FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Todd Berndt, owner of Berndt Comics, has been collecting comic books and action figures for 40 years.
“When I first started collecting, I was into superheroes,” Berndt said.
Throughout the years, Berndt said he has seen the world of comic books change and grow into a highly valuable hobby.
Unfortunately, any business dealing in collectible items must also deal with people trying to steal valuable items, and Berndt Comics is no exception.
On Sunday, a thief broke into protective cases at the shop, located off Coliseum Boulevard within Vintage Treasures Antique Mall, and fled with thousands of dollars worth of comic books.
One of the comic books that was stolen, a graded issue of X-Men #95, is worth roughly $800 alone.
Berndt said he has dealt with customers trying to steal small items in the past, but nothing on this scale.
“[I’ve seen] smaller people trying to take books, cards and stuff like that, but nothing to this scale where they’ve actually broke in and taken mass quantities,” Berndt said.
In addition to Berndt Comics; Sport Spot and Summit Sports, Comics & Games, two other collectibles stores in Fort Wayne; have also dealt with similar issues in the past.
Ron Straessle, owner of Sport Spot, said he has “beefed up everything” regarding security measures in the store.
Brad Bohland, floor manager of Summit Sports, said the store tries to keep high-value items out of reach to prevent thefts.
However, according to Berndt, security measures are not foolproof.
“We got a little bit of everything, but there’s only so much you can do,” Berndt said.
The recent theft shines a light on a massive rise in the prices of popular collectible items including comic books, sports cards and video games.
Berndt said certain comics, such as Action Comics #1, the first comic book issue to feature Superman, have increased in value by millions of dollars since he started collecting comics.
“You got people that are hardcore collectors. You got investment people that are in it for investment purposes,” Berndt said. “Like anything else — baseball cards, coins, artwork — you’ve got to put your money somewhere, so if you’ve got disposable income, you can throw it at something else.”
In 2021, eBay released a “State of Trading Cards” report that highlights the rise in popularity in certain collectibles.
From 2020 to 2021, eBay reported the trading cards category on its site grew by 142% with over 4 million more cards sold on eBay in 2021 than in 2020.
“I did not see the [explosion] coming, but it came at a time when there were a lot of rookies in various sports,” Straessle said, whose store primarily focuses on sports cards.
Regardless of the state of the hobbies, Berndt said thefts like what happened Sunday can do irreparable damage to small businesses like Berndt Comics.
“You can go on eBay any day, click and buy,” Berndt said. “But to find them in the wild or purchase them from another collector is kind of hard to do.”
Bohland said his store has a list of the stolen items from Berndt Comics in an effort to spread the word about what was stolen so people can keep an eye out for them.
More than anything, Berndt just hopes he can get his collectibles back.
“Some of the books I appreciated. I had them since I was a little kid,” Berndt said. “They’re still a part of my collection or a part of me until I sell them to somebody else or I pass them on to another collector.”