Ian: Key Collector is an extremely handy tool for those looking to collect specific issues of comics, can you describe the app for us?
Nick: Thank you for not asking me to “briefly” explain the app because that’s been a bit of a problem for me. Key Collector Comics is a free mobile app that isolates highly sought-after issues from the clutter of uneventful comics. Doesn’t sound like much fun when explained like that.
Let me try again. Key Collector Comics is the resource comic culture enthusiasts have wanted for decades. Everybody wants to own the first appearances, origins, iconic covers, deaths and any other historic milestone or valuable collectibles in comic books. But there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million comics books out there, especially if you consider variants as individual issues. Less than one percent of those millions are considered a “key” issue which is still a significant number. If I had to guess how many keys there were in existence, I’d say MAYBE just shy of 10,000. That’s a lot of covers to memorize.
Chances are most new and experienced collectors are googling characters, checking eBay for prices on an issue per issue basis. Using the notes in their phone to remember what to look for when they’re out at a store or convention. Opening one of the existing apps to catalog whatever they buy. That’s four resources necessary to complete a purchase. Its not efficient.
How many times have you heard people ask where they can find a listing of first appearance or key issues? I see it in comic forums and social media posts all the time. There was never an answer to that question until now. Not in the way that Key Collector Comics offers – comprehensive convenience in just a couple taps on your mobile phone. I just came up with that one. I’d make it my slogan if it didn’t suck so bad.
But I’m not the only one focusing on keys. Just in the delivery method with the additional benefits of a price guide, the ability to catalog what you own, build a wish list and some other features that exist or will exist very soon. There are a number of sites that do a really great job of identifying keys also but they dig deeper into the information I offer and they have a good handle on speculation. Anthony Hammock’s site comicsheatingup.net is one of them that urge people to regularly check out along with investcomics.com run by Jay Katz. CBSI has good info too. But Key Collector Comics is one-of-a-kind and fills the void in the comic collecting arena that has been open for far too long. Its really essential to every collector.
Ian: What made you decide to make Key Collector?
Nick: Frustration. Tedium. It was mind-numbing to go through a box of comics, recognizing something, unsure if it was something valuable. Checking eBay sold to determine what value it had but not feeling one-hundred percent satisfied if the first answer was credible.
I was always on the hunt for comics: antique stores, flea markets, garage sales. One day I stopped into a used book store in downtown Milwaukee I had never been to before. I didn’t even know if they sold comics but the first thing that caught my eye was X-Men #221, 1ST appearance of Mr. Sinister for $1.00! After returning a few more times and seeing fresh inventory I asked if he had a decent amount of stock in the backroom. He did not. Actually he had an entire basement filled with 30,000 comics at an off-site warehouse.
So I did what any comic collector would do and begged this stranger to bring me to this off-site warehouse, lead me into the basement and request that he not kill me at any point during the process.
Truthfully it took a lot of time, going into the store, hanging out and establishing trust. Turns out we got along really well. He’s a good and honest person and I find it easy to relate to people like that. After a few months we came to an agreement on how to split the profits of key issues I found, post to eBay and sell. He didn’t know much about which comics were worth selling so I became valuable to him.
BUT, as much as I thought I knew, there was A LOT I didn’t know. Sally Forth #4 $100?! Scud #1?! Never heard of those books before but discovered they were valuable based on a hunch so I knew there had to be more gems that I couldn’t distinguish from the rocks. I spent most of my free time over an entire summer down in that basement which got tiresome after awhile but I had an agreement with the owner and wanted to make sure that the trust this guy, who was now my friend, put into me had a good result. I found myself wishing there was a book some resource that had JUST the key issues, ONLY the valuable stuff without the clutter of hundreds of entries. I hated searching each issue individually. I just wanted to FLIP and SCROLL. The whole situation got more mundane and I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I figured I couldn’t be the only person who was in the same situation and might be turned off to collecting because of it. So it just kind of hit me one day to create the database and put it on an app for total convenience.
Ian: Covering key comics from the 30’s to today must be hard, how do you decide what books are key or not?
Nick: There are a few criteria that I look for: 1. Does whatever happen in the ages affect the publisher’s universe which in turn affects the history of comic books? 1st appearances hold the most weight in the database. There are thousands of first appearances. Major characters of course but also minor ones. Not everyone has $30 to spend on a comic that has a first appearance of a B list, highly collectible hero or villain. I find that people are just as content picking up a bunch of dollar books that have an obscure or underdeveloped character in its pages. Its those books that can really surprise a collector. I’ve come across news that a comic was getting hot and went into my collection not knowing if it was something I had and being elated when discovering I did. NYX #3 is a good example.
But there’s more to the database than 1st appearances. Origins, deaths, iconic covers, first meeting between two characters who go on to have a history together, notable artist and writer debuts, recalled comics, World War II covers, Joker covers and a lot I haven’t mentioned.
A comic with a high dollar value due to scarcity or low distribution I would consider a key as well. To summarize. Anything that has a instance of importance or a dollar threshold of at least $8 would be considered as a contender for a slot in the database but there are no rules set in stone.
Ian: Is it possible for folks to add their own and if not can they request an issue be added?
Nick: Collectors can’t directly upload keys but I encourage anyone who sees something missing to email me at email@example.com. I like the idea but I’m super specific about how it is to be written and I check at least two, more often than not three, sources to vet the information.
Ian: Along with having these key issues in the database you have a valuing system, how does that work and how do you find the value?
Nick: This is something I haven’t communicated very well to people currently using the app because they feel the stated values are too low. The purpose of the app is not to give you an exact value of your collection. There are other resources that play in that space. Apps that offer services to the collector AFTER the book is obtained. Key Collector Comics is every collectors key issue advisor. It identifies which comics are the issues most collectors want to own and give purchase parameters so that if someone buys it at the stated price related to the condition or below the price, they will have immediate investment built into the book. What I’ve done is take 3-6 months of auction sales (data permitted) and pull back on the value anywhere from 5 to 10 percent.
Ian: There are three ways to search in the app; search by Title and Character, or browse by Category, can you tell us a little bit about these search options and how you came about them?
Nick: Of course I can tell you a little bit about the search options! Search by Title while you’re flipping through a series of multiple issues and if something on the screen matches something in the box, you found yourself a key issue. For example, between the Amazing Spider-Man 316 (1st cover appearance of Venom) and #344 (1st cameo of Cletus Kasady who becomes Carnage) there are no issues listed because not much happens that we still see the repercussions of today therefore the app will not have any issues listed. Collectors can assume that these are $1 books and consider that in the valuation of a collection. Some people like to catalog every single book they own but its time consuming so why not just catalog the comics that matter?
Search by Character reveals history of any of the thousands of characters in the database, from 1st appearance to where they are today and the milestones that happened in between to define who they are. For example, Wolverine. With Key Collector Comics you’ll know when his berserker rage was first introduced to the mythos, when he was first called logan, his first fight with Sabretooth, the first time the words “I’m the best there is at what I do” appeared on the page.
Finally, Browse by Category is really more for fun than anything but also for the newest users who want to find a recommended classic storyline or want to see 100 Iconic Superhero Covers. There are currently 75 or so categories to browse by. Admittedly I’ve been so overwhelmed by the response to the app that I haven’t been able to give that browse option the attention it deserves but I will very soon. For now, in that section you can also see what new keys are added on a weekly sometimes daily basis.
Ian: This app is endorsed by Valiant Comics, how did you come about this endorsement?
Nick: I was able to secure a table at the NYCC last minute. Someone dropped out, I dropped in. I barely had anything as far as promotional materials go. A couple computer screens on a loop and some fliers. Needless to say, getting people’s attention was a struggle. But Dinesh, being the kind-of-guy he is, inquisitive, passionate about the industry, humble – walked the aisles, shopped for comics and eventually came across my booth. Again it was barebones. I didn’t fault anyone for whizzing by me. But Dinesh asked “what do you have here?” I gave him the extended explanation just like you’re getting and he immediately grasped the concept, knew what the intention was and wanted to see it succeed because as he perfectly stated, “this is really good for the industry.” I was thrilled he said what I was thinking and what my intention was for building the app and being at the con.
We had a few conversations in the weeks that followed. I presented the Valiant Key Issue portal that connects fans directly into the dynamic universe of Valiant (which I can honestly say has the most creative stories, diverse universe and incredibly beautiful art of any books that are on the market) and Dinesh accepted. They help me with exposure and credibility while I familiarize the growing legion of Key Collector Comics members with the Valiant books in a non-invasive way.
Anyone knows what its like when walking into a convention with thousands of boxes, walls of comics…even online or at a store there’s just too much to know where to even begin. You can spend 8 hours in a store googling titles on your phone and get through 2 boxes. Then someone comes by who’s been at it for years, flips through a box in two seconds and walks away with 3 books Its discouraging. The fans of the movies who want to continue the adventure outside of the theaters often find that collecting their favorite heroes milestone moments, owning that which connects them to the hobby, can be a time-consuming, money-wasting, fruitless endeavor. That doesn’t sound very fun to me. But what sounds like fun is hunting for these books, knowing they won’t slip through your fingers or that youll be at it for hours then having a price monitor on the very same page. If you buy the comic…tap own, choose the grade and its cataloged into your account.
Ian: There is a function that allows you to add “Wanted” issues as a sort of collectors pull list, was this one of the features that ultimately led to the development of this app?
Nick: I’d say what led to build the app was pulling in all of the fragmented resources that are partially available here or there, bundling them together, make them comprehensive and credible then offer a solid product to people whose frustrations I can identify with. My advantage? I’m not a writer or artist but I love comics, always have and I’m enjoying being a part of the community.
Ian: What are some comics outside of collectibles that you have on your regular pull list right now?
Nick: Since September 2015, I haven’t read a comic, haven’t turned on the television, haven’t gone to the movies and a lot of other haven’t… Building this database, researching each individual entry and cross referencing it for accuracy, pulling in the price data, extracting over 8 decades of published comics into one single resource has taken up every second that I’m not working my actual full time job. Not reading a comic or buying a comic in two years has been one of many sacrifices that is absolutely worth it when I get a message that says “I love this app!” That type of response makes my day. It means so much to me that people are having fun with something I created. It hasn’t even fully hit me yet.
Ian: How can people get a hold of Key Collector Comics App?
Nick: Download Key Collector Comics for free in the iTunes or Google Play store or go to keycollectorcomics.com and access the stores from the links.
Ian: How can people get a hold of you?
Nick: I can be emailed directly from the app if you tap “my account” you’ll see an option to email me. I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or at Key Collector Comics.