Trading in your Singles?

Posted on February 9, 2010 by

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So it seems these days that a bigger war might be going on than simply the comic book giants fighting over who is best (and by best I mean who’s got the bigger wallet). Deep in the underbelly of the comic world there is a growing debate that brings everyone to arms, but what is this great underworld war? It is the endless debate of trade paper backs versus buying single issues.

This may not seem like a big war to you, but in these days it is becoming an increasingly hot debate. Many people, especially collectors, are left wondering if buying the single issues month to month waiting for an arc to end is worth it when they can wait for the trade to drop and grab the entire arc at one time. There is also the sheer cost, the value, and many other things that make people wonder if it is worth it.

Let’s start with the basics of sheer collecting. This is the greatest argument that single issues have over the trades. As a collector I have well over a thousand single issues in my personal collection and some were very hard to find and expensive. A trade though is made in bulk, usually not hard to find, and stays in print so you can simply just order one. There is no real rarity to them. Unlike single issues which go through several printings and sometimes you have to fight to find that first print before it sells out. Like that rare alternate cover that only so many were made of. This is what adds such value to comics that trades do not see.

Now mind you that as time goes on companies are wising up to this fact. You are starting to see more trades offering things you cannot find in normal issues. Such as a collection of pin-ups, all the alternate covers in one place and even the trades themselves sometimes get an alternate cover. Amongst my singles I even have my own rare hardcover that is worth more than the collection of singles by themselves.

Collecting though does come with a price. Let’s crack open some of those math books (you know you still have them in the cellophane) and do a bit of number crunching. An average single issue is about $2.99 now and consists of on about 22 pages.  Now an average trade costs about $17.99 (depends on the brand name) and usually has about 6 issues in it which is 132 pages. You can already see the difference, but let’s get in depth here.

$3.99 divided 22 = 18 cents a page.

17.99 divided by 132 = 14 cents per page.

So on average you end up paying 4 cents more per page to buy a single issue. That does not seem like much but it means added up you pay 88 cents more per comic and $5.28 more to get a full single issue run over a trade. So you are paying less to get the full arc, but when you turn around you know that you will not make your money back on the trade unless you do something to make it one of a kind like having an artist draw in it (likes yours truly), but then are having to pay even more to get that collectability over single issues. Though hoping to make your money on the singles is still taking a risk.

Is collectability really worth it? Is that what this whole argument is over? Let’s bust out the suspect board and start lining up the pros and the cons and see if any of them are the ones who mugged you for your hard-earned cash.

Singles

Pros

  • That feeling you get when you are going through the boxes time forgot at your local comic shop and find that rare comic for only $1. (Okay if you find this comic in a box for a $1 then contact me for my mailing address, send me the comic, and slap yourself because no one should be that lucky)
  • The ability to buy a comic for only $3.99 and in a few months sell it for $20.
  • Having the trophy of a rare comic to hold over your friend’s heads.
  • Having alternate covers so you can pick your favorite artist or get the whole run to enjoy.
  • The anticipation of a building story coming every month and getting to know the answer to all the questions before your friends who wait for the trades.

Cons

  • Dropping almost $4 a month for 6 months to get the full arc explained.
  • Having to make sure you make it to your comic book store every other week to get the issue you want before it sells out.
  • Not being able to find that elusive cover, or comic, to complete a collection or catch you up.
  • Possibly spending $4 on a comic that in a few months is worth maybe a $1.

Trade Paperbacks

Pros

  • Having the comic you really want to read and not caring if it gets busted or mutilated.
  • Having an entire arc to fill you in all in on that you may have missed if you are a Johnny-come-lately in one read.
  • The extra features like storyboards, interviews, and artist galleries.
  • Having the ability to order that trade through the comic shop, or online, and not worry if it is in stock or out of print as fast as singles.
  • No ads like there are in the single issues (though over time these almost do not exist either).

Cons

  • Knowing you can almost never re-sell it for a profit.
  • Not being able to display it as easily as singles.
  • Sometimes content gets added or cut to fit, or changed from the original.
  • Having to wait months to even a year after the original comic’s end to get to catch up.
  • Not all comics get trade paperback releases and if it is an older comic it may never get one.

So there you have it my loyal readers. Each side of the argument has its ups and downs. I guess when it comes down to it the main things you have to ask yourself is if you have the patience to wait for the trades, if you can afford them, if you are fine not being able to try to make a profit, if you do not mind losing the collectability of singles, and if you do not feel like having those great collector’s covers.

I have spent many years and way too much money trying to collect all the alternate covers I can find to my favorite series. I love these and have them displayed across my wall. Though the fear of reading and destroying them keeps me going back for trades I can easily rip and never shed a tear for. I would not give up my signed singles, my one of a kind art, and my collage of comic book cover nerdiness for anything, but every account has a limit.

Now with my opinions combined the power to buy what you want is yours! Okay not nearly as cool sounding without the glowing rings and big blue guy, but you get the point. Feel free to drop us your opinion in a comment on here or fly on over and tweet us with what you think is the best. Which is it you prefer and could you ever give up the single life?

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Posted in: Comic Book Stuff