Recently the Associated Press ran an article about a lifetime comic collector auctioning off his rather impressive comic book collection.
Jon Berk from Connecticut, 66, is auctioning his collection of 18,000 books and 300 pieces of comic-book art in May, 2017. The collection includes two of the “holy grails” of comic collecting – Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27.
As I explore minimalism as it relates to nerd culture, I was struck by how naturally minimalist Mr. Berk’s thoughts were on his collection.
“The time is just right to move them along and let someone else experience them.”
– Jon Berk
Minimalists are individuals who are seeking to live a more intentional life through ending their own addiction to physical objects and accumulation. The movement has gained significant attention with the popularity of the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (now available on Netflix).
There is a big focus in minimalism on “value.” Asking what an object or activity is doing in your life. Is it bringing you joy? Is it useful? Or do you have it “just in case” you might need it later.
Comic and book collections are one of the greatest repositories of “just in case.”
“Just in case I want to read it again.”
“Just in case it goes up in value.”
and, I suppose,
“Just in case there stop being new comics.”
For those who read my controversial column “How The Comic Bag Destroyed Comics,” you know that I am not a big lover of the comic purely as an object.
Digital, trade, reprint, or coverless, any package that gets the story to my eyeballs is the same as a mint first print to me. And a slabbed copy is nothing by a valueless block.
Mr. Berk loves comics as an artifact of American culture, but, more importantly, for the stories. Unlike many who might accumulate a collection like this, Mr. Berk did the unthinkable and took the comics out to read them!
He said friends were always surprised when he would let them flip through the near-priceless comics.
“What good is a work of art if you never look at it?” he said. “What good is a comic book if you can’t open it up, see how it feels and, yes, smells?”
This is one of the finest comic collections in the world, and the owner loves comics so much he is setting them free.
As I work through minimizing my own collection, switching almost entirely to digital going forward, I was inspired by Mr. Berk’s motivation to “share the art.”
This incredible collection has brought him value for 45 years, and now he wants these stories of costumed adventurers to provide value to others.
He is very right, packing away these amazing works of art is a waste. It is, put simply, selfish.
Mr. Berk is the kind of hero we need right now. I hope his collection spreads to the four winds and brings joy and value to everyone who reads one.
Keith Callbeck has recently launched his new blog “i like helping: minimalism in a nerdy world,” which focuses on the contradictory experience of being a minimalist in fandoms that encourage product tie-ins and accumulation.