Collector donates 1,500 comic books to library

By Josette Keelor

Every March and October, the Friends of Handley Regional Library has its used book sale at Bowman Library in Stephens City. It’s typical to receive thousands of donations, but what’s unexpected is what might come through the library doors every six months.

Last year it was 6,000 music CDs, said Handley Library Executive Director Barbara Dickinson. This year, it’s nearly 1,500 comic books and graphic novels.

The donation barely made a dent in 7,000 comics Capon Bridge, W.Va., resident Greg Cunningham has collected since the 1970s. But visitors to next week’s library fundraiser will have a lot to uncover.

“I gave them the ‘Swamp Man’ series,” Cunningham said. He also donated numerous issues of “Darkhawk,” New Teen Titans,” “Tales of the Teen Titans” and “Metal Gear Solid,” which he said started as a computer game but was converted into a comic book.

He also gave the library some zombie books, graphic novels like Stephen King’s “Creepshow” and a promotional “Just Say No” drug awareness campaign booklet from 1982 that Nancy Reagan launched.

Cunningham kept his Walt Disney comic books published in the 1950s when they were only 10 or 12 cents each.

“Those have intrinsic value,” he said. He also kept his “Walking Dead” comics.

“I’m looking forward to the next series that’s coming out, but I also kept my ‘Wolverine’ and a lot of my ‘Spiderman,'” he said.

“Someday you might sit down when you’re retired and you might relive.”

Each of the donated comic books comes with an acid-free bag, and Cunningham said they’re all in near mint condition. After looking up their value in the “Overstreet Price Guide,” he expects some are a worth a lot, like “Creepshow,” which he estimates at $40-$70 because it’s the sixth printing out of only seven or eight.

“‘Creepshow’ was a cult science fiction show, but these stories were written by Stephen King,” he said.

He prices the nearly 1,500 books he donated at $6,300.

“They actually were surprised I gave them everything,” he said.

The sale opens to the public on Tuesday since Monday night’s hours are for Friends of the library, and Dickinson said those who buy a membership on Tuesday can come that night and get a first look at what’s available.

“This is stupendous, by far the most volume we’ve had so far,” Dickinson said. Still, she expects more donations to come throughout the week, so she encourages shoppers to come more than once.

“The community is very supportive of the library,” she said. Money raised through the sale will help the library system’s locations in Stephens City, Winchester and Berryville, paying for Dickinson’s salary, other staff and new shelves for the libraries. Dickinson said the library might also add donated books into its circulation to save on buying new books.

A longtime fan of the library, which he called “a safe haven,” Cunningham said he made the donation because he wanted to help out the library.

“It was eligible for a tax write-off,” he said, “but I chose this sort of a donation because, you know, I’ve had these comics for years, but I thought I always enjoyed the Bowman Library.”

He said reading comics helps reintroduce a younger generation to the joy of reading and that the format allows readers to interpret the stories differently than they would by from traditional books.

By reading the words and viewing the pictures, he said, “You almost learn twice.”

The library book sale will run Tuesday to Saturday at Bowman Library, 871 Tasker Road, Stephens City, with a members-only preview night from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday. Memberships will be available at the door for those who wish to join. The sale will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 540-662-5046.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com