900 Things week 8: Look with your eyes, not your hands

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Did you know Candace Bailey was in Jericho? Want to buy a trading card?

I don’t know why we stay attached to images in the internet age. Pictures, single static pictures are perhaps the easiest thing to find on the internet. And yet we accumulate them in ways we don’t even think about it.The non-sports, non-game trading card market is based on the strange idea that we want small copies of pictures on cheap cardboard that are readily available at the touch of a few keys through Google. Over the years I’ve had sets of Death of Superman cards that sat on a shelf next to the books all of the cards reproduced. I have a set of Jericho trading cards on the shelf now and can’t for the life of me figure out what is supposed to happen with them now that they are safely tucked away in pages.

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Shiny! Shiny and worthless. But shiny!

They are called trading cards but it has been nearly two decades since I took a stack of doubles and traded anything with anyone. So if they aren’t for trading, they are just cards.

In comics, this oddity is found in the variant cover. When these covers were first introduced in the 90s it was the only way to get these. They were rare works of art, you sought them for completeness, or just to have the cover of your choice in your collection. But mostly so you can look at them.

But that age is long gone. Variant covers are online before the issues even come out, they rarely rise in value, and often digital copies and collections come packaged with them all. It can’t be about access, so what is it?

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This Hush variant sells for hundreds of dollars. Looking at it here is only $10 ! Pay at the counter.

We collectors are creatures of habit. We buy variant covers because that is what one does. I put these cards into sleeves and those sleeves into a binder which gathers dust. The variant covers go into a box the same as a standard cover would. Unless you are one of the mad people who get an extra copy for the picture that was available in high resolution two months before it ever hit your hands.

The recent kerfuffle about Justice League of America #1 is a good indicator of how we collectors can feel that if we can’t possess all of something, it isn’t worth owning at all. Why else be upset that there are 52 variations of JLA #1? Surely it should be a fun thing? Whatever state you live in, you’ll be able to get your state flag on the cover of a comic. “How dare they make us buy 53 copies of a comic?!” Strangely no one was upset earlier in the year when Dynamite produced 58 covers for Mars Attacks #1. I suppose the difference there is that everyone understood that it was meant to be fun, not a punishment.

I’m Canadian so the only cover with a flag I’m ever likely to have is a few issues of Alpha Flight. You can be sure that when I travel in the US I’ll be looking for the covers from the states I’m visiting.

Or I would, if all of the covers weren’t available already online in high resolution.

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There’s a strange compulsion we accumulators feel toward physical objects. I bought a Lego advent calendar before starting this project. It is a bit of joy every day that I get to open up that little door and put together a Lego Star Wars toy. A few friends questioned that extravagance for a few seconds of lightness. It is, however, less per day than my morning coffee.

The flip side, though, is that I don’t know what to do with all of this Lego later. Last year’s 25 pieces and a few micro-packs I have fill a small shelf already. The new 25 toys will bring that to overflowing. Perhaps a trip to eBay for lots of Lego. I also have a good friend who is a Lego artist so perhaps some will go his way. I have a small stash of Lego and if I ever get around to writing up my Booster Gold collection blog for Comicosity I can show the one piece of art I made.

But why do I have to keep them at all? If I am unlikely to build anything from the fragments of a clone trooper transport, why doesn’t it just go into the recycling bin? Because we as accumulators have trained ourselves to put value on one $2 thing, a bit of Lego, and not on another, a cup of coffee. If I keep the little Lego toy I’m geeky, or a collector, or just eccentric. If I keep the coffee cups, I am barking mad.

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Thank you for reading. Have a safe and happy Christmas. Six of the Things were still in original packaging so they went to a local toy drive. Whichever child opens the Power Droid … sorry about that?

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