Comics As A Hobby

I’ve been collecting comics for a while now, but lately I’ve begun to question the point. Not the point of reading comics, I read comics because they’re fun, engaging, and a great way to tell stories. But why do I collect comics? And does that collection count as a hobby?



I decided some time ago that collection comics alone didn’t qualify as a good enough hobby for me personally. I realized that a hobby which consists entirely of going to the same place every week to spend money, but sometimes going to a much bigger place to spend heaps more money, isn’t ultimately all that satisfying. This was driven home when a friend joined me at a larger comic convention and commented, “So you pay a lot of money to get into a place where you can buy more stuff?” I found myself unable to argue the point, a convention is, of course, a great place to see old friends and catch up, but I do also usually spend a good bit of money above what I’d spend at the comic shop in any given week. Which all led me to a place where I wanted a hobby that left me with more than a collection of things created by other people (and yes, I included beer collecting in the same category), I wanted a hobby that yielded a product of my own creation.

So I tried starting my own website, because I think I thought a blog would be too easy, and we tried to do a podcast too where we mostly talked about beer and comics (pretty sure the site and podcasts have all be scrubbed off the internet, but a no prize if somebody finds them). It went about as well as you’d expect, but I now had the bug of creation in my system, and had found that creation, for me, was superior to collection.

But that’s just my journey. I don’t necessarily think that collecting something doesn’t qualify as a hobby, it just wasn’t a hobby I wanted anymore as my primary leisure time activity. Now I’m at a point where I rarely buy physical books, finding the local comic shop in a new city is longer a legitimate activity for a day in a new place, and I don’t agonize over the order and structure of my shelves, even if they could stand a bit of alphabetizing. I started collecting comics when I was no longer living with my parents, but still of an age where I was going to be moving every year to a new city/state or at the very least to a new place within that city (I lived in the same house for 2 years when I was in Nashville and that was an anomaly). Point being, I never had the option of either leaving my precious collection in my parents basement, nor on a shelf that wouldn’t soon be dismantled and moved somewhere else. Thus I think it’s possible that my lifestyle made the conclusion to my time as a “collector” inevitable, and I would love to hear from people in the comments who fancy themselves true collectors deal, or haven’t had to deal, with these issues.

And the difference between a collector and a museum is an exhibit.

And the difference between a collector and a museum is an exhibit.

Looking for another opinion, I asked a friend for the distinction between a comics’ reader vs. a collector and he said that a reader eventually reads everything they buy and never looks at any sort of pricing guide to value what they have. I’m not sure I agree completely but I think those are good points. He also said a collector doesn’t lend out to friends, whereas a reader imposes their comics on friends, even those that aren’t already comics’ readers. We also remembered the John Hodgman distinction that the difference between a collector and a hoarder is a display case, but I feel like display cases for comics are somewhat rare.

There may also be a correlation between collecting and bags and boards. I was mostly always a trade reader, even when I was collecting, so bags and boards weren’t really a thing, and many a discussion on the podcast has revolved around the decision to bag and board, and which comics deserve such treatment, so I won’t get into that too much here.

But then I realized that reading, in and of itself, is a hobby that many people enjoy, so it’s possible my entire idea of fine lines between collection, consumption, and creation are all just so much noise. Which is fine with me, I enjoy a fuzzy spectrum for finer distinctions, and am happy to let everyone do what they will with their time, money, space, energy, and enthusiasm. As for me, I think from now I’ll be sticking with calling myself a comics’ reader and not a comics’ collector, for whatever that distinction is worth.


Ryan Haupt tries to balance consumption and creation. A goal achieved by consuming beer while creating his podcast Science… sort of.


  1. I’ve always found the worst part about moving is the “packing.” That’s why my comics, already packed away in boxes, have always been the least of my worries when I move. I’ve always used short-boxes rather than long, so the weight is not really a burden. Plus, for more recent moves we’ve hired movers to pack the truck, so now it’s basically a non-issue. I’ve found that short-boxes fit nicely inside a copy-paper box turned up on its side. It provides a little extra protection and means I don’t have to tape up the lids of my short-boxes.

    I realize you are mainly talking about books on shelves, so yes, those would need to be packed. But I can just imagine how sad I would be to live in a house where there are not shelves populated with actual, real books. My actual (prose) books (not counting graphic novels) take up way more space than my comics, but there’s no way I will get rid of those, barring some dire circumstance. But they are a pain to pack, I agree. I’m actually starting the process of another move this week.

  2. I’m mainly a comic reader. I lend to friends etc and read everything I buy. I do have one comic in a protective case on the wall though. Marvel Spotlight #5, first appearance of the Ghost Rider. And I always bag and board all of my comics. To not do that to me is crazy. It really helps protect them from damage. Not that I ever plan to sell them. But I want to care for them as much as possible.

    • I bag and board all of mine too, I hate the idea of having to buy new copies of I book I owned just because it keeps falling apart. Most of my friends just look at the bags as overkill and a nuisance.

    • I “bag” my comics in a shopping bag so I can dump them off on the next unfortunate person I find that wants them. The “keepers” get fewer and further in-between as time goes by.

  3. I consider myself both a reader and a collector. I’d say 98% of my collection is stuff I’ve read or plan to read. As a reader, I get a ton of enjoyment from the stories/art obviously, and as a collector, there’s a sense of satisfaction and nostalgia I get from being able to thumb through a long, complete run of a series that I enjoyed. As for even older comics, I collect certain things because I see them in a historical perspective, and to own a piece of that is something that makes me very happy 😀

    • Oh, and I bag and board everything as well, and that’s mostly from a collector’s standpoint. Floppies are pretty damn fragile in a lot of ways, and just like I keep my DVDs in cases on the shelf, I keep my single issues in bags/boards.

  4. “But then I realized that reading, in and of itself, is a hobby that many people enjoy, so it’s possible my entire idea of fine lines between collection, consumption, and creation are all just so much noise.”

    Glad you were able to answer your own question. 🙂

    I no longer ‘collect’, I only read at this point. Mostly due to cost and economy (though I admit lack of space is becoming a factor). Either way, its one of my hobbies because its an area I have knowledge about and an activity I engage in. Wouldn’t that be the real definition of a hobby? Something you have consistent and continuous interest in, and thus develop knowledge of, beyond common knowledge? Not collecting anymore does not take the ‘hobby’ away.

    Here’s a question… what do you call the guy who got a Superman tattoo but never read a Superman book in their entire life, but declares how much the love the character? Those people I find…perplexing. That would be like if I got a Michael Jordan tattoo yet don’t watch basketball.

    • Oh, I guess I did miss the distinction of ‘collector’ though.

      I collected comics to read them.
      I understand, there are people who go out and look for books to fill gaps in collections, or just want to own a particular issue of something, and aren’t too concerned about reading them. But ‘Collectors’ vs ‘collecting’ is a whole other issue that you could write a whole other blog about.

    • That Michael Jordan analogy only works if Jordan also appeared in other places on a regular basis that were far more popular than basketball.

    • Wait, the star of Space Jam played basketball professionally, too? Not just against cartoon aliens?

    • The Superman reference is my Brother totally. He buys anything with a Superman symbol on it. Even has a bathrobe that is a superman costume. Never read a Superman comic in his life. He HAS seen all the movies though. That would be the other reference like Conor mentioned I guess.

    • I have a ton of friends with fond memories of Super Friends growing up…But not many of them read the comics. It’s not just the Donner Movies.

      Hell, look at how many stand up comedians had a schtick about Aquaman…There’s no way they were pandering to the comic fans.

  5. i’m a collector of books…prose, art books, comics…things with a spine that go on a shelf. I don’t really collect floppy comics even though i have a few boxes of those. My wife is a pretty avid reader, so we have a TON of books in our house. The packing is a nightmare. I always get Diamond delivery boxes (those small brick ones) from my LCS’ if i have to move. They make it more manageable and keep the weight down. The challenge is all those small boxes full of books. It’s a nightmare. We might have to Goodwill a ton of “i’ll never read this again” books..mostly the paperbacks when we move at the end of the summer.

    I do think reading and “hunting” for books is a hobby. Its something that occupies your time. Lets be honest, most hobbies are money pits, so comics definitely count!

    • however i consider myself a reader first and foremost. I will never spend extra money on a signed or first edition. I don’t pay exorbitant costs for out of print books. If its that much, then its not for me. I’m happy with a beat up remainder over a mint condition piece. I enjoy having the books, but i don’t fetishize them if that makes sense. I enjoy having them to look through and read more than acquiring them.

  6. I consider myself a collector, I have most of the 90s Ghost Rider and Silver Surfer series and I’m trying to complete both of those. Very rarely do I find a series and I say “I want this entire thing!” but it’s happened a few times but mostly with mini or maxi series. I’ve gone out of my way to find parts of runs I’m missing, and I’m always looking thru long boxes or quarter bins looking for good deals on stuff I need. I just hate read a good story and then not know what happens next. It’s mostly older stuff that draws me in like that, modern stuff now that just lacks that special… Something y’know? Comics from the 70s-80s just have something in them that is missing from alot of stuff today. But I buy and buy, then bag and board everything. I occasionally lend out TPBs or issues I’m ok to risk losing if the other person is willing to read them. Lately I’m worried if I’m spending too much and if I should quit to focus on school and my dream of being a comic book artist. The answer is “Probably, Stupid!!” but where’s the fun in doing what you should do?

    • I really agree with your opinion of comics from the 70 s and 80 s. I know that today’s comics are technically more sophisticated, but if I had to pick between reading those old Iron Man and Defender comics I grew up reading or the stuff Marvel puts out today, it isn’t even close. And I don’t mean I don’t enjoy today’s comics, I do. Marvel has a lot of books I really enjoy. But as much as I like them, I would still rather read old FF issues from thirty years ago.

    • Hey, another 90s Ghost Rider fan! That was the series I grew up reading. Ghost Rider #2 that came out in the 90s was the first comic I ever bought. I now own every Ghost Rider issue ever, even from the 70s. And most of the crossovers and guest appearances too. I think it would be fun to find Howard Mackie at a convention sometime and have him sign that #2 issue of Ghost Rider. Not because it would be worth anything, but just for Nostalgia’s sake. Javier Saltares too.

    • @JohnVFerrigno, totally agree. It’s weird how some of the older stuff is somehow ahead of it’s time and better than what we have today, not that today’s is crap, not at all. Somehow the stories from before “mean” something more if that makes any sense,

      @DaninGotham, my first GR comics were some 70s issues my brothers gave me, still got em. I bought the GR Classic: Dan Ketch vol 1 and just fell for it. I have everything from that series up to #68 and I’m missing 13 total issues. I also have all 23 issues of “GR and Johnny Blaze:Spirits of Vengeance”. I know alot of people talk about 90s comics being crappy and all the dumb stuff they did to make more money, but I think that GR series is the exception (foil covers notwithstanding). I also have 1-3 of GR Essentials that I plan to start reading soon. I loved Way’s run, and I bought all of Aaron’s and that short lived 2011 series too. It irks me that Marvel can’t keep the character going and there wasn’t a new series for Marvel Now, but what can you do? Javier Saltares is the bomb, and my favorite GR artist.

    • Yeah, I remember in the 90s when the Midnight Sons were so popular. They spawned titles like Morbius, Darkhold and Nightstalkers. That was a great time to be a Ghost Rider fan.

      I really liked that 2011 series too. Too bad it only lasted 9 issues. I was confused that Marvel didn’t relaunch a new Ghost Rider title with John Blaze as the host at the same time the movies came out. I’m sure if someone went to the movie and then went to the comic shop and picked up an issue of that 2011 series they would be totally confused. ‘Who is this female Ghost Rider?’. I was sad when it got cancelled. But yeah, the 90s series was my favorite. I remember they cancelled the series after #93. Even before the final issue. Then #94 came out years later. Very strange. It shouldn’t be hard for you to pick up the rest of that series for pretty cheap in the back issue bins.

    • You’d be surprised, nobody has the last 13 issues I need except for MyComicShop but their prices vary so much I’d rather just hunt for awhile longer to see if I get a bargain.

      The 2011 series wasn’t bad, but tying it into “Fear Itself” was a poor move I thought. Also I think it took awhile to get going plotwise, I think people forget GR is a horror type character. But Alejandra wasn’t a bad character, so hopefully she comes back in the future. I think Marvel knew that GR 2 wasn’t gonna go well and didn’t bother putting anything together for it. I forget when but Marvel did put together a “Special” issue collecting all the GR origins from Blaze, to Ketch, to Alejandra but it was like $7.99.

      Personally I’d like it if the next series was 1)more horror themed and 2) focused on John and Dan both being Ghost Riders and how that affects their relationship as brothers. Could make for some interesting stories.

    • Yeah, it is fun to hunt for comics one needs at comics shops. It’s really a satisfying feeling when you find one. Especially for the price you want.

    • I’ll probably break down and just order them from MyComicShop, but there’s a hundred other back issues I’m on the look out for so I’m not worried. Recently I started buying 2 copies of the original Moon Knight series because they’re pretty cheap relatively and I’d just like to have the whole thing on top of MK Essentials. Plus that series is only 38 issues so it’s much easier to track down.

    • I got a lot of my older Ghost Rider issues on ebay. Sometimes I would need just 1 or 2 issues that were in a lot of 10 issues. So I have a lot of doubles now I have to resell. But the prices on there were really cheap.

  7. I considered my self a reader for years, until I really began to wonder about space and if I will ever re-read stories. I really collect what I think is the best/rarest/most re-readable.

  8. When I was a kid I was definitely a collector. Amassing hundreds and hundreds of comics with my father, that we bagged boarded and stored in long boxes. I loved the comics and still do, even though I didn’t read nearly all that we bought.
    Now I am definitely a reader. I buy and keep tons and tons of floppies as well as trades, but I do it because I love to read them and I love the characters and stories they offer. I never bag and board anymore.
    Also, I live in a small studio apartment in NYC and there just isn’t room for all those long boxes these days. My old collection that I amassed as a kid still exists in my parents storage locker, but they are itching to sell them (much to my chagrin)

  9. I have been trying to offload my collection for a few years now…The space is more valuable to me than the fond memories when I look at my complete John Byrne FF run. There is small solace in the hope that someday my kids may be interested in reading some of this stuff, but honestly, that’s what a trade on the iPad is for.

    • I’m in the same boat. The ONLY reason I buy comics these days is to read them. I bag and board the issues/series I really enjoy but am trying to get out of the habit of keeping EVERY single issue in a short box. I live in the Bay Area, am a father of twins, and don’t have a lot of space so the 8 short boxes in my garage seem like a huge liability right now. I too tell myself that maybe my kids will enjoy going through Daddy’s comic boxes some day but who am I kidding? That being said, the thought of tackling my collection and weeding out the chaff is even more daunting than having them in the garage in the first place. I don’t understand how so many comic fans put up with the space that large collections take up.

  10. Back when I first started reading comics, I would definitely have classified myself as a collector. With digital not even an idea and trades being terribly uncommon, the only way you could read an older run was either through reprints like Marvel Tales or back issues. Nowadays, I’d define myself as a reader.

  11. Just a comment on going to a convention and having a friend question what you`re spending more money on. I went to my first Comiccon last weekend in Ottawa and it was so much fun. It`s so much more then spending money to get in a place where you`re going to spend more money. The atmosphere, the costumes, the celebrities, the interactions with other people who have the same interests as you.

  12. I think it was Mick Jagger whose definition of addiction was: “Did you pay for it?”

    After forty years as both The Reader and The Collector, I’m not a weekly consumer of comic books.

    Actually, I stopped going the the store every Wednesday a while back, and my subscriptions are ending.

    I alternate between the Reading Mode and the Collecting Mode periodically.

    I’m filling up the last short box, then attempting to sell and/or read The Collection.

    It’s quite a pile. Mom held onto it for me briefly, but it’s been shipped coast to coast.

    I wonder how long it’ll take me to sell and/or read most of it.

    I really enjoy the public library. May even give them a pile of books.

    Cons are fun, and now I have the self-control to go and not spend the grocery money.

    This hobby is once again more of a hobby than an obsession.

    I also recommend having an activity. Mine is walking. You can do it any time. Almost anywhere.

    Gardening is also very rewarding. After all the comics I’ve bought, it’s nice to plant a tree.

  13. I’ve always been a collector/reader, but my definition of collector has changed over the years.

    For the first two decades of my collecting, I look back and I was more of a hoarder than a collector. Everything got saved and everything got bagged and boarded.

    When my interest in the new comics started to wain about 2-3 years ago, I took a look at the 50+ long boxes in my basement office and just started to sell like crazy on ebay. I’ve since used the money I’ve made off of my hoard to turn around and invest in my Superman collection. I’ve probably trimmed in excess of a dozen long boxes, and have extended my uninterrupted run of Superman books back to 1967.

    Since I’ve started doing that, it reinvigorated my love of comics. It’s fun paying attention to the market and seeing what’s selling and combing your collection for books to put up, while at the same time combing for the perfect VF or NM Superman book to add my collection.

  14. Just last week I moved my long box back home from college. It sucked! This year was the first year that I had an apartment and not a dorm which allowed me to collect more. I go to school in Philly and theres a small but good comic convention not far from my campus every other month. I would come back with tons of TP and it was a pain to move them. Anyway I don’t have a point to make. I would buy weekly from atomic comics but would go to fat jack’s for back issues if anyones familiar with Philly

  15. I don’t collect comics. I just have a lot of them. I have no problem having gaps in runs if that issue was written by a fill-in writer I didn’t like and such.

    I buy comics to read them. I then stuff them in long-boxes (bagless and boardless) to reread later if I choose or take out a bunch and loan them to friends.

    The value of comics is – to me – in reading them.

  16. I have been reading comics since the New 52.

    I have one nearly full long box in my room and plan to never have to buy another one. I regularly sell a complete arc or miniseries of comics on ebay. I might even go as far as saying that I’ve made a profit in the last year with all the crazy Image 1’s that seem to multiply in value as soon as I’ve read them. Not that I actively try to make money off them, it’s just hard to resist when they would otherwise be sat in a box for ages!

    If I want to read these comics again, I will just buy the trade later on.

    I guess I’m a reader but I could never go digital as I just love getting and reading the floppies when they are released.

  17. I was an avid collector from the time I was about 11 till I was about 29. I amassed quiet a nice collection of long boxes, always buying 2 issues of the the “hot” stuff one to read, one to bag and board, but it was only Marvel and if wasnt a mini series like the Official Marvel Handbook, Secret Wars or something with an X in the title I never picked it up. I stopped for 12 years and left some long boxes here, some there. Went to the same local comic shop I was a regular at all those years ago when a friend of mine wanted to pick up Amazing Spiderman 700. I felt like a crack head walking into a crack house.
    I have started collecting again, now as a two fold purpose. I have spent a little time collecting complete runs and sets of Marvel NOW and DC New 52 stuff because I have thoroughly missed reading. I also have acquired a 3 year old son along the way, I if he ever decides to get into comics I think it will be neat that when he is reading stuff in the 100-200 range he will also have the first issues. If he doesn’t he can sell it all off and get himself a car.

  18. I actually tried to turn the act of reading comics into a weekly hobby for me. Every thursday (I live in Berlin Germany so we get comics a littly late unfortunately) I go with a friend to a local comic book store, chat a little with others, buy my books and go to a nearby park or cafe to read them.

    I just reserve these two hours per week just for me and the enjoyment of reading comics. Its also nice to have a friend with you who reads similar series, so you immediately have someone to talk about what you just read.

    I also “collect” to an extend, but always with intention to read the books again. Usually I read a series again (at least once), once I droped it or it ended. It’s just a completely new experience to reread it in its entirety. But if I realize that I don’t want to read certain books again, or haven’t read them in a very long while, I don’t hesitate to sell them.

  19. I’m pretty new to the world of floppies. Focused most of my reading on TPB’s and MDCU. Started collecting floppies a year ago. Oh sure, in the beginning it seemed glamorous and fun but now… Now I don’t know where to store all of these comics. They just keep piling up… At the rate I am buying, I could fill my closet up within a year or two… I guess I’ll have to sell the comics that I don’t really care about (bye, bye Rise of the Third Army/Wrath of the First Lantern).

    I don’t see the point in collecting modern comics. They’re all so common. Outside of first/last/seminal issues and whole story arcs, there doesn’t seem to be much return on investment, after you factor in how much it costs to store the comics.

  20. I read and keep and try to keep them in the best condition possible. Isn’t keeping collecting? Anyway I don’t really have anyone around who would want comics, I usually end up getting from those who have the slightest interest, I will own and definitely keep them for you.

  21. I use to consider myself both a reader and collector of comics, but that began to change when DC’s new 52 began. About the same time as the new 52 came out, I also bought an iPad and discovered Comixology. I soon cancelled all my DC books at my LCS, but kept getting all my other titles in physical form. I have to admit that I really enjoyed reading comics in digital form far more than in physical form. I love the technology that Comixology uses to easily slide from panel to panel. I enjoy the act of reading comics in digital form so much that I slowly began to transition from physical to digital comics. Two months ago, I cancelled most of my subscriptions at my LCS and moved to digital – without much remorse, I might add. The only comics I continue to get at my LCS are Dark Horse comics and some comic magazines (Alter Ego, Back Issue, Bleeding Cool). In the past year that I have been transitioning from physical comics to digital, I decided to sell off my Modern comics (read 2004 forward). They were all bagged, boarded and boxed. Thus ended my career as a hobbiest/collector. Now to be truthful, I still have a few thousand comics in storage, but they all are from the 1960s-70s when I was a child and youth and first began to read comics. I have an emotional attachment to comics from this period and want to preserve them Yes, I still go to conventions and pick up comics from this era. But now, mostly I go to comicons to have writers and artists sign issues that they had a part in creating. Two of my big moments were in meeting Brain Michael Bendis and getting him to sign a New Avengers comic, and in meeting Joe Kubert and getting him to sign a comic where he had drawn himself into the cover. Those comics I will treasure forever. But other than that, my collector days are over. I’m just a reader now – but a very eager one. There is rarely a night that goes by when I’m not lying in bed with my iPad reading not only the newest comics, but also some older ones as well – all with the swipe of a finger!

  22. I read everything I buy. Doesn’t make sense to me o buy a book and not read it. It may take a little while but I get to all of the meventually.
    I bag + board all my flimsies. A major part of my collection is trades and graphic novels but single issues always get bagged. I don’t intend to sell them but thinking they could get damaged by age/humidity bothers me.
    I get several items in my collection signed, be it trades, GNs, or individual comics. I try to get the creator to personalise it (for example: To Charlie – John Byrne). I know it doesn’t increase it’s overall value to anyone but me. But the way I look at it if you want a signed book go get it signed yourself. Buying a signed book and paying premium prices for it is like buying somebodies used movie ticket. The joy is in the experience, not the product itself. My favorite signed book at the moment (due to change at any given moment) is currently one by Dennis Hopeless even though I got more “successful” creators signatures mainly because he was fun to talk to about that book he signed for me.
    If a trade gets signed I usually bag it (no need for a board) to keep it from getting wet or whatever. Otherwise no.

    So there you have it, a reading collector. 😛

  23. I really want to switch to all digital for most of my pulls, except Saga, Batman and a couple of other series. The only reason I don’t is because my LCS gives such a great discount on physical copies that I can’t get on Comixology.

    If digital copies ranged from 99¢ for the $2.99 physical copies and $1.99 for the $3.99 physical, I would definitely be all about some digital copies. I’m running out of room in my small house and even less now that we just had a baby.

    I just don’t understand why they would not go for this. They can save on printing costs and therefore lower the digital prices. I don’t see any advantage in buying digital over physical if the price is going to be the same.