died of a heart attack at the age of 61, leaving no family; his will was in the front seat of his car. Clearly, the collection had been a labor of love. Marcus and Bond believe he was getting comics from a variety of sources, including comics shops and storage locker sales. Each comic was carefully bagged and arranged chronologically. The comics were left to the Scottish Rite Mason’s Lodge in West Virginia.

According to the article, Marcus and Bond will get the rarer comics graded and sell the collection off online, at conventions, and in Marcus’ own Cavalier Comics store in Wise, Virginia. So it sounds like the collection will be broken up, although it’s likely that many issues will go to fill the holes in other collections. Their plan absolutely makes sense from a retailer’s point of view; they estimate the collection is worth $250,000, a figure that no single buyer is likely to match, and most people don’t have the space or resources to store such a collection. (Although it would be nice to see an academic library such as the Billy Ireland library at Ohio State University, or the Columbia University library, snap it up.) Still, it’s a little sad to see such a carefully curated collection get broken up. While it’s true that you can approximate a complete run of Marvel comics on the publisher’s Marvel Unlimited digital service, it’s not quite the same as thumbing through a stack of the originals.

“You’ll hear once or twice a year of a decent collection surfacing, but it’s harder and harder to come by these days,” Marcus said in the article. And this is exactly why.