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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.
Just a brief note to mention that I acquired a whole bunch of Malibu Comics’s Mortal Kombat in a purchased collection for the shop yesterday, including the limited silver foil edition of Goro Prince of Pain #1:
…the gold foil edition of Blood & Thunder
…and of course, the hologram edition of that first Blood & Thunder
I believe the accepted expression in cases such as these is “kids, ask your parents about the 1990s.”
Mortal Kombat is one of those comics franchises that we never seem to be able to keep in the shop. I still have a lot of back issue demand for these, and I suspect even this relatively sizable collection, about 80 to 100 pieces in all, won’t stick around in the old funnybook bins for that long.
Also, since you all seem to like it when I remind you of such things: these comics came out nearly twenty years ago. You’re welcome.
So I should probably note that I wasn’t ill, or in dire straits (or even in Dire Straits) over the last week, given some of the concern I’ve received of late over my brief hiatus. I appreciate the comments, the emails, and folks popping by the store seeing how I was doing, but I assure you, everything’s fine. There was some house stuff, some troublesome appliances, and plenty of general “life getting in the way” type things that simply kept me from devoting time to the worrisome endeavor that is my website. It is nice to know that people do care, and I thank you kind people for your attention.
One event that occurred over the weekend was a small comic convention being held at a local library. We sent Employee Timmy over with some kid-friendly books and merchandise for Seth’s dealer table:
…which was right next to the Ralph’s Comic Corner table (not pictured) run by Ralph and his wife. In terms of actual immediate profit, it wasn’t the most…financially successful thing we’ve ever done, but we weren’t really expecting it to be. We made some money, but in terms of advertising it was quite
successful, plugging our respective shops (well, basically the same shop…Ralph’s handles the old comics, Seth’s handles everything else) to plenty of new faces, and hopefully we’ll see them pass through our doors.
In addition, Sergio Aragones was the guest-speaker at the con, and alas I wasn’t able to be there in the evening for that event, but both at the shop and during my brief presence at the library I certainly heard from several people who were excited to see him. Pal Casie did report the next day that the talk was quite successful and attracted a good crowd, which is very good to hear.
Anyway, not bad for a first try at a library-con here, and we look forward to doing it again. Plus, when I showed up in the evening to help Timmy break down the table and take everything back to the shop, I got some heavy librarian-nostalgia vibes while transporting boxes through the back rooms. I almost felt like shelving some books. Instead I went back to the store and…um, shelved some books there. Or, rather, Timmy did. I supervised.
Another event this past weekend was the Halloween ComicFest, which is the industry’s attempt at creating a second Free Comic Book Day later in the year. Now we didn’t have anything really approaching the craziness of our last FCBD event, and I’m not sure the idea of “Halloween ComicFest” has really caught on yet with the general public (due to the lack of that all-important word “FREE” in the name), but we had plenty of people show up throughout the day and get themselves some free Halloween-ish comics, as well as availing themselves of our in-store weekend sales. So, you know, that was fine. I did a little pushing of it this year prior to the event, but I think next year I’ll try to find the time to go all out with costume contests and such to make it more of a thing. We are offering discounts to people who show up at the shop in costume, so at least there’s that! (I mean, real costumes, not just showing up in your regular clothes and saying “I’m dressed as a movie extra!” or anything like that.)
• • •
In other news:
- Pal Cully (whom you might have seen in my comments here on occasion) has started a Facebook page devoted to some of his favorite comic book covers: The Golden Age of Awesome, featuring images both incredible and impolite, with Cully’s brief commentary. Fun stuff…always a blast to look at some crazy old comics.
- Speaking of crazy old comics, those of you who remember this post of mine may like to know that the latest issue of IDW’s Haunted Horror, #7, reprints the story from which I took those panels. It is an awful, awful story, and by “awful” I mean “absolutely fantastic.”
The temptation to follow up to the comments on my Robot 6 interview is strong, but I think I’ll try to resist…mostly. A few folks there noted an actual, physical aversion to the very texture of DC’s 3D covers, which is a reaction I hadn’t heard at the shop. I did have a few people reject the 3D covers because they didn’t care for them visually, and others who expressed an aversion at paying $3.99 a pop, but people just plain not liking how they feel is a phenomenon I didn’t expect. Personally, I liked rubbing them together and listening to the zzzzzzip zzzzzzip sound, but perhaps I’ve said too much.
Interesting also is the gap between one commenter’s statement that “the idea any of these titles are going to be worth money in the future is laughable” and another’s statement that “these are going to be worth money.” The truth is somewhere between, as it often is, unless the eventual answer turns out to be “these will be worth exactly one visit to the King of the Moon!” which is waaaay outside the range established by the initial responses, admittedly. Right now, yeah, some of them are commanding Big EBay Bucks, but they’ll settle down to Slightly More Reasonable EBay Bucks in a few months, and I suspect future price guides, assuming a future industry to support publication of future price guides, will reflect slightly higher prices for these 3D issues over the issues that surround them. If the vast majority of them are going for any more than about $5 to $10 a year from now, I will be shocked, and thankfully the comments on this post will be closed by then in case I’m wrong. Anyway, in a year someone remind me to go look at the aftermarket pricing on these books and maybe I’ll write up a follow-up post, unless by then I’ve ejector-seated myself out of this crazy business and finally started doing something sensible, like deep-sea fishing.
The negative response to the comics themselves, not just in those comments but elsewhere on the Internet, are a bit of a surprise, too. Well, not much of a surprise since it’s currently DC’s turn to get kicked around by the online comic-gnoscenti, but in general my customers seemed to enjoy reading the comics, when they weren’t being frustrated by availability issues. Most of the ones I read I enjoyed, but, as I noted in an earlier post, I was generally just picking up the Villains Month issues for comics I was already reading (or featuring concepts I enjoyed, but shoved under the Justice League banner for the month), so I was predisposed to like the Villains Months issues I was buying. I liked most of the one-shots that tied into the main Batman book, for instance, but I passed on the Bane one-shot because, well, aside from the animated versions, and the amazing live-action version from the third Nolan Bat-film, I don’t much care for the character. I enjoyed the Doomsday issue of Superman/Batman, with its crazy-pants Krypton story and implications for how the Death of Superman now fits into New 52 continuity. We also got a new Mongul story in one of those Green Lantern one-shots, written by Mongul’s creator, Jim Starlin! That was pretty fantastic. And I enjoyed Swamp Thing‘s Arcane one-shot, as I’d discussed previously, and my issues with that particular comic were more related to the general Swampy-reboot as a whole than any specific Villains Month hoohar, but then, I’m Swamp Thing-obsessed so that should be expected. …And I’m sure some of you folks out there liked reading some of these villains comics as well.
In a more general sense (and I’ll stop using the word “general,” I promise) I don’t object to the idea of DC doing a big special event like this. If it gets people in stores and looking for comics, well, beggars can’t really be choosers, especially as the marketplace continues its ever-ongoing and seemingly-eternal upward scrabble out of the pit of the ’90s crash. I wish the event had been handled differently — let me insert right here the “NO DUH” you’re thinking right now. I wish it didn’t effectively make a bunch of titles weekly books for the month…I mean, if you were already getting all the Green Lantern books, you were basically buying a weekly GL comic anyway, but if you were only getting the main Green Lantern title, you may have felt compelled to get all four Villains Month issues, quadrupling your GL input, and that hardly seems fair. (Much in the same way Superior Spider-Man fans got about twenty issues of their title in nine months, Lucy-and-Ethyl-working-the-chocolate-conveyor-belt style). At the same time, just doing a Villains Month special for each of their regular titles would not have generated the same sales levels, probably; an All-Star Western 3D Villains Month special issue wouldn’t have generated the numbers of a fourth Superman special, hence that marketing decision.
In conclusion, I wish things were different and better and that everyone would be happy, and also I want more Swamp Thing titles, so long as I’m wishing for stuff. I also hope the next Big Event is not quite as headache-inducing, as long as I’m really wishing. And hopefully, that’s enough discussion of 3D covers on this site (until the aforementioned year-later post I may or may not do).
Next up: DIE-CUT COVERS – why these are a huge pain in the ass.
So in the comments to my last post both Robert in New Orleans and GregNGray mention stores bagging, boarding and / or otherwise preventing the handling of the new comics on display, in one case even requiring folks to go to the counter and request which new comics they wanted to buy after looking at the sealed-off selection. Now, I have to admit, I’ve been sorely tempted by those options after yet another person trying to park on the floor and read all the new comics without buying, or after discovering yet another comic that’s been thrashed beyond the ability to sell when we were somehow not looking. I think it was even pal Dorian who half-jokingly suggested having a store where people would go to the window, tell the trained roller-skating chimpanzee there what comics they’d want, and the chimp would zip off to the rack, grab the comics, and bring ‘em back to the window. Why a chimp? Hey, people love chimps. They’re cute, when they’re not doing something horrifically violent. But perhaps I’m getting off-message.
Anyway, it seems like restricting access to the new books by sealing them off, somehow, would do more harm than good. People have got to be able to at least browse a bit, otherwise how are they going to be able to decide if they want to start reading a seventh new Avengers title? Or, you know, anything else new or odd or interesting that may catch their eyes? And I mean “browsing,” not “sitting on the floor mooching free reads of entire books,” which will get you a well-deserved, mostly-metaphorical boot in the ass. Again, I’m certainly sympathetic to the responses of those retailers, but (and I’m saying this without knowing what exact circumstances caused those decisions to be made) a little more employee supervision and attention to the racks may be better in the long run than cutting off access.
Besides, I can’t imagine spending the time bagging ‘n’ boarding all the new comics for the rack each week. Who’s got that kind of time? I’m too busy teaching spoken English to roller-skating chimpanzees.
• • •
GregNGray also notes that he likes signage in his stores, and I agree. I try to put up signs everywhere, particularly identifying which graphic novels are where (from genre distinctions to featured topics and characters — “HELLBOY” or “WALKING DEAD” and the like), to clearly marking the all-ages sections (bookshelves and the new comics rack by the register), big signs on the back issue islands on the floor telling you which letter of the alphabet is where, and so on. I don’t really have a big sign saying “HERE ARE THE NEW COMICS ON THIS WALL,” but it’s a giant wall of new comics, it’s reasonably self-evident, though the new comics for the week do all have “new this week” tags on them. Our back issue bins behind the counters have tags on the front that (ahem) usually have the correct contents marked on them, though I’m shifting and moving comics so often sometimes I get a little behind in updating those. It’s still a work in progress, even after all these years, but I’m trying to get more signs up where needed.
• • •
Luke and the previously-mentioned Robert who is presumably still in New Orleans asked what sticky labels I use to seal comic bags, as using tape on comic bags is a punishment I believe that casts you into the outer ring of the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Hell. In general, we use Avery removable labels, usually the 3/4″ round ones or some of the rectangular ones that you can find perusing these pages. Some stores have their own brand of removable labels, and those should work as well, so long as you see the word “removable” on the package somewhere. I prefer using the white ones, as the colored ones seem to curl a bit more with use, and maybe this is just me, but they seem to be less…sticky, at least for the purposes of sealing and resealing a comic book bag. Anyway, the white ones also allow for a little more clarity when we write notes on them for in-store use (such as the comic’s condition, year of publication, etc.). And, best of all, there’s more of a chance that it’ll come off very cleanly should the sticker accidentally get stuck to a cover, which would be a total disaster with a piece of tape, particularly on older comics.
Now, at home, I also use removable labels, but a while back I scored a cheap deal on some 1 by 3 inch removable labels, which may seem a bit excessive in size, but I cut each label into thin strips which I then use to seal my bags. Since I’m not using those stickers for condition notes, like at store, it doesn’t matter if I don’t leave room for any writing (except for issue numbers, if necessary)…just so long as they’re wide enough for the seal to hold. I suspect I’ll be working on these boxes of labels for years. Unless I can get a comic-bagging chimpanzee to take care of them for me.
More questions, more hopefully-informative answers:
- Adam asks
“Mike, do you ever see any kind of temporary downturn for a brand when stuff like DC’s recent foibles (RE Batwoman and the Harley Quinn contest) come to light and make internet waves?”
In general, no, because most comic fans, the ones that actually go into shops every week and buy things, don’t seem to be impacted or even terribly interested in online shenaniganery much beyond general news announcements and reports of, say, shortages of 3D comic covers and such. The Internet comics world seems to be its own insular thing, with not a whole lot of overlap with the real world; otherwise, Thor: The Mighty Avenger would still be published, and Dan DiDio would have been run out of town by villagers with rakes and torches.
“Also, did people really like Spider Island?”
Yeah, they liked it well enough. The actual Spider-Man comics that tied into the storyline seemed to experience a bump in sales, while some of the other tie-ins didn’t really go anywhere. I haven’t seen much back issue movement on them, however, since once it was over it became just another Marvel crossover event like Fear Itself and Civil War that was forgotten as soon as the next event came along.
- Blogging brother Tim wants to know
“Serious question, why is 29 issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN that much worse than the situation in the 90s, when you had 50+ issues a year of AMAZING, SPECTACULAR, WEB OF, the adjective-less series, as well as a monthly VENOM and who knows what else? Was it that many people only bought the flagship book, so that the tertiary titles were less of an obligation?”
Offering four or so different monthly series, each usually featuring their own storylines and subplot threads and so on, is a different animal (and problem) than offering one series with an unpredictable number of installments per year. With different series with a fixed number of issues per year, the decision on how much money to invest in how many series is still up to the reader. If you’re only interested in one series, you bought just the one series, and you generally knew how much you were going to spend to keep up with it. In the case of Spider-Man, most people didn’t buy every series, but some readers didn’t seem to mind buying the occasional issue from a series they usually didn’t follow if it was part of a cross-series event.
Now, with a single series rushing out issues onto the stands as quickly as they’re able to produce them, that’s forcing you to spend more money to keep up with one particular set of storylines that you’ve already decided to follow, making you a captive audience of sorts, and that money has to come from somewhere. I wonder if people would have found more money in their budgets to buy the withering-on-the-vine Superior Foes and Superior Spider-Man Team-Up books if they weren’t already buying two issues of the main Superior Spider-Man title each month?
As an aside, I have to agree with your later comment on the J.M. DeMatteis Spectacular Spider-Man run. That was some good, weird, and occasionally dark, stuff.
- GregNGray wonders
“Would it be comic shop suicide to place indie comics front and center and big-two comics on secondary or side racks using the (undocumented and totally lacking in evidence) theory that:
a) big-two readers are far more likely to know exactly what is out each week and will have no problem finding what they want and,
b) they are less likely to make spur of the moment purchases?
Oh, I wouldn’t think so. Racking any comics in an easily-accessible manner is never a bad thing. Well, okay, maybe putting Faust next to Fantastic Four could be a problem, but you know what I mean. Ideally, though, all comics would be racked together alphabetically (barring age-appropriateness considerations), or by genre, if you want to get all fancy-pants about it. At the very least, if you have a Marvel/DC rack and an Everything Else rack, keep ‘em close together. The fewer barriers you put between a customer and the books he or she wants to buy, the better.
We have kind of an oddball set-up, mostly based on rack types and available spacing: one larger wall rack that has enough room to accommodate new Marvel/DC/Dark Horse/Image books, and smaller wall racks of another type that have the room to accommodate all the new indies. The two are right next to each other, and I haven’t had any problem displaying and selling the indie titles. I would prefer to have the entire new comics area be one uniform series of shelving, and all the comics be mixed together, but this set-up seems to work okay for now until I can make that dream come true. One advantage is that a number of the indies tend to skew a little higher in recommended reading ages, making it a little easier to direct parents to the rack with the superhero books on it. Not that a lot of the superhero books are appropriate for Little Billy, but kids want the guys they saw on the TV and in the movies, so there you go. (And yes, we help ‘em find comics that won’t turn their kids into juvenile delinquents.)
We also have another rack of kids comics (Archie stuff, My Little Pony, etc.) right at the front of the store, along with shelves of kid-friendly trades, so I guess in a way we do have a shelf of indie books front ‘n’ center.
So I had a couple of questions and comments to this post from last Friday that I wanted to respond to:
- LFC notes, regarding my comment on having 17 issues of Superior Spider-Man in eight months:
“2012 saw 29 issues of Amazing Spider-Man (including point ones, Ends of the Earth one shot and anything by Slott), 2011 saw 29 issues as well, 2010 saw 33 issues and so on. Luckily it’s a very good book.”
The quality of the book almost doesn’t matter. It’s just too much. Comic fans only have so much to budget for their books, and every dollar that goes towards maintaining their run of Amazing or whatever at two or three copies a month are dollars not going toward maybe trying out something that isn’t a Spider-Man comic that month. It’s rack crowding and market flooding, and I don’t like it when Marvel is cranking out two or three issues per title per month, and I don’t like it when both Marvel and DC are cranking out a half-dozen titles or more for each of their franchises. We don’t need this many Batman books, or this many X-Men or Green Lantern or Avengers or Superman books, except we now have a marketplace that depends on devotion to the big franchises and doesn’t leave room in anyone’s budgets to try out or support something different.
And before anyone says anything, this isn’t absolutely 100% across the board for all fans everywhere, that everyone is just buying this stuff and not buying that stuff. But there is a trend toward this kind of marketplace, where the only comics that sell well are Batman or Avengers books because if you throw a dart randomly at a comics rack that’s what you’re gonna hit, well, there you go. “We keep putting out Avengers books because those are the comics that sell” is the self-fulfilling prophecy of the comics market.
- Sean writes:
“haven’t been paying much attention to Marvel’s books for the last couple of years, so I got a good laugh out of the three-digit issue number (017) on the front of Superior Spider-Man. Is there anyone out there who genuinely thinks any of Marvel’s books are going to get to 100 before being rebooted with new issue #1′s?”
It’s a design element not just to accommodate the eventual possibility that any of the comics will make it to the triple digits, but also because it creates a uniformity of design with those few remaining comics Marvel is currently publishing that are in the triple digits. (Or is X-Factor the last?) Also, I think having the three digits seems a little more aesthetically pleasing than just having the two digits. Anyway, I’d be surprised if the current cover layouts are around for more than a couple more years at most, so the problem will likely be moot.
- ~P~ has a comment or three for me:
“I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned it yet, but how does the Marvel ‘NOW!’ trend of placing issue numbers on the BOTTOM of the cover affect your display and sales?”
Most of our comics are racked with the full cover face out, so the issue number isn’t obscured. We have some wall racks that overlap the books, and if any of the comics have non-traditional logo and number placing, I’ll make a small sign to rack with the comic to indicate any of the relevant information. A minor annoyance, but racking thing properly is what they pay me the Big Bucks. (NOTE: Bucks may not be as big as may be implied.)
“I just spent some time this past week filing away about a year’s worth of adopted comics into their drawerbox longbox forever-homes, and having logos placed wherever the heck the artist thought was aesthetically pleasing was bad enough, but issue number placement at the bottom is murder!”
Honestly, this doesn’t bother me at home, when I actually do get around to sorting my own comics into boxes. The only thing that bothers me is when no issue number is on the cover (like on many Gold Key or Dell comics, or, in the case of Hellboy or B.P.R.D. comics, when the overall series number for the various minis isn’t on the cover (as I described in annoying detail way back when). In those cases, I note the issue number on the white resealable sticker I use to seal the comic bag (because only savages and the deranged would use tape to seal their comics, I mean honestly).
“But then, what will happen when any unsold comics go into back-issue boxes?
Kids (sure, kids. Why not?) rifling thru boxes to see if you have a specific issue will have to pull the comic most of the way out of the box, and will inevitably BEND the comic backwards a bit to see the numbers.”
Well, regardless of issue number placement, anyone of any age going through back issues without prior instruction or the proper encouragement from the Knuckle-Rapping Yardstick of Enforcement is likely to mishandle the back issues, so I’m keepin’ my eye on all of you. Yes, you, you comic spine-breaking vandals. Anyway, the way we try to handle issue numbers that are in less than obvious positions on the cover, or not on the cover at all, is to write them onto our price stickers which are generally placed in the upper right hand corner on the front of the comic bag.
Thanks for leaving your comments, everyone. I know the big thing on the Internet is “don’t read the comments!” and while I, ahem, may have a somewhat neglected side-project devoted to how terrible commenting can be, I do appreciate and enjoy the comments you folks leave here. A big part of my enjoyment in doing this site is the interaction from you that I receive, and I thank you for it.
So reader Egmont commented on this site over the weekend, in which he asks if there still any demand for St. George #2.
For folks who don’t remember, and to be fair, I barely remember and I 1) sold these things when they were new, and 2) still have them all in stock (tragic details on that momentarily), St. George was one of the titles in the Shadowline Saga imprint, published under Marvel’s Epic line, that was intended to be a new “mature” line of superheroes, because sure, why not. Anyway, St. George #2 introduced a character named Shreck (no relation; also no relation; totally a relation) who would later be apparently retooled and introduced into the Marvel Universe under the name Terror, in the series Terror Inc.
I am totally working on 20-year-old memories here, but I do recall some referencing to, or some minor contention over, whether or not Shreck from the Epic/Shadowline Saga comics was in fact the same character as Terror in the Marvel Universe. According to Wikipedia, which is right and true in all things and whose authority should never be questioned, that despite early editorial insistence that they were not the same being, one of the Marvel Universe handbooks later established that they were. And don’t get me started on the MAX version.
I don’t think anyone really cared all that much, “he said just prior to the influx of hate e-mails from the Terror Inc. fan club.” A glance at the most recent Overstreet guide shows no mention of anything special happening in St. George #2, where I was expecting at the very least “1st Shreck, later Terror (see TERROR INC.).” A Near Mint copy of this will set you back a whole three bucks, according to the guide, and, well, about that….
Let’s take a look at that Terror Inc. scan up there at the beginning of this post. Well, here, let me give you a larger scan of what I want to talk to you about:
So that’s one of our old price stickers (with my writing on it, in case you were wondering) (The newer price stickers has the proper apostrophe in “Ralph’s,” also in case you were wondering). That was the standard back issue markup for a back issue just pulled off the wall, and the fact that it’s my
writing on the sticker means that it was priced either the day it was pulled off the shelf after its four week (or so) sales cycle, or within a few months of that time. If it had been an old back issue pulled out of the backroom storage during one of our regular restockings, it would been bagged and tagged and sorted into a box for Ralph to grade and price (mostly for grading-and-pricing consistency’s sake).
Seeing that sticker on that comic tells me that particular issue of Terror Inc. has been sitting in our back issue box since, oh, the early 1990s. And so had the rest of the series. The best case scenario is that maybe, say, through the early to mid 1990s we did sell some Terror Inc. issues and restocked them repeatedly, and that the last time we restocked them, I went ahead and priced the issues to help Ralph keep up with his pricin’ ‘n’ gradin’ duties. I suspect, however, that isn’t what happened.
Now, I should say we were missing one issue when I checked our Terror Inc. section over the weekend…we didn’t have #13, guest-starring Ghost Rider. Relatively recently, I did have someone looking for Ghost Rider appearances, so maybe that’s when we actually were able to move a copy of this. No worries, we had another copy in our backstock that I pulled out to replace it. By the way, the MAX series Marvel did a couple of years back didn’t move the earlier series at all.
Looking in the price guide, most of the issues are priced at three bucks a pop, except for the two issues with Wolverine ($4 each). A quick glance at the eBay shows a #1 “in high grade” selling for a quarter, and a run of every issue except #1 selling for 99 cents. And judging by how few copies we have still in our backroom, I’m guessing a number of them ended up in our bargain bins, and we may sold a few that way to any folks willing to search through those boxes.
And that’s okay. Sometimes the fate of certain series is to end up in the bargain bins, where folks are willing to throw down a quarter or a buck to take a risk on some oddball forgotten title, or to take home a shiny-covered Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1, oh God please buy more of those. And then we have copies of those same comics, sorted and guide-priced in our regular back issue bins, for anyone who would rather have the convenience of finding the book right away without having to search through long boxes of unsorted cheap books. Not that this is something that’s happened much with Terror Inc. anytime recently, but you never know…that day may come. Weirder things have happened.
It’s also a matter of marketing, too. We simply haven’t got around to getting those Terror Inc. issues priced and graded and put on our website listings, where any Binging or Googling or Veronica-ing Terror Inc. fans can find it. Or maybe when we get that #13 I just pulled out of the backroom priced, I can put it in our Recent Back Issue Arrivals boxes where it may get more eyetracks than it would in the ol’ Terror Inc. section in the regular back issue bins.
I know that this seems like a direct contradiction to my recent post claiming that there still is a back issue market, but the comic market at any time will have more than its share of dead stock. Or slow movers. Like pitch-drop level slow movers. And the quarter boxes, the dollar boxes, or whatever…that’s a partial corrective tool that doesn’t solve the problem, but does lessen it slightly. Very slightly, judging by the number of Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1s I have still. …Anyone need any?
So Mike L. asked about Uncanny X-Men #201, a comic for which there was a brief flurry of demand during the high-flyin’ Wizard Magazine-fueled comics market times of the early 1990s. For folks who may need a brief reminder…in 1990, New Mutants #87 was released, featuring a new character called Cable, co-created by rising star Rob Liefeld. As both Cable and Liefeld grew in popularity, demand for and prices of New Mutants #87 began to rise.
Now, Cable’s deal was that he was the son of a couple of members of the X-Men, Cyclops and…um, is it still Madelyne Pryor or has that been retconned away? Anyway, he was from the future, and still only a child in present times, and then someone had the evil thought “hey, wait, that means the baby born to Cyclops and Madelyne in Uncanny X-Men #201 back in 1986 is technically Cable’s first appearance!” So, in the rush to create yet another “rare” collectible UX201 was pushed as the New Big Thing, and, like Mike L. said, sold for about $30 (or more!). And it did sell.
Cut to a couple of decades later. The most recent price guide still lists that issue for $30 in near mint condition, but let me tell you, it ain’t selling for that anymore. I can’t remember the last time anyone asked for “that comic with Baby Cable,” and a quick glance at online sources show copies selling as low as 99 cents, and some allegedly high grade copies going for as much as about $15 (not completely unreasonable for an actual mint copy of a 27 year old X-Men book). The $30 guide price may be the result of simple inertia…people pricing their copies at thirty bucks because they’ve always priced their copies at thirty bucks, and hey, it’s a “key issue” even though realistically nobody cares any more. Maybe if Cable pops up in an X-Men movie someday, there will be some demand for it.
I’m still trying to come up with an answer to pal Dave‘s question from the end of yesterday’s post, about which pricy comic took the biggest dive. I’m still thinking about it, though I believe it’s more a matter of “shifting demands” than “huge price drops.” There was certainly many comics that sold well in the ’90s which don’t any more, though few of them really got that expensive in the first place. There are even a few items that retained some value: New Mutants #87 still guides at $45 in high grade, which, if the book actually is in high grade, isn’t too far out there of a price, in my opinion, and in fact still sells for us, when we can get them. However, it’s greatly overshadowed by an issue later in the run, #98, which features the debut of current flavor-of-the-month Deadpool. That guides at $100, but I’ve seen sales well in excess of that price.
One thing I was reminded of, thinking about ’90s back issue sales, was the Punisher. Boy oh boy, was that character popular. Multiple titles, all sold great, and then suddenly the market crashed and / or people burnt out on the character, and the sales on, and titles for, the Punisher dried up. I remember being stuck with a pile, a literal pile, of Amazing Spider-Man #129, featuring the Punisher’s first appearance. We had loads of them, in a variety of conditions, priced at the then-inflated-by-Punisher’s-popularity values we had been selling them fairly regularly for. Once we realized we were in for some rough times after the collapse of the comics market, we slash-priced those books and moved ‘em out best we could.
Kinda wished I had them now, as the market has recovered somewhat and people are looking for the book again and the current guide has near mint copies at nearly a grand, even though we could probably sell them in any condition. But if we could see the future, we probably wouldn’t have sold all those New Mutants #98s for about five bucks a pop all those years ago. Or put all those DC Comics 100-Page Giants in the 50-cent bins way back when…I mean, those are mostly just reprints, who’d want those? Anyway, that kind of backwards-glancing and second guessing can drive you crazy, so we just price ‘em, file ‘em, show ‘em to customers, and hope for the best.
Well, at least for us. We still sell plenty of back issues at our shop. Lots of them. Across a whole range of prices. Of course, after 30+ years in business, plenty of collectors in our area and environs beyond have learned that we’re a good and well-stocked source of reasonably-priced and accurately-graded old comics. That drives plenty of folks to our shop, turning over our stock and giving us the impetus to continue acquiring even more old comics to offer to our customers.
Of course, the situation described here is not new…there are some comics that are just common as dirt, that have a “book” value of some amount, but realistically, will not sell for anything. It wasn’t that long ago that we divested ourselves of 100,000 copies of that very kind of comic, a bulk sale to a wholesaler who paid a nickel each for whatever we wanted to unload, primarily ’90s market-crash comics that nobody will ever love, ever again. After years of nobody caring that Deathmate: Black is the first appearance of Gen 13, years of never once realizing the price guide price of $6 in an in-store sale, I was happy to get that fat nickel for every copy I was able to pass on. And the Team Youngbloods. And the Brigades. And the Valiant Comics that aren’t the first issues, last issues, or “gold” issues. And so on.
As noted in the linked article, the decrease in potential values was in part caused by the democratization of back issue sales via eBay and Amazon and the like, where vast amounts of essentially the same product is available: instead of going to your local comic shop and hoping they finally have that one back issue you’re looking for this time and paying whatever they’re asking for it, now you can search online and potentially find dozens of people competing with each other offering copies of that book in whatever grade or price range you’re looking for.
There are other factors as well, such as extensive reprinting in more convenient formats like trade paperbacks, or digital availability, or certain characters or titles falling out of favor, or the economy being terrible and nobody wanting to spend money on things they can’t eat or wear or live in.
Like I said, we still buy old comics, and we’ll still pay good money for stuff we can turn around relatively quickly. But more and more, people are unloading whole collections on us. We prefer not to take whole collections; the amount of time sorting out the wheat from the chaff usually isn’t economically advantageous. When we do buy collections in bulk, we make it very clear that while we pay real money for what we can use, we can only pay very little for the rest, reducing our costs and making it more likely for us to come out ahead when processing the bulk, even if it only ends up in our bargain boxes. In general, most people are okay with that, since they’re trying to clear room and understand that, for some comics, anything is better than nothing.
The linked article notes that the owner of the collection discussed greatly overestimated its value. Again, that’s something we’ve seen over and over again at the shop over the decades. Someone gets their hands on a price guide, dutifully marks the mint price for each book on a Post-It note and affixes it to the bag or just directly to the cover, and then hauls the lot into the shop expecting to get full retail. They don’t realize that shops can’t pay equal to what they expect to retail the book for, or that just because a book has a certain price in a price guide, that anyone’s actually going to pay that anytime soon. Yes, it’s great that Power Pack #27 is listed as being $3.00, but does anyone care? Is someone going to rush into the shop demanding to buy Power Pack #27 Right! Now! Unless I’m completely out of any copies of Power Pack #27, and if the copy is still in brand-new condition, and if I can get it cheaply enough, I’d buy it. Maybe.
So what back issues are selling for us? A whole lot of stuff! Anything pre-Code! Romance comics! Cheap Silver Age books! High-grade Silver Age books! Batman! Old Archie Comics! Deadpool! War books! Classics Illustrated! That one guy collecting Doctor Doom appearances! The first few issues of most New 52 series! Sonic the Hedgehog! Adventure Time! Avengers! Green Arrow, apparently, judging by the huge pile of them I pulled out of the backroom when restocking on Sunday! Basically, a whole lot of different titles, but those are the ones that stick out.
I’ve seen some pooh-poohing of the back issue marketability of ’70s and ’80s Uncanny X-Men, the once-red hot Byrne issues in particular, but we still get asked for those all the time. High-grade copies blow out the door. A long time ago, we were lucky enough to get a lot of high-grade #141s and #142s (the classic Days of Future Past storyline). We kept pricing them up ‘n’ up, and they kept selling, and now I’m pretty sure we’re completely out of them, or darned close. And keep in mind the bulk of these sales were before anyone even knew those issues were going to be the basis for a movie.
One trend we’ve been noticing lately is the slow upwards creep on prices for a handful of books from the post market-crash era, when sales were down on everything, from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. Stuff like the 1999 Amazing Spider-Man relaunch, or Simpsons comics, or final issues (read: even lower print runs than the already low numbers most titles were at) of certain series, or other comics published then that folks still have an interest in now, particularly if still in near mint or better condition. When I made a mention of this on Twitter, I wasn’t specific enough about what books were showing such an increase, so everyone was all like “BUY MY SHADOWHAWKS, MIKE,” and I looked down and whispered “no.”
I may have more meanderings about back issue stuff later in the week, but let me stop for today after dealing with one more bit of business:
Pal Dave asked me on the Twitterers about which once-valuable comic took the biggest dive in price and is now basically worthless. Now, I thought about that for a long time. In the subsequent discussion on Twitter right after Dave asked, Superman #75, the Death of Superman issue (I’m sure I don’t need to remind you), was mentioned. At the time, I recall hearing stories about people selling copies for $100+ the weekend after its release, though I never saw it with my own eyes. At our shop, when we finally started dealing with it as a back issue item (after sorta avoiding it for a while, waiting for the market to settle) we were charging $15 for the still-sealed-in-the-black-baggie edition, and that’s where the price stayed for years. I think now we have it at $25, and yes, they’re still selling. So, at least for us, this comic didn’t dive in price.
One that comes to mind is Harbinger #1 (1992) from Valiant Comics. I seem to recall that selling for about $100 at one point at the height of Valiant-mania. I remember having a bunch of them on the rack when it was new and thinking “we’re never going to sell these stupid things.” Well, sell they did, and I still get requests for it. There is still a market, as I implied earlier in this post, for early Valiant comics, and even before this most recent relaunch of the Valiant brand there was demand for Harbinger and early X-O Manowar and whatnot. A quick glance at the eBay revealed a couple of sales in the $30 range, only half that of the $60 price in the most recent Overstreet. While there was a drop in price, I wouldn’t say it’s worthless, and people are still looking for it.
I don’t know if this counts, the WildC.A.T.s #1 Gold Foil edition, which we sold in an in-store auction for over $100…and now we have a copy, signed by Jim Lee himself, in the shop for $15.00. I don’t know if that $100 price tag was typical for the time, or just a fluke at our shop, but that’s a big drop for us, at any rate, added to the fact that nobody’s looking for WildC.A.T.s back issues.
So I still don’t really have an answer for Dave. There were a number of titles that were briefly hot that you can’t even give away today…New Warriors #1, for example, though never worth a lot of money it did sell regularly, unlike now. If you folks have any suggestions, you know where to lay ‘em on me.
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