I was also going to include the year 2051, but I think 2045 was already pushing my expected life span a bit.
So there are those reality TV shows where folks buy the contents to abandoned storage units in auction, and then do their darnedest to pull a profit out of whatever they happen to acquire. I happened to see an episode where one of the buyers was digging through the boxes in the unit he purchased, and suddenly lifted up a handful of comics books which he declared to be worth five bucks each. The onscreen tally was thusly updated, $5 times whatever number of comics he had in his hand. Of course, watching this at home, knowing the kinds of comics one usually finds in these units, I suspected the value was closer to about five cents per book.
I vaguely recall a backstory for one of the participants in these shows involving a discovery of a comic book collection that actually was worth something, containing comics that people would want, but that is almost certainly the exception, not the rule, and I’m guessing the handful of comics that gentleman was waving around was more likely 1990s Brigades than 1940s Batmans.
The main reason for that is, given the prominence and popularity of these storage unit/collectibles shows, of late I’ve been seeing an increase of folks coming by the shop, introducing themselves as buyers of old storage units, and presenting for sale whatever comics and other related items they’ve found in said units. And so far, I’ve yet to see a whole lot of any significant collector’s value. It’s bulk ’80s and ’90s comics, generally, and any older comics I’ve seen brought in from these storage auctions have been damaged to the point of being unsellable. Or, at best, in poor enough condition that any offer I make based on what I think the comics could sell for is rebuffed by the sellers, disappointed that they’re not going to make their fortunes.
It’s not unfriendly interaction, by any means. They’re not sure what they have, and I think I’m fairly successful in communicating to them that I’m not trying to undervalue their material in order to get my hands on it cheap; I’m genuinely trying to explain to them why the comics aren’t worth a lot, or aren’t in demand. I had to explain to one person that the comics they had would have been worth something if they weren’t all water-damaged. To another I had to explain that while he may have seen the same comic on eBay for hundreds of dollars, the torn-up copy he had wasn’t worth anything close to that, and in fact I probably couldn’t sell it for any price. No acrimony, no accusations…most everyone’s been understanding and reasonable and believe you me, that’s a relief.
These storage-unit collections aren’t always a bust. I do occasionally find things I can use, though nothing’s been terribly expensive. I sometimes get the “aw, I thought these would be worth more” response, but they are still happy to get the money, and I certainly hope they know I’m giving them as fair an offer as I’m able.
And once in a while, after I look at a collection and decline it, the person selling it decides that they don’t want to bother taking it with them and just dump it on us as a donation. Usually I’ll just throw ‘em in the bargain bins, or (ahem) the recycle bin. However, just recently this one fellow, whom I unfortunately had to inform that his books were in unsellable condition, said “well, I had this, too, and I don’t want to deal with it, so you go ahead and keep it,” and tossed one of these on the counter before departing:
That would be a 1967 Peanuts wall calendar (or, rather, the Peanuts Date Book 1967). Here’s a shot of it opened up:
It’s not in bad condition…no water damage, no writing, doesn’t even appear to have been used. At worst, it may have been flipped through a few times, but otherwise it seems to have just been stored away for 46-something years. A quick look at Amazon shows some reasonable pricing in the $20-$25 range, plus some…enthusiastic pricing at nearly $200. EBay shows one being offered in the $12 range ($16 Buy-It-Now), and none showing up in the recent sales search. Had he actually offered it for us to buy, I probably would have passed, since old calendars, even neat collectible-ish ones like these, are a real bear to sell. But getting it for free? Heck, I’ll just keep it in the personal Peanuts collection, and besides, the calendar will be good again in 2017, 2023, 2034, and 2045, so I’ll be saving a few bucks those years.
I’ll still happily look through anyone’s abandoned storage unit collections. I’m sure the long promised copy of the first Superman that everyone’s claimed to have once owned has to turn up eventually.