Finding gold in comic books

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 7:20 PM PDT
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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - Comic books. For many of us, they were an important part of our childhood, entertainment long before video games, even, you could argue, our introduction to literature.

For some, the fascination remains and, it may turn out in spite of our parents doubts, a profitable hobby.

Most days at Omega Frog Comics at the Legends in Sparks you’ll find customers browsing through the bins looking for the latest, but also the obscure and rare. They are, says owner T.J. Pitts, a surprisingly diverse lot, “We have customers in their 70′s and 80′s, customers who are under the age of ten, families, single people, college students, a little bit of everybody.”

A surprising number, nearly half he says, are girls and no, they aren’t all nerds though....”I suspect there might be more nerds around than most people realize. I think the marvel movies that have come out in recent years have made people feel a little bit more comfortable about enjoying what they enjoy.” While people may have made fun years ago of someone reading comics, no one laughs about following the Hulk or Iron Man these days.

There are also collectors, the casual and the more serious.

Yes, those comics you read in your youth, that copy of Spiderman, the one your mother probably threw away, might be collectable, even valuable.

The price depends on a number of factors.

He points to copies dating from the Second World War are among the few survivors of wartime paper drives. They are rare and highly sought after.

The value can also depend on the subject matter, where it fits in the life story of a super hero, the art work and most of all, condition. This is when you begin to forgive your mother for not asking you first. If you’d kept it, Pitts says it’s unlikely it would be pristine. “The comics I read as a kid in the 70′s, none of them would have turned out to be valuable. I read them to death.”

A few months ago someone walked into his shop with a collection which had sat, undisturbed in a closet since the 60′s. For someone like Pitts, it was kind of like finding a Van Gogh in the attic. “It’s exciting to see stuff that you never have a chance to see and, in this particular case, the comics this customer had, turned out to be quite exciting indeed.”

He ended up buying what is now known in the comic book collecting world as the Truckee Meadows Collection and sent a few off to the premier auction house for collectibles, Heritage Auctions in Dallas. A prime copy of Fantastic Four number one sent the bidding into new levels.

“That copy sold on April 7th for $1.5 million dollars.”

“That might send some mothers to thinking about what they might have tossed out,” I observed.

“It certainly might,” he said, adding, “If it wasn’t for mothers throwing things away nothing would be worth anything. If we all still had our stuff, there’d be lots of them out there.”

With that in mind, I brought out my small collection for T.J. to look at. They are 60′s era Spiderman, not from my youth (I’m sure my mother tossed them long ago) but birthday gifts from my niece in later years. It turns out she has an eye.

He picks a copy from the stack, then grabs an identical one. “Here’s a copy off my wall with a price of a $1,000.”

Not enough to retire on, but better than my 401k has done and, possibly your latest foray into cryptocurrency.

I have to remember to do something nice for my niece.

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