The afterlife: Where do comics go when you die?
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Just wondering... what happens to your comics when you die?  In general terms... I'm not looking for specifics about your situation.  This could have gone in Comics General, but I like the civilized camaraderie of the GA gang.

Here's what's going on.  My family and I are all in perfect health and hope to walk this planet for many years to come.  However, the terminal illness of a friend has shaken me out of my complacency, and now my wife and I have been trying to get things in order in the event that something happens to one or both of us.  She asked what should happen to my comics if I die.  I could tell she's worried that the comic book collection would instantly become a burden if something happens to me.  So I've given it a lot of thought and provided some written instructions.   Since I’m not the first person to be faced with something like this, I thought I’d see if any wise collectors are willing to share some advice.

My situation is probably similar to that of many collectors.  I have a few really nice pieces (a nice-presenting Phantom Lady 17, for example) and some nice-but-not-quite-as-valuable items (all the books mentioned in SOTI) and some stuff that I like but which has very little wholesale value (like collections of Valiants, graphic novels, Ultraverse, mid-grade Bronze Marvels, etc.).  I have a wife and kids who may choose to keep a few things of sentimental value, but who generally don't have an interest in keeping or collecting comics.  My wife will want to liquidate nearly everything when I die. 

My thinking is that she could choose from several approaches, involving various levels of effort.  Here they are, in order from least to most effort.

1)      Call a single trusted dealer and ask that dealer to take everything. Accept the offer the dealer makes.  Minimum effort, and minimum return.  If the dealer’s really shady, he could make out like a bandit.

2)      Call three different dealers.  Ask for offers from each for the whole lot.  Accept the best offer.

3)      Separate the collection into a few smaller-but-related collections, because dealers typically have their primary areas of interest.  After creating smaller-but-related collections (categories like Golden Age, Silver and Bronze Age, Original Art, and Everything Else), take approach #2 and accept offers from multiple dealers on each lot. 

4)      First, sell some of the best of the best stuff at auction, but taking care not to sell off ALL the key items.  An auction house would net the best price for, say, the Watchmen page.  But if all the good stuff is picked out, the offer for what remains will be nominal and some dealers may not want to touch it at all.

5)      Catalog and price everything in the collection.  Sell the most expensive items ($500 and up) at auction with a big auction house.  Sell the other somewhat valuable books  (Say, $20 to $500) individually on eBay or on my website.  Bundle the cheaper books into runs of $20 or so (because very few people will want to pay the shipping for a $3 book).  Sell the bundles via eBay or my website.  I mention method 5 only because it would probably net the most money.  It also involves a LOT of effort.  It would take years to do, and I’d be shocked if anybody in the family would want to take this on.  Unless my wife is retired and wants to take this on, or my kids want to make comic book selling a part-time job that puts them through college, this would not be the way to go. 

I've provided information on my filing system, and how to retrieve and identify the really valuable items.  I've provided the names of some trusted auction houses and trusted dealers, as well as dealers who are not to be trusted.

I’m thinking I have things covered, but…is there anything I’m not thinking of ?

Obviously if you’re reading this, you’re not dead.  But perhaps you’ve made similar preparations, or perhaps you know the spouse of a deceased collector, who says, “if only I had known X…”

Any advice for  me on additional information I should leave behind when I shuffle off this mortal coil? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don't provide "written instructions" - spell it out in a will.  Both you and your wife should have one.  Have the discussion with your family first and then engage a lawyer to formalize it.  Your family may not have an interest in comics now but that could change.  If a comic suddenly skyrockets in value, trust me, more than one family member who's previously had no interest in comics will suddenly develop a very strong interest in them.

You don't want to die intestate and then have a family fight commence.  The chance of a family feud is directly proportional to the value of anything...unless its disposal method is directly specified in the will.  Be specific in your will - name the valuable comics by title and number and what EXACTLY you want done with them.  The rest?  Do your homework first.  Ask around to see if anyone wants it (buy or otherwise) then put those instructions in the will.  Trust me, your executor/executrix will NOT want to to be burdened having to try and sell nickel and dime books requiring them to photograph, list, field questions and then have to package up and mail out a bunch of drek.  They'll have WAY too many other important tasks to look after.  

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We're quite similar in this respect @SOTIcollector

I have a list of my remaining stuff which I keep in my "I'm dead" file for my wife should I shuffle off the mortal coil unexpectedly. Every year I update it with the latest price I think each book could go for and I keep that with a flash drive of front and back scans along with detailed descriptions.  

I've included a list of dealers who could help, and explained how they would only offer a percentage of the value. Or she can leave it with my nephew or, if he survives me, my brother.

Keeping track of AM 15 is tough though. I may have to do monthly updates on that!

As things stand though, I may sell soon anyway so there'll be nothing left. I got a lot of fun out of the big sell off, and freeing yourself from a mountain of comics is strangely liberating. 

 

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1 hour ago, pemart1966 said:

Don't provide "written instructions" - spell it out in a will.  Both you and your wife should have one.  Have the discussion with your family first and then engage a lawyer to formalize it.  Your family may not have an interest in comics now but that could change.  If a comic suddenly skyrockets in value, trust me, more than one family member who's previously had no interest in comics will suddenly develop a very strong interest in them.

You don't want to die intestate and then have a family fight commence.  The chance of a family feud is directly proportional to the value of anything...unless its disposal method is directly specified in the will.  Be specific in your will - name the valuable comics by title and number and what EXACTLY you want done with them.  The rest?  Do your homework first.  Ask around to see if anyone wants it (buy or otherwise) then put those instructions in the will.  Trust me, your executor/executrix will NOT want to to be burdened having to try and sell nickel and dime books requiring them to photograph, list, field questions and then have to package up and mail out a bunch of drek.  They'll have WAY too many other important tasks to look after.  

I appreciate the input.

I should have indicated that I'm familiar with the importance of a will, and that's taken care of.  The will's instructions for the comics are straightforward.  They are part of my estate, which is specified in the will.  Whoever gets the comics then owns them.  What I want exactly done is for somebody new to own the comics with zero strings attached.  That person, or those people, may choose to keep them, or sell them, or line a birdcage with them if that's what they choose.  I will not burden anybody will telling them what they must do with their newly-acquired property.  I can prepare them with some possibilities "if you choose to liquidate, here are some routes you may choose".   But ultimately, what is done with them once sombody else owns them is their business.  

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1 hour ago, Marwood & I said:

We're quite similar in this respect @SOTIcollector

I have a list of my remaining stuff which I keep in my "I'm dead" file for my wife should I shuffle off the mortal coil unexpectedly. Every year I update it with the latest price I think each book could go for and I keep that with a flash drive of front and back scans along with detailed descriptions.  

I've included a list of dealers who could help, and explained how they would only offer a percentage of the value. Or she can leave it with my nephew or, if he survives me, my brother.

Keeping track of AM 15 is tough though. I may have to do monthly updates on that!

As things stand though, I may sell soon anyway so there'll be nothing left. I got a lot of fun out of the big sell off, and freeing yourself from a mountain of comics is strangely liberating. 

 

Thanks.  I'll probably adopt some of what you're doing.

I'm not going to sell it all off any time soon, but hearing the concern in my wife's voice regarding "what am I going to do with these?" has given me the resolve to unload some of the stuff with little or no value.  That full longbox of Ultraverse books that I'm going to read some day?  Yeah, it's gotta go.   Stuff that has close to zero wholesale value, takes up a lot of space, and that I will realistically never read, has got to go sooner rather than later.

 

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Just now, SOTIcollector said:

Thanks.  I'll probably adopt some of what you're doing.

I'm not going to sell it all off any time soon, but hearing the concern in my wife's voice regarding "what am I going to do with these?" has given me the resolve to unload some of the stuff with little or no value.  That full longbox of Ultraverse books that I'm going to read some day?  Yeah, it's gotta go.   Stuff that has close to zero wholesale value, takes up a lot of space, and that I will realistically never read, has got to go sooner rather than later.

 

Good shout. I felt the same way about Spider-Girl and about 2,000 Spidey appearance books worth tuppence. Get rid (thumbsu

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hey SOTI!  is one of the books your heirs would have to deal with my Your United States?  I've got them covered on that book, buddy! (thumbsu

a great question/issue, my wife feels the same way, as many heirs would.  I would flesh out #1 to three names, but at the end of the day really most dealers are capable of showing up and 5 hours later an offer and the books are gone, payment to follow.  For my wife it's more about sparing her the logistics than making money on the books.

Taking it a step further.  This will create a taxable, a reportable event.  Even if cash, the obligation is to 1040 it, either as a hobbyist or a dealer, hobbyist I would assume.  Each has its tax implications.  So someone will need to know the basis, the cost of the books, against which the proceeds will be applied.  Point them to a file somewhere that has that single number, however it's documented.  But not to worry too much, there is always a default basis for the book, it's the cover price!  If you paid more than that, your heirs would benefit from knowing that.  It doesn't mean you have to go over that number now.  But that number at that time will also help guide them by providing a context to evaluate offers from dealers. 

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Reminds me of a Chris Ware interview, where he goes on and on about all the "junk" he has and says he feels bad having all his collections of stuff that his wife and daughter are going to have to chuck into a dumpster when he is dead lol

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I actually have been thinking about this for a bit as I have had and am having some somewhat severe health issues.  At this point, I don't have a life sentence but it has made me more reflective and outside of my institutional assets, I have my collection.  With over 3000 slabbed books and roughly 25000 raw books, a few pieces of OA plus an entire climate controlled storage of vintage toys, games, figures, and other collectibles, I worry about the headache I will be leaving.

I only have one daughter and am divorced with no obligation to my ex as we settled amicably and opted to keep our own retirements and not splitting assets or debt as I took the responsibility to pay for our daughter's education, health/dental insurance, and car insurance.  To be honest, since my daughter had some major surgery after the divorce and the need to continue meds, and with the constant hikes in tuition and insurance, I came out on the downside but no headaches on the back-end so I am not complaining.  My ex and I did split the house proceeds and that was it.

So with that said, what I would love to do is to inventory all of my collection.  The easiest thing for my daughter to dispose of if she chooses would be the slabs as there is no grading needed and I have told her if nothing else, put them on Ebay for $1 and let the market decide the value.  I did also share with her how to use GPA and research HA archives and some other resources.  The raws and other collectibles are so mush more problematic.  Outside of an inventory, I am not sure how I can help her other than share some resources of values but I suspect the best may for her to hire appraisers and/consign many of the items.  Sort of tongue in cheek, I told her she can call American Pickers so she can get on TV lol

My pain is that in a year she graduates and may or may not go after a graduate degree but either way, she will really be starting her life and I really hate leaving her with this big chore.  My parents can help her some but they are no experts and obviously are not young themselves.  

So I am slowly trying as my energy and health allows to catalog as much as I can.  The best advice I can give everyone is don't turn 50, I went downhill when I hit that mark 3 years ago lol  Before that I never got sick and am an exercise fanatic.  I had been running and biking for over 30 years and went 15 years straight without missing a day for over 3 hours a day.  I never smoked or drank alcohol - just lucky that these health issues have hit me (luck can be good or bad, I guess).

 

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I think that it is great you are at least planning something. My mother had a somewhat large doll collection and when she died it was the chore to deal with, it had almost no monetary value and I still have about 25 dolls in boxes that I have not been able to even sell for $5, but because they meant something to her I can't bring myself to just throw them in the trash. I may resort to being the creepiest neighbor ever and give them out to trick or treaters.  :devil:  Whatever you decide at least there is a plan. Good luck.

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Super interesting discussion and one I recently began to think about and begin planning for.  I've always had a mix of graded and raw books with the majority being raw.  I've decided to bite the bullet and started sending batches to CGC of books that I value in excess of $200.  Aside from having a will, I'm providing my wife with contact info for 3 auction houses and would have her send to be auctioned directly as opposed to selling my collection outright to them or another 3rd party.  Think this option would net her the most amount of money although would take a bit more time.  Having them graded would obviously remove the subjectivity and potential for big price swings if she were to look to sell raw, and is the main reason I'm taking action now by getting them graded.

I've also been slowly changing my collecting focusing a bit to focus on higher $$ investment key books as opposed to collecting full runs although this is difficult and I'm still focusing on a couple of runs.  My game plan is to pear down from the thousands to a couple of hundred books over the next 5 or so years to limit the volume for her.

I've actually given her my credentials here on the boards as well in the event she gets tripped up along the way.

I'm 43 now so hopefully have a bit of time left here but I'm dealing with aging parents and all the issues that come with that and as a result of that things like this have been weighing on my mind a bit lately.

Thanks for starting the thread as I've learned a few things as a result.

 

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2 hours ago, telerites said:

I actually have been thinking about this for a bit as I have had and am having some somewhat severe health issues.  At this point, I don't have a life sentence but it has made me more reflective and outside of my institutional assets, I have my collection.  With over 3000 slabbed books and roughly 25000 raw books, a few pieces of OA plus an entire climate controlled storage of vintage toys, games, figures, and other collectibles, I worry about the headache I will be leaving.

I only have one daughter and am divorced with no obligation to my ex as we settled amicably and opted to keep our own retirements and not splitting assets or debt as I took the responsibility to pay for our daughter's education, health/dental insurance, and car insurance.  To be honest, since my daughter had some major surgery after the divorce and the need to continue meds, and with the constant hikes in tuition and insurance, I came out on the downside but no headaches on the back-end so I am not complaining.  My ex and I did split the house proceeds and that was it.

So with that said, what I would love to do is to inventory all of my collection.  The easiest thing for my daughter to dispose of if she chooses would be the slabs as there is no grading needed and I have told her if nothing else, put them on Ebay for $1 and let the market decide the value.  I did also share with her how to use GPA and research HA archives and some other resources.  The raws and other collectibles are so mush more problematic.  Outside of an inventory, I am not sure how I can help her other than share some resources of values but I suspect the best may for her to hire appraisers and/consign many of the items.  Sort of tongue in cheek, I told her she can call American Pickers so she can get on TV lol

My pain is that in a year she graduates and may or may not go after a graduate degree but either way, she will really be starting her life and I really hate leaving her with this big chore.  My parents can help her some but they are no experts and obviously are not young themselves.  

So I am slowly trying as my energy and health allows to catalog as much as I can.  The best advice I can give everyone is don't turn 50, I went downhill when I hit that mark 3 years ago lol  Before that I never got sick and am an exercise fanatic.  I had been running and biking for over 30 years and went 15 years straight without missing a day for over 3 hours a day.  I never smoked or drank alcohol - just lucky that these health issues have hit me (luck can be good or bad, I guess).

 

Life has a habit of surprising you when you least suspect it and your hobbies can sometimes start to seem unimportant. But often, they can be the glue that keeps you going once the dust has settled and you find yourself with time on your hands. You seem to have a good attitude to it all @telerites so I hope things go well for you in all respects.  As Clint used to say, "fair's got nothing to do with it", so we battle on. 

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Very interesting discussion but I can't help but feel sad reading it... :(

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6 hours ago, Xela said:

Very interesting discussion but I can't help but feel sad reading it... :(

Don't feel sad @Xela, it's all part of the process of the collectors existence. They say it's better to have loved and lost remember... I had an absolute ball collecting comics for many many years. And I had a ball selling them too. And now I just dabble enough to keep me close to it all, because comics are in my DNA. 

There are three groups to consider when you get older I think. You, your loved ones and your comics. You want to do right by them all. So moving your comics on to grateful recipients by selling them properly in advance is doing right by your comics - they don't end up getting 'chucked out'. Paring your collection down helps you do right by your loved ones - they don't have the pressure of dealing with them and potentially unscrupulous dealers if you pop off first. Keeping back a small amount does right by you - it keeps you in the comic world you love.

I've enjoyed all the phases, and continue to enjoy the small areas of investigation I've retained. I still go to fairs and shops, I still admire the look, feel and smell of old comics but I just don't buy and own mountains of them anymore. I have some cracking memories and I know that if I fall down a hole tomorrow, no one I care about will have any comic related hassle to deal with.

You may not understand this if you're 30, or even 40. I think you might though when you hit that magic number where you start to see your loved ones go, and you stop and take stock. Of everything.

Death is a tragedy for sure. I don't have an issue with it, but I'd rather not be there when it happens, and I hope it is many many years off for me. But it will happen. I could be selfish and live only for my needs and wants. Keep everything! Or I can consider others......

So don't be sad.........

hm

.......?

Bang! 

:wink:

 

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3 hours ago, Marwood & I said:

Don't feel sad @Xela, it's all part of the process of the collectors existence. They say it's better to have loved and lost remember... I had an absolute ball collecting comics for many many years. And I had a ball selling them too. And now I just dabble enough to keep me close to it all, because comics are in my DNA. 

There are three groups to consider when you get older I think. You, your loved ones and your comics. You want to do right by them all. So moving your comics on to grateful recipients by selling them properly in advance is doing right by your comics - they don't end up getting 'chucked out'. Paring your collection down helps you do right by your loved ones - they don't have the pressure of dealing with them and potentially unscrupulous dealers if you pop off first. Keeping back a small amount does right by you - it keeps you in the comic world you love.

I've enjoyed all the phases, and continue to enjoy the small areas of investigation I've retained. I still go to fairs and shops, I still admire the look, feel and smell of old comics but I just don't buy and own mountains of them anymore. I have some cracking memories and I know that if I fall down a hole tomorrow, no one I care about will have any comic related hassle to deal with.

You may not understand this if you're 30, or even 40. I think you might though when you hit that magic number where you start to see your loved ones go, and you stop and take stock. Of everything.

Death is a tragedy for sure. I don't have an issue with it, but I'd rather not be there when it happens, and I hope it is many many years off for me. But it will happen. I could be selfish and live only for my needs and wants. Keep everything! Or I can consider others......

So don't be sad.........

hm

.......?

Bang! 

:wink:

 

Preventing your family having the burden of the comics is a good way to look at it.... I'm only 25 so I hope I don't have to deal with it this for many years

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4 minutes ago, Xela said:

Preventing your family having the burden of the comics is a good way to look at it.... I'm only 25 so I hope I don't have to deal with it this for many years

Indeed. I'm only 15 myself so have a way to go yet (thumbsu

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I would hate for my family to have to deal with my storage locker.  I plan to sell everything around the time that I retire so we can have fun traveling, etc.

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9 minutes ago, nearmint said:

I would hate for my family to have to deal with my storage locker.  I plan to sell everything around the time that I retire so we can have fun traveling, etc.

That is my plan as well. I will start the process in the not too distant future. 

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On 10/21/2017 at 7:07 PM, Dr. Love said:

Taking it a step further.  This will create a taxable, a reportable event.  Even if cash, the obligation is to 1040 it, either as a hobbyist or a dealer, hobbyist I would assume.  Each has its tax implications.  So someone will need to know the basis, the cost of the books, against which the proceeds will be applied.  Point them to a file somewhere that has that single number, however it's documented.  But not to worry too much, there is always a default basis for the book, it's the cover price!  If you paid more than that, your heirs would benefit from knowing that.  It doesn't mean you have to go over that number now.  But that number at that time will also help guide them by providing a context to evaluate offers from dealers. 

My impression is that collectibles get the same step-up as other assets, so capital gains shouldn't be an issue.  Might be worth double checking, though.  

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