For comparison, I once bought a copy of that Joker comic for a dime.

§ March 8th, 2021 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

So let’s cover a couple of questions from last week…first up is Robcat (“Bobbykitten” when he was little) who asks

“Don’t they [Bad Idea Comics] also have a policy like ‘you must order future issues at the same numbers as your first issue?’ How’s that working for you? Maybe I’m asking too early. I would guess you’d know better in a couple months.”

Yes indeed, that is the policy of Bad Idea, which admittedly did have me a tad concerned, and did in fact guide my initial orders on Eniac #1. I would have been happier with a policy that required, say, a percentage of orders of the first issue rather than a flat matching order (like “order #2 at 90% of #1, #3 at 75%” and so on) to more closely hew to actual sales performance of comic books. Okay, in actual practice those percentages would be a lot lower, generally, but I’m trying to cut Bad Idea some slack here.

I’m sure the plan was to keep retailers from overordering on the first issue for speculation purposes, forcing them to think about actual future sales on any given title. Now as it turned out (and as you probably already heard) initial orders of Eniac #1 were only about half-filled with first printings, and the balance was filled with second prints (or what Bad Idea is calling “Not First Printings” since all future reprints of the issue will be identical). As such, retailers are only bound to match orders on future issues to the amount of first printings they received, so technically we can cut orders down on later issues if we feel sales are going to drop.

And of course they likely will. People buying Eniac #1 right now only because they’ve heard it’s rare and hot aren’t coming back to invest in, say, #3. Then again, maybe they will, who the hell can tell anymore. The comic market is in such disarray with random books getting random speculator attention for random reasons there’s almost no point in trying to predict sales patterns any more. What used to be dependable guidelines get thrown out the window the second someone with a YouTube channel…well, you’ve heard me gripe before, you know where I’m going with this.

Anyway, ideally everyone who reads (note: reads) Eniac #1 will be back for the rest of them, and as I said in my last post about this, most of my pulls for this title have been for the full run, not just the first issue. So I’m not expecting 100% buyer retention…that almost never happens in comics from the first issue to the second…but I think there’s enough there to continue maintaining similar order levels. But it is nice, at least in this case, to be able to drop the numbers if sales require it.

For future Bad Idea books, who knows? We’ll see what happens.

• • •

Eric wants guidance on the following

“All of this talk of online auctions and slabbing and whatnot brings to mind a question I’ve pondered for awhile now. How releavant or even useful is Overstreet at this point? Do you still use it in the store? Do you have to back it up with a glance at eBay? I remember finding the thing a bit silly years ago when the wisdom seemed to be that it was already a fools game trying to sell a book for full guide price even in a brick and mortar.”

Well, selling for full guide depends on the book, really. I’ve talked in the past about how, with all the reboots and relaunches, back issue movement on any series that isn’t the current iteration of the title tends to come to a dead halt. Been a while since I’ve sold a whole lotta back issues of even, say, the Amazing Spider-Man series just prior to the current Amazing Spider-Man series.

Which is of course the main reason why retailers like me are trying to order fairly close to the bone on everything*, as the sales window for unsold issues will likely slam shut as soon as Marvel and DC roll back the title to another #1. I’m exaggerating only slightly…sales on back issues of those previous series can move, but not nearly at the pace they did when they were “new” back issues.

I mean, I guess that’s always been true for the back issue market in general, but these short run titles that vanish as soon as they arrive don’t gain any kind of traction in collectors’ minds. As opposed to, for example, the Wally West Flash series, which still sells on a fairly regular basis despite DC’s continuing attempts at destroying the character. But for recent-ish back issues…yeah, I can still sell them sometimes for regular backlist prices, but it doesn’t take much for me to decide to toss any excess copies into the bargain bins.

Once we get away from the volatile nature of recent comics, and into things from, say, before 2000, we sell a little more stability in pricing, and price guides like Overstreet become more relevant. But even then, the randomness of sudden demand for sometimes, not always, spurious or half-baked reasons can jump prices up to wild levels. For example, this comic, handed to me by pal Nat with the counsel that “this may be going for a bit of money now,” turned to be, upon doing some research, going for easily three times guide in online sales. And that’s not even counting the slabbed/graded copies. But it’s apparently an early (first?) mention of “The Mandalorians,” something that has a little more cultural cachet than it used to.

So yes, research, particularly on the eBays, does need to be done on certain titles. Sometimes you can just look at a book and think “I bet this is probably going for more than what the guide says.” But a lot of times there’s no clue…I mean, did you know an issue of dollar-bin favorite Earth 2 is suddenly going for, like, $20 to $40 or so? Why? “First appearance of Val-Zod” — you know Val-Zod, of course. “Movie?” hopefully adds one seller to the title of his listing.

But the guide has always been that…just a guide. I regularly price things under or over guide depending on how I think local market conditions will handle it. And thus it has always been, going back to when guides were even first introduced. It’s just there’s more information coming from more sources at increasing rates and it can be difficult to keep up with it all. But it’s not like I didn’t personally experience someone pulling a copy of the ’70s Joker #1 out of our 50-cent bins in ’89, after the Batman movie had come out and anything Bat-related was suddenly red hot and shooting up in price…even that dumb Joker series which nobody had wanted to buy almost since the day it came out.

The Overstreet is a useful tool, but not the be-all, end-all of how one should price their back issues. Gotta use some common sense, some awareness of what’s happening in the market both local and worldwide, know what to price up, or down, or toss in the dollar bins. And mistakes will get made and things will get past me, but that’s just how things go sometimes.

For more discussion of the back issue market, may I direct you to the me of 2013, when I was still at the previous place of employment.

* Also previously noted: it’s the current trend of conservative ordering that’s feeding the speculator market, where it doesn’t take much for available supply on any given title to dry up and become a “rare” collectible.

4 Responses to “For comparison, I once bought a copy of that Joker comic for a dime.”

  • Thom H. says:

    I love reading this kind of shop talk. The current comics market really is its own particular beast.

    Question: Do you ever revisit your back issue prices in a large-scale way? I assume most prices probably stay relatively stable over time, but there are some that must be dramatically different after a few years.

    I’ve been to a couple of shops that must not ever review their bins because back issues remain at their highest-ever value. Example: A couple of years ago, I thought I’d fill some gaps in my Baxter Legion collection. When I got to the “Death of Superboy” issues (#37-38), I saw prices ranging from reasonable to quite pricy. I assume the higher prices were left over from when those issues were actually relevant. Not so much anymore.

  • Pal Cully says:

    When Ralph was at True Blood, I sold him a beater copy of Amazing Spider-Man #129 for a nickle to supply his quarter box.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Eniac #1”

    How did I NOT already do this?

    “He’s an Eniac, Eniac on the floor,

    and he’s dancing like he’s never danced before!”