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Matt Braum: Saving comic books from Mom

by Mark Jaffe (03/17/08).

Matt Baum says he became a collector of comic books at the age of ten – when
his mother looked at the heap of comics littering his room and delivered an ultimatum: “You’ve got to pick these up … or I’m throwing them away.”
Baum’s father took him to the comic books store to buy a comic book box. By the time he had bagged and alphabetized is Spiderman and X-Men stories they were no longer a heap of comic books, but a collection. “It was a very pleasing feeling,” Baum remembers. That led Worthologist Baum to a life-long passion for the comic books and comic book collecting.
For seven years Baum worked in a comic book store and watched as guys – they were usually guys – came in and gravitated to some comic of their youth. Then came the variation on the same story.
“The guy would say ‘I used to have this and my mom caught me smoking and threw all my comics out,’” Baum said. Moms, he said, have helped create the back issue comic book market.
Still, Baum cautions that collecting for the financial rewards or speculation remains a risky business. “If you want to speculate you’d do better in the stock market than comic books,” Baum said.
After decades of good markets a glut of comic books, from ‘90s over-printing, led to a market downturn by 2000. Collectors became disillusioned. Now, Baum says, the market is slowly coming back spurred by new, creative, small publishers and a big wildcard player – Hollywood.
On a recent Wednesday – Wednesday being the day new comics hit the stands – IDW, an eight-year-old comic publisher, issued “Locke and Key” by Joe Hill, who happens to be the son of horror writer Stephen King. The supernatural tale set in a New England mansion sold out within a few hours. Less than a month later the cost of a copy had climbed from the original retail price of $3.99 to as much as $20.
Comic books have also become a favorite feeding ground of Hollywood moviemakers. “They are already scripted and story boarded, what more could a film exec want?” Baum asked.
“Two things happen when a big movie comes out. Marvel will issue a fresh load of collected issues, because that’s where they make their money,” Baum said, “and it
will also generate new interest among collectors looking for that original issue.”
When Daredevil was turned into a pretty bad movie in 2003 with Ben Affleck and
Jennifer Garner the price of a Death of Elektra in Daredevil #181 first edition rose from $20 to $75 in anticipation of the release, Baum said. “Now the value is down to $30 or $40,” he said.
Still, Baum says getting into collecting should be about ardor not dollars. “The key thing in collecting is to start by finding something you like, that you would like to have even if it wasn’t collectible,” Baum says. “A little guidance and advice helps.”
Baum’s own passion — what fills his 15 long comic book boxes, each holding about 300 books –started with X-Men and Spiderman. “I started as a kid with the super heroes. I read Marvel comics and loved Spiderman and X-Men. Then when I was about 15 I got into DC comics and Batman. “I have been reading comics for the past 20 years, Baul says, “and can honestly say, maybe it’s due to Hollywood’s attention but with the quality of the work that is being published right now there has never been a better time to start reading comics.”

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