18,000 comic books11/1/2017
West Des Moines collection of sequential art is still growing
Stored in the heart of Scott Wirth’s West Des Moines basement are 18,000 comic books. Wirth, now in his 40s, began collecting as a child, and during the last four decades he has amassed quite a collection. His lifelong passion began at a flea market in Boone.
“I still have my first comic,” he says. “It was a Lone Ranger No. 18. It’s the first one I ever remember buying.”
Some of Wirth’s first comics fell victim to his magic markers and crayons, but he enjoyed reading them and became a regular collector.
In the beginning, Wirth enjoyed many of the classic mainstays including Batman, The Avengers, Captain America and The Flash — although he didn’t take an interest in Superman or some of the other popular heroes.
Wirth continues to build his collection, as he buys more than a comic a day on average.
“On an average week, I buy about six or seven,” he says.
He bounces between three comic shops in town, as no single shop carries every comic he needs. Occasionally, he will order online as well. He estimates that he buys 40 per month in total, and he loves sequential art.
“I read two or three a day,” he says.
But Wirth doesn’t do it for the money. He believes in some advice he once heard.
“You shouldn’t buy them to make money,” he says. “You should buy them because you want to collect them. I enjoy it for the story and the art.”
The average comic book currently retails for $3-$4 depending on the publisher. Multiplied by 18,000, that equals a lot of money. Wirth’s collection does have monetary value, but it doesn’t amount to what he has paid. He points to one box that has approximately 300 books in it. He says a dealer would probably give him only $30 for the entire box.
“There’s no way my collection is worth $60,000,” he says.
He does have some nice comics, but not many worth more than $100, he says. The collection is comprised of his favorite books to read.
“I have some nice ones but nothing super-old before the ’60s,” he says.
Captain America is his favorite superhero, but he isn’t sure which is his favorite comic book. His best might be “Avengers No. 7” or “Captain America No. 101.”
“It’s not in very good condition,” he says of his prized Avengers. “But I have ‘Avengers No. 7.’ ”
If his house was burning down, and he could save only one, which would it be?
“It would definitely be the Caps,” he says, dodging the question by alluding to an entire series. Captain America has issued 700 comic books. Wirth has all but about 10.
But if he could take only one?
“The one book I would probably save of all the books,” he says, thinking for a moment. “That’s the one.”
He points to Captain America, issue No. 371.
“Cap goes on a date,” he laughs.
In the story, the hero has to buy new clothes because he hasn’t been on a date since 1940. Then he had to choose a restaurant and deal with first-date jitters.
“He was like a prom kid,” laughs Wirth. “I’d never seen him go on a date before.”
The most unique collection in the Wirth family might belong to his kids. Wirth has been organizing comic book conventions for 15 years. He is one of the promoters for the local Comic Book I-CON, which is organized by the Iowa Comic Book Club (ICBC). He often asks the comic artists who attend for a favor.
“I have also collected sketches from artists at all of our conventions for my kids,” he says. “They have a nice collection from some very famous artists in their sketchbooks.”
The art is original and one of a kind.
“Each kid has about three sketchbooks right now,” he says of his daughter and son. “They have some pretty amazing sketches.”
I-CON’s event, billed as Iowa’s longest running comic book convention, is set for Dec. 16 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Visit www.iowacomicbookclub.com for more information. ♦