Book Reviews:

The  Comic Book Price Guide 1997/1998

by Duncan McAlpine

(Titan, 812pgs, £14.99, p/b)

With the continuing availability of America's Overstreet Price Guide (the comic collectors bible - now in its 27th year!), I could never see the point in a U.K. equivalent. Other than a fairly small section on British comics (none of which seem to be worth much) and dollar-to-pound conversions, there never seemed to be much going for a British guide in the past. Earlier editions of McAlpine's book were dull and primitive alongside the Overstreet books. But the U.K. Guide has changed a lot since the start of the '90s and so have collector's habits. This edition is packed with info that at last seems relevant to the U.K. collector. In this country, comic fans aren't so eager to pay the often unrealistic prices that U.S. collectors will. They have different preferences for condition and for the characters featured. On the other side of things, some comics are in more demand here as they were never originally shipped over to this country at all. These are just a few of the reasons why the American market is very different to the U.K. one, and that is why this book is now very important!

McAlpine is justified in his concerns to keep U.K. prices at realistic levels, as most British collectors will never see copies of most Golden-Age comics in this country, let alone have the chance to buy one in near-mint condition. They'd probably be grateful to won a copy of a 1940s classic in any reasonable condition. As well as the actual comic price listing (which runs to 600 pages alone), this book contains detailed price guides for Star Wars figures and bubblegum cards, as well as a myriad of other features. There is one on collecting Batman comics (McAlpine laments on his love for 1974's Batman issue 254 - amazingly, also one of my childhood favourites), and there's even an article on starting your own comics business. At over 800 pages this may seem exhaustive for those not totally obsessed with comics, but it is well written and easy to understand - catering for everyone with a passing interest in the subject. With recent reports of Action Comics issue 1 (Superman's 1938 début) being offered in the U.S. for a quarter of a million dollars (if it's not true - it won't be long!) it's all too easy to forget the main element of comics - fun. Duncan McAlpine seems more concerned with the enjoyment of comics than the seemingly market-obsessed American, and for that reason, for the first time ever, I have to confess I enjoyed this year's U.K. Comic Book Price Guide much more than its famous U.S. counterpart.

Matt Sewell