x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Dubai-based Brit’s comic book collection far from fantasy

Collecting comics is all in a day's work for private banker Peter Georgiou, whose collection is worth more than $1m

Peter Georgiou with his rare collection of Comics from Fantastic Four to the Hulk. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Peter Georgiou with his rare collection of Comics from Fantastic Four to the Hulk. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Peter Georgiou came to the UAE seven years ago to work for a Swiss private bank. For more than 30 years, the Dubai-based Briton, 44, has been collecting comics and has, over that time, amassed a collection of more than 1,500 comic books.

You must have started this hobby as a child?

I’ve been collecting rare comics since 1983, when I was 11, 12. The kind of books I collect are very rare Marvel comics. Books featuring characters such as the Amazing Spider Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk are my priorities.

Do you do this for fun or as an investment?

With rare comics you have two kinds of collectors: somebody that collects because they love the books and also looks at the investment component. But then you also have some that purely look at the investment aspect and have no love of comics but can relate to the main characters: Batman, Superman, Spider-Man. From a very young age, it was purely a love perspective of books and as I started getting older I started noticing the values.

Do comics appreciate greatly over time?

Action Comics #1 was published in 1938 and has the first appearance of Superman. Amazing Fantasy #15, which has the first appearance of Spider-Man, was published in 1962. Thirty years ago, Amazing Fantasy #15 was about £300, Action Comics #1 was £1,100. Today, Action Comics #1 is the most expensive comic on the market; the last high-graded comic was sold about a year ago by Metropolis Comics for $2.16 million. Amazing Fantasy #15, a copy was sold two years ago for $1m. Every decade, you see a huge increase on most books. From the investment perspective, it’s a great asset class, it’s very liquid. If you needed money you could sell a key book very quickly and get paid quickly. And it’s been appreciating quite dramatically.

Can you remember your first purchase?

In 1983, I was with my father at one of the premier London comic conventions. My budget as a young boy was £50, which was a tremendous amount of money in those days. With that money I acquired Spider Man #14 with the first appearance of Green Goblin which cost me £8. That book today, in the grade it is, is comfortably $10,000-$20,000.

How much is your collection worth now?

It’s in the seven figures (US dollars).

You probably keep it under tight lock and key then?

Some books are with me here in Dubai — some quite valuable but not the high, high end. The majority of my collection with the value books are in a vault in London. I also have some at my parents’ home.

Do you ever get them out to admire them?

The ones I have I put them out on the floor and view them at a distance but they are put in protective covers by a company called CGC, which is a third-party grading company. Once they are in the case and sealed, you’d be mad to open it because once you do open it, the grade of the comic has to be redone. Grading comics professionally, you pay a percentage of the value of the book. So if a book is $10,000 or $20,000 it could cost you $500, $600 to grade.

You’ve travelled to comic conventions — mostly in the US and the UK — for 25 years. In April, you went to the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. What did you think?

I was pleasantly surprised. It was the third year [in Dubai], but I hadn’t attended the previous two. But it was very, very organised. There were a few teething problems, a bit of the layout. I spoke with the organisers and they agreed a couple of things could be a little bit better, but of course they are still learning. But overall it was very professional, the attendance was very, very good and it keeps going up quite dramatically.

In the age of eBay, do you buy comics over the internet?

I don’t for the simple reason that I like to know who I am buying from. If a book becomes available and I am not too sure of the owner or the validity of the grade or the quality of the book I would put Metropolis Comics to deal on my behalf; they take the responsibility.

So there are fakes?

What you will find is that there are a lot of books that aren’t the grade that they proposed they are; or something’s missing on the back cover; or there are pages missing; or what they have shown you on the picture is not the actual book you are buying. I’ve never experienced that, but I know a lot of people who have.

What will happen to your collection ultimately?

I have two boys who are 17 and 18 and when I’ve moved on my collection will be theirs. What they do with it at the point, God knows.

lgutcher@thenational.ae

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