All collectors have that story they love to share. It’s the story of the moment where they shifted from being a fan to a collector. Sometimes, if they’re lucky, they can point to a single collectible that they know without a doubt ignited that passion. I am that kind of collector. I know where it all began. This is my story.
Comic books have been my passion for almost 40 years. Before I could even read, I had comics in my life and it was a desire to understand what those word bubbles full of text were saying that sparked my first desire to read, and later, write professionally. I honestly wish I had been a collector from the start, as long before Kenner unveiled those early Star Wars action figures, I was using scissors to cut characters out of classic comics (now worth untold amounts) so I could construct hand drawn dioramas and make up my own adventures. At that point, I was just a fan.
You see I loved making up stories and had a lot of time to do it as I grew up in a restaurant family in a little town nestled beside the Ohio River. My parents ran a Frisch’s Restaurant in Portsmouth, Ohio but it didn’t feel like the kind of Frisch’s you see today. Our restaurant retained that family run feel where everyone knew everyone and it was just quaint enough that it had one of those glass candy counters loaded with treats to tempt you as you paid. This counter is important.
Sometimes, my dad would take me with him when he picked up candy to restock that counter. We would visit a small, locally owned food distributor just down the road that in my eyes could have put Willy Wonka to shame with the mix of treats they had for sale. On one visit, I noticed they had small stacks of out of date comics tied together in blocks with thin rope. They were selling comics by the pound! No joke, they weighed them as you checked out to determine the final price. Since each stack was tied, you never knew what you would get until you made it to your car. I always loved discovering what new titles were in the mix and every so often, dad was good enough to treat me to a couple points. I can still remember my excitement cutting the string and leafing through those covers. Who needed candy, I had comics!
My dad may get bragging rights for introducing me to comics, but it was my mom who takes the prize for making me a comic book collector. For me, there was one comic that quite literally changed my life and kicked off a collecting bug in me that I still enjoy today.
Always having an eye for detail, my mom loved antiques and was even a dealer for time. One day, while helping clean out an old attic with a friend she stumbled across a comic, which she gave to me. It was her explanation that made me a collector, as she was clearly excited by it and thought it could be worth quite a bit of money. It wasn’t, but I was roughly seven years old at the time and as she handed it to me she told me to hold onto it because it would be worth even more when I was older. That concept really resonated and I still have that comic to this day. It was a single issue of Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel Adventures. It was a very old and just a bit worn copy of the February 1944 issue number 32, to be exact, and you can see that issue in the CompleteSet archives. My personal copy is presented there.
That book, quite honestly, changed my life. It wasn’t just the comic, but rather the mystery that it could be valuable that hit home with me. I’ve never parted ways with the issue, have no plans to ever sell it, and never looked back from that dawning moment of my life which has since been filled with comics.
I would go on to open a series of seven comics shops (called Chuck’s Comics) in the 80’s. I would also later launch my own comic news and information website (ComicRelated.com) which ran stories without fail twelve to sixteen times each day for over a decade. I would even find myself owning a couple comic conventions (Derby City Comic Con and Cavalcade of Comics) before I came to work at CompleteSet. I feel like a large chunk of my life ties back to that one comic and that is the story of how I became a collector.