Buddy Scalera’s Comic Collectors Journey, Part 1
Collector Perspectives asked, “How did you start collecting?” Here’s Buddy’s answer.
Like a lot of kids, I really hated to read. Well, I should say, I hated to read my school books. Reading was fine; it was the stuff they wanted me to read that I hated.
Recognizing an opportunity, my mother gave me comic books as a reward for reading my school books. Comics soon became the default reward for everything.
As a reader, I consumed anything with pictures, panels, and word balloons. Marvel, DC, Archie, Richie Rich, Disney. Most I read so many times that the issues fell apart. I still read them.
An American Collector
One day, we were visiting a relative who was into collecting antiques. My aunt had saved a copy of American Collector magazine from 1977, which featured a cover image of a Captain America comic and the title “The Comic Book Boom: Can Prices Go Any Higher?”
As I sat alone reading the magazine, I discovered that the comics I was reading were worth money. Well, maybe not my particular comics, but I suddenly realized that comics in general were worth money. Maybe mine.
They let me take the magazine home and I read the article over and over. I studied every line and memorized the prices. I recited facts about how valuable comic books had become. It was hard to fathom that a single copy of Action Comics #1 had sold for $6,000!
Pricing and values soon became my second obsession. Every time we returned to my Aunt’s house, she let me scour issues of American Collector for small articles about the collectible value of comics. But that was nothing until I discovered…
Overstreet Guide to Comics
American Collector was interesting, but too broad. I’m not sure where I discovered it, but one day, I was holding the bible for comic book collectors.
The Overstreet Guide was a fat, oddly shaped book that listed the prices of all comics. Action Comics #1 was there, as was Amazing Fantasy #15 and Fantastic Four #1. There were thousands of prices and granular details about the collectible relevance of key issues.
Page by page, line by line, I memorized hundreds of arcane facts and prices. I scoured the front and back matter and began to map a world that existed only in my fantasies. “What’s that? You found a copy of Action Comics #1 trapped between these brand new comics on the magazine rack? Sure, you found it, you can keep it.”
Family and friends fueled my obsessions by handing over stacks of old comics that they no longer wanted. I maintained extensive notebooks that documented the value of every single comic I owned and dutifully upgraded the pricing when the new annual price guide was issued.
I did chores, read books, and anything else that was required to maintain this flow of awesomeness. As the years went on, I discovered fellow comic book fans and we became a group of collectors who fed each others’ obsessions. We discovered specialty shops and haunted back issue bins. We shared dog-eared copies of the price guide because that was the way to settle competitions over “who had the most valuable collection.”
The Second Wave
And then I grew up. Comics became less important than girls, cars, and sports. The obsessions of my youth gave way to my teenage interests. Comics seemed rather unimportant compared to, well, everything else.
Even though I was aware of my comics, my interest waned. I stopped collecting and stashed the collection under my bed. They were bagged and boarded from my youth, but beyond that, they were virtually forgotten. Real life was what mattered.
Years passed, but in my junior year of college, I suddenly became interested in comics again. There was a small, dedicated sub-culture of college readers who were intent on sharing modern comics. These were mature, thoughtful stories that were dramatically different from the ones I’d read in my youth. Amazing.
Slowly I got back into reading comics. I wasn’t collecting yet, but I knew that comics were valuable. Somewhere off campus, back at home, I still had my trusty price guide. Even though it was 10+ years old, it had some directional insights for my percolating interest in comics.
After graduation, I set my sights on a career in comics. I knew nothing about the industry, but my degree in journalism and my access as a newspaper reporter provided essential knowledge about the comics industry.
In time, I found myself working as a full-time comic book professional. It was like a dream come true. But I was nagged by the fact that most of my old comics and action figures were no longer under my bed.
Unlike many collector horror stories, my mother hadn’t tossed my comics and toys. I had done it myself.
Read Part 2 of Buddy’s story at at ComicBookSchool.com.
Buddy Scalera is a well-known comic book writer, editor, and photographer. He has written for many mainstream comics including Marvel’s Deadpool, Agent X and X-Men Unlimited, and his latest release is an educational book titled Creating Comics from Start to Finish. He has written over 100 articles on the topic of comics for Wizard, Comics Buyer’s Guide and Spin Online, among others. Buddy continuously adds to his personal collection of comic books and comic art and is a regular attendee of comic cons and events large and small.