This is why I never believe you when you tell me your comics are “in excellent condition.”

§ July 10th, 2011 § Filed under retailing § 26 Comments

1. Call me at the shop on Wednesday.

2. Tell me you have a bunch of comics for sale in “really good shape.”

3. I ask how old they are, you say they’re “pretty old.”

4. I ask you for some titles, you tell me X-Force, Groo, Elric, X-Factor and so on.

5. I say “bring ’em in, let me take a look at them,” warning you that I’ll probably only be interested in the Groo books (and maybe the Elric).

6. You say you’ll be in Thursday.

7. Thursday. You don’t come in.

8. Friday. You do come in, with a filthy plastic crate filled with even filthier comics. Waterlogged, beat to hell, and just plain dirty comics. Even the comics that are in plastic bags (about half of them) are ratty and filthy.

9. I take a brief look through the comics, not even wanting to touch them, in the off-chance there might be something salvageable.

10. I decide it’s not really worth the effort, and tell you I’m not interested in any of these.

11. You take your crate of comics and depart.

12. I go home at the end of my shift Friday evening.

13. I come into the store Saturday morning. Sitting on the floor by the front counter – that same filthy plastic crate of the even filthier comics.

14. Employee who worked the closing shift the night before tells me that, after I left, an employee at a neighboring business brought the crate of comics to us, having found it dumped in the bed of his pickup truck.

15. So I end up having to deal with this box of crap comics anyway. I pull the plastic bags off the ones that are bagged so that I can dump them in the recycle bin, while going through the comics and seeing if anything actually is salvageable.

16. End result: about 200 or so unsellable comics dumped into the recylcer; about two dozen comics just about good enough for the bargain bin; two comics actually worth keeping and pricing for the regular back issue stock (that one issue of the original What If series with “What If Elektra Had Lived”) and Sub-Mariner #42); and one copy of Zot! #10 1/2 with rusty staples that I ended up giving to Employee Aaron.

17. Just to be clear, had I actually gone through the collection and paid him for the two comics I actually wanted, I may have paid two dollars, tops, for them. And maybe another buck or so for the Zot! just because you don’t see those too much any more. Ultimately, not really worth the time and effort involved here, and only really bothered with them once they were dumped on us just because I was averse to simply throwing away the comics without checking for anything usable.

18. As for the plastic crate: put outside by the back door, where hopefully someone will take it away. And not, say, dump it into the bed of any neighbor’s pickup truck. Or my pickup truck.

19. So in the future, should you happen to call and tell me you have comics for sale, and they’re all in mint condition…I’ll try to suppress the sigh, but no promises.

26 Responses to “This is why I never believe you when you tell me your comics are “in excellent condition.””

  • Anonymous says:

    Moral of this story: Don’t try to sell it to Mike Sterling. Sell it to Chuck Rozanski or Buddy Saunders.

  • Bully says:

    Moral of the story: If you believed the hype that comics will make you rich, you’re probably wrong. And if someone tells you no thanks, walk away gracefully.

  • One of many reasons I’m glad I no longer own a comic-book store.

  • Ever get sellers who felt you were somehow *obligated* to buy their comic books? I got about one of those a year, including one customer who said he was ready to cash in on the comics he’d purchased over the years because he knew they had gone up in value. Most of what he had was already in my bargain bins.

  • Larry E says:

    I’m not in the business but I have seen folks come into the local store and try to sell their trove. The look on their faces when they find it’s not their ticket to fortune is priceless. Especially that battered Action #1 reprint one guy brought in with an article about the latest auction for the original.

    My in-laws always told me they had a pile of comics in the house somewhere that was worth a lot of money. Before they moved, they finally cleaned out the basemment. The pile turned out to be several 70s Archies and Harveys, a Marvel Tales Spidey reprint and a couple of 70s Batman isues, all yellowed and loose-covered. They offered to split the money with me if I’d take the stack to the comic shop for them.

  • ExistentialMan says:

    I have to agree with Tony. The “entitled” sellers were the absolute worst. When I worked at the store these transactions often resulted in me becoming very direct and assertive in a way that made the other customers uncomfortable. It was the only way to get them out of the shop.

  • Mikester says:

    “Moral of this story: Don’t try to sell it to Mike Sterling. Sell it to Chuck Rozanski or Buddy Saunders.”

    Hey, I happily go through collections that aren’t piles of filthy, waterlogged and otherwise destroyed crap!

  • Mikester says:

    Tony – I’ve had sellers stand there talking up how great their collection is and what wonderful condition they’re in as the comics are falling apart in my hands. I’ve talked about this on the site before…do they look at beat-up, rusty automobiles and think they look like they’re brand new off-the-lot?

    People who bring in the common ’90s stuff I have to tell that, a few years ago, we sold about 100,000 copies of the exact same stuff in bulk to someone for a nickel apiece. That never goes over well.

  • Andres says:

    It amazes me that common sense doesn’t factor in. Why would someone think a waterlogged book is worth anything?

  • mattdangerously says:

    I love it when they tell you the comics are in their “original plastic bags” and “have never been opened.”

  • Mikester says:

    Andres – I refer you to story #3 here.

    mattdangerously – I hear that a lot. As if this theoretical “original bag” would protect the comic from being stabbed or run over by a car, which is what some of them seem to have experienced.

  • Andrew Leal says:

    Mint condition: For many people, that means being in the same condition as an Andes mint which has been left in their pocket on a hot July day, or in the truck unnoticed until you sit on it months later.

  • JRC says:

    Still . . . that Zot 10 1/2 . . . I spent a couple years hunting one of those down–still got it for cover price–a pretty cool find!

  • John Parker says:

    Back in the early 80s when I was short of cash, I tried to sell my comic collection of 1,500-odd books. This in the days before word processors, computers etc. I wrote the list by hand and sent it off. There were a lot of Amazing Spiderman, Daredevil, F.F , J.L.A, Batman comics in reasonable shape from the 60s and 70s. X-Men too. I got back a letter saying ” Will take X-Men #95 ONLY. Offer – 5 pounds.” That’s when I learnt I’d never get rich buying comics.

  • Snark Shark says:

    so you DON’T want 150 copies of Youngblood Strikefile #3, all water-damaged?

    good thing I recycled them all (minus a few I gave away).

  • Tom Mason says:

    From the infamous “Mile Low” Collection…

  • Martin Wisse says:

    Just be glad you’re not in the UK, where every sucker bought three copies of the last ever News of the World newspaper yesterday because “it’ll be worth money someday”…

  • Joe S. Walker says:

    George Orwell worked in a bookshop in the 1930s and wrote that one of the job’s drawbacks was “the decayed person smelling of old breadcrusts who comes every day, sometimes several times a day, and tries to sell you worthless books”. So at least it’s not a new thing.

    P.S. Another nuisance Orwell used to get were people who’d come in and ask for large quantities of rare and expensive books with no intention of actually buying them. Ever get that in a comic shop?

  • I love when the “original” bag is a Ziploc gallon bag.
    I also enjoy “I told you they’re in good shape. Most of the covers are still attached!”

    Everyone always seems to understand baseball cards, so when they come in like that I say “You know how a perfect clean, flat, crisp baseball card is worth more than one that spent the summer in the spokes of a bicycle?” “Uh huh.” “Well, these spent the summer in the spokes. $5 for the stack.”

  • De says:

    Never worked in a comic book, but did moonlight in a Brentano’s bookstore back in 1998-99. My manager warned me about some person who would come in with a paper grocery bag full of used books and attempt to return them. He’d turn her away, she’d threaten to call corporate, blah blah blah. The one time I did encounter her, she had a grocery bag… full of comics and attempted to return them.

    Part of me was curious as to what was in the bag after she put a polybagged copy of X-Force #1 on the counter (the first of many I’m sure), but I didn’t want to encourage the fraudster. I politely told her we didn’t even sell comics and sent her on her way. After informing my manager, he banned her from the shop.

    Epilogue: 2 weeks after the banning, a used hardcover copy (no dust jacket of course) of Lee Iaococca’s biography lay beneath a cracked window of our shopfront. Not sure if she was picked up for the crime (or something else) but we never heard from her again.

  • Daniel says:

    @Joe S. Walker:

    Were those stories published anywhere? Find Orwell fascinating, and am interested in reading some of his personal anecdotes.

  • Daniel says:

    Easily googled it turns out. If anyone else is curious the story can be found here:

  • Robert in New orleans says:

    My sympathies, Mike. I worked many years in retail at record stores when they still mainly sold vinyl. Of course, we’d buy 2nd hand vinyl and would advertise that fact in the yellow pages. I have had many encounters similar to the one you’ve described. You can imagine the damage that can be done to the surface of an old vinyl record. They were always described as being in great condition and we would always encourage people to haul them down for a looksee, but they were almost always in shitty shape. Sometimes, one or two decent items were culled and money offered for them. The most difficult situations to deal with were the sellers who thought they had a treasure, like if they had Beatles or Elvis LP’s, not realizing how many millions of copies were sold of those.

  • Doc Arkham says:

    Just had a guy yesterday drop the mint condition line on me – even as I was looking through the hole in the cover of the top book of the pile.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ” even as I was looking through the hole in the cover of the top book of the pile.”

    that’s a RARE “Hole Variant”.

  • Mot Yrreb says:

    Problem is, the buyer gets the same nonsense from the dealer trying to sell overgraded comics.

    DEALER.”Sure, this is in MINT condition. It’s worth $100 in Wizard.”

    Then complains when the same tactics are used on them. What goes around comes around.