Thursday, May 30, 2013

Old Paperbacks Vs. Comics: Which Are More Valuable?

An issue of Magnus Robot Fighter is worth more
than a paperback of Hemingway or Fitzgerald
When I was a kid, comics were 12 cents and paperback books were $3, Hardbacks about $10. Now in this digital age, the positions of value have reversed. Those same comics go for $5-$20 depending on their condition and the books are $1 or even 50 cents a piece. I remember my parents telling me my comics were trash but now they are more valuable than the "real" literature I should have been reading. I did read both, but I enjoyed the comics as much as the works of Gore Vidal and Joyce Carol Oates.

This observation occurred to me this week as I shopped for both forms of antiquated reading pleasure. I still had left-over birthday money and a gift certificate for the Time Machine from my neighbor. This season, I had taken her to several Broadway shows on my press tickets and she asked my partner Jerry what would be a gift I would really appreciate. So with the gift certificate, I bought the following:
Alpha Flight #2 (a team of Canadian superheroes created by Gary Byrne whose Fantastic Four storylines I enjoyed, so I thought I'd try it)
Fantastic Four #258, 265, 281, 347, 348
Human Torch #3
Justice League of America #200 (special double-issue with various artists contributing)
Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD #12, 37 (Magnus is a human with super strength fighting against renegade robots out to crush humanity in the technologically advanced, continental-wide city North AM in the year 4000. A rare, exciting and original Gold Key title which specialized in comic versions of popular TV shows and cartoons. The sci-fi were actually pretty inventive including talking animals and super-sleek flying cars you drove from a reclining position.)
Superman Family #174
Tales of Suspense #68
Wonder Woman #189

The comics came to about $50.

Today I was walking in my Jackson Heights Queens neighborhood and the Jewish Community Center thrift store was selling old volumes. I picked up the following:
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
The Crack-Up with Other Pieces and Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
In the Beauty of the Lillies by John Updike (hardback)
Lust by Susan Minot (hardback)
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2006
We Are the Stories We Tell: The Best Short Stories by North American Women Since 1945
(They also had Faulkner, Borges, and many others).

The books were $1 each, even the hardbacks. As more people turn to Kindles, computers and tablets for their reading, will old books become cheaper and cheaper as old comics became more and more valuable? And what does that say about our culture?

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