Precious Jewels Hidden in Tattered Pages

I remember it well.  It was one of those lazy midsummer days in western New York State, the air thick with humidity, the droning, mechanical call of the cicadas giving voice to the trees.

cicadas

 

My parents were entertaining an old family friend, who lived out of state.  He hadn’t visited in several years, and now, upon his arrival, I wanted to impress him–with my growing comic book collection.  I was seventeen years old, a month away from my senior year in high school, and I was eager to show this well-traveled gentleman, who lived in a fancy home out West, that I was no slouch myself.

senioryear

 

He slapped me on the back, told me he remembered me as a little kid with a bowl-shaped haircut, four feet tall–where had that kid gone?  I told him I collected old comic books, had been for years now.  Would he care to see the cream of my collection?

me

 

“Comic books?” he said.  “They’re worth something, eh?”

Were they ever!  I showed him the latest edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, published annually each April with updated market values for every American comic book that has ever graced the newsstand.  And I pointed out some of the issues I owned, purchased months or years ago, but which, over time, had appreciated, their price tag growing like green plants in a well-tended garden.

overstreet1

 

“Kind of like buying blue chip stock, I see,” he said, as I showed him my most prized issues, vintage copies of The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, along with select issues of Superman, Batman, and other heroes from yesteryear.

avengers57

 

ff48

 

After a few minutes, I could no longer resist.

superman

 

“You know what these are all worth, put together?”

He didn’t hesitate.  “Absolutely.  They’re worth whatever someone will pay you for them.”

I exhaled, feeling like a pin-pricked balloon, all my pride and anticipation and excitement bleeding out of me, drip by drip.  Whatever someone will pay for them?  But . . . what if I didn’t want to sell them?  Did that negate their worth altogether?  And besides, I didn’t like viewing my comic books as commodities in such a bald, in-your-face manner.  Sure, I bought the Overstreet Guide every spring when it came out.  And sure again, I enjoyed seeing issues I already owned rising in value.  But that wasn’t why I owned them, or why I’d bought them.

Was it?

balloon

 

*******************

In The Eye-Dancers, Mitchell Brant shares my love of old comics, particularly The Fantastic Four.  They hold for him, as they always have for me, an undeniable magic.  And yet, he, too, feels the need to put a monetary value on them–and a fictional one at that.  As he is prone to do, Mitchell exaggerates their worth, claiming, to anyone who will listen, that his collection would go for thirty thousand dollars if he wanted to sell it.  He knows this is a gross misrepresentation of the truth, but he just can’t seem to help himself.

comiccollection

 

I would like to believe, however, that when he is alone, thinking about it in more depth, he will realize he is not only lying to his friends.

He’s also lying to himself–for reasons that go far beyond the actual market value of his collection.

*********************

When the out-of-state family friend left the next day, returning to the house he had built, the life he had fashioned, I still felt bad.  And I felt worse when I checked the values of my best issues yet again in the price guide.  What was I doing?  Had my perspective really shifted so far from center?  I needed a new outlook, or, to be more accurate, an old outlook–the same one I once had, when I was nine years old buying my first comics off the drug-store  rack that squeaked when I spun it, round and round, watching the covers flash before my eyes like action scenes from the greatest movie I ever saw.  I needed something to remind me why I had started collecting old comic books in the first place.

spinningrack

 

So I sat down on my bedroom floor, cross-legged, and pulled out my priciest issues–not as a collector, or an investor, or even a hobbyist.  But as a reader.  As a lover of the ride they took me on.  As a seventeen-year-old, standing on the rocky, high precipice of academic choices, college majors, and career decisions but wanting, desperately, to cling to an aspect of my childhood that seemed to be receding, day by day, further into the shadowlands of an irretrievable past.

cliff

 

I read issue after issue that day, copies printed years before I was born, stories that transported me to other worlds, distant galaxies, negatively charged universes, where the very atoms of matter itself were in complete opposition to our own.  I read about super villains who wanted to rule the world and who spouted off the corniest dialogue I had ever heard, and yet I loved every word.  I read about characters I had grown up with, who I knew so well it seemed they were real, and might at any moment jump out of the illustrated panels and join me in my room.

negativezone

 

And when I put those comics away, I felt better than I had in days . . .

I won’t lie.  I still purchased the Overstreet Price Guide in subsequent springs, still checked the market value of my comics from year to year.  But I also read through the entire Price Guide, enjoying the pictures of countless old comic book covers and reading the informative articles on the hobby.  It was now a supplement, a part of a whole.  It no longer defined the whole.

Because the truth of the matter was, those old comic books, many with brittle covers and spine rolls, water stains and clipped-out advertisements, housed jewels of the rarest sort within their tattered and yellowed pages.

sparklingjewels

 

Later that same summer, talking with a friend of mine, my comic book collection came up.

Inevitably, perhaps, the question arose:  “So, what’s your collection worth?”

I looked at him, smiled.

“Priceless,” I said.

sunsetpriceless

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

59 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. evelyneholingue
    Apr 11, 2014 @ 20:34:02

    Priceless.

    Reply

  2. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel
    Apr 11, 2014 @ 20:55:13

    Love when you answered, “Priceless.” So true!

    Reply

  3. jjspina
    Apr 12, 2014 @ 02:54:56

    Great post. My son has a childhood collection of sports cards which are priceless too!l Lol!

    Reply

  4. Jilanne Hoffmann
    Apr 12, 2014 @ 06:36:06

    Yes, you have pinpointed the true value of collecting: the love of the thing itself, not what someone will pay you for it. Nice post!

    Reply

  5. Andrea Stephenson
    Apr 12, 2014 @ 15:48:32

    What a great lesson as to the true value of things.

    Reply

  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83
    Apr 12, 2014 @ 21:37:41

    You were one cute little kid Mike!!

    Reply

  7. Lyn
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 09:22:31

    Ohhh, you were such a cute little boy Mike. 🙂

    Reply

  8. Dylan Hearn
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 15:38:50

    I don’t think I could be as brave as you and post photographs of me as a young kid (though you look great)! Lovely story and message.

    Reply

  9. Ste J
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 17:55:27

    Love the sentiment, the experience is worth so much more than any monetary value could ever be

    Reply

  10. Don Royster
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 05:42:46

    This reminds me why I write the stories I do. Not that they are going to bring me any monetary value. But for the sheer joy I get from writing them. Thanks.

    Reply

  11. AGentleandQuietSpirit
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 11:23:35

    Great story! It’s hard to define what is worth money, and what is worth the journey it has taken us on! A valuable life lesson to learn at 17! 🙂

    Reply

  12. jenniferkmarsh
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 11:29:14

    What a wonderful story, and a wonderful lesson to the true value of things 🙂

    But look at you as a child!! Weren’t you adorable 😛

    Reply

  13. mcwoman
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 15:52:01

    Good answer! Somethings we value through life can’t be priced. Such feelings show who we are.

    Reply

  14. stockdalewolfe
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 17:32:09

    Great story and lesson and great ending!! Is that you as a child? Very cute!

    Reply

  15. Fashion Sky Fall
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 20:30:43

    Great post, so cute in the photo 🙂 !!!

    Reply

  16. laurie27wsmith
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 01:26:24

    A great post Mike. I think it’s hard to put a price on something we cherish, one man’s treasure and all that. Btw. I love comics.

    Reply

  17. Shelley
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 05:02:14

    If only I could figure out how to take a picture of my 29 year old son’s room. The shelves are bending with the weight of all his comics. Priceless.

    Reply

  18. Gallivanta
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 10:56:08

    Priceless is a great answer! Like this post.

    Reply

  19. Sherri
    Apr 15, 2014 @ 21:05:07

    As is this post Mike, just priceless, and your photo too! I love it! My boys adored their comics and have kept them all (although guess who lugs them around, along with all their stuff, keeping it all in store for them?)!! Wonderful post as always, thanks Mike 🙂

    Reply

  20. Sam Han
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 22:13:19

    Happy Easter in advance Michael 😀

    Reply

  21. 2embracethelight
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 22:46:10

    You are gifted. Yisraela

    Reply

  22. FreeRangeCow
    Apr 17, 2014 @ 14:37:35

    Priceless! I have STILL not lost my love of comic books!

    Reply

  23. myfavesjournal
    Apr 18, 2014 @ 01:50:45

    You were a cutie and still cute I bet :).

    Reply

  24. reocochran
    Apr 18, 2014 @ 15:18:50

    I think you had a valuable collection, whether or not you ever made money on them! Smiles, Robin

    Reply

  25. howdowefeedtheworldsstarving
    Apr 18, 2014 @ 17:40:59

    Reply

  26. Charron's Chatter
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 18:17:26

    I uh-dooOOOOooor your babyface–those baby browns & crooked lil smile, oh. Just perfect! I bleev my lil self might have crushed on you….;)

    also: Mom ALWAYS cut out hair in the bowl style–I think it was a Beatles thing…I have had long hair all my adult life….:)

    Reply

  27. mlhe
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 21:58:51

    Awwwwwwwwww! This touched my heart in the way only boys and comic books are able to do! Thank you!

    Reply

  28. Ampbreia
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 14:14:26

    Good answer!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: