What do you mean your toothpick boxes don’t say that?

§ April 17th, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 2 Comments

Just to follow up on last Wednesday’s post…a whole lot of folks talking about back issues being priced on the fly as they’re brought up to the counter, which seems…like a lot of work, frankly. There was one shop I occasionally visited down in the Los Angeles area that did that, but the prices were usually very reasonable so I didn’t mind so much. But still…egads. Better to price it once and be done with it so there’s no confusion later.

Granted, that sometimes did result in what we called at the old place of employment “senility deals,” where something that had been sitting in the bins for a while had an old, cheap price that didn’t reflect the hot, expensive price the comic recently acquired. We’d honor the marked price, of course, and then immediately check that there weren’t more of that particuliar book in the bins.

That’s not as much of a problem as you’d think. If it was popular enough to see a sudden increase in price, chances were we were moving copies of it anyway, so we were always refreshing the stock with updated pricing. (This of course is a different issue from brand new comics being tagged as “hot investments” by apps and websites, resulting in unexpected sellouts day of release.)

Probably the most extreme example of the old job getting stuck by the “senility deal” was around the time of the 1989 Batman movie, when suddenly everything that even sort of looked like a bat from a distance if you squinted a bit was in huge demand. One day one of our regulars was digging through the 50-cent boxes when he yelps for joy and exclaims “hey, look what I found!” as he holds aloft a copy of the 1970s Joker #1.

This was a comic that, pre-Batman ’89, you could barely give away. I’d bought my own copy for a dime at a convention sometime the year or two before. But, post-The Batmovie-enning, prices on that comic shot…well, maybe not sky-high, but definitely more than that dime I spent, and very definitely more that the 50 cents we had it marked at. Anyway, it was your pal Then-Low-Man-on-the-Totem-Pole Mike who had to fish through the bargain boxes to pull out any more instances of that funnybook to return it for regrooving repricing.

Related: at one time my former boss was partnered up with someone else in another town, and he ran the old paperbacks section while the other fella ran the comics. And every year when the new price guide came out said fella would reprice everything in the shop, and would let folks know (either verbally or through signage) “prices marked on back issues may not be current.” Frankly that seems like overkill…too much work to avoid losing literal cents, in most cases?

I don’t know…seems to me making sure everything’s priced ahead of time would be the path with the least hassle. What if somone comes up to the counter with a foot-tall stack of back issues to buy? “Yeah, come back in a couple hours while I grade and price these.” Yuk, no thanks. I’ll take the risk of someone getting a copy of Marvel Triple-Action #2 at the two-year-old marked price of $3.50 instead of the current guide’s price of $3.75.

So let me address a couple of your comments from the last post…and speaking of which, I had to slightly edit a couple posts so that a specific store wasn’t called out. I know, everyone tried to be careful about it, I just, um, needed it to be a little more careful. Didn’t mean to step on anyone’s toes about it…hope y’all understand.

Anyway, yer comments:

Dave-El rocketed here from a distant planet to ask

“Of course having a treasury edition reprint of Action Comics#1 is not the same as actually having Action Comics#1. But I’m wondering (and this making me feel very old contemplating this) but those treasury edition reprints are very close to half a century old. Do those treasury edition reprints have any significant value themselves?”

Oh you get they do! Treasury editions are always in high demand around these parts, and because nobody who bought them were able to store them in a way that didn’t result in damage, nice copies can be particularly dear. Even those Famous First Editions reprints, once sold in bulk in discount stores when I was a kid (circa 1980 or so) can be quite pricey.

Like I said, in nice condition. I’ve sold plenty of coies in the Good to Very Good range for $3 to $6 each. But really sharp copies can command higher prices than that, and I don’t have ea price guide at home to tell you just how much, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that a mint copy of the Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag sells for approximately ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

And Damien puts the dog down to type

“I had the treasury edition of Superman 1 without the cover given to me by a neighbour and I genuinely thought he’d accidentally given me a valuable thing. I was 9, so I had an excuse.”

Hey, don’t feel bad. The “Famous First Editions” were exact reprints of the original comics, aside from the size, with that extra new cover wrapped around it identifying as “HEY THIS IS A REPRINT.” Apparently enough people were stripping off that outer cover and trying to sell what remained as the real deal that the Overstreet guide actually put a notation in their listings describing this scam. I don’t know if it’s so common now, or even how common it was then…but you know how all toothpick boxes have the warning “NOT FOR USE IN EYEBALL” because almost assuredly someone out there had stuck a toothpick in his or her but probably his eye*? So I’m pretty sure at least one person tried to sell a coverless copy of a Famous First Edition reprint to some hapless chump, and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling comic book collectors.

* Yes, and tried to sue, hence the warning so the toothpick manufacturer can say “look, we warned people not to do that!”

2 Responses to “What do you mean your toothpick boxes don’t say that?”

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    “We’d honor the marked price, of course”

    Reminds me of a large shop in my town, now out of business, where the owner was a complete slimeball — but the store had by far the largest back issue collection around. You can put up with a lot of slime for that kind of selection.

    Until one day where I spent an hour digging through boxes and pulled out around 35-40 decently priced back issues at reasonable prices. I brought them to the counter, and the slime tells me he hadn’t gotten around to repricing them, so he’s going to charge me twice the tagged price. I was too stunned to argue, but accepted it because I really wanted those comics.

    That was the last straw though. Never went back. And when he went out of business, no tears were shed.

  • Thom H. says:

    Yay! Thanks for picking up on my question in the comments.

    One of the big projects we undertook when I worked at a comic shop was spiffing up the back issue boxes. We replaced boxes that were worn out, re-fronted all of the boxes with fresh letters of the alphabet, made sure all the back issues had room to breathe, etc.

    The manager of the store took that opportunity to reprice anything that seemed way too low (or too high). I was only there for a year or so, but I was told they went through this process every 5-10 years to keep things fresh. That seems like something that could keep prices current without being an overwhelming task.

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