I had rather strange experience while browsing comic books with my son the other day. Another child picked a comic off of the rack and walked to the register with his father. As the clerk rang them out, the father told his child, "Remember-this comic is for saving, not for reading." I thought to myself, "What is a comic book for if not for reading?" I could tell the same thought had occurred to my son by the quizzical expression on his face.
Now, I'm well aware that some vintage back issues have sold at auction for huge sums (the first Batman appearance went for a million bucks last February). But shouldn't the value of an object come simply from our enjoyment of it? When I was a kid, a comic only cost a quarter but it carried a much greater value: it was fun. My friends and I read them, traded them, drew our own, and pretended we were the characters on the playground. I can't imagine that putting a comic in an airtight bag and filing it away fosters the same sort of emotional attachment. (And the same goes for toys kept pristine in boxes and baseball cards locked in a vault!)
Kids are getting the wrong message when they grow up thinking that everything is going to be worth something on Ebay someday. A Batman comic from 1939 fetches a high price because so few copies survive. But today, everything is collectable. Therefore, nothing is! Young people will learn far more realistic lessons about money if their parents teach them how to budget and save. (I guess that means that we adults first have to get a right perspective about "the stuff" in our lives-as tools and blessings-rather than as something that defines our lives or gives them value.)
A step in the right direction would be showing children how to carry rolled up comics in their back pockets and helping them stick baseball cards in their bicycle spokes!
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator at Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups.