Our month-long collector spotlight series begins with Ryan Lynch, a collector from Long Island, New York who started his collection only a few years ago. Despite having a later start than most collectors, his comic book collection has amassed over 3,000 books proving love for comic books can begin at any stage of life.
The comic book industry has been refreshed in recent years due to the influx of interest from the blockbuster counterparts. This Business Insider report shows the growth of the industry between the years 2000 and 2013. In 2000, comic book sales were estimated to be about $265 million. In 2013, comic book sales topped at $870 million.
Lynch chatted with us on how the swell of the industry launched his comic book passion and why being a collector is so important. He is proof that you are never too old or too late to the game to appreciate comics. Lynch explains both ends of the hobby, from the hunt to the satisfaction of possession.
When did you start collecting?
I started collecting my freshman year of college. When the Watchmen movie came out, my friends loved the book, so I wanted to read it before I saw the movie and loved it, but left it as just a great book. It wasn’t until a few months later that I really fell in love with the medium. I was away on a family trip in the mountains for two weeks during spring break, ran out of books to read, and was so bored that I decided to start a new hobby, comics. Starting with just my laptop and eventually, after returning to civilization, hard copies of my favorites began filling my shelves.
How long have you been collecting?
The aforementioned trip was in April of 2009. I know most people start reading comics as kids, but I was a late bloomer.
How many items do you suppose (or know) are in your collection?
I keep a few spreadsheets, so after a few minutes of some quick Math, I have around 1100 Collected Editions (after the issues come out, publishers collect them in paperbacks/hardcovers, which fit on a shelf and you can get at any bookstore or Amazon, not just comic shops). As far as single issues, (the floppy books you think of when you think “comics”) I have about 2800, with another almost 350 given to me from my Dad.
How much do you reckon (or know) your collection is worth?
I honestly have no idea. I have some valuable stuff, but I really couldn’t even begin to estimate as some books/issues are worth hundreds and others are worth pennies. I’m one of those collectors who wants to be able to pick up and read any issue, and to get them appraised (or graded, as comic fans call it), they get locked up in plastic and can’t be opened anymore. I know that’s a disappointing answer, but I really have no clue.
What does you collection comprise of?
My collection is really mixed up between a lot of things. Issues from the 1960s to present day, but primarily it’s several book cases of Collected Editions and about 10 longboxes filled with single issues.
What is the most expensive item in your collection and how much is it worth?
Prices fluctuate a lot on speculation (if they announce a movie based on a story, etc, prices skyrocket for a few months), but my most consistently valuable books are probably Flash #110 (the first appearance of Wally West, Kid Flash, who eventually becomes the Flash when the main character dies in the 1980s and the first appearance of the Weather Wizard, a Flash villain who was the main threat of the pilot of the new Flash TV series on CW), which to the right seller could be worth between $200 and $600. I also have an Amazing Spider-Man #121, which features (spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man 2) the death of Gwen Stacy, which is probably worth around $200-$300. (These estimates are pulled off of mycomicshop.com and current ebay listings)
What is the most rare item?
More than likely one of those two issues. I have quite a few really out of print collected editions, but most of those are within the $50-$125 range.
Where do you purchase/receive most of the pieces in your collection?
I love to hunt rare things at shops in the area/when I travel and especially at comic conventions, but most of my stuff just comes from ebay.
What is your favorite collectible and why?
Definitely Flash #110. It was such a lucky find when I nabbed it on ebay for like $50.
What was the hardest item to get and why?
Honestly, if I could deviate from my comic collection for a second, I do also have quite a lot of CDs. Mostly, CDs are not collectible at all, since they’re so mass produced and easy to find, but one CD was definitely the toughest to get. My favorite band, Ween, started their own record label in 2001 and released a live album that sold out in about an hour and never got rereleased on CD. A burned copy was the album that made me fall in love with the band in high school, so I watched ebay and hunted record shops across the country for that album for about a decade before I finally nabbed one on ebay for like $30 about two months ago, which was insane. I never even see people list it, and when they did, it would be well over $100. If I had to pick a comic, it would probably be the Flash #110, which I was watching ebay for a few years. Not very exciting, I know, but modern collecting is a lot of just setting alerts on ebay.
Do you have any crazy stories on attaining an item?
Most collection stories go the same, boring way. I find a new set I want to get, and start hunting. I recently started trying to find this whole series of paperbacks from Marvel that they decided to discontinue and some are really hard to find, going online for about $150, when the cover price is only $25. I compiled my list and went to all 20ish comic shops on Long Island trying to find them all. Most didn’t even carry any of the 50+ volume series, but over the course of a month of frantic trips in between shifts at work, I crossed most of them off. The hardest to find, and the one I wanted the most, a Silver Surfer book, was nowhere to be found until my last stop (which if anyone hasn’t read Stan Lee’s Silver Surfer run, seriously do it, his view of humanity and how we treat each other resonated with me in a way no super hero story ever has, given current events, but I digress). My girlfriend and I celebrated that final volume with lots of pizza. Most of these stories end with pizza…. All of these stories end with pizza.
How does your collection make you feel?
It makes me really proud to see all the stuff I’ve hunted down. Most of the stories remind me of when I first read them, or even the hunt themselves, and that nostalgia, coupled with the already fantastic escapism contained in the stories themselves, are really my favorite part. As an obsessive compulsive and an escapist, watching a series get those last pieces in place over years of hunting and being able to read a story as a whole is always so cool. Especially long form stories like comics, that have been coming out every week for over 75 years. I love to get lost in any story, whether it be prose or comics, and collecting is all part of the journey for me.
Why do you collect?
I collect for a bunch of reasons, but one of the most important parts goes unnoticed by most.
Obviously I love the books, but one of the main reasons I collect is so that I can share the stories that I love and that mean so much to me.
My friends and I are always swapping books and recommendations; my brother and I have read and fallen in love with the same characters my dad did as a kid; my girlfriend is currently flying through some of my favorite books as she meets these characters for the first time, whether it be through cartoons, movies, or the books themselves. Seeing someones predictions and what resonates with them years after I’ve hunted down the books and made those same guesses is one of my favorite things. We never get to experience a story for the first time again, but through a collection, you can gift someone that experience. And for that, all the hours spent in shops, at cons, and online are always worth it.