Bin There, Found That: On Collecting

A column article, Bin There Found That by: Chris Wunderlich


If there’s one thing I know, it’s collecting. It’s a subject that both fascinates and consumes me. Given that this is a column dedicated to comic books, this should come as no surprise. I collect video games, records and musical instruments as well. My shelves are lined with action figures, my cabinets are filled with television shows on DVD and my floor space is almost non-existent.  I have a lot to look at and a lot to admire, but eventually there comes a time when I wonder what it’s all for. Sure, I listen to my records often enough, play my games when I have time and read every night. I go back and re-listen, re-play and re-read all the time, but what am I ultimately building towards?

“I wouldn’t play with these, but I want them to be enjoyed. What’s a collector to do?”

If you watch television, you’ve seen (or at least heard of) shows like American Pickers (and in my case, Canadian Pickers), Pawn Stars, Auction Hunters and the bevy of other programs dedicated to collecting. Turn on your television right now, scroll through the channels and chances are you’ll come across at least one show based on buying and selling that you never knew existed. I can’t speak for all areas, service providers or audience demographics, but from where I sit, the networks are flooded with these shows. Seeing old farms filled with collections of every calibre, grandchildren selling their heirlooms for gambling money and watching grown men fight over things they don’t even care about gets me thinking. Will I be that old man, inviting strangers into my home to pick and prod, determining the resale value of my prized possessions? Will my children someday roll my collections into a specialty shop, only to walk away with enough spending money to enjoy a short vacation? If you’ve read this column before, you’ll understand that the items I purchase aren’t the type that could send my kids to college.

Monetary value and personal value can be worlds apart.”

So what to do? I’m a young guy with plenty of time to think. I’m resourceful, not claustrophobic, and good at Tetris, so storage space will always be a challenge but (hopefully) never a serious issue. I can keep collecting, building, enjoying and sharing that love with family and friends (always share!), but ultimately I’d like to have a plan. How can my collections help others in the future? How can I put my collections to use? This isn’t only for my benefit, I’m writing this because chances are you’re a collector as well. Maybe you don’t read comics, maybe you collect clothes. Maybe it’s jewelry, dishes or spoons. Are those clothes destined to hang at the Salvation Army Thrift Store? Will that spoon collection end up in the dump? I’m thinking about these things, and so should you!

Now I’d like to think that someday I’ll be able to pass on each and every single issue, graphic novel, DVD, action figure, record, CD, video game and instrument to an individual who will enjoy it as much as I have (or more). Nothing would make me happier than to know my collections are in good hands. I’m not saying I’d sell everything to a pawn shop or clear out my room via eBay. Sure, money would pass hands, and chances are those that buy from me would sell to others. My first issue of Steve Ditko’s Shade the Changing Man might make an online seller some chump change, but I want it to be appreciated. I want to see someone sit down with it for the first time and marvel at all the crazy imagination at work. I want to know that after reading the first issue, said person wants to read more. I want to know that they’ll share the book with others, and in doing so, create a whole new fan-base. I want to see them hunt down Ditko’s issues of Machine Man, not because they think it’ll turn a buck, but because they’ve read my issue of Shade and want to see more of Ditko’s nutty work. And you know what? I’ll be able to hand them those issues of Machine Man, smiling, knowing my collection is being put to work.

Will future generations find this as awesome as I do?”

Nice dream, right? Well, here lies the conundrum. While some collect the valuable, house-buying kinds of comics, I invest in the cheap stuff. My collection is born of the quarter bins—the entire point of this bi-weekly column! When a friend wants to borrow a book, they never opt for my Walt Simonson Fantastic Four issues, but want my Watchmen trade instead. I’ve never loaned anyone an issue of Enigma (despite recommendations), but my Y: The Last Man trades have made their rounds. What if the comic book readers of our future aren’t interested in the obscure? What if my Slingers issues are never opened again? I’m sure the library would appreciate the donation of a few more popular graphic novels, but what of my long-boxes? This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night and, after some reflection, is probably the reason I write this column.

“You’ll have to pry this one from my cold, dead hands. When you do, enjoy it! Please!”

Tell me readers; in the future, will there be a poor family that welcomes my gift of an original Xbox system, complete with the finest games and original first-party controllers? Will I be able to cheer up a school with the donation of the entire Christopher Priest Black Panther run? Will your jewelry be proudly worn by your grand-children? Will your spoons be admired as heritage?

Honestly, I’d like to know.            

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