Comics, Collectibles and More at Collectors Choice in Redding
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By Claudia Mosby
Photos: Kara Stewart
When Mike Norman was buying comics for his son in the early ‘90s, they were an inexpensive and entertaining way to capture a young boy’s imagination while improving his reading skills.
was bysing comics for “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be doing this,” says Norman of Collectors Choice, his Redding-based collectibles and memorabilia shop. A restaurateur at the time, he put a small rack at the restaurant and resold the comics his son had finished reading.
He noticed a steady upward trend in their popularity—and price. “We would buy one for $2 and sell it for $20 within six months to a year,” he recalls. After six months of dabbling, he decided to open a store and take a chance on a new venture.
Still, consumers can be fickle, so Norman decided to diversify his inventory and, in addition to comics, has done well with a line of signed photographs of sports stars, action figures, a swords and knives
collection (many related to comics characters), and even a line of women’s self-defense products.
Although they take up the least amount of space, Norman says he sells more comics than anything else and has learned that like him, a lot of parents bring in their young children for comics to get them reading.
“In the collectibles business, fads come and go but comic books are long-haul performers,” he says. “I have 150 customers who give me a list every month for weekly comics.”
Through a subscription service, Norman or one of his staff pull the comics customers want and have them waiting so they never miss an issue. An art form with longevity and “graphic memory,” comics frequently reference narrative detail from previous issues.
“The next part of the story is in the next month’s issue,” says Norman. “Comics are an ever-continuing story.” As such, his back issues collection ($3-$500 each) numbers more than 12,000 and dates back to the 1960s and ‘70s. “At times, I have had some dating back to the 1940s.”
Comics are perennial favorites because they “blend what is happening in the world today with a visual art form,” he says. “They exert a huge influence on popular culture. Many comics, like Superman, represent good old-fashioned values: ‘Truth, Justice, and the American Way.’”
To dispel any lingering stereotypes, comic book fans cut across professional sectors. “I have doctors and lawyers who buy comics,” says Norman, and “people who read comics also read books. For many of us, comics are our ‘light reading.’”
Light on the pocketbook as well, a current issue 20-page comic averages $3 to $4. Often within months, investment-minded purchasers can get a return on their investment and then some.
“Comics publishers usually do one print run,” says Norman. “If it is a real popular story—like X-Men—they might do a second or third printing, but it is limited. The first edition print will increase in value and people want the first print run because it is the most valuable not only monetarily, but emotionally.”
Case in point: the first Batman and Superman comics were printed as 10-cent comics in the 1930s, says Norman, and sold in the past year and a half for $1.5 million to $2 million each. Even a 12-cent Spiderman comic published in 1963 recently sold for $150,000.
Superheroes have become big business at the box office and on cable. “Some people do not realize that Walking Dead started as a comic book and then became a TV show,” says Norman. “Arrow, Gotham, Flash, Avengers—they were all comic books first.”
After 20 years, he still works in the store four days a week. “This is fun. It’s not like work,” he says. “I have customers who have been with me for 15 years. I’ve watched their kids grow up and go to college. They become like family.”
1714 Churn Creek Road, Redding • (530) 222-8750