A friend called this morning. “There’s a garage sale near me where a guy is selling old comic books. They’re from the seventies. You might want to come take a look.”

I did want to take a look, though I knew it was dangerous business. One key to managing your money is to avoid temptation. It’s foolish to purposefully put yourself into a position where you’re likely to spend.

And yet I drove to the garage sale to look at the comics books.

I’ve collected comics since I was a boy. I used to collect the actual magazines, buying them at grocery stores and bookshops. I grew out of that in high school, and in 1989 I sold my entire collection for $100 to a comic book store near my university. I needed the money to take a girlfriend on an expensive date. (The collection I sold included many fine runs, including all of Miller Daredevil, most of the “new” X-Men, all of Marvel Star Wars — basically all the cool stuff from the late seventies and early eighties when I had been actively collecting.)

Most garage sale comics are woefully overpriced. People ask $5 for a common-as-dirt mid-nineties Batman, for example. Nobody’s going to pay that. But the garage sale I drove to today was different. The seller had two boxes of mid-seventies Marvel comics, all of which were priced at about $2 an issue.

He had Amazing Spider-Man from about 115-145. He had Fantastic Four from about 130-160. He had Incredible Hulk from about 180-200. He had various issues of Avengers, X-Men, Captain America, and Daredevil. There was a lot of great stuff here, and two years ago I would have offered $100 for as much as the seller would let me take.

I didn’t do that today. Today I leafed through both boxes, thanked the man, and left. Why? Two reasons:

  1. I no longer collect the comic magazines themselves. I collect comic compilations.
  2. I’m a better money manager than I was two years ago.

Would I have liked to purchase these comics? Absolutely. They would be great fun to read, especially since most won’t be collected in reprint volumes for another five or ten years, if ever. But I can’t keep up with the comics I buy currently. I’m thinking of cutting back to collecting only comic strip compilations. And there are other things I’d like buy with that money. (MacBook Pro, anyone?)

In the end, I only spent a few dollars in gas to drive to the sale and back: a victory for the new frugal J.D.