The Comic Book Collector pH Scale

You’re at that awkward stage. You’re nowhere near ready to get rid of all of your comic books, and yet there’s a closet in your house that you don’t want your friends to see. Not until they know you well enough to understand that although you certainly do have an opinion on whether Batman could beat Captain America, they’ll never be subjected to it.

(Not unless they have access to your LiveJournal.)

It’s helpful to explain exactly where you are on the Comic Book Collector spectrum, so that your mom, your boss, or a potential third-base partner understands that there are those who are in far, far deeper than you are.

The Spectrum is like a pH test kit. Read the following list until you see a shade of nerdity that matches your own skin tone:

1) You continue to put every new comic you buy in a protective baggie…but you stop using backing boards.

2) You put every comic in a baggie. But you buy the cheaper, ordinary plastic kind instead of archival-quality neutral baggies.

3) You no longer care whether “Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man” is alphabetized under P, S, or A (for “Amazing Spider-Man,” which absorbed that title this year).

4) You stop entering your new comics into an inventory database.

5) You stop keeping your comics alphabetized.

6) You stop putting your comics in baggies and just put them in the longbox “naked.”

7) You keep them in cheap OfficeMax cardboard boxes, instead of industry-standard “longboxes.”

8) You throw out all the multiple copies of comics you bought during the “speculator boom” in the Nineties.

9) For the first time in your life, you look at a comic in your collection and you think “I’ll probably never read this again, ever.”

10) You still have boxes of comics, but you need to go drive somewhere if you want to visit them.

11) You throw out a run of comics because you have another copy of this storyline in the form of a trade paperback reprint.

12) You throw away new comics after you’ve read them.

13) You go through all of your existing comics; cull out the ones you actually want to keep, and eliminate the rest.

14) You go through all of your existing comics and throw away any that probably aren’t valuable.

After Stage Thirteen…your nephew gets an awesome birthday present and your sister or brother no longer invites you to the family barbecues.

Hmm? Oh: Stage 12. Not a statement of pride…just a statement of fact.

16 thoughts on “The Comic Book Collector pH Scale

  1. Shawn Levasseur

    By “throw away” do you at least sell them off, or hand them down to niece or nephew?

    The thought of just trashing them… **Shudder**

    Hmm? Oh, I’d say I’m around stage 2.5, I’m gradually starting to bag my comics (although I’ll be using Silver Age sized bags to store a run of issues in a single bag, using backing boards occasionally.

    Maybe raise that up a bit as I’ve created my own inventory system with FileMaker Pro Advanced. Or is that a factor on the computer nerd pH scale?

    Though that opening paragraph? My comics are out of the closet, I’ve been an unashamed (or is that shameless?) comic geek for decades. Then again outside of Imelda Marcos, I don’t think anyone has a closet large enough for over 20,000 comics.

  2. Ihnatko Post author

    Kurt Busiek nailed it when he wrote the Batman/Cap fight in “JLAvengers.” The fight is a short, cerebral series of moves in which the two sort of appraise each other, and they simultaneously conclude that they’re too evenly matched and that their time is better spent trying to figure out why their teams are being manipulated into a confrontation.

  3. Ihnatko Post author

    @Shawn – I think if you gave “X-Force” away, you’d be prosecuted for something or other. At least, you should be. :)

    I do throw away all of my new comics, unless an eager donor presents himself right away. I simply realized one day that I was saving these things for no purpose. If it was a good series (like Top 10) I’d buy the trade. If it wasn’t, then I never really wanted to read it again.

    I guess that’s the hallmark of each of these stages. There was indeed a time when the idea of organizing and preserving my comix collection was a real source of pleasure. I enjoyed writing code for the database and I liked making it more and more complete and I liked generating reports and booklets and e-books that I could load onto my Newton MessagePad and take to comic cons with me.

    But over time, for no specific reason, each of these things seemed like too much trouble…I was bagging and boarding not for any actual purpose, but just because that’s what I’ve always done, you know?

  4. Moeskido

    I now wait for recommendations from friends who still buy the floppies, borrow one or two, then pick up the trade collection when it appears. The excellent “New Frontier” was one of these, and I have hopes for a collection of Cooke’s revival of “The Spirit.”

    Over the last 15 years, I’ve narrowed my original collection down to two short boxes, which was painful at first. Still holding onto stuff like Byrne’s “Fantastic Four” run, though.

  5. Rob

    Oh, crap. Even though I don’t buy new issues any more. I’m still at number 1. Sigh. Now, I read Wizard to find out what might be worth buying as a trade. What would I be if I started putting trade paperbacks in baggies? Hmmm.


  6. Lamar

    Where would “continue to buy the comics series you’ve bought for the past 30 years, but seldom actually read them anymore” fit on your scale?


  7. Gary

    I bought most of my comics between 1984 -1995 and only a handful since than. I started spending my money on a classic car restoration.

    I have all my comics in the standard long boxes. Some books are bagged and boarded, some bagged, and others naked. I have 40 or so boxes of books at the house and some more boxes of books in storage that were purchased with a friend in multiple quantity when we thought we might open our own store. I have never thrown away a comic book, but have given books away to friends and friends children. Where does this put me on the Comic Book Collector pH scale.

  8. Mark

    I haven’t bought comics since the death of Superman. I use to spend too much money on them. Easily $100. each week. I still have most of the in boxes like West Coast Avengers, Spawn, X-men, mini-series and so on. About 50 % were given to me. One of these days I’ll actually record what I have and maybe put them up on Ebay or where ever.

  9. Bryan

    I’m somewhere above 9 but not quite to 10. I reached that point about 15 years ago. What stage is, “They’re aging in my crawl space in the hopes that I someday will recoup a fraction of my investment”?

    I haven’t bought one in 15 years and I just keep dragging them around. Now that I have a house they just sit, waiting.

  10. Nick

    Of course you realise that this is a two way scale. I reached stage 6, and stopped buying the issues, and switched to trades then lo and behold, over the years, my collection is actually growing faster than it ever was. I must get around to reinforcing the floor sometime soon as well.

  11. JohnnyQuest

    Oh, Andy, where have ye gone?

    I definitely went through all those stages, except I skipped #7 thru #11. May I propose a Stage Fifteen?
    You no longer read comics regularly, but you frequently tell stories about having the original editions of Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Killing Joke. (“I even had the carded set of Watchmen buttons! And I sold them all before they peaked! Man.”)

    – Johnny

    P.S. I also tell stories about having almost the entire run of World’s Finest (well, since the 1960’s, anyway) but nobody cares.

  12. Michael

    If your going to throw them away why don’t you get one of those brown grocery bags and stick it in the corner. One the bag gets near full take the bag down to a hospital, library or school.

    At least that way you will be passing it on and spreading the comic book love.

    umm me I’m at step Five and One Half

  13. Bob Geiger

    Holy Sh@%t Batman! Your pH scale is freaky scary considering I went through most of the stages and just two days ago gave the whole collection to my nephew (only kept a Grafitti press Watchmen book). Geez Andy, I’ve always loved your Mac writings but didn’t know you were a comic geek too! Well good for you. Hey can you recommend any Mac comic collection database for my still drooling nephew? Enquiring minds want to know.

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