BY MATT TUCK
A moment of silence for those comics that left our collections much too soon. Alas, CGC 2.5 ASM #14, I hardly knew ye, and it’s the reason I stopped selling my comics.
THE COMIC GAMBLE
For most of us, collecting and investing in comics is a game. It’s like a miniature version of the stock market. Buy low; sell high. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose. Then there are those times when we really lose. Like pepper spray in your eyes, you remember that sting for the rest of your life. It’s a bitter lesson of a scar that leaves you kicking yourself for years.
Unfortunately, I have plenty of regrets when it comes to flipping comics, but one in particular has a phantom pain that continues to haunt me: my signed copy of Amazing Spider-Man #14 and the regrettable sale that cured me of any notion of being a flipper.
A HARD LESSON LEARNED
I was an avid collector and reader all through the 1990s back when my small town actually had a local comic shop. Around the time my LCS closed its doors, I pulled away from the hobby, though thankfully I didn’t sell off my entire collection. I would occasionally read the hot comics that had people talking, but I essentially stopped collecting.
It wasn’t until about five or six years ago that I reemerged in the hobby. I started going to comic conventions again, and my great plan was to fund the trips by flipping comics I bought online. Making a profit, I discovered, was harder than it looked. Most times I thought I was getting some amazing deal on a key issue, I would discover that I probably just paid the current market value.
My method was to buy up these hot keys, get them signed by the creators, and get them witnessed and slabbed through CGC’s Signature Series program. It was fun, travelling across state to state, meeting comic artists and writers. I particularly enjoyed meticulously framing the window box for the perfect signature placement. I don’t get as many comics signed as I once did, but that is still one of the best parts of the con experience.
THE DALLAS FAN EXPO
In 2017, we were all worried about Stan Lee. Around that time, there had been reports of his health deteriorating, and the word was that he was wrapping up his public appearances (although he kept touring nearly up until his death, so the joke’s on me). The man was approaching 100 years old, so even a cold was enough to inspire the worst case scenarios in comic fans.
Earlier that year, Stan had announced that he would be making his last trip to Texas, and that the ‘17 Dallas Fan Expo would be his final public signing in the state. He was also scheduled for Megacon Orlando a few months afterwards, but when you’re dealing with a 94-year-old man with health issues, there’s no promise of tomorrow. So I loaded up my sons - who were 12 and nine at the time - and we made a 12-hour road trip to Dallas to meet my hero, Stan Lee. When I say meet, I mean we were ready to walk past him and watch him sign my comic. Maybe he would even say hello to me in those two or three minutes.
I took two comics with me: a mid-grade Fantastic Four #12 that I had gotten an actual amazing deal on, and a low-grade ASM #14. My sons and I waited about two hours for Stan to finish his photo shoots and get wheeled over to the signing area. Despite his age and health concerns, he was still Stan and even walked on his own power from a VIP area to the table, smiling and waving at all us fans. What I found interesting was that the crew handling his autographs told us not to try and talk to him while he was signing because it could throw him off. One CGC witness later told me about a guy who ignored this advice and asked questions about Wolverine. He ended up with a comic signed by “Stanverine.”
THE WRONG CHOICE
I got my autograph, and I handed the comic off to CGC to be cleaned, pressed, and graded. After months of anticipation, I received my comic via UPS, and I couldn’t have been any prouder. Sometimes I would put it on my desk and just stare at it if I was having a bad day.
With the adventure over, I was ready for my next journey. To fund it, I needed to sell some comics; being a humble public school teacher doesn’t exactly leave a lot of extra cash for comics in the home budget. I slapped both my FF #12 and ASM #14 on eBay because those were the two most valuable comics I had at the time. I figured I could replace them easily enough, and maybe even get another Stan Lee signature to boot. The best laid plans often go astray.
I sold both comics, turning FF #12 for a nice profit, which was nice, but I wish I had it back. The ASM #14, however, was a much different story. It sold for around $450, which was not even breaking even to be honest. Between the cost of the comic, the signing fee, the CGC fees, and the almighty eBay fees, I lost money.
At the time, it wasn’t a hot issue, but that’s beside the point. After all that time spent in line and the cross country trip to meet Stan, I have nothing but memories to show for it. Granted, those are some of my favorite memories, but what I wouldn’t give to have that comic again.
In the end, it was enough to teach me why I didn’t want to be a comic fipper anymore. These days, I am a collector (some might say hoarder, but who asked them?), and that ASM #14 will always be my voice of reason whenever I get a notion to try to play the stock market one more time.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.