Thursday, March 16, 2017

Adventures in Comics: Discovering Back Issues!

Redartz:  Hello, friends! Time to relax, think back a bit, and remember. Specifically, can you recall the first time you bought a back issue comic?  I'd say almost all of us started out in comics picking up new issues off the stands and spinner racks (or being the recipient of some,perhaps earlier, books from a friend or relative). When  I first started my four color obsession, I considered myself lucky to find a few months' worth of a title stuck among the other comics in a rack, probably bent at the spine by now from being pulled down and looked over. I knew of older comics, but hadn't really considered how to get at them.

Fortunately, my pop culture mentor friend, upon learning that  I'd finally taken his advice and picked up a couple of comics , hauled me along to a new shop in our modest downtown: a comic book store! That in itself astounded me; I knew we  had a couple antique shops locally, and even a coin/stamp/hobby shop. But a whole store devoted to comic books?!?   I just couldn't imagine it. 

And so, on that early spring afternoon, after school, I opened the door to this shop and stepped into Wonderland. The first thing that struck me was the huge display of new comics! Every title I knew, and many that were unknown to me. And they weren't bent over and scattered around! Looking around, I saw a whole spinner rack devoted just to Archie comics, Disney and other 'funny' books. But the big discovery awaited at the back of the store. There was an alcove, filled with boxes of comics, arrayed by title. Old comics! Actual back issues, including many printed before I even existed! And in the display case , along one wall: some reeeeally old books, including the holy grail itself- Amazing Fantasy 15. It was a staggering experience.


It was hard to know where to begin; so many to look at. So I started thinking of my (earlier) childhood, when I first started reading comics. As noted a few days ago in our "Funny Books" column, one of the earliest comics I can remember having was Not Brand Ecch 5. That seemed like a good way to begin, and lo: they had a copy. Of course, the price was higher than the 25 cent cover price of current comics.  It was a whole dollar! But worth it to me, unquestionably. Besides, I'd saved up a few dollars just to make this buying trip.  I was just so excited at the prospect of mining comics history, little else mattered.  Choice number one was made. 

As I was still buying an occasional Archie, I next chose "Archie at Riverdale High" number 1. Another fifty cents on my tab. Finally, as my favorite title was Amazing Spider-man, I knew that my final purchase would be one of those. But again, how to choose? Well, as with the Brechh issue, I recalled a few specific books from my 7-year-old reading. One of those was ASM 66, with Mysterio. So I looked for it, and again: success! Another dollar to my total for the day. And what amazed me about this book: it looked like new!  After seven years, it looked like nobody had even opened it. Purchase number three was made. I walked out that door a new kid, no longer just a reader of comics. I was a FAN...

Oh, and one little side note about those three comics: after all these years, and the early 90's purge of almost my entire collection, I still have all three of these very books. Guess I made good choices that day.

So that was my first encounter with old comics. Countless  more would be following (oh, the impression made by that first convention; but that's a story for another day). Do you recall the first time you picked up a book from The Past? Can you name the first back issue you actually purchased, and why you chose it from among the thousands of comics to choose from?  Let's hear your tales...


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Great subject:

I started buying back issues, from vendors in the comics, when I was around 13.

I would have done so sooner but for a technical glitch. The guy with the biggest ad, to my little brain, was named Howard Rogofsky with "Over 50,000 comics in stock." I ordered his catalogue around 10 years old, I guess, and could never understand what he meant by the statement "An S.A.S.E. must be enclosed with your order." I continued to get his catalogue like every 6 months and just marvel over what he had for sale. To this day, I still don't know what the purpose of the SASE was for... I actually did write him to explain the SASE to me and all he did was send me another catalogue, lol.

THere is actually a pretty lengthy google article(s) out there on him and the other back-issue dealers whose names we saw every month like Robert Bell, Ken Pierce...

david_b said...

I've had 'back issues' handed to me in small boxes from my Dad's friends whose kids 'were too old for them anymore'.., but in actual purchasing, I frequented my local LCS in college in the early '80s quite a bit for old CA&F when I started filling up holes for a few bucks each, then moving on to recent NTT issues.

The first MAJOR back issue I bought (over $5..) was a NM copy of Avengers 93 for $20. I remember saving up quite a bit of chunk change for that in 1982.., then a nice copy of NTT 1 for $15.

Both purchases made me feel 'quite the collector' back in the day... :)

ColinBray said...

Yes, another fine topic!

I guess, technically, my first 'back issue' buy was from my old pal Richard B when we were both 13 years old. He had got me back into comics the previous year and also introduced me to David Bowie (I am forever in your debt Richard)

Anyway, he decided to sell his comic collection and I - flush with paper round money - was very happy to oblige. Admittedly all his comics were from the previous two years but technically they were still back issues...thus my collection doubled in size overnight.

Comic-shop wise, as mentioned elsewhere, it would be a copy of Avengers #26 purchased from Comic Showcase in London, that same year. The choice was probably influenced by an Attuma cover, a personal favorite going back to his appearance during the Shooter/Perez run. That was a great day!

Fast forward, on my return to the hobby in 2000 I went to my first comic mart in a large London hotel. I didn't have much disposable income for back issues so saved loose change for six months until I had enough to really have fun. And have fun I did - there was something breathtaking about walking into a room full of comic dealers and enthusiasts. Several Avengers back issues (and a healthy random stash from the 50p bins) later and then it was back to real world...

CH47 - that is a really funny story!

Disneymarvel said...

I can still picture opening the mailbox to receive my first back issue order from a listing in the Comics Buyers Guide. I excitedly ran into the house, carefully opened the package and discovered Silver Age beauty! Fantastic Four #s 17, 55 thru 60 and ... hey, what happened to #51 ... oh, a note from the dealer that by the time I had ordered he'd already sold it to someone else ... so he included a few other issues that I'd provided as a backup choice (this was through snail mail in 1974, after all!) ... and included in that group was a coverless Avengers #1. Most likely everything in my package cost less than 40 cents each! I continued to buy through CBG ads throughout the '70s and '80s! What a great time to build a collection!

Another memory of finding back issue gold was about the same time. Two friends and I rode our bikes to an old used book store. They featured a few spinner racks of old comics for sale at half the cover price!!! So, I greedily snatched up at least 40 or 50 comics that were mostly 12 centers, which meant I got them for 6 cents each!!! Someone must have just sold their collection, 'cause I don't think I ever remember finding as many great books again as I had that day. So many great Marvels, along with a 1938 Better Big Book of Disney's Clarabelle the Cow! How I got all those books home safely while riding my bike I'll never know, but I must have had some kind of book satchel connected to the back that just fit well enough.

One other back issue goldmine location was in Springfield, MO - about 2 hours away from my small town of Rolla - where I would go for one of my doctor visits about twice a year. In the nearly dilapidated section of the old town square was a huge used book store, with one large section devoted to rows and rows of back issue comics. Over the next 4 years or more, I would buy and trade with the owner. Mom would look through the books, then go shopping in some of the nearby stores, leaving me to pour through the hundreds of books!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hi Collin, yes here I am 45 years later and I still do not understand why Howard ROgosky wanted a self-addressed stamp envelope included with every order you would submit , LOL! By the way some of us are thinking of going to the big C2E2 convention in Chicago on April 21-23. I think Martinx is planning to go Refartz is planning to go, I am thinking of going... Who knows maybe Dave-B and Doug can rally??? If you want to join us you're welcome to crash at my house for the weekend if you can pop over from London!Cheers Joe

Doug said...

I have been thinking all day, since I first saw the post shortly after 6 am, about my first real back issue purchase. There are a lot of possibilities, but I just can't nail down that first one.

Memory wants me to say it was that time I got beat-up copies of Thor #147-148, along with a coverless X-Men #58 and a partial copy of Silver Surfer #4 (yikes - I maybe had 50-60% of the book intact) at a community yard sale for a song. But I'm sure there were purchases before then.

I entered my first comic shop in the spring of 1985, in Peoria, IL, out by Northwoods Mall. It was the end of my freshman year of college, and it had come to my attention that some of my friends also held an interest in comics. As one of the older guys knew of the store, we piled into his truck and road tripped the 20 miles or so to the store. It was like Christmas morning! I left that store with the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover, among a few other treasures. That was a wonderful experience, and began a quest to find comic shops in other towns and cities. I actually did frequent another store in Peoria, close to the Bradley University campus. I definitely recall buying Avengers #48 (1st Black Knight) in that one, and for around $4 (nice copy, too!).

Charlie, Martinex contacted me about C2E2 and I'm considering it. What day are you guys thinking of going?


ColinBray said...

Golly gosh, that would be amazing. Sadly I won't be able to make it but thanks for the kind offer - I'll be with you in spirit.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Well, I might prefer Saturday but if Red is coming from southern Indiana I would defer to his schedule; I think he is targeting Sunday. I believe Sunday is also cheaper. All that said, I want to ensure there's back issues, an increasing rarity at comic shows!

Doug said...

I generally prefer Sundays because I only buy collected editions. Those tend to be available for deals, as the vendors like to lighten their load when packing up.

Good back issue story -- I did pick up Amazing Spider-Man #s 121-122 for $75 (for the pair) at WizardWorld Chicago one year. They were both in F/F-, so felt like I got a good deal. When I sold them a couple of years ago I think I got around $140 for the pair. Nice return!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hi doug! Collected edition means a run or series of issues so you have the whole story arc?

The comic market seems hot now. Stuff where I was 1 of 2 bidders the past several years is now attracting a good dozen! I also just sold Hulk Marvel Master Work on eBay for double what I paid about 5 years ago. Perhaps the last bubble for an increasingly thin market since its mostly us middle aged dudes buying it and we have run out of space???

Martinex1 said...

Great discussion.

I plan on C2E2 -probably Sunday. Will keep you posted. And they definitely have back issues there. Last time I was there a few years ago it was crowded beyond belief and larger than you can imagine.

First back issue I bought was Avengers 57 -the Vision. Pretty beat up copy but a complete readable copy for sure. I still have it. I remember debating the $5 at the time. But I'm glad I bought it.

My memory of the back issue LCS is that it had this musty paper smell. I remember looking at the long boxes of Avengers and trying to decide what issue was most important. One thing I didn't like about that shop is that they would write the resale price on the copy in pencil on the back cover.

Mike Wilson said...

My first back issue purchase would've been sometime in the late 80s. Unfortunately, lack of funds and the distance to the store meant that I didn't get there very often. I can't remember what comics I bought the first time ... probably something Spidey related.

Doug said...

Charlie --

Trade paperbacks and hardcovers. Sorry for the lack of detail. I don't buy comic books anymore, as I've sold off my comics collection and around 75% of my action figures and other memorabilia. I do maintain a 300+ book library of tpbs, hardcovers, Treasury Editions (I would buy those now), etc.


david_b said...

As for my back-issue collecting in the early '80s.., hate to say, but my rational for filling holes was partially out of boredom with the current Marvel/DC offerings.

Instead of paying a $1.25 for a new FF or WCA, I could be half-way to buying a decent copy of Tales of Suspense or a conclusion to a CA&F story I never followed up with.

Who could pass up vintage Kirby or Buscema art..?

Unknown said...

Great stories! Its funny how we've had similar experiences in different cities and countries. My first back issue was X-men 103. I missed it and could read the rest up to 110 until I did. I still have it.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

HI Doug -
Yes, I've seen the same scenario at many a comic, beer can, toy show over my lifetime. "Please buy this so I do not have to take it home!" LOL. By Treasury you mean those oversized "comics" from the early-mid 70s? They are fun.

Actually I now have a headache recalling my first back issue purchase; it was from a comic store in Alexandria, VA. Bought a couple Neal Adam's X-Mens (original run, issue #s in the 50s?), got into the family car, opened them up... coupons cut out of both.

But, fondly recalling reading CBG and all their offerings of back issues makes me feel better. I wish CBG was still around... even monthly. I would wait for that thing like Pavlov's dog!

Redartz said...

Great comments and memories, gang! I thank you all.

Charlie- it's interesting to hear your tales of back issues through the mail. I never bought any comics from those ads, it wasn't until ebay that I bought any collectibles sight unseen. Glad your fortunes were good, but sorry about your Adams X-Men. I share your pain, have learned the hard way to check the insides before buying. And for you, Doug, Martinex, and anyone else: yes, I'm planning to hit C2E2. Sunday would be best for me; and I'm really looking forward to the possibility of meeting some of you in person!

Colin Bray- isn't it helpful to have a friend who helps you into the hobby? And in your case, greatly increases your collection...

Disneymarvel- great stories! Man, wouldn't it be great to find a rack of books at half cover price now (although, current modern books can often be found at less than half price). Also,cool to hear your familiarity with Rolla, MO. When I was growing up, we had relatives who lived near St. Joseph, and they had a camp near Rolla. Went there every few years...

Marti- Avengers 57? Pretty wise choice for an initial back issue purchase! Hope you still have it...

david_b= you make a good observation about spending that buck on a new comic. I have the same quandary now, do I pay four dollars for a new comic or find a nice bronze age book for the same price?

ColinBray said...

Oh yes, Red, for sure. I last saw Richard at the 2014 'David Bowie Is...' exhibition in London. He was surprised and somewhat gratified that I kept collecting comics all these years when for him the hobby ended in 1983. The moral of the story is - I guess - that we rarely know the impact we have on each other.

pfgavigan said...


Well, the first time I bought a back issue was about 1973 when I was walking down State St. in Madison WI. There was a used record store called Buffalo Records, but when I looked through the plate glass windows I noticed a back wall covered with row upon row of comics. So of course I popped in, at first thinking I had stumbled upon someone who was selling current issues. I was astonished and delighted to find scores of books that I had missed due to the distribution issues that dogged my regular outlet, many at reduced rates due to their condition.

I'll take this moment to state that I've always been more of a reader than a collector, the condition or even the absence of a cover never really made that much of a difference to me.

What did I find that day, you ask? Well, the Neal Adams' issues of the Kree-Skrull War as chronicled in the Avengers. Some of the early Marvel horror titles, several issues of Thor and many, many, many reprints of early Marvel titles such as Marvel Tales.

Great day for me, bad day for my bank balance.

But here's the kick to this story. Sometime later I was at a drug store in a nearby town to where I grew up and they had the traditional "Hey Kids!! Comics!!" wall rack that was absolutely stuffed with books.

Jammed in tight!

So very tight I had to carefully edge them upwards so to avoid ripping any of them and finding myself in the 'You broke it, you bought it' situation. In one of these clusters I found myself with a copy of Lois Lane featuring the mini-skirted reporter fast upon her latest endeavor to discover Superman's true identity, which when you stop and think about it is Superman.

Why do I mention this on a day dedicated to buying older issues? Because this particular issue was nearly ten years older than the more current titles that it was packed in with.

I have no idea how it got there, but I bought it just to have proof that it happened as I described it.



Charlie Horse 47 said...

I am envious of you guys who found stuff "on the cheap" so to speak. Perhaps my best score was at a die-cast model store in Brookfield, IL (which has a subdivision called Hollywood which is where Hollywood CA got its name).

Anyhow this is like 12 years ago... the guy has a spinner rack full of Fair to Very Good Archies from the 60s and 70s. I didn't really care if they were valuable; I simply wanted my kids to be able to read a comic that didn't challenge my moral sensibilities. Up to that time they only knew Beano, Dandy, and UK Dennis the Menace. So I bought like 30 at $.25 each.

The kids ate 'em up! I had to supplement with a couple hundred Archie Digests!

Redartz said...

PFG- that's two great stories for the price of none! You got some nice books from that record store wall. And your outlook on condition is sensible; as long as you can read it, anything else is just icing on the cake.
That Lois Lane find is unusual, and kind of like finding a limited time warp. Your ten year old find beats my record: found a copy of Giant Size Chillers with Dracula in a spinner rack about 2 years after it's original release, and thought that was really something...

Redartz said...

Charlie- those Archies were a pretty good find, too! There's a lot of fun to be found in those old Archies. And they had so many giant-size books in the 60's and early 70's. It's good to hear that your kids enjoyed them too...

Anonymous said...

I have two early memories of finding back issues. One is a little bookshop in a tiny strip mall on the way to my grandmother's. They had Richie Rich comics in a corner with...gasp...30 and 35 cent covers! It was like finding treasure. I drive by there once in a blue moon and still look for the shop, which is long gone.

My main memory is of a then-dead mall that would come to life on Sundays with a flea market. We'd go once in a while and there would be sometimes three comics vendors. Little Me would pore through the boxes with whatever money I'd saved up...all those comics!...chiefly looking for issues of the first series I'd ever complete, The Defenders. Those Gerber issues were very impressive to me, which probably explains a lot about Adult Me.

david_b said...

Pfgavigan, great story.. I know State Street in Madison very well. I may have visited that same store around 1980 (if it was still in business..), a highschool buddy introduced me to the Police and Ska music around that time.

We went on a school field trip, so he was all excited to utilize our (break time) to buy up some new music at this 'underground' kinda of record shop on State.

Very cool place.

William said...

I was swamped with work yesterday so I had no time to comment on this, but I will now (a day late and a dollar short).

My first back issue buying experience was back around 1977 in a comic store in Fort Lauderdale, Florida called "Starship Enterprises". I stumbled upon this wondrous place one day while riding with my mom to pick up my dad from work. We were at a stop light next to a shopping center and I looked over and saw the sign "Starship Enterprises". I had seen the commercials for this mythical place that sold nothing but comics on late night TV, but I thought it must be a cruel joke, and that I'd never actually see it in person. (It was in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, which was pretty far from my house). But there it was, just a few feet away. I began to plead with my mom to stop and let me check it out. But we were running late and she said she'd take me some other day. (Aaaggg, parents just don't understand).

Well that day finally came and once I walked through those doors my life was forever changed. I had never seen so many glorious sights in one place in all my young life. Literally nothing but thousands of comics!! New comics, old comics, and trade paperbacks galore. My head almost exploded! I immediately took note of Amazing Spider-Man #33 up on the back wall, and could only wonder at the awesomeness that was behind that cover. Back then I had only seen pictures of old comics in the Overstreet Price Guide, and my 12-year old self was pretty dumbstruck at seeing so many cool old comics right in front of me. Unfortunately the stuff on the wall was pretty much out of my limited budget. So I hit the back issue long boxes with a vengeance. I needed something cool that I really wanted to read, but also something affordable. So, I eventually ended up with Marvel Team-Up #13 (which I think cost me around $2.00). Which was lot, considering a new comic was about .30¢ back then. I chose that one because Spider-Man was my favorite character, and Captain America was my best friend's favorite, and I also really liked the Grey Gargoyle, and it had a really cool cover.

Starship Enterprises eventually opened a new location that was only a couple of miles from house, and over the next few years I pretty much gave them all my money.

Redartz said...

Anonymous- yes, flea markets are aoften a fruitful place to find comics, often very affordable ones. Your choice of Defenders was a good one, those Gerber issues were outstanding, odd, and memorable.

William- that Starship Enterprises sounds like a great LCS to discover back issues in! And you're not the only one around here who forked over a lot of disposable income to a comic shop...:)

William said...

Yeah Redartz, SE was a very cool place. My home away from home for about 4 years. But eventually the son of a good friend of my dad opened up a comic store (when I was around 17) called "The Comics Corner" and I started going there as well, and I ended up becoming pretty good friends with the son, so that became my new go-to place to get my comic fix.

Over the past 3 decades I have had a few different regular comic stores like "Tropic Comics", "Superheroes Unlimited", "Kingdom Comics", and my current LCS "Past Present Future". But since I quit reading new comics I don't go to any comic store on a regular basis anymore. Once in a while I'll drop by, but it's usually only to pick up an action figure or something like that instead of comics.

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