Boxes full of memories … and adventure. Why I love collecting comic books

When comic books aren’t taking John Saccenti away to some incredible place, they’re reminding him of a time when they did. Photo courtesy of John Saccenti

There’s a stack of comic books tucked away somewhere in my house, dog-eared, wrinkled and with rolled spines — the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to look like if you’re a “serious collector.”

But this modest stack of “Captain Americas,” “Flashes,” “Avengers” and “Spider-Mans” means a lot to me. Each one was procured during a weekly and sometimes daily trip to the 7-Eleven when I was 9, 10 or 11 years old (who even remembers now).

I remember feeling the blast of A/C as I entered the convenience store before considering a Slurpee or other snack and spinning the comic book rack round and round for something that grabbed me. I’d fork over a few dimes or quarters, some nickels and probably a lot of pennies before pedaling my 10-speed (one of the cool ones with the curved handlebars) back home to read that day’s haul.

It was the best.

As the years rolled by, my collection grew, and I found myself a “serious collector.” I found addresses in the back of those comics where I could send away for more. I made friends and went to the flea market, where vendors set up every weekend to sell me even more comics. I put them in bags and stuck them in boxes to keep them safe.

The collecting had taken over, and instead of just getting to read about world-saving shenanigans, I also wanted to complete a series, or get that “hot” book of the month. It was fun, though more expensive and not quite as thrilling as being transported to fantastic worlds during those long, hot summer days, when I never knew what book I’d find. I went from “Who’d make me a costume if I suddenly got superpowers,” to “I wonder how much I could sell these for?” Which I never did. I’m notoriously lazy and a bit of a hoarder, so I have a few boxes of comic books that I may never get rid of.

My interest in them has fluctuated over the years, and I get overwhelmed now when I look at those boxes — sitting there lonely and unread for so long — and think about what to do with them. Should I keep them? Sell ​​them? Forget about them until my descendants unearth them centuries from now? It’s a riddle for the ages, and until I figure it out, I’m just going to enjoy the memories they brought.

There are still a few books I like to pick up now and then, but I’m by no means an avid comic book collector. No. It’s more like the old days for me, but with a modern twist. Today, I can spin through thousands of comics any time of day on my iPad, stream television versions of them or settle down for a 3-hour blockbuster movie.

And if they’re not taking me away to some incredible place, they’re reminding me of a time when they did.

John Saccenti is a member of the Jersey’s Best editorial team. He has been covering New Jersey news, education and the arts for close to 30 years.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for in-depth access to everything that makes the Garden State great.

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