You are currently browsing the retailing category

Imagine a comic company being worried that orders were too high today.*

§ April 21st, 2021 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, retailing § 1 Comment

So for you Progressive Ruin Early Morning Crew, who catch the latest entries as they’re posted, either before you go to bed or as you have your breakfast and cup of coffee, or I guess pretty much any time of day depending on what part of the world you live in, you may wish to revisit the previous post. Look for the “EDIT:” dropped in there and read the rest of the paragraph that follows, which will be New to You.

Basically what happened is, while I was present in comics retail at the time, I had clearly forgotten the details around the release of Legends of the Dark Knight #1 and its variety of cover colors. I made assumptions about DC trying to boost order numbers up with variants, which is almost exactly what they didn’t do. They were actually worried that too many copies of LODK1 were ordered, and added the covers after the fact to improve sales. Go back to that post and its comments and you’ll see links and the helpful folks who nudged Old Man Mike and said “uh, hey, you got your facts a little off.” To them, I am grateful.

Ultimately, the overall point still stands, I think, that publishers realize the power of variant covers to encourage multiple purchases of essentially the same product to individuals. Even if, in the case of LODK1, this wasn’t the plan from the get-go.

Anyway, instead of just tacking on an addendum to the post saying “duh, I was wrong, here’s what happened” as I was normally do, I tossed out the offending passage and replaced it with corrected info. I feel a little funny about that, like I’m cheating or hiding my shame or something, but I do plan on continuing my series on variant covers and I don’t want the first installment to have a big ol’ screw up in it. But again, thanks to everyone for jumping in and pulling my foot out of my mouth…everyone please go and check out the comments section for that post for the usual wonderful contributions from my readers.

In actual comic book news, there’s this thing:


…which, surprise, turned out to the big hit of the week so far, and it’s only Tuesday. And it sounds like a lot of stores out there were caught by surprise, given a story or two I’ve seen online about retailers being upset about not being told this might sell well. …To be fair, in this market, one should never take a publisher’s word that a comic is going to sell well. Order what you’re comfortable with, order more if you need more, and if you need to get second printings, get those. Frankly, if publishers want a retailer to order extra piles of their comics on their word, they can make them returnable.

There are plenty of times when I wished I ordered more copies of something, but just as many, if not more, times when I wished I’d ordered less. With Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #1…well, as someone who still thinks the original Nintendo is one of those “newfangled gaming systems,” even I am aware that Fortnite is a Big Deal. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll translate to comic sales…there have been plenty of properties that were Big Deals in the real world, but didn’t exactly drag that audience into comic book stores once their tie-in funnybooks showed up. Sometimes they do, sure (Firefly is still doing okay, um, y’know, considering), but a lot of times these licensed books can sell worse that other comics on the shelves.

This time, though, I took a chance and ordered a…reasonable number of copies for my store, and it worked out pretty well so far! Getting lots of calls for the book, plenty of new faces walking in the door to get copies, and at least for Tuesday’s traffic, I had enough to go around! Now once I open Wednesday, my remaining copies will likely fly out the door right quick.

All things considered I wish I’d ordered double the number of copies, and maybe if you ask me by the weekend I might say I wish I ordered four times the number. What is nice about all this is the fact that the customers coming in for copies of the Fortnite comic all seem to be genuinely interested in the game, and not just dudes looking to flip the book on eBay. And boy, it seems to be selling for a pretty penny on said eBays. …Which is another clue that the comic was desperately underordered. Not being in initial solicitations and being offered just in the Final Order Cutoff listings may not have helped.

I’m going to enjoy this while I can, as it’s always good to have a comic that will get new faces in the shop. I know that perhaps a lot of them just want the digital codes for the game sealed inside that polybag, but look, comics retailers can’t be choosers.
 
 

* I mean, aside from that business with Eniac #1.

Variants on a theme.

§ April 19th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 17 Comments


Man of Steel #1 in 1986 is generally considered to be Patient Zero for the variant cover marketing strategy in the comics marketplace. You had the standard cover on the left, with a cover layout duplicated by the other five issues in the series. Then on the right you had the fancypants cover with the metallic ink an’ such. Both were available in comic shops, but only the standard cover could be found on newsstands.

I mean, sure, it’s understandable that DC would want to go through the extra effort of slapping a second cover on the first issue of this series. This was, after all, a complete revamping — a “reboot,” if you will, perhaps you’ve heard that term — of their flagship character by a superstar creator. This comic was indeed A Big Deal, and doing somethin’ a little special to make it stand out was certainly warranted.

Now, did fans end up buying both covers? Not all, I’m sure (I myself just got the comic shop-only cover…I liked the design of the standard covers, but I thought Clark’s pants looked weird), but certainly a non-zero percentage of consumers couldn’t decide between one or the other and solved the dilemma by taking one of each home.

This is of course not including the sales to speculators, a market segment that would absolutely explode in the 1990s but certainly existed prior to that. (See also Shazam! #1 and Howard the Duck #1 from the 1970s.) I’ve experienced more than one acquisition of books from investment collections containing stacks of Man of Steel issues. But if I could hazard a guess…I think comic companies began to learn that not just speculators but your regular readership could be convinced to pick up more than one copy of the same book.

Look, some fans were doing that anyway. The “buy one to save, one to read” thought process had been there for years. Whether the idea is “I’ll have a back-up if my reader copy falls apart,” or “I’ll have a mint copy for resale” borne of either a genuine belief in a return on investment, or some kind of self-justification for still buying these things, it doesn’t matter. But those were purchasing decisions, both small scale extra copies here and there and the bulk investment procurement, were made independently of the publisher’s efforts. Sure, DC and Marvel and whoever else can throw “COLLECTOR’S EDITION!” blurbs across the covers but c’mon, no one falls for that any more.

But two covers? With two different images? That’s something a publisher could do to encourage duplicate purchasing. Granted, likely not a lot, but not nuthin’, either. Naturally the burden is on the retailers, particularly in the direct market, to try to determine order numbers on a comic with two different covers. Not just the “how many customers will buy both” question, but the more basic issue of “which cover will generate more demand?” What if one cover is preferred over the other? What if one cover is a complete dud nobody wants, and you’re stuck with that cover while selling out quickly of the other? Surely most customers wouldn’t have that binary a preference…yeah they’d like that one cover, but oh you only have the other, sure that’s fine.

If the variant cover on Man of Steel #1 didn’t help sales a least a little upon release, we probably wouldn’t have seen more of them shortly thereafter. Of course, we did, such as these specific parodies of Man of Steel and its two covers by Boris the Bear and the one-off parody comic Man of Rust.

And DC itself had a big variant cover rollout again in 1989, when they published Legends of the Dark Knight #1, as part of the big movie-inspired Bat-push that year:


This time it appeared as if DC was testing the limit of what actually “counted” enough as a variant cover to generate multiple-copy purchases by consumers who wouldn’t ordinarily do so. These were just “extra” covers, attached over the comics regular cover, printed with four different colors. Now, I wasn’t involved in the retail end of the comic business when Man of Steel rolled out in ’86, but I was definitely behind the counter in ’89, and I do vaguely recall grumbling from both customers and retailers about this blatant marketing ploy.

Actually printed on the inside of these extra covers was a message from the editor, explaining why the extra covers:


“The four colors are just for fun,” it says, but they’re also for goosing the collectors out there into buy more copies. EDIT: Now as it turned out, and I had forgotten about (but reminded my readers James and BobH), the reasoning behind these covers was that preorders were so high, again this being the time of the Batman movie-inspired craze, that it was feared it would be too many for retailers to sell and the market would be flooded. As such, these multi-colored additional covers were printed and affixed over the regular covers. And the reasoning for this was, clearly, to encourage collectors to buy more than the one copy.

And I promise you, as a fella working the register at a comic book store in 1989, I sold plenty of sets of all four covers gathered off the shelf by members of our clientele. And there have been plenty of these sets spotted in boxes of books brought back to me to sell over the ensuing decades.

If all it takes is just different colors to boost orders and sales, what other minimal perceived value-adds can be given to books to get folks’ wallets out? Maybe just prepacking a comic in a sealed polybag right out of the gate? Or having to buy every version of one issue, each packed with a different trading card, to get a full set? There can’t be any way those ideas would work.

More on variant covers coming next time, informed in part by your great responses to this post from last week. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll be back here in a couple of days.

We interrupt this program with an important bulletin.

§ March 26th, 2021 § Filed under publishing, retailing § 3 Comments

Well, hoo boy, more big news for the comics business as Marvel signs an exclusive deal with Penguin Random House to distribute their comics and books an’ stuff, beginning in October.

Diamond Comics, the distributor that’s had the exclusive distribution rights for nearly three decades, has announced that they’ll still be carrying Marvel product as before, if retailers prefer continuing to buy from them. However, Diamond would be essentially just be a large customer of Penguin Random House and reselling to stores, likely meaning an adjustment in discounts, and I’ve no idea what the timing will be like. Would Diamond get them early enough to redistribute the books to retailers in time for New Comics Day? Or will that point be moot if Marvel follows DC’s lead and picks another day of the week to be NCBD?

From what I’ve read, PRH, which I’m condensing it to because I’m already tired of typing it out, will offer a standard 50% discount to retailers on new product, which is less than what I’m getting from Diamond. However, PRH will also be offering free shipping, and no reorder fees, so that more or less balances out.

In addition, the ugly truth is that I expect shortages and damages to be reduced as well, which I’d gladly give up a percentage point or two in wholesale discount terms in exchange for product showing up on time and in sellable condition. My DC shipments from their new distributor, Lunar, have been virtually error-free…if I’ve reported more than a half-dozen problems total since receiving shipments from them last year, I’d be shocked. And it’s almost always “you sent me 49 instead of 50 copies,” that sort of thing. Only once did I have a significant issue (all my standard cover copies of Future State: Harley Quinn #1 got missed, but replaced right away).

By comparison, I’ve had problems with my Diamond shipments nearly every week. There are the minor mess-ups, like a book or two getting damaged in packing or in transit, which happens. But there are the times when books get missed entirely and I have to wait a week (usually) or two to three weeks (ugh, sometimes) for replacements. And more than once in the last few weeks, sometimes replacements can’t be found and I just get credit, meaning I’m off to eBay or other stores to beg for copies. Or buying directly from the publisher (like I had to with a recent issue of Taarna), which makes me wonder why I can do that and my distributor can’t. And God help you if that book you’re trying to replace on your own is The Random Hot Book of the Week As Decided by Speculators, like that Daredevil #26 I never got that was going for $20 a pop on eBay.

Now, I can only imagine the stress caused by the combination of massive amounts of product and whatever effects COVID has had on the processing/packing end of things. I need to be more understanding, but at the same time it’s a real pain to be invoiced for things you can’t sell. Maybe fewer Marvels passing through the system will ease the load and improve fulfillment? Or will the loss of that income keep us exactly where we’re at? I don’t know.

I know I can gripe about Diamond a bit, especially when something inexplicable (uh, just a single Comic Shop News instead of the full bundle?) or gross (is that a piece of chewed-up gum in this box?) happens. But honestly most of the time I’ve had a good relationship with them and they’ve treated me well, and on occasions when I’ve been especially screwed (like that time half my boxes disappeared in transit) they got replacements out to me within a couple of days.

Basically, I don’t want them to go away. But I am okay with having more competition in the distribution side of things, which, with any luck, will improve everyone’s service. Yes, that means more bills to keep track of, and more order forms to fill out, but it beats digging ditches (apologies to any ditch-diggers reading this who love their jobs). It also means learning a new online ordering portal, I’m sure (Lunar’s took a bit to get whipped into shape, and even still has a bit to go).

The competitive stakes are especially high on Diamond’s part, as some of their biggest remaining clients (like Dark Horse, IDW, and Archie) also have preexisting relationships with PRH. It probably wouldn’t take much for them to slide their product lines over from one company to another.

So we shall see what results from all this brouhaha. It’d be nice if PRH could somehow get Marvel to tamp down the #1 relaunches and variant covers. That’d get everyone celebrating.

Yes, I put the extra “h” there just to be a jerk.

§ March 10th, 2021 § Filed under retailing § 9 Comments

Thom ahsks

“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.”

Former boss Ralph used to talk about how at the shop he had previously co-owned up north before opening his own location in Ventura in 1980, his partner would, whenever the new yearly edition of Overstreet arrived, shut down the back issue section of the store and reprice everything. Which would aggravate Ralph, as it naturally should because that’s completely bonkers.

Realistically, prices don’t change that much on most things from year to year. And the things that do change drastically are likely things you’re selling and (hopefully) restocking and repricing on a regular basis anyway. Like, I’m not going to go through and redo the pricing on Justice League Europe every summer. As Ralph would say, if it didn’t sell for $2 before, it ain’t gonna sell for $2.50 now.

Now, repricing things in the other direction, like with the “Death of Superboy” story you mentioned (which actually still guides for a bit more than your normal Legion of Super-Heroes issues), does perhaps take a little more diligence, though perhaps even that may not be quite the problem it may have been. For shops coming out of the ’90s boom and passing through the doldrums of later that decade and into the 2000s, the occasional “peak priced” item would sometimes rear its ugly head and require some returning for regrooving. For example, this copy of X-Files I featured, hoo boy, seven years ago, clearly would have needed some price guide reconsideration in later years by its retailer if, you know, said retailer had survived long enough to do such a thing. (Or maybe they refused to, which is why they achieved that “former” status.) Despite X-Files having (at least at my shop) a minor funnybook resurgence within the last couple of years, I assure you those Topps #1s didn’t bounce back to those sky-high prices. (Unless it’s a slabbed/graded copy, to which there is very little rhyme and even less reason to where values settle.)

Anyway, point is, as the ’90s recede farther away, chances increase that any pricing anomalies like, oh, say, a $55 X-Files #1 will be caught and corrected, barring its being squirrelled away inside the dustiest comic box oubliette in the darkest corner of the shop. But not always, and it’s not necessarily due to neglect or ignorance. Sometimes it’s just inertia. A while back on the Twitters I noted that the “Death of Colossus” issue of Uncanny X-Men is still inexplicably priced higher than surrounding issues in the guide, despite events of the book having been undone, leaving no impact on the series or character, and I’m betting had been forgotten by at least some of you reading this. It ain’t no “Death of Phoenix,” which is also completely undone at this point but remains a major touchstone in the series in genuine high demand. Ain’t nobody asking after “Death of Colossus.”

Complicating matters is, well, what I’ve been talking about on the site for the last several posts. A significant percentage of the collecting public is trying very, very hard to make things “hot.” Every first appearance, any minor deviation from the norm in any title, is immediately horded in quantity from the shelves on day of release and shoved onto eBay at inflated prices (after the expedited grading/slabbing service, natch). Or grabbed from the back issue bins, as miscellaneous issues get noted as “significant” somewhere online and hunted down in stores who may not have heard yet.

It’s with those that attention must be paid, and repricing the back issues may be required. Tried to find any Byrne-era Avengers West Coast lately? Used to be consigned to the dollar bins, but now cast your eyes to the glass cases, or to the “wall books” now for those double-digitally priced delights. Granted, I let one go for pre-Wandavision value the other day, knowing full well I could get more, but eh, three bucks is fine, not like I was going to change its cost right in front of the customer’s face, and I’m making money on whatever I paid for it, I’ll reprice the next one. If there are any.

Staying ahead of this new collectors’ market is tricky, as I keep saying…plus, trying to balance the fact that 1) you want to realize what money you can on your back issues, and 2) the people interested in buying said “hot” issue usually want them at your pre-“hot” pricing and may pass if you’ve got ’em marked up already. Again on the Twitters, I was reminded of a couple who came into the previous place of employment looking for those issues of Alpha Flight that tied into the then-popular Big Hero 6. Having already been clued into interest on these (think you’re the first person asking about the new hot thing? You’re probably the 14th) we had marked them up a bit. The couple declined, saying “we wanted to buy them for $3.00!” “So we can make money and not you!” was the implied but unspoken follow-up.

However, that’s not always the case. Ralph’s adage of “if they didn’t buy it at $2, they won’t at $2.50” should add “but they will if it’s $20.” A hot book gains hot sales because it’s hot, a cycle that feeds itself. (Look, I know Ralph knows that, he wasn’t talking about “hot” books, I’m just trying to piggyback what he said.) When certain folks see a book that suddenly shoots up in price, that can attract attention and open up wallets.

And so, Thom, looking back at your actual question, no I don’t do large scale repricing. I do on a case by case basis, either if something suddenly popped upward in value, or if I notice something that needed regrading and some reconsideration. By and large I leave the prices alone, if only because I’m still pulling multiple boxes out of the back room to price the first time, much less worry about redoing comics I’ve already priced. Which isn’t to say it may not be necessary someday, but if I do I won’t be shutting down my back issue department to do so. I’ve at least learned lesson from having it told to me. Sheesh.

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.

It’s an Eniac, Eniac on the floor / And it’s selling like it’s never sold before.

§ March 5th, 2021 § Filed under publishing, retailing, self-promotion § 7 Comments


So anyway, here we are, in this post Bad Idea Comics release-of-Eniac-#1 world. You’re probably been hearing about it on the comic news sites or on your TickingTocks or whatever, or you may even have read about the company and my participation in it on my very site about a year ago. But in short: comic publisher produces new comics, available only at a select number of stores around the world.

But Eniac #1 is out now, like I said…when they announced they were going to use Diamond Comics to distribute their books, I was sweating it a bit, given the number of boners they’ve pulled of late regarding books just straight up not showing up and not having the stock to replace them. With initial orders on Eniac being only partially filled with first printing due to orders being much higher than anticipated, and the balance with the black-logoed “Not First Printings,” if my order of first printings didn’t show up I suspect there’s no way I’d be able to get replacements. Especially with my shipment arriving a day later than normal this week, which would mean being the last in line calling in my shortages.

All that worry was for naught (at least for Eniac, no so much for that order of Oingo Boingo comics I was highly anticipating which didn’t manage to make it into my shipment) and a Bad Idea time was had by all at the shop. Bad Idea provided a special button, pictured here:

…to be given to the first person to actually purchase an issue of Eniac in the shop. And that person was Jessica, pictured here on the store’s Instagram.

And there was this personalized video provided by the publisher, where Eniac writer Matt Kindt his own self extols the viewer to go to Sterling Silver Comics for your copy:

I had a lot of mail order customers for this comic, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise given the relative scarcity of retailers carrying it. Walked over to the post office Thursday morning with a cart full of packages, in fact, and it’s a good thing I restocked my cardboard comic mailers for this very purpose. So all in all…with lots of folks excited about the book, with plenty of new faces coming into the store looking for it, and plenty of copies sent across the country, I’d say Eniac #1 was a success for me.

Of course, the question remains if this demand will continue for future issues of the series, or for other titles from the publisher. I did have at least a couple of mail order people who requested #1 tell me they weren’t interested in #2, which is a shame and I hope they change their mind if they read it (and that’s a big “IF” which I’ll talk about in a moment). However, far more customers asked for all issues of Eniac, if not “all Bad Idea,” so that’s a good sign at least for continuing sales.

…So you know how over the last week or so I’ve been talking about speculation in comics, and how new collectibles are almost being forced into having value given that actual rare and valuable comics are in even shorter supply than normal.

Well, guess what happens when something that may actually be (at least regionally) scarce enters the market? Folks lose their minds. When I poked in on eBay early today I was copies of the white-logoed first print listed at hundreds of dollars. Just checking now the black-logoed second prints are at $30 or more. The freebie promo comics ballyhooing the Bad Idea line, the very ones I’m still giving away for free at my front counter, are getting listed at $10 a pop on average.I even saw one of the buttons listed with a Buy-It-Now of $470 (with “free shipping,” gee how generous). And yes, I checked, there have been sales on these at around there prices. Well, maybe not the button. Yet.

The official sales agreement retailers entered into with Bad Idea specifies that they can’t sell the comic for more than cover prices for the next thirty days, so presumably most of these eBay sellers are individual buyers trying to make a fast buck on the New Hot Thing (I know I had more than a couple come buy their copy today.) What’s interesting is that another stipulation is that retailers could only sell one copy per person, which has me wondering about the seller I just saw with the 2nd print listed at $29.95 and 28 sold already:


Either this seller is a comics retailer, or friends with a comics retailer and selling them on his behalf, or a fella who walked into his local shop 28+ times with a large variety of disguises and questionable accents.

I know Bad Idea frowns on this behavior…this announcement on Twitter (which I also received via email) telling everyone they bounced a seller from the program permanently for violating these rules was a clear warning to other stores. But of course that’s not going to stop individuals from doing whatever they want with their copies.

…Following that tweet from Bad Idea is some spirited discussion as to whether or not that enforced cover price is a good idea, or if retailers should be allowed to take advantage of the current secondary market, and some grumbling about the “one-per-customer” rule. I didn’t have any complaints regarding the latter…a few customers tried to buy more than one, but were completly understanding when I told them they couldn’t. Thank goodness, I didn’t feel like getting screamed at in the middle of my store.

To be honest, I had my questions about the pricing thing, as I thought the “Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price” wasn’t an enforceable fixed price, but one that could be freely adjusted as the situation warrants. Hence, you know, back issues pricing. But I took a look at the FTC website” and found this bit of business:

“If a manufacturer, on its own, adopts a policy regarding a desired level of prices, the law allows the manufacturer to deal only with retailers who agree to that policy. A manufacturer also may stop dealing with a retailer that does not follow its resale price policy. That is, a manufacturer can implement a dealer policy on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.”

…which I feel like probably covers Bad Idea’s situation, allowing them to set a price. However, please note I am no Legalese Expert, so maybe someone can help clarify.

I realize after all this I haven’t said anything about the comic itself, which is mostly because my comic readin’ time at home has been curtailed a bit, combined with my slower reading nowadays because of my eyeball troubles. But it’s a striking book with that deep red cover and thick cover…it grabs your attention, certainly. It’s on the read list for tonight…I’m looking forward to it. Here’s hoping future releases generate equal excitement. The industry sure could use some…even if the shadow of speculation is in tow.

• • •

Over on the Patreon, I’ve added another short audio bit, this time discussing the delivery of new comic shipments. It’s fun doing these, and it’s even fun to go through with the editing program and cut out the “uhs,” the swallows, and that notification noise my phone made while recording.

I’m glad to be able to start providing some new content over there again (only $1 a month to get it all!). I’ll also be restarting Swamp Thing-a-Thon again soon, and I should have another sample entry, my coverage of issue #1 from the 1970s, up here on this site this weekend.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon.

I know that issue of Legion of Super-Heroes didn’t have a digital code, just roll with it.

§ March 3rd, 2021 § Filed under collecting, retailing, self-promotion, Swamp Thing-a-Thon § 3 Comments

JohnJ has this to say

“There must also be some basic pricing difference between copies still bagged and those removed from bags, just as there would have been with Superman #75 or Spider-Man #1. Is an X-Force #1 even possible to be considered ‘mint’ if it’s out of the bag and card-less? No matter how pristine the book itself might be, would the ‘slabbers’ turn up their noses at it?”

When I price comics, I do indeed take into account opened/missing bags, removed inserts (like trading cards) and stuff like that. There are also those comics with the Mark’s Jewelers ads where even in the price guide their presence, or lack thereof, is factored into pricing. I mean, I guess technically having those inserts removed would be similar to an old comic having “ad page removed, story not affected” dragging down the price, so I can see the logic there. Either the comic is complete as published, or it isn’t. Whether that “completeness” impacts the price, and by how much, is the matter than can be debated.

For something like X-Force #1, where sealed copies are still relatively plentiful, unbagged copies can go for next to nothing. Same for Adventures of Superman which is hard enough to sell complete and presumably mint at anywhere close to its barely-above-cover-price guide listing (or even at a dollar a pop, like I’ve been trying to), much less naked, exposed, trading card-less. In both cases I usually just toss ’em in the bargain bin when I come across them, though sometimes I’ll put a bagless X-Force #1 in the regular bins in case anyone just wants a reader copy for cheap and don’t want to hunt through the random cheapo boxes.

There is a grey area, of course, with the “opened bag” — the Death of Superman issue still sells with an opened bag and most, if not all, of its contents. Not for the full premium, of course, but not bargain basement prices, and there’s still demand for it. Compare to X-Force #1, where the main driving force for collectors right now is whether or not the Deadpool card is included, and whether that card is in “mint,” so sealed copies are preferred.)

Now as I recall (haven’t checked of late, because I think this was dumb), the price guide’s stance was that so long as the bag was opened neatly and all contents were intact, it should essentially be priced the same as a sealed copy. Which of course is bananas, as in actual real life customers will pay more for a sealed copy, and less, or nothing at all, for an unsealed one.

And then there’s 1990’s Spider-Man #1, where you could get the green cover, the black ‘n’ silver cover, or either of those covers sealed in a special polybag. The polybag editions were just polybagged…no inserts included. The polybag was the gimmick, and a gimmick so dumb that my former boss swore he’d never stock that particular version as a back issue in his shop. So anyway, having the bag in this case damaged or removed made those variants sort of pointless, and why would you want to open them anyway? To read this comic? Have you read it? C’mon.

I mean, in the old days, unbagged copies of the bagged Spider-Man would have been pointless, except now, as the need for collectible comics intensifies in the face of declining supply, they are now selling for higher prices. Specifically as “unpriced variants,” since these bagged editions had their retail prices printed on the bags themselves, and left off the actual covers. A speedy search of the eBays turned up a “no price” black variant at $16.99.

I figured “McFarlane’s Spider-Man is a hot comic, so I guess demand is up for any copies of this” but in fairness I looked up Adventures of Superman #500, which earlier I asserted debagged copies of the white-bag variant are essentially worthless. Well, I still think they are, but that’s not stopping folks from selling slabbed, graded copies for $100 plus. And “raw” copies, too, for the usual $1 to $3. Amazing.

Online pricing doesn’t necessarily reflect real world pricing on collectibles, of course. I’ve sold stuff online for premium prices that would get me laughed out of town if I tried them in the store. And I’ve tried to move things online for any price that ended up selling more quickly, and more dearly, in the ol’ brick and mortar. So [throws price guide up in the air] who knows, man.

On a related note, I wrote (egads, nearly nine years ago) about Marvel Comics and their digital code stickers, and how their removal would or would not affect pricing. Oddly, it hasn’t really come up too often, aside from one collection of books I took in a couple of years ago. My rule of thumb, as stated above, remains “is this book as it was originally published?” If it’s missing the sticker covering the code, then no, it’s incomplete. A very nit-picking incomplete, but nonetheless, by technical definition, it is as such. Now it doesn’t affect pricing that much for these mostly recent books, but what if in a few decades, whatever today’s equivalent of Incredible Hulk #181 (almost certainly that first evergreen-hot appearance of the Gold Lantern) is missing a sticker? Will its going market price of 2000 Space-Credits drop down to a measly 1200 Space-Credits? How’s someone supposed to send their clone-child to Ceti Alpha V Academy on that little amount of money? Or will it be taken in stride, like the Guide’s instance that arrival dates on covers for comics of a certain age shouldn’t affect the grade? I guess time will tell. Time travelers, come back and let me know.

• • •

In other news, after a long hiatus, mostly enforced by ongoing eyeball issues, I am attempting to return to doing my coverage of Swamp Thing issue-by-issue as Patreon-exclusive content. Probably at a less-frequent pace than I was attempting, but I plan on filling the gaps with brief audio content (the very brief first installment of which has already been posted, not really saying much more than what’s already said here). So, if you want to hear my warbly voice barely make it through a sentence without stumbling, now’s your chance! (This may be practice for a full-fledged actual podcast at some point in the near-ish future.)

When I first started the Swamp-Thing-a-Thon, my intention was to post it exclusively for Patreonites, then release it here on ProgRuin several months later. Well, I never did that last part, so I’ll try to get another one posted this weekend. In the meantime, here’s the very first installment I posted about House of Secrets #92.

Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll catch you on Friday.

“Sobered up” = nice way of saying “crashed like the Hindenburg.”

§ March 1st, 2021 § Filed under collecting, market crash, retailing § 7 Comments

So last week, when I was a’typin’ about the weirdo Marvel trading card boom allegedly going on right now, Matthew noted (in reference to X-Force (1991) #1’s involvement:

“You’ve mentioned the ‘Shazam! effect’ before in relation to the 1970s Shazam comic and I think there’s an element of that happening here too. I mean, X-Force #1 came out 30 years ago, that’s the same gap between Fantastic Four #1 and X-Force #1. Plus people who were young when it first came out our (potentially) old enough to have money and nostalgia for that thing they used to have?”

I did sort of refer to the Shazam Effect obliquely in that post in the following passage:

“…While millions of X-Force #1 were printed, that doesn’t necessarily follow that millions are out there in readily available circulation. And the ones that do turn up aren’t necessarily going to be in that minty-mint collectable condition.”

…and if someone out there doesn’t remember what that is…in short, the ’70s Shazam! #1 was ordered in huge quantities, with large amounts going unsold. It remained a cheap back issue for decades, often finding its way into quarter boxes and the like…until one day the market realized that actual nice copies were getting harder to come by. Partially due to age, but almost certainly a lot to do with available stock being dumped into said bargain boxes and basically being mishandled and poorly stored and such. And thusly, high grade Shazam! #1s go for a premium.

Now that’s my theory, built upon decades of observation and just how I know early on at the previous place of employment, we’ve just pour the buckets of Shazam! comics into the blow-out boxes and hoped someone would take them away.

This does apply to X-Force #1 (and other early ’90s blockbuster hit comics) a bit, I think. But first, I believe there were a lot more copies of X-Force #1 and its contemporaries printed than of Shazam! #1.

…And that while X-Force #1, in contrast to, say, the ’90s X-Men #1 and Spider-Man #1, did suffer in general reputation and consideration after the market sobered up a bit later in a decade, I don’t think quite the same percentage of them ended up in the bargain bin dregs to be misused and abused. Not saying no copies ended up there, but I believe it wasn’t enough to create a paucity of near mint copies in general circulation. If anything, like I said in my original post, actually being purchased by consumers who didn’t store their comics properly seems to be, just from my general experience, the more likely culprit in this matter.

There’s also the inverse relationship of product versus outlets to consider. Shazam #1 was released as the direct market was beginning, with more and more comic-specific retail stores opening up and presenting more opportunities for Shazam #1 to be sold. Even if, you know, it was just in quarter boxes. X-Force #1 was published just prior to the direct market’s near fatal contraction, with piles of unsold copies of that comic disappearing along with the stores that ordered too many of them. Assuming former store owners didn’t dump their stock on other surviving shops (or, uh, had them shredded), and also assuming proper and not contemptuous storage, there may be masses of mint-ish X-Force #1s still lurking, hidden, waiting to make their move.

Not saying every copy of those unsold Shazam!s got circulated, and that millions of X-Forces aren’t in circulation. But I do think there are potentially enough of those X-Force #1s out there in what would be considered “collectible” shape that all it really takes is one big warehouse/storage unit find for the supposed scarcity of that comic to dissipate. (If I recall correctly, something similar happened to Wally Wood’s Heroes Inc.) As garages and storage areas open up and get cleaned out by their owners, or progressively more often, surviving family members or third-party purchasers, they’re only going to become more common.

And going back to my original assertion, if there is an apparently scarcity to X-Force #1 at all, it comes from newer stores who weren’t around when it came out, and thus didn’t acquire an enormous backlog of unsold copies to dole out over the decades. Newer stores would have to acquire them in collections…and they do pop up there, time and again.

I hope none of this sounds like I’m trying to argue with commenter Matthew…just taking his response as a launching pad for considering the differences in situations here. Which isn’t to say his idea that “nostalgia + relatively shortness in supply” isn’t a fact. Sure it is. And that increased demand for a once moribund back issue is going to cause the prices to rise. But that Deadpool promo card going for hundreds of dollars…that’s almost certainly the result of folks trying to “force” a collectible, to find something relatively common in a market where genuinely scare items are becoming harder to come by, and declaring something “rare” and “hot.” Just by the natural order of things, I think any really high prices on these things is outside the normal causes of supply and demand.

Anyway, there you are. Over-rambly and self-contradictory, in the Mighty Mike Style, but there you go. If I were to sum up…while some price increases can be expected in even over-printed items like X-Force #1 due to a relative dearth of supply at current outlets, it’s still likely not rare enough to cause such extremely high pricing based on ordinary market forces. But none of that matters if it’s decided this is the new normal and that’s what these items go for now, regardless of abundance.

This is all conjecture and opinion based on what I’ve seen over my nearly 33 years in the industry. I could be (gasp) wrong, but this is my general sense of things. You know where to argue with me!

Thanks to Matthew for his response.

What’s this horses**t?

§ February 22nd, 2021 § Filed under collecting, market crash, retailing § 13 Comments

Okay, so apparently this is a thing that’s been happening. X-Force #1 from 1991…you know, the comic that sold, what, five million copies…which could be had for under ten bucks, usually closer to about a buck…is suddenly selling for premium prices.


…but specifically the variation that was packaged with a Deadpool trading card (approximately one-fifth of the run, as there were five different cards):


The price that I’ve seen bandied about is “$100” which apparently it did sell for on eBay, but a quick look reveals prices to be more in the $20-$40 range, which is still a lot.

And this is goaded on by the fact that this very Deadpool card, just by itself, is apparently selling for even more premium prices, with this optimistic seller offering up a graded ‘n’ slabbed one for $2600. (“Or best offer,” to be fair.)

It wasn’t that long ago…well, okay, it was 2013 when I talked about how folks didn’t seem to care much about early Deadpool appearances that weren’t New Mutants #98. And then just a couple of years back I noted my surprise at how the Deadpool-carded X-Force #1 was now (well, then) priced in the guide at $18 (which isn’t too far off from where most eBay sales are at the moment). BONUS: you can see that lovely pic of me in the second link wielding a full set of those X-Force #1s, with each card in the set represented.

There are a preponderance of these Deadpool cards listed online as “rookie cards,” which…I don’t know, is kind of weird. I mean, I guess, technically, that card is his second appearance, I think, if you want to refer to tie-in merchandise as “appearances” of characters (which leads to madness like calling an issue of Marvel Age the “first appearance” of Spider-Man’s black suit). But calling it a “rookie” card feels…well, feels like forcing the invention of collectability in a market where genuinely collectible items are becoming harder to come by.

I’ve written before (on Twitter, I think) about how this seems to be driving the current speculator market for current issues, where any first appearance, any deviation from the norm is branded “hot” and because of the very nature of current close-to-the-bone comics ordering by retailers, an already scare item becomes that much more scarce. Who needs to chase after an Amazing Fantasy #15 when you can artificially inflate demand for the first appearance of Gold Lantern, a character everyone’s already forgotten about?

Also tying into things I’ve written about before…while millions of X-Force #1 were printed, that doesn’t necessarily follow that millions are out there in readily available circulation. And the ones that do turn up aren’t necessarily going to be in that minty-mint collectable condition. I assure you, no matter how many bags or boards or Mylars or what was it, “Comic Stor” 3-ring binder sleeves were sold, I am betting, just on personal observation of having been in comics retail for nearly 33 years, that most of the copies that ended up in the hands of consumers at that time have been damaged or destroyed over the decades.

And the large amounts of unsold copies that stores still had after that initial sales window closed back in 1991? Probably vanished along with many of the stores that shut down as soon as that comics boom went bust…probably because they were stuck with too many copies of, oh, say, X-Force #1 and comics like that. So it’s possible a lot of that stock is just sitting in storage units or former retailers’ garages, with no where to go, and no access to potential buyers. Which isn’t to say a comic like X-Force #1 is “rare” by any means…just that you have have a longer search ahead of you finding copies, as not many stores open now were open then to have wholesaled them.

(NOTE: I know I’ve discussed this before, in relation to Valiant’s Turok #1. Longtime readers, I beg your patience as Old Man Mike repeats his stories.)

So anyway, does this have anything to do with X-Force #1 avec une carte à collectionner Deadpool suddenly creeping up in price? It probably doesn’t hurt, but it also appears to be tied to the current secondary market for Marvel trading cards also booming beyond belief.

For literally decades any inquiry about Marvel trading cards was always, always, without exception, even more italicized words, from people trying to sell their sets. Never looking to buy. Just trying to turn over their old card sets, and then realizing they’d get next to nothing for them because, well, nobody was buying and stores would be crazy to put any kind of premium price on these.

Well, guess what, from what I can tell looking on the eBays, about a month or so ago it was decided Marvel trading cards were hot and collectible again.

Look, I just did a quick survey, maybe this had been coming for a while, and prices had been creeping up. But in January a complete set of just the base 1990 card set, no holograms, could be had for $60, and now it goes for hundreds. A set with holograms apparently sold for over $600. And I’m sure there’s more I’m missing.

In short, when no one was looking, Marvel’s trading cards suddenly shot up in price. Even that $60 for a base set was five times the going market price on these for years. And most tellingly, within the last few days I’ve started to get actual inquiries from people looking to buy them. Granted, they’d likely want them for the traditional low prices than the new hot market prices, but that this online trend is trickling down into the real world is somewhat telling.

I suppose again it’s the idea of relative scarcity, especially after these sets were ignored and untraded in shops during the trading card lull in the comics market. Like all those hot 1990s comics, sets were probably disused into noncollectability or just lost, and retail stores that may have had inventory on these at the time are long gone. Again, more product that still isn’t reate, but now not as easy to find as it once was.

So it that what’s happening here? Marvel cards are suddenly getting hot, and now “promo” cards like that Deadpool one are being driven up in price as well along with them? If I had to guess, I’d say X-Force #1s are likely easier to track down than full sets of Marvel Universe cards…so are those Deadpool “rookies” being boosted as collectables to capitalize on the newly-resurging card market? Those Deadpool cards seem to be selling, on average, for more than the comic with said card. Should I open up the X-Force #1 I have in the store and just sell the card by itself?

Some of the eBay listings I’ve looked at don’t even mention that the card was originally a comic book insert. Do some buyers even realize that it was an insert? Do some sellers even know? It has been 30 years…a non-zero percentage of the people involved in these transactions were almost certainly not even born yet.

It all seems so amazing to me that these comics and cards after years of being mostly moribund are suddenly The Hot Tickets. But then, there was a time at the old shop when we were selling New Mutants #98 with Deadpool’s first appearance at $10 a pop and thinking this had to be some sort of crime selling them for so much. So as the market changes, I guess I gotta roll with it.

I’ve leaving that Deadpool card intact inside that X-Force #1 I had at the shop, however. Popping it open just to sell the card is a bridge too far.

I just accidentally typed “Future Steve” — now there’s an event I want to read.

§ January 8th, 2021 § Filed under retailing, star wars, sterling silver comics § 5 Comments

So…some week, huh? Hope everyone out there is finding ways to keep sane and their anxiety levels down (when they were already up with this whole COVID thing). Hang in there, pals.

I plan on beginning my coverage of your predictions for the 2020 comics industry next week (did any of you guess “DC will split off with its own distributor after Diamond shuts down for two months?” I guess we’ll find out!) so let me take this time to remind you to get your 2021 predictions in before too much more of 2021 gets past us.

I’m just going to cover a couple of other things here before calling it a day. First, response to DC’s Future State event has been…mixed, so far. Granted, it’s only been on the shelves for a couple of days, but customers really are either “gotta get them all!” or “ugh, are you kidding me, no way.” As I noted on Wednesday, I suspect hearts and minds may change if, when the regular titles resume, references are made back to the Future State stories maybe the naysayers will become yaysayers, but who’s to say. Maybe that can be someone’s 2021 comics prediction.

But sales have been…okay on them, so far. Next Batman, even at the $7.99 price point, is selling the best, and Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing are close behind. Superman of Metropolis and the Flash are taking up the rear here. Not doing badly, but not setting the world on fire either. Hey, I’ll take “selling reasonably well” any day, c’mon.

The big hit of the week is Star Wars: High Republic, which I wanted to be about Teen Yoda selling bags of fresh Dagobah Green out of the back of his Ford Pinto in his school’s parking lot, but apparently is about Jedi shenanigans in the past of the Star Wars universe or something. Anyway, probably half the people who bought it will never know what it’s about because their copies are going straight to eBay, but I had some folks genuinely excited to read it. It’s certainly the best-selling Star Wars comic in a while, but I imagine sales are going to plummet once the series moves into the less-eBayable Not Issue #1s. Or until some loon with a YouTube show declares a later random issue hot for no damned reason, who can tell with those people, he said grumpy old man-ily.

Oh, and remember the whole Bad Idea Comics thing? The one where only select stores across the country are going to get them initially, and somehow I got in on the deal? Well, they’re about to take orders for their first regular release, Eniac #1, which I announced on my store site yesterday. After an extensive delay, due to waiting for the industry to kind of pull itself together again after the COVID shutdown, it’s finally starting up, so we’ll see how it goes! I’m not sure how I’m going to order yet, but I already have (and am getting more) preorders from customers, and I’m curious how many mail orders for these I’m going to receive, given the limited availability. Should be an interesting experiment, at the very least.

One final thing, to help you start your weekend right: my old pal Brook told me about a movie that, somehow, I’d never heard about before, despite looking entirely like My Thing that I would have adored as a child upon its late ’70s release. Brooke directed me to the trailer upon the YouTubes, , which I watched with him in the shop yesterday afternoon, and lo, did I have the widest smile on my face.

Are you quire ready for…STUNT ROCK:

If it’s one thing the people of this great nation can come together to agree upon, it’s that more rock band stage performances need fire-wielding wizards.

« Older Entries