Back in 1961, Joey Nuggenbauer was 17. He was a strange kid. A big kid. Very kind but with terrible acne. He was bullied. Kids used to call him “The Thing.” He didn’t really care, but that November he saw a comic. Fantastic Four #1. It was 10c. But there was a character in it called “The Thing.” Joey bought it.
Elsewhere, Frances Cornblatt already knew she wanted to be a mechanic, but at 17 shes was wondering how she’d be noticed. Everybody kept telling her girls can’t be mechanics. But her mum and dad used to work in the garage all the time with her. She was definitely better at it than most people. But somehow her skill and her work ethic was constantly overlooked in favour of the less competent boys around her. It was like she was The Invisible Girl. She saw the comic, and saw that name on the cover. 10c. She bought it.
Brad Chadbad was quarterback for his college team. He was on fire, burning bright. Winning. HooAh, God is good. 10c is nothing to Brad. He’s gonna be rich. And there’s some dude called The Human Torch on the cover. “That’s me.”
And Ethan Fudge. Top of the class. Won the spelling bee. Well on the way to president. Absolutely no social skills. Ethan knows he’s “Mister Fantastic” because that’s what the imaginary women call him in his guilty bedroom escapades when mum’s out. He sees the comic. He purchases it in front of other kids, “not because I want it per-se but after all, I am Mister Fantastic. Ah-ha-ha.”
Time passes. Joey Nuggenbauer swaps his copy for a toad that Brent Goober found in his grandma’s yard. Brent Goober hides it in a hedge in a shoebox. Then he forgets about it. Seasons worth of rain destroy.
Frances keeps it in her bedroom until she leaves home. She doesn’t particularly care about it. The older and more confident she gets the more visible she feels. And she needs all her energy in order to be taken seriously in her field. Her aging grandmother is moved into the room when she moves downstate. All her things are thrown away by mum and dad, including the comic. Landfill.
Brad’s parents burn his copy. They make a bonfire. “Comic books are from the devil. You don’t want to go to hell now, do you? I want to put all those nasty ungodly comic books on the lovely fire your uncle made and we can all praise the lord and sing songs.” Brad is obedient. He will continue to be.
Ethan keeps his comic carefully, but only because he keeps everything carefully. But in 1965 at 21 he lands a big job in London. He packs all his necessaries. The comic goes into a box marked “Childhood books.” He thinks nothing of it and it ends up in a thrift store.
Sergio Cona, 30, buys a joblot of comics from that thrift store in 1966, including Ethan’s pristine issue. They let him take the box. He reads them all once. Then he carefully puts them back in the box they came from and puts it in the cupboard. His kids will like them when he finally has kids, he thinks. He never has kids.
Not much changes for twenty years. But the comic slowly creeps up in value as collectors get more and more engaged. In 1986 Sergio sells his copy to a specialist for thousands of dollars. People start noticing the numbers and raiding their collections. Joey, Frances, Brad and Ethan all realise it is lost. They tell their kids. “I had that number one comic and I lost it.” Number one comics therefore have value. Over time the comic companies catch on that an issue 1 will sell well. They start to mass produce issue 1. They print multiple covers and collectors buy them all. Kids buying the same thing, many times. The kids of our four original friends blow all their spare change, and as they start to earn more they spend more. As the eighties go into the nineties the kids have told their friends how they could’ve had a super valuable comic. Brent’s son dries the contents of the shoebox with a hairdryer and even in that state makes over a grand. Kids worldwide are buying comic after comic blazoned with “Collectors edition” “Special edition” “Alternate cover” almost as if nothing ever changes from the past. The print runs are running to millions.
Cut to 2018 and Al is sorting through comics that trumpeted their own value loudly and yet have depreciated. Much of it has been someone else’s collection that passed to me. But it’s not worth the hourly rate right now and nobody will buy bulk without a catalogue, which is what’s taking my time. Many of the shops say they won’t touch “Image” comics apart from “The Walking Dead” which, it appears, is literally the only Image comic my friend didn’t have. No wonder he didn’t seem to care about the collection.
Maybe there’s the equivalent of Fantastic Four #1 in the mix. Ethan’s would be worth hundreds of thousands now. But I’ve discovered that selling valuable comics is ridiculously involved. They are graded on a 98 point scale of condition, from 0.1 to 9.9. If I find anything worth over 100 bucks it’s probably worth sending it to America where you pay $20 bucks or so per issue for someone to seal it in a sleeve with a mark out of 100, and cranks up the value by about 30%.
It’s so involved. I’m just bulk listing and then I’ll take it to a dealer.
You never know though. I might suddenly hit on one… I doubt it.