You’d think I’d have learned by now to stop hoping.
Yet every time I hear about a rare, valuable comic book found in a barn or an attic, I still can’t help but dream about the dollar signs. If only it would happen to me.
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The latest find — the 1938 Superman comic found in ceiling insulation in an abandoned house in Minnesota — also reminded me of one of my favorite summer pastimes as a kid in the 1960s. I collected comic books.
The comics of my generation were among the few things I could afford to buy with my allowance — the other being baseball cards. Back then, comics cost only a quarter or so and you could buy them at just about any grocery store or pharmacy.
Not only were the comics more affordable to me than a real book, they were fun to read, and the colorful illustrations could really stir the imagination. My favorites were Sad Sack, Sgt. Rock and Superman, and I kept them in a neat stack on a closet shelf.
Not only did I categorize and alphabetize my collection, I also obsessed more than a little over their future value. I figured someday when I was down to my last few dollars, I’d sell my near mint condition stack and live off the profits.
Somehow my comics disappeared after I graduated from high school and my family moved to another city. But I still had my dreams.
Today, I don’t think as many kids buy comic books, let alone think they’ll someday strike it rich off their collection. That’s what the experts told me too. For one thing, new comics cost anywhere from $3 to $4, which can eat up quite a bit of allowance. For the price of a couple of those comics, a kid can go see a summer superhero movie.
But one thing hasn’t changed from when I was in grade school: Collecting offers money lessons.
Kids can learn about spending, saving, researching prices online and even bartering. Deferred gratification? Collecting teaches that lesson too.
While parents rightfully stress the need to save those nickels, dimes and quarters, it is equally important for youngsters to make spending decisions when their own money is on the line.
Don’t chastise them about their spending experiences either. It’s a sign of their growing interest in money and a small step toward financial independence.
Buyers have thousands of titles to choose from, and publishers also have created lines directed at younger kids.
One way to keep the costs down is to check out the $1 bargain boxes at comic shops and collector shows, or maybe even quarter boxes.
If your youngster catches the collecting bug, it might be best to focus on a particular artist or character, said Barry Sandoval, director of operations, comics and comic art at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. Also, look for comics in the best condition, he said.
Keep in mind, however, that the depth and breadth of today’s products might make them less valuable in the future.
And that’s the final money lesson, said Sandoval.
“I firmly believe a kid is better off buying what he likes and letting the value take care of itself.”