Comic Book Culling: Alternatives For Recycling Your Comics

Every headline touting a long-lost comic collection found in grandma's attic is sure to give retailers a slight headache. Whenever genuinely rare comics go for big bucks in auction, phone calls to comic shops from consumers with stacks of worthless comics from the 90's and dollar signs in their eyes are bound to follow. It would be a humorous situation if it wasn't such a time consuming (and frequent) occurrence to explain that no, your Death of Superman is worth less than the bag and board you put it in. Modern comic book readers know better than to believe the prevalent myth that comics are a sound monetary investment. Most fans have come to accept that these are a disposable form of entertainment (if you haven't, the sooner you come to terms with this, the less bitter you'll be later on). Recently I've seen more longtime readers  bringing collections in to sell back to the stores they bought them from, mostly siting concerns for space and wanting store credit to cover their ongoing buying habits. As the industry moves further into the realm of the digital age, it will be interesting to see how the face of comics' retail changes. Several newer stores have foregone the back issue market altogether since modern merchandise tends to sit unsold for long periods of time. For those who are looking to get rid of their overabundance of books, there are plenty of options besides selling comics to local comic shops or throwing them on Ebay. These certainly aren't your only options but they are creative ways to keep your once cherished and sometimes regrettable purchases from becoming landfill fodder.

Binding Your Comics
Image courtesy of Houchen Bindery
Having your comics bound is an exciting way to re-ignite the love you once had for these stories. A custom hardcover of X-Men: Inferno is far more likely to be re-read and shared than when it is hidden away in long boxes. Perhaps not every story deserves this indulgent treatment, but for the books you just can't part ways with, why not keep them around in style? Another added benefit of this service is keeping the original covers, ads, and letters columns in tact (though this is optional). I hope  to see these (and many more) bindery companies start making appearances at comic book conventions.

Houchen Bindery
Houchen is a library certified binder, and the quality of that standard shows in their work. They offer a wide selection of options for comic book binding, and they also provide templates for creating custom covers.

Comic Book Binding
Comic Book Binding is a division of Denver Book Binding and they are comic book fans just like you. They even have instructional videos on how best to prepare your comics for binding.

Crafting With Comics
A clever groomsmen gift from user Najaorama
If you are entirely certain you'll never want to read the stories from your collection again, or don't want to share them with others, then repurposing them for crafty uses may be the way to go. Clever crafters have found countless second lives for their comics including wallets, purses, jewelry and more. The papercraft possibilities are endless! Here are just a few standout re-uses:

Comic Book Party Banner (Friends, take note for my birthday next year)

Comic Book Starburst

Comic Book Necklace Pendant

Comic Book Flasks

Donating Your Comics

Whether you are handing your books over to a younger sibling, nephew, or neighbor, whoever the lucky recipient is they are sure to be grateful for the gift. If you don't know any potential readers first-hand there are several organizations that are dedicated to putting your comics to good use, such as Chicago's own Open Books. They will resell your unwanted books and use the profits from the sale to support literacy programs. Even Challengers Comics has partnered with this wonderful organization - you can leave your books with this local comic shop and they'll drop them off for you. The added benefit of going through an organization like Open Books yourself is that the donations are tax deductible. If you cannot find a local organization or don't want to pay to have your books shipped to a donor,  Salvation Army and Goodwill are always willing to take your comics. However, at a second-hand store your comics are just as likely to be bought by a misguided individual hoping to find a collectible as they are an actual comic book reader. A few more charitable organizations that will accept donated comics:

Comic Book Connection Initiative


Comics For Heroes

Keep in mind, the organizations that give books directly to children will only want your comics that are age appropriate for young readers. Many local libraries have "Friends of the Library" chapters that are happy to take graphic novels off of your hands as well, and that's a good option for books with content that is not all-ages friendly. Another alternative for donating your comics with adult content is to give them to troops  serving overseas. In particular, sending your more recent purchases is a great way to give active duty comic book fans a taste of home. An event comic may be in your distant memory, but for a fan serving overseas it could be a highly anticipated read as they wait months between visiting a comic book store.

Operation Gratitude

Operation Comix Relief

Operation Paperback

These are just a few of the many organizations willing to take your donated comic books, and most metropolitan areas have similar active groups. Simply search for "donating comic books" and your city or state and you're bound to find many more local charities. Even if it takes a little extra effort to donate your books, your comics will have an immediate purpose through a charity rather than sitting unsold in the shrinking secondary market.