Which brings me to my question...I know this place is a wealth of information, but man oh man, there are tons of threads to wade through. It's overwhelming to see all of this knowledge. Are there any places online you'd recommend I start going to? Some place to familiarize myself with this era of comics?
(1) First thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the search function on the site. It takes some trial-and-error but it will help make some sense of the sea of text this site has accumulated.
I just used the search to find a past thread
about good books that delve into the history of comics.
(2) Here are some books I recommended in the above thread:
-- "Comix: A History of Comic Books in America" by Les Daniels
-- "A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics," edited by Michael Barrier and Martin Williams
-- "Great American Comic Books" by Ron Goulart
-- "Comics: Between the Panels" by Duin Richardson
Also, the Gerber Photo-Journals, and the Overstreet Price Guide, are very cool resources. The Photo-Journals are two big books with full-color glossy pictures of most of the great golden-age books (there are also similar journals focusing on silver-age stuff). They can often be found for about $30-$50 plus shipping.
The Overstreet Price Guide gives you a relative sense of the value of everything, as well as containing myriad notes and details about particular titles and issues. These days the book is not considered as essential as it used to be, thanks to numerous online resources. But I still find it pretty indispensable.
(3) Get to know the various online resources. There is a thread somewhere that lists a great many of them.... I will search for it....
Okay, here it is
Learn the various sites out there, and bookmark your favorites. New sites are cropping up all the time. Some of the older ones have died out (or should).
(4) Learn grading. Learn condition. Learn to spot restoration (glue, tape, tear seals, color touch, trimming, etc.). Many collectors, when first starting, will have to climb a steep curve on this stuff, and they'll probably pay a financial price for it. I can't tell you how many golden-age comics I bought and didn't know they were restored. Later on when I decided to sell them, I sold them as restored and often took a steep loss as a result, which I considered the payment for learning. There were also many comics I bought that had problems I didn't realize were problems, only to look over the comics years later and say, "Wait a minute....the center wrap page is missing! All this time I thought I had a complete copy! Augghh!"
(5) Resist the urge to make it about financial investment. Make sure the hobby is fun and the focus is mostly on the art and stories and history. Let the financial part be a happy by-product. It gets too cynical if people are just buying things to press and flip, or speculate.....I don't believe in treating comics like they're stock certificates, even though there are parallels.
(6) When collecting, take it slowly and try to figure out a collecting focus. It is more fun if you narrow down your goals to particular publishers, artists, themes, or whatever. If you don't, you might find you run out of buying resources too quickly and end up with a very random collection. Of course, sometimes you have to buy stuff just to figure out whether you like it, so feel free to make mistakes or shift gears along the way.
(7) Take pics, share stories, spread the joy of the hobby.