collectors-item-display

What Was the First Comic to Promote Itself as a Collectors Item?

In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a suggestion from Jason H. (as sent my way by my pal, Adam Knave), we look at when comic books first proclaimed themselves to be “Collectors Items.”

Simply put, this couldn’t happen until the 1960s, because that’s when comic books were first seen as collectors items. It was during the 1960s that antique stores and place like that began to sell comic book back issues and so the idea that there might be money in older comic books became a mainstream idea (something that would merit an occasional column in a major newspaper). That is not to say that people did not collect comic books before then, as obviously they did, but it was during the 1960s, that the notion of comics as “collectors items” was first established.

Stan Lee typically had his finger on the pulse of stuff like this, and he would begin to pepper the phrase into his comics, like noting that Captain America‘s return in Avengers #4 could be something you might want to keep a copy of…

And then noting, two issues later, that the introduction of Zemo and the Masters of Evil would be a collectors item…

In 1965, Marvel went a step further and launched a reprint series based entirely around the idea that the original versions of their early comics were now collectors items, and that therefore, it was better to read these new collections of reprinted comics so that you could get Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics…

Similarly, when Marvel cut a deal with Lancer to do paperback collections of Marvel Comics in 1966, the “Collectors” aspect was a real mainstream idea still, and so they were all listed as Collectors Albums…

Oddly enough, Tower Comics got in on the Collectors deal before DC, with their Tippy Teen Special Collectors Edition…

In the early 1970s, DC finally caught up by launching their Limited Collectors Edition line of over-sized comics…

Amusingly, the name wasn’t used on the cover until the SECOND issue…

There ya go, Adam and Jason!

If anyone has a suggestion for a notable comic book first that they’d like to learn, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

See the first comic to promote itself as a collectors item.

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