My collection of Supergirl comic books is worth around $400.
I fear what this will do to me.
I have a number of items that I’ve collected over the years that are worth some money. For starters, I have some CLASSIC (meaning old) 45s from the 40s and 50s (I defy you to make smooth sounding sentence with that many numbers used as nouns) featuring Les Paul, Louis Armstrong, and others that are still in great shape. Haven’t checked their value, but to me, that was the whole point. They’re sure to be worth something to collectors (more if I had some Elvis in there, which I had within my grasp and lost) and while I am a half-hearted collector, I looked at them as less of a physical artifact and more as a collection of great music. I.e., I (brace yourself if you’re a hard core collector of anything, because this is shocking) listened to them. More than once. Satchmo can blow. Les can shred. Those are great tunes.
See, that was how I approached old things. I open my action figures and set them up in battle scenes on my desk (I’m infamous at the office; every time I bring in a new one I’m asked repeatedly where I’ll find room – oh, there’s room all right…). If I can ever develop a plan to get my old Kenner Star Wars action figures back from my cousin (my mom gave them to him, supposedly with my permission) I’d play with those too.
I read my old comics. I listen to old records. I drink from the crystal and eat off the china whenever I have an excuse to do so (such as I wanted to and I can make it look romantic so my wife does not object).
Things are too be used. For example, why would anyone make a stained glass window if we were not to look at it? Maybe that’s a bad example, since you don’t generally handle a stained glass window to gaze upon it. But you do a book. What value is a book if it is not read?
To give a better example, I was recently in Ireland and looked at the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is an extremely old hand-written, illuminated copy of the four gospels. But it’s still used. True, it’s extremely limited. The closest I got was from the other side of a few inches of glass. But researches and historians still look at it. Because it’s not worth anything just sitting there in the dark.
If I wanted something I could just look at, I’d buy a poster. In fact, I have. Supergirl is one of them, as a matter of fact (she’s right over the X-Men figures and earns a lot of ridicule from my co-workers and boss). I probably wouldn’t buy a statue, because that would just tempt me to explore it. It’s also possible I’d do the same with a painting, feeling the textures and the brush strokes. Not sure I’d do that, but I’m sure I’d be tempted.
After all, they’re just things.
But now I’ve had how much those things are worth quantified for me. The closest I came to that before was either when a dorm-mate offered to buy my “War” era U2 import singles or when I managed to sell a copy of one of the Robin issues from the Cataclysm story line to a local comic shop for more than cover value because I’d gotten it from another state (and extra copies, my local store had failed to get it).
But when I saw the price! I was impressed. Suddenly I was loathe to let anyone else read my Supergirl comics. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great story. It’s worth reading. Fortunately, even if this revelation corrupts my perception of what “things” are worth and to be used for, the first nine issues (the best ones) are collected in a graphic novel format.
It may seem a silly problem. After all, most of you are screaming in horror at the fact that I’m abusing these items and casting my financial future into ruin.
But see, it’s a philosophical problem. So long as I didn’t know the value, even if I had a suspicion of what it was worth, I could keep my nonconformist stance that said things were to be used, not stored for their potential future value. I kept them in shape, because it’s easier to enjoy a record if it’s not scratched and easier to read a book that’s not torn up.
But now I have this sudden fear of ruining my items. I’m too careful. Am I going to continue to enjoy them? I don’t know. But I hope too. I look at this as a temptation to corrupt my quasi-virtuous stance of enjoying the world around me instead of placing monetary value on it. Really when it comes down to it, this is a religious issue. Do I enjoy the manufacturing/artistic/craftsmanship capabilities that we’ve been given by God? Or do I reduce it to a line of $ and ¢.
And ultimately, it’s a deeper question. Does reducing artifacts to monetary worth dehumanize me? What will archeologists in 2000 years say about us? Will the judge us too materialistic? It strikes me that modern archeologists are grateful for any preserved artifact they can find. But it also strikes me that they’d find perfectly preserved artifacts that were never used extremely curious. After all, what is the true value of an artifact that was never culturally significant?