Seriously, chimps are terrifying.

§ September 13th, 2013 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 15 Comments

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.

15 Responses to “Seriously, chimps are terrifying.”

  • David G says:

    “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.”

    This may get me thrown out of the comic book club, but why is this such an unforgivable sin? I genuinely have no idea.

  • J.W.Rollins says:

    Mike clearly states how damaging tape can be to a comic book if it accidentally adheres to your comic book cover, so he recommends the removable labels. I think he is particularly sensitive to this because of his position as a funnybook peddler and has seen the horrors that tape can inflict.

  • Heli says:

    “I prefer using the white ones”


  • Nate A. says:

    I used to frequent a shop with very little rack space. They dealt with this by keeping one copy of everything they ordered on the shelf (about four months deep). If you wanted it you’d just ask up front, and they’d grab you what you wanted from the back of the store. Like I said, this was a matter of necessity (they went to a normal system when they moved into a bigger space), but it worked. I also remember they’d occasionally bag the shelf issues up and sell them as sets. And frankly, they were in pretty good shape… Not near mint or anything, but never less than fine. Again, though, we’re talking a small town shop with what I’m guessing is less foot traffic than one like yours.
    Oh yeah, they also favored labels.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “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”


    ” I can’t imagine spending the time bagging ‘n’ boarding all the new comics for the rack each week.”

    and a board with EVERY comic is overdoing it, anyway!


    my LCS has a “This Weeks Comics” section!

    “tape on comic bags”

    tape? tape is easy to use! just try and NOT get it on the comic! Usually it’s no problem.

  • Be kind to chimps. In 2,000 years, they will be surgeons dissect—er, studying human brains.

  • swamp mark says:

    well, some of us.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    My LCS of choice is a little out of the way but reliably stocks the sort of books that Tom Spurgeon says to thank your retailer for stocking. Including Fantagraphics, D + Q, Top Shelf, Adhouse, and other small press book comics. Unfortunately, the owner insists on bagging every single book (if it isn’t already shrinkwrapped) before displaying it for sale. (With tape, no less!) While I’m sure he would let a prospective customer open a bag to browse the book, it’s still completely off-putting. Am I supposed to ask first? If I don’t, will it look like shoplifting? Do I have to by it if I get fingerprints on the cover? It’s nuts, and it seems to me no way to promote a book for sale. Who is going to spend $10 – $50 on a book that can’t easily be previewed? His store has been there for at least ten years, so I guess he knows what he’s doing, but personally, as much as I want to support my local retailers by paying full or nearly-full price for stuff that’s worth it, I won’t buy a book from him unless I already know it’s exactly what I want.

  • Robert in New Orleans says:

    Thanks for the reply post on the labels, Mike! I will never use tape again. That is, unless a chimp bullies me into doing so.

    Also, one shop I originally mentioned in a previous comment (for a previous post) only bags and tape-seals their comics with no board. This still seems like more work than necessary and still prevents customers from browsing the contents.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ” Am I supposed to ask first? If I don’t, will it look like shoplifting? Do I have to by it if I get fingerprints on the cover?”

    just open the bag! I do at my LCS! It’s ok!

  • Chance says:

    I actively avoid comic shops that bag and board all the new comics. I can’t freely browse? To hell with you, I won’t buy anything. Browsing is what gets me interested in buying a series. I’m not going to sit there and open every damn bag of every comic I want to look at (which may be several books per foot walked). I just won’t shop at such places.

  • When I was a lad – I would frequent a comic shoppe (although, they actually sold EVERY kind of reading material and specialized in hoard-to-find, out-of-print books) that would BAG every comic for sale, would give you the ol’ stink-eye if you even asked to open the bag (unless, like me, you are a tried and true customer with a proven track record of nerd-care) AND CHARGED EXTRA for the bag and TAPE (6cents. 5 cents for bag, 1 cent for tape).

    This was back in the early 1980’s.

    The place was looked like a bomb hit it.
    Books and magazines piled EVERYWHRE.
    Comic boxes stacked as high as the eye could see.
    Hidden compartments for rarities behind hinged wall sections.

    A book lover’s dream, but a comic buyer’s nightmare, because if absolute care wasn’t shown to the comics (or if the owner heard the snap of tape being pulled back from a bagged comic) you ran the risk of being badgered out of the place.

    I would go back to them on and off over the years, because, as I said, they had EVERYTHING you might want and no matter how ramshackled the place looked, he knew where EVERYTHING was! (I got my first copy of SAVAGE TALES # 1 – 1st Man-Thing there [kept in one of the secret wall compartments], as well as the full set of George Olshevsky’s Marvel Comics Index’). Last time I was there (about 4 years ago [I live 2 states away now and only go there if I’m visiting], they still bagged the comics, and charged for the service.

    I became friends with the assistant / manager (a nice guy named Peter) and he would toss me steep discounts if the owner wasn’t there (the owner’s wife would do so too when she was ever in the store) – but still, I couldn’t help but like the codger.

    He would have boarded them too, if he wasn’t such a cheapskate.

    (He is one of those guys that despite what price sticker was ON the comic, he’d pull out the Price Guide to see what it was worth NOW, and you usually had to pay whatever was higher – the new “value” or the already-tagged price [he’d just say “Yeah, it’s still the same price”.)

    Ah, Miltie… he’s probably passed on by now… I hope Peter inherited the place.
    Next time I’m back in NY, I’ve got to go see.

  • pell says:

    Would it be time and cost-effective to cut off the back half of one copy of each of your regular titles to serve as a browsing copy?

    You’d open it to the staples and use a paper cutter far enough past the staples so the book stays together. Then people could get a preview without mooching free reads.

    You could even save the back halves and sell the browsing copies later cheaply to people who don’t care about the collectibility.

  • I just stumbled upon your site today, and it is awesome! As someone who is just getting his feet wet in the comicbook biz, these are some good pointers already! So far, I’m just doing the eBay thing, but I have big dreams of someday opening up an actual store. And, I’m now ashamed to admit it, but I’ve been using scotch tape on all my bags… but I’ll change, I promise!

  • Adam says:

    I used to have a pull list at a little mom & pop store that were founded by a couple who decided to sell their son’s comic book collection and ended up getting way over their head. It was a nice store though and they were very nice people and they were fairly popular. I always figured that the fact that they were the only comic book store in town that had a big back room filled with porno comics was a big part of it, but the other reason people liked to go there was that they’d always rip up one copy of a comic, then laminate the first five pages and put them out there in front of the book for anyone to read, giving them an idea if they wanted it.

    The downside of this was that they didn’t fully grasp some things. And this was during the speculation boom. And whenever they ordered fifty copies of something and got a free copy with a funny cover, they assumed that that was a copy that was sent along so they could tear it up, since no one would want the one with the bad cover.