"Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn't matter."
–an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams (1922)
As comic book collectors, we've been conditioned to seek out the perfect, the flawless, the Near Mint (since, as we're told, "Mint" is simply an impossible ideal).
However, when it comes to condition grading, I guess I've always been a bit more tolerant toward comics from the "the bad side of town". The way I see it, a well-worn comic book shows how much it's been enjoyed and treasured over the years. Yeah, they're shunned by the hardcore collectors who encase flawless comics in plastic slabs and brag up their "unread" status (how nuts is that?), but to me? Roughed-up comics have character, a sense of history, and signs that human hands actually touched it (gasp). In other words (using Velveteen Rabbit vernacular), they seem real.
I've got plenty of well-worn comics in my collection, but I think the one that comes closest to the "Velveteen Comic" ideal is my spectacularly dilapidated copy of Amazing Spider-Man #145 (1975). It was my first Spider-Man comic book, joining the scant five or six other comics in my tiny (but growing) collection. Here it is in all its Poor-minus glory:
It was read dozens of times, the cover traced a couple dozen more, the Marvel Value Stamp on the inside cut out, incompetently re-stapled, with my name crudely scrawled with orange marker on the splash page.
Is this book likely to spark a heated bidding war on eBay? Nope.
Will it be displayed on a dealer's wall at the San Diego Con, right next to slabbed copies of priceless key issues? Never.
Will it remain a fondly-regarded part of my collection? Of course!