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Editorial copyright 2009 Daniel Best

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DECEMBER 1954 - JUNE 2009
[F.O.O.M #11, September 1975]


On July 4, 1970, I attended my first comic collector's convention - the annual New York Comic Art Convention. This one act altered my entire existence; I was totally overcome by what I saw: professional comic book artists and writers (including Neal Adams, Roy Thomas, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Len Wein, Jim Steranko, and Gil Kane); an art display which included much of Gray Morrow's fantastic color work; a costume contest.

And the dealer's room.

In that room I saw almost every collectable a person could want. Rare pulp magazines, old radio premiums, original artwork, posters... and comics. Thousands of comics. Within ten minutes of my arrival in the dealer's room I had completed my DAREDEVIL collection, after two years of trying on my own.

That day I saw for myself that there were others like me who enjoyed reading, collecting, talking, eating, and sleeping comics. It felt good to know I was not alone, and I knew I would be back.

I've been back every year without fail, and I've met many people. Professionals (including many of those I've listed before) and fans, and a number of fans who became professionals since I met them. People like Howie Chaykin, Alan Lee Weiss, Dave Cockrum, Tony Isabella, and Scott Edelman.

That last guy now edits this magazine, and does more odd jobs around Marvel than I would care to remember. A short while back, Scott asked me if I'd care to write something professional for FOOM. I foolishly said "Yes." The result is this pocket sized lesson on the art of collecting Marvel Comics.

If you're going to collect Marvels, you must first index your existing collection to know exactly what you already own. It may take a day or two to do so but it's invaluable to you, and takes very little time to maintain in the future.

You can use either a loose-leaf binder, hard-cover notebook, or index cards (3" x 5" are just fine). Put all the books in order, both by title and issue number. Assign a page or card to each title and number it in columns from the book's starting number to either it's last number (if it's no longer being published) or to the present. Make certain you're working with the actual title, and not with who the book features (i.e., MARVEL PREMIERE #1, not WARLOCK #1), or else you'll find yourself asking either for books which don't exist, or you'll be receiving an issue other than the one you want. Mark off the issue numbers you have. Having done this for every title, you've got a permanent portable listing of everything you'll need.

So where do you get the books you're missing? Try starting where I did - answering ads in Marvel color comics. For a small price, you can obtain a dealers catalog listing back issue Marvels, which is available through the mail. Don't, however, write to Marvel asking about back issues for sale. They stock no color books, and only a small amount of the black-and-whites.

Check your Yellow Pages for used bookstores in your area. Often you'll find both old and new comics, and the values are usually excellent. These stores can sometimes act even as a reliable source for locating other collectors in your neighborhood. If used-bookstores fail, try Salvation Army Stations, and paper recycling plants. Try placing ads in trade journals, and neighborhood papers. And who knows? There might be a store specializing in comics in a town or city near you. Check around - you may be surprised.

And then there's conventions like the Mighty Marvel Comic Book Convention being held in New York, March 22 through the 24, at the Commodore Hotel. There'll you'll find three days of maddening mayhem, with Stan Lee as the Guest of Honor, along with a dealer's room that you won't believe. Watch the color books for further details. You'll be sorry if you don't.

At the Marvel Con, or at any other convention, shop around. Don't let the prices scare you off.

In the past two years, the prices on early Marvel super-hero titles have more than doubled. Even with the economy in the shape it's in, expect to pay a high price for Silver Age Marvels. For example, if you're looking for FANTASTIC FOUR #1 in mint condition, expect to pay between $125.00 and $150.00. SPIDER-MAN #1 fetches between $50.00 and $75.00 in mint condition. Likewise AMAZING FANTASY #15. AVENGERS #1 in mint will cost you $15.00 to $20.00. Even more recent important titles, like CONAN #1, will run you $7.50 or $9.00 in perfect shape. Shop carefully at any convention you might attend, as prices usually vary from dealer to dealer. Spending a few minutes comparing values can often save you several dollars.

I emphasize mint condition because it is, of course, the most desirable. Some collectors won't accept less than perfect. Conditional points to look for are:
(1) Tight, clean shiny cover, with no bends, creases, or folds.
(2) Dry, white, interior pages.
(3) An over-all new appearance.
A book in mint condition also increases in value faster, should you decide to resell it at some later date.

Now that you've got your Marvels in mint condition, you've got to protect them. The best way is to store them in polyethylene bags, available in super markets under several brand names, or from many of the comic book dealers themselves. In fact, many of the books you will purchase will already be in plastic storage bags. These bags will help protect your book from moisture, air, direct sunlight, and other factors which might otherwise harm them. The bagged books can now be stored indefinitely, with little or no damage occurring.

If you're planning to store your Marvels for a long while without re-reading them, I suggest you look into either filing cabinets or heavy duty storage cartons. For these, try checking stationary supply houses. For a shorter storage time, regular cartons will be sufficient. If you intend to merely stack the books neatly, choose a location away from light, heat, dirt, and moisture. Stack them flat, and you should have no trouble maintaining their condition.

Happy hunting!

--Dave Simons

This article, commissioned and published in the September 1975 issue of F.O.O.M (short for Friends Of Ol' Marvel, natch!) signifies Dave's first appearance of note in an Marvel comic.  The article is a basic puff piece and covers some fairly standard ground about collecting comic books - buying, sourcing, storing, cataloguing and the like, with a lot of plugs for the then upcoming Marvel Convention.

Dave did a lot of work for fanzines over the years, as did a lot of other artists of the era (Fred Hembeck, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Kevin Nowlan etc).  It was a good way for him to get his artwork into print and a fairly cheap way to self-promote.  The fanzines didn't pay a lot of money, indeed most wouldn't pay him at all, but by working for such small press magazines Dave was soon able to build a portfolio of published, semi-professional artwork that could then be shown to companies as required.

--Daniel Best