I’m a collector. I’ve always been weird about keeping everything in mint condition in the hopes that someday it would be worth money. Unfortunately, none if it is worth money. Thankfully, I like to collect stuff that I can also use: books, comics, VHS tapes, etc. Even though I wasn’t able to buy a house with the proceeds from selling off my collection, I’ve managed to learn a lot about collectables along the way.
Since I’m pretty entrenched in the world of underground fiction, I’ve been thinking about the collectibility of bizarro books. Obviously, the books are collectible, and everyone should collect books like Dungeons & Drag Queens, because they’re fucking cool and they look rad on bookshelves. But will they ever be valuable?
Two key factors are required to make something a valuable collectible: scarcity and desirability.
Most bizarro books are published via print-on-demand. This is a new element, the likes of which has never been encountered by collectors. Gone are the days of first prints and set print runs. Instead, individual copies are printed out to order. On the surface, this may seem like it would make scarcity impossible. Not so.
First of all, scarcity can be dictated by the publisher. For example, Dynatox Ministries produces limited run chapbooks using POD technology. Most of their books are issued in quantities of 25 or 50. However, scarcity can also be achieved naturally in the world of POD publishing. The fact of the matter is that this is still the small press. It is volatile. Publishers may go out of business. Books may be discontinued because of poor sales or expired author contracts.
Then there is the issue of new versions. For example, the early books of bizarro fiction frontrunner Carlton Mellick III are being reissued with new cover art. He has such a fervent fan base that the early covers have already become collectors items and are changing hands at prices well above the initial cover price. Bizarro Pulp Press recently became an imprint of Journalstone. In the process, some of the first BPP offerings are being reissued with new cover art, such as Adam Millard’s Skinners. Others have moved to different publishing houses in different editions. Will the original editions eventually be worth more?
Due to the nature of POD books, print runs are only known to the publishers and, maybe, the authors. So the true scarcity of a book will likely not be known until it becomes a sought after collectors item. However, it is safe to say that none of these books are being published in large quantities. Popular bizarro books may reach print runs in the tens of thousands. Most are lucky to crack the thousand mark. Many never pass the hundred mark.
If 50 copies of a book are published, is it a valuable collectible? Not if nobody wants it. Right now, there are shit tons of bizarro books coming out every year. They are all competing against each other for the attention of a relatively small readership. Beyond that readership, these books currently have limited appeal, limited desirability.
Which is to be expected. The bizarro fiction movement is still on the upswing, despite being around for over a decade now. More and more people are catching on to it every day. The word is getting around. But Bizarro is always going to be a cult affair. From a collector’s standpoint, that’s definitely a strength.
Cult shit, weird shit, tends to fare better as the years pass. Look at the current boom in VHS collecting. It’s not copies of the Breakfast Club that are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. It’s flicks like Devil Story. Independent, cult films that were issued in small quantities and then made even more scarce because most of them went to rental stores, where they were trashed and eventually thrown away. I wouldn’t be surprised if, 20 years from now, collectors were approaching bizarro books – with their lurid cover art and sensational titles – with the same fervor.
The True Value Of Bizarro Books
So you’ve got an old school copy of Menstruating Mall, some Dynatox books, a copy of Szmonhfu and This City is Alive, and maybe a Jack Bunny Bam-Bam book. Maybe you’ll be able to eBay that shit someday. Of course, everyone knows that bizarro fiction is not meant to be stashed away and protected. The true value comes from buying books, sharing them with your friends, spreading them around and talking about how awesome they are. So do that.