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What's the Most Expensive Comic at Comic Archive?

Brad DeRosier runs Comic Archive, a vintage and used comic book store, out of Dresher Arcade on West Main Street. He showed us some choice items at his Lansdale store. A Magic: The Gathering tournament is happening there too.

His name was Mark Raxton and he debuted in "The Amazing Spider-Man" No. 28 in September 1965. Fans know him better as Molten Man.

It was that appearance in that comic that has made that issue a rarity, according to Brad DeRosier, owner of Lansdale comic book shop Comic Archive, located in the front of Dresher Arcade fronting West Main Street.

The store is about two minutes from the Lansdale train station. 

"That comic is $350," he said. "It’s the first appearance of Molten Man. I don’t know why it's so expensive. Molten Man was very popular, but he wasn’t in the series for very long. It's only copy I’ve ever seen and you don’t see if often, as it's from 1965."

It doesn't stop there. DeRosier also covets a copy of "X-Men" No. 300, signed by Stan "The Man" Lee himself. It comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.

"To just go get his signature, you have to pay $40 to get into Comic-Con, then pay $50 to get his signture, you stand in line for six hours. You're already at $100," he said. "I'm just saving you the time of going to Comic-Con."

Comic Archive recently celebrated a year in business in Lansdale Borough. Its origins begin with DeRosier's spur-of-the-moment visit to The Archive Books, located in the big, yellow, metal warehouse on West Second Street in Lansdale.

"It was right place, right time," he said.

DeRosier was coming off a 17-year career in the automotive technician industry, and had just left a two-year stint with Monroe Muffler.

"After 17 years, I had nothing to show for it," he said.

He went to The Archive to browse for some comics.

"I was going through and seeing pretty valuable comics, that they were charging for $1, $3. I built up a large collection at $20, $25 a week," DeRosier said.

A comic fan himself since he was nine, the North Montco Technical-educated DeRosier approached owner Dale Mechalas of the possibility of opening a comic book store.

"I said to him he should be charging more. He said he was trying to make a profit, but they were worth a lot more than that," he said.

The two worked together and found space to rent at Dresher Arcade, off Madison Lot, albeit near the back of the building.

In a twist of fate, the former "Just Obsessed" store skedaddled from its space along West Main Street at the Dresher Arcade entrance, and DeRosier found a new lair for his business.

"We've noticed a lot more traffic," said DeRosier. "On a Sunday, if five people came in, that was a good day back there. Now, there are days with 20 people in the store. Even more on First Friday."

Comic Archive's far wall is adorned with boarded and bagged vintage comics, ranging in price from $5 to $100. There are some recognizable ones to avid fans, like "Uncanny X-Men" No. 142, also known as the second part of the two-part "Days of Future Past" storyline. The storyline is also the plot of the upcoming X-Men movie by Bryan Singer.

"There are different types of collectors. Some buy them for their value. It's buy low, sell high," DeRosier said. "Some buy for the artwork. Some ust like to read them."

Glass cases hold "Magic: The Gathering" rare cards and decks, graphic novels, anime statues and cels from "Grendel" and "The Maze Agency" from the defunct Norristown-based Comico: The Comic Company.

The biggest draw to Comic Archive is its $1 comic bins. Alphabetized and easy to find. 

"Everybody comes in for the $1 boxes. A lot are enjoying and reading them," he said.

There's a contest now: Find the $38 comic hidden in the bins, and get it for $1. Your picture will also be taken for the Comic Archive Facebook page.

"There's something for everyone," said DeRosier. "We start as low as $1 comics."

Comic Archive is starting to build up its figures, "Magic" products and $1 comic area.

"I have 40 bins of comics to go through," DeRosier said. "I just purchased a collection of 10,000 comics."

DeRosier said the store was a much-needed commodity in Lansdale. The closest store, he said, is about 15 miles away.

"A lot of kids that collect comics don't drive. They don't get on the highway and drive," he said. "And I don't think parents would drive 15 miles and drop their kids off, all to play a game."

The community has gotten behind Comic Archive opening its doors in downtown Lansdale.

"People love the store. They are glad that we are here. They say it's been needed for a long time," DeRosier said.

Comic Archive doesn't custom order old comics, per se. You can message Comic Archive on Facebook with your wish list, and when DeRosier gets it, he will contact you and let you know you can pick it up.

Comic Archive also buys and trades comics, DeRosier said.

The most expensive comics that have walked out of the Comic Archive doors were "Silver Surfer" No. 1 and "The Fantastic Four" No. 48 from 1966, which was the first appearance of Silver Surfer. DeRosier sold them as a combo deal for $300, albeit in poor condition.

"When it is a key issue, most will not complain about the condition because they are hard to find," he said. 

Comic stores and comic fans have to deal with a major bane of the industry: overproduction of landmark comics.

"Like the return of Superman ("Adventures of Superman" No. 500), they overproduced it so much. Where you would pay $150, now you pay $5," DeRosier said. "It was supposed to be the biggest collectible. That's what killed the industry: there are very few comics from the 90s out there that are worth any value anymore."

As it surpasses its one-year anniversary, Comic Archive is gearing up for a premiere event.

Comic Archive is holding soon its debut "Magic: The Gathering" Ice Age sealed tournament with alliance booster. The buy-in is $150 with a maximum of eight people. You could walk away with a $600-value Mox Pearl card. Sign up at the store.

Come to think of it: the most expensive item in Comic Archive isn't a comic at all. 

It's an Unlimited Mox Jet Magic card, on sale for $650.

"When they made the original sets, there was nine cards called Power Nine. They were broken cards, too powerful," DeRosier said. "This one cost nothing to play. So, you could put it out on the first turn. They limit it to one to a deck, because some people would do turn one wins. What's the point of playing if you can win in the first time? It comes out to who gets lucky and rolls the dice first."

DeRosier said business has been a success in Lansdale.

"They say if you break even, you do good. We broke more than even," he said.

Comic Archive can be found online at www.ComicArchive.biz.

Comic Archive, 319 W. Main St., Lansdale, is open Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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