Also, I’m not going to grade and price your comics over the phone.

§ October 17th, 2016 § Filed under retailing § 8 Comments

A weird thing that’s been happening of late is the preponderance of folks stopping into my store with stacks and stacks of books wanting me to, you know, just spend a few minutes grading and pricing them out of the goodness of my heart and not out of any expectation that the comics would eventually end up in my possession. As you may have gathered from that too-long sentence, this is not a thing that I want to do. I’ve spent decades learning to grade and price comics, and that the actual grading/pricing process of a pile of comics takes time, and if I’m spending time doing this without receiving any benefit from it (like, say, being able to sell the comics myself to make profit for the store), then it’s taking away from my ability to make a living with my shop.

My old boss Ralph used to offer an appraisal service, where he’d go through a collection and do a full write-up of grades and current estimated pricing on each comic, but he’d charge an hourly fee to do so. In my case, there was one person with a small stack of books that he asked me to grade, as he was attempting to grade and price them himself and he wanted to see if he was doing it at least reasonably properly. This person did offer to pay me for my time, and seeing as how it wasn’t too many books, and I wasn’t necessarily busy at that very moment, I went ahead and did so. Doing a full-on written-up appraisal of a large collection is probably not something I can do right now, since the shop is still a one man show and paid or not, that sort of appraisal would take away more time from other store duties than I’d be comfortable with. But, getting paid for a quick run-through of a small selection of books? Sure, I can manage that.

Otherwise, expecting me to go through each book in a large-ish assortment and give you a report on the price and condition of each one, for free? That’s asking a bit much. Thankfully, the other folks asking me for this realized my reluctance to do so, and pulled back their requests, mostly just wondering if they had anything particularly valuable in their piles of books that they should be aware of. That’s clearly a bit less time consuming, particularly in the case of the duffel bag full of well-worn ’90s comics. Maybe not so much with the large bag filled with ’60s comics, also mostly worn and water-damaged but with a couple of nice copies of Detective that I made sure to point out to the gentleman. I was trying to help them, but not in the much more extensive and time-consuming way they initially desired.

I don’t think I’m being too much of a hardnose about it. If someone drops in with a couple of comics they’re wondering about, I’ll give ’em a hand figuring out what they’ve got. But I honestly can’t spend the time processing other people’s collections when I’ve got boxes full of comics I actually am able to sell that I need to grade and price.

When I’m actually buying a collection, I have to do grade/price estimates, obviously, but that’s specific information I usually keep to myself, using it to decide my total offer at the end of the transaction. I mean, if the seller asks “how much am I getting for this comic?” or “what’s the most expensive one in the bunch,” of course I’ll let them know, but if they decide not to take my offer, all that exact grading/pricing info stays with me. I didn’t do that work so that someone can take that information and use it to sell the comics themselves. (They probably couldn’t read my chickenscratch notes that I scribble during the process anyway.)

This all probably sounds terribly selfish, but I have to protect myself. I can’t do extensive amounts of free labor for other people to profit from. That’s not fair to me. Like I said, I don’t mind looking at the occasional book or two for someone, or even just letting them peruse the store copy of the price guide, but those three or four long boxes you dragged in just for me to price for you? Obviously those comics are all in Gem Very Good to Fair Plus condition, at a penny apiece. That estimate is no charge to you.

8 Responses to “Also, I’m not going to grade and price your comics over the phone.”

  • DavidG says:

    You’re being way too hard on yourself Mike. Your position seems very reasonable to me.

    BTW if I send you a scan of my copy of the Robin II miniseries #1 could you just grade it for me and send me a quick certificate of authenticity? It still has the holocard on the front. Thanks.

  • Rich Handley says:

    I don’t think it sounds selfish at all–it’s a perfectly reasonable stance.

  • MrJM says:

    “This all probably sounds terribly selfish…”

    No. It all sounds like some terribly selfish people are treating your time and expertise like things that are not valuable.

    And they are jerks for doing so.

    [[gavel sound effect]]

    — MrJM

  • Mathew says:

    But Mike, think of the exposure.

  • Thom H. says:

    1. Not selfish at all (on your part). You’re a businessman not a charity…man.

    2. It sounds like it’s happening to you more frequently lately. Is that true? And is there a reason for it? Has something suggested to your community that this is a service local comic shop owners provide?

  • Wow. You’re not in the wrong here. It’s your time and your time is money. I could almost see if it was an appraisal for insurance purposes, but they should expect to pay even for that. Yeah, don’t worry too much about sticking up for your right to get paid for your expertise.

  • BK Munn says:

    The sweetest money I made when I used to run an actual bricks and mortar antiques shop was when a person who worked for a local publicly-funded gallery would pay me to appraise an item they were about to donate to their own institution. I charged a flat fee and there was no pressure on their end for me to inflate or on my end for them to sell. A simple service. This happened several times over a year and even if I had to do a few minutes of research it was still very refreshing.

    The more common experience is the one you describe, where people want a free appraisal or validation. Comics and similar collectibles are the worst because of the variety of condition/grading/titles and popular misconceptions about value perpetuated by lame media, ebay and other sites, and Overstreet. Stick to you guns.

  • Bretsector says:

    This may be an affect of AMC’s Comic Book Men – the tv show. Staged “customers” walk in off the street all of the time with items to sell or have appraised and of course the reality show cast cracks a few jokes and on air appraisal takes place along with a some possible “haggling”.