A few weeks ago I was contacted by a journalist for the Mail on Sunday about an interview. They were going to run a 'Cash in your attic' type of feature about British comics and wanted my input. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to dispel the myth that old comics are worth a fortune.
I should have known better of course. The Mail had its agenda and it rigidly stuck to it. Today's issue of Event magazine, inside The Mail on Sunday, has a one page feature entitled Laughing All the Way to the Bank. The alarm bells went off as soon as I saw that title. Sure enough, it tells readers "you might be sitting on a small fortune". The lengthy interview I gave is condensed to one quote: "A tatty comic is practically worthless". At least they got that right.
Here are some other things I said which didn't make it into the article:
"Don't assume that every old comic is a collectors item. If you think a stack of 1990s Beanos are going to make you a fortune you'll be sorely disappointed. The most valuable comics are those that have historical significance."
"A first edition of The Dandy from 1937 might set you back £20,000 but an issue of any other comic from that same week will only be worth around ten quid."
"Paper reacts badly to certain conditions so don't store them in direct sunlight or in a damp shed. Store them neatly in closed boxes at room temperature and away from radiators. Some sellers try to fob collectors off by describing damaged old comics as 'good condition for their age'. It's misleading because age doesn't rip the cover off or colour in the pictures with crayon. Handle them with care."
"I think it's worth mentioning that if people only collect for investment they're sure to be disappointed. Most comics I have aren't worth much. The true value of comics comes from appreciating their artistic and cultural values."
See how that would have provided balance if they'd used some of it? Well, it was all ignored, with the focus on ten valuable comics (first issues of Dandy, TV21, Commando, etc). The emphasis of the feature is purely on greed. No mention of the artistic value of comics whatsoever.
Another, more personal, thing: As I knew the article would be used to promote the London Film and Comic Con I asked the journalist "I'd appreciate it if you could mention that I've been a cartoonist on numerous publications including The Beano, Viz, and Doctor Who Magazine. And that I'll be at the London Film and Comic Con in July."
"Absolutely!" was his reply.
How did that turn out? No mention at all of me being a cartoonist, or being a guest at the event. I'm just labelled as a "comics historian".
Now, I don't entirely blame the journalist. I'm sure his editor had the agenda to peddle the 'cash in your attic' angle for whatever daft reason and perhaps the submitted article was cut to ribbons before publication. However, I've learnt a lesson from this. From now on, if any journalist wants to talk to me about my work, great. If you just want soundbites for fairy tales of how people are sitting on a mythical fortune in old comics, don't ever waste my time again. Find some comics dealer eager to sell his wares instead. I'm sure they'll be only too happy to help with this kind of spin.