By: Nicole D’Andria
Get ready to realize the worth of your comic book collection and add a lot more comics to your wishlist thanks to the Key Collector Comics app! The Key Collector Comics app is available on both Android and iTunes and it features a database with over 7,000 key issue comic books from the Golden Age to today so you can keep track of eventful comics, keep track of your collection, add items to a wishlist and see each comics’ value based on their condition. The team also just launched the Key Collector Comics YouTube Channel. But before you check out the app (or while you’re exploring it), enjoy my interview with its creator, Nick Coglianesse!
Me: What inspired you to create Key Collector Comics?
Coglianese: Well, I’ve been collecting since 1989 when Tim Burton’s Batman came out. It was always really exciting, even as a kid to now, that I had this character or that character’s first appearance. I went on hiatus from time to time but always found my way back to comics. Over the past 5 years or so, after moving twice and hauling long box after long box with me, I thought it was silly to have all of these comics. So I went through my collection and consolidated the hell out of it. I brought a ton of comics to Half Price Books and they offered me $15. I thought, all those years of collecting and money spent for $15, BUT I didn’t want to haul them all back so I just sold them. Of course, I kept the valuable ones, but since then, I realized there were some decent comics I let go because I didn’t know what they were! Honestly, I don’t even want to tell you what I let go of because people will think I’m too stupid to build a functional, helpful resource.
But I didn’t get the idea from that situation. I feel it was a culmination of situations that led me to what is actually a pretty simple idea. I still can’t believe I’m the first to do it. So I had all my keys (except the ones I gave up) and I kept on hunting for more. I travel a lot for work. I manage the sales distribution network in Wisconsin for a liquor company based in KY so I drive a lot. There are a lot of antique stores in Wisconsin and there are always comics at antique stores. One day I passed by a used book store in downtown Milwaukee. I stopped in spontaneously not knowing if they had comics but lo and behold they did. Even better, the first comic that caught my eye was X-Men #221, 1st appearance of Mr. Sinister. It was in great condition and going for a buck! So I bought it, kept looking and found a few more comics.
I knew a lot about key issues since I had been studying them but it was extremely difficult to commit to memory all of the ones I researched. So I had to Google each one I didn’t know, which was an all too familiar, tedious necessity. It sucks to individually research each issue while you’re standing in front of a lot of comics. It also sucks to open up your notes app and see what you jotted down on 20 different notes. Or check eBay for pricing once you find something. Then another app to catalog what you own. All of that took a certain amount of fun away from collecting, which adds to the genesis of the idea for Key Collector Comics.
I spoke to the used book store owner to try to get a feel for what else he had in the backroom or maybe somewhere else in the store. A lot of stores I’ve been to have comics that they don’t have out on display and you wouldn’t know that they had some boxes behind the counter. I could tell you stories about some of the comics I found by asking the store owner if they had anything else not on display. But in this situation the store owner revealed he had an off-site warehouse with over 30,000 comics in the basement. My eyes went wide and I didn’t even consider whether or not he was a serial killer for nerds. Thankfully he wasn’t because after visiting his store for about 6 months, asking to be let into this geeky Shangri-La and being rejected, he finally relented. We agreed to split the profits of whatever I found and sold on eBay and I got to work going through about 300 long boxes without any competition. I had free reign.
We did well with it. It was a lot of bronze and modern age junk but I found about 5 New Mutants #87. Found an Invincible #1 that I think sold for $500. Preacher #1 when it was hot. It was good and I was happy because this stranger (who is now a good friend) put his trust in me and I wanted to make sure he felt positive about the experience. By the way the store is called “Downtown Books Bought & Sold in Milwaukee”. Where was I?
Okay, so I wanted to confidently walk away from this feelin’ good about the service I offered. Sort of like a “I’m the best there is at what I do,” type of attitude. But to do that, I had to research the hell out of a lot of books. Googling over and over and over or going through a guide, reading the tiny print, sifting through the hundreds of thousands of entries. I was so frustrated I kept wishing there was a resource that isolated the key issue comics without the clutter of all the $1 books. I looked everywhere for something like that and knew it had to exist by now. Wizard Magazine used to have a key issue section that people LOVED, so why wouldn’t the idea transition to modern technology, conveniently available on a mobile phone? But it didn’t and I was pissed.
Then, after a few more weeks, it hit me. “Why don’t you do it?” And I was like “Me?” And I said, “Yeah, you!” I thought about it for awhile and said to myself, “Okay.” And that’s when the real nightmare began! Just kidding. Sort of. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. I found myself cross-referencing everything, getting different sets of information even from the PUBLISHER WEBSITES! Even from the information sites and books that were “experts”. Sometimes I’ll get emails now from people telling me my entry is wrong because they read on www.some comic site .com that the issue is xyz. That’s when I present my evidence to the contrary. I thought it would take me 3 months to extract the information from eight decades of publishing history and now that I say it, how foolish was I to think such a thing.
It’s been two years and I still find obscure keys missing but it’s definitely the most comprehensive resource in the world for key issues without the clutter that is available on a mobile device and I’m proud of it.
Me: How does your app differ from other apps that keep track of comic book collections?
Coglianese: The main difference is that it’s really everything that a collector needs to identify, purchase and catalog key issues. As I said earlier there were all these fragmented resources and nothing specific to what most of today’s collectors really want, which are the key issues. Why? The movies. TV. Graphic novels will give you the story and you don’t need to wait weekly. You just need to wait til the book comes out. People aren’t collecting runs of issues much. They want key issues because as expensive as an individual comic is today, key or non-key, it feels good to add something to our collection that has value or potential value.
Back to your question. It’s the only resource that focuses solely on highly collectible comics: first appearances, origin stories, iconic covers, variants, first meeting between two characters who become intertwined from that point on, recalled or banned comics and really anything that gives a comic a value threshold above $8. Collectors can use the app to quickly and efficiently identify what is valuable, searching by character, title or browsing by intriguing categories. They can use a simplified price guide to determine what the maximum dollar amount to negotiate in order to still have value built into the issue. The prices displayed are to collect these comics, not to get a real value of your total collection because there are other apps that do that. I wanted to do things differently. The price guide is to help collectors stay within pricing parameters that will make them feel confident with their choice and pleased with the result of adding something to their collection, which they can do on the app as well. Also, so you don’t have to open the notes section on your phone, you can build a wishlist of the comics you want. And the best part is it’s all free. No ads. No freemiums. It’s an app built for collectors by a collector and there’s no sneaky business going on.
Me: What are some of the updates you have added to the app to improve the user’s experience?
Coglianese: Wow. A lot. We just did our biggest update, which allows collectors to log information about their book on whether it’s graded and by which company, what grade it received, if it’s signed or restored. They can take pictures of their comics and make personal notes to store in their personal dashboard. We’ve improved functionality to make these smoother and cleaner, which is always the biggest compliment, how easy and fun it is to use. You can collapse the cover images to scroll through the entries faster. We added the browse by category button, which I mentioned. Collectors can search by comic age: Golden, Silver, Copper, etc. I’ve personally added probably an additional 600-700 key issues. There are now somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,300+ issues that each have an individual description as to why it is a key. And there’s more to come. Next week fans will be able to search by artist or writer. There will be a variant specific section as to not clutter the standard issue database.
Let’s see, what else… Oh, we’ll have one new individual endorsing us. One of modern comics’ hottest creators and a direct link to his specific key issues. He’ll be giving away some great freebies through the app that’ll make people very happy. That’s all I can say though. Sorry Nicole.
Me: You recently partnered with Valiant and Coffin Comics in 2018. Can you tell us what this means for Key Collector Comics going forward?
Coglianese: Moving forward it means a certain amount of credibility. I didn’t now Dinesh until I launched the app at NYCC and when I told him what it was he grasped it immediately, saying “this is great for the industry,” meaning all the new fans have a resource now to identify the comics they’re passionate about owning. So credibility that I have the trust of these established creators to represent their comics would be the most positive aspect.
Me: What are (in ranked order) your top three favorite first appearances/key issues and why are they your favorites?
Coglianese: That’s a good question. A difficult question so I’ll keep the options contained to just the issues I own.
#3 would have to be my Action Comics #869. I found it for $1 and graded at a 9.8 its worth over $200. I don’t sell my own personal books though like many collectors. It’s a recalled issue where Clark Kent is on the cover drinking a beer with his dad. DC started getting heat for it so they pulled the issues from the stores and slapped a label that said “Soda Pop” over the “Crow Beer” label then reshipped it. The label is so tiny it’s hard to even tell the difference, but it’s just fun to find something like that.
#1 would be the gift I was given by the store owner in Milwaukee when we were on our way down to C2E2 to drop of Amazing Spiderman #1, #2 and #4 to get graded. I didn’t find those in the warehouse, he had them in a safety deposit box after going through a collection he bought for $0.10 per book, not knowing what was in it. Turns out it was extremely valuable. But he didn’t know what to do with it in terms of maximizing his money so I demanded he get it graded and we went on a road trip. It graded at a 4.5 (#1) and he sold it for about $8500, I think. Like I said, we split everything that I found (not the comics he knew about) and for all the additional efforts he gave me House of Secrets #92, which was also in his safety deposit box in really unbelievably solid condition, sharp corners, flat without creases…beautiful! That’s the first appearance of Swamp Thing! It was one of my top wanted books, including Ghost Rider and Moon Knight 1st appearances.
Me: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Nick. And thanks for helping a lot of comic collectors showcase their collections and further the fervor for hunting down first issues! They’re also currently doing this comic book giveaway: