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A Lonely Place of Shopping.

§ April 11th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 8 Comments

Let’s hop into the ol’ Wayback Machine, because I’m covering some comments y’all left on this site back in the distant past of late February 2022!

Mostly I wanted to address this exchange in the comments to this post. It starts with Chris V. noting the relative dearth of customers in his local comic shop and its possible relation to high price points on new books:

“There’s no telling how long people will be willing to pay that amount of money either…and, in fact, a ton of people have already said ‘enough is enough,’ which is why the local comic book store tends to be empty when I visit. They obviously do have customers or they wouldn’t be in business, but the amount of customers seems to be decreasing by the year.”

…with Allan Hoffman responding thusly:

“Keep in mind that our impression of the customer base of a shop is based solely on what we see when we are there, which on average would probably 10-20 minutes on one day. Mike has often noted how his store can be dead at one moment followed by a crowd of people buying stuff.”

A few months back my girlfriend’s extended family was having a gathering at the restaurant next door. It was a Sunday afternoon, and Sundays can be pretty hit or miss for me (most Sundays are okay, some are great, and some like yesterday were…eh). This particular Sunday, I had a lot of business in the early part of the day, and in the later afternoon, things had slowed down quite a bit, allowing me to do some stocking-type stuff.

Apparently dinner next door had ended, and into my shop wanders one of the nieces. Seeing me alone in the store, she loudly exclaims “Don’t you ever have any customers?” “Yes, of course I do, you horrible child, it’s just slow at the moment,” was my reply, and she gave me the “yeah, right, old man” look as only a young teenager could give you.

And then another niece, this one a tad younger, walked in, looked around and asked “Where are all your customers?” “I’VE GOT CUSTOMERS, JUST NOT RIGHT NOW” I cried out, but to no avail as I was still pummeled with scornful disbelief.

She was followed by a nephew, brother to the first niece and the youngest of the three, who also noted “You don’t have any customers!” It was at this point I struck them all from the will.

So yes, as Allan says, it’s hard to judge a store’s business flow just from a short visit. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a full store for an hour or three, which then suddenly empties out, only to have the next person who comes in say to me “So, slow day, huh?” The ebb and flow of customer traffic can have an element of randomness to it, but I recall, at the previous place of employment, we had a cash register that could print out transaction totals per hour since the last time the machine was zeroed out. Basically it told us at what time of the day we were the busiest (barring unusual events like someone buying a $1000 comic at 2 in the afternoon or something). As I recall, it was usually around noon, which was an hour or two after we opened. Telling you what the second busiest time of day was, or the slowest time, would just be me guessing, as it’s been a while, but you get the idea.

The register I have at my store now doesn’t have that function (mostly just adding and multiplying, sometimes correctly), but my general sense is that late morning/early afternoon, followed by late afternoon/early evening, are my busy times, with slow times popping up in the early afternoon. Wednesdays are of course the busiest, being the New Comics Day of choice (despite DC trying to move some of that action to Tuesday). Later in the week is usually busier than early in the week. And of course this is all just generalization…nothing here is set in stone. I usually think of Mondays as slower days, but sometimes I have spectacular business that day. You never know.

New Comics Day is no exception to this. I’ve had great and busy New Comics Days with people waiting at the door when I open, all champing at the bit to get the new goodies. And I’ve had New Comics Days where…well, it’s not exactly a ghost town, but there were certainly longer lulls than usual between bursts of customers. Again, it Just Happens. It happened during the 1990s boom, and it happened during the later ’90s crash, and it happens now. So long as you’re taking in enough money to make the whole “selling comic books for a living” thing worthwhile, everything should be fine, even if maybe at some points during the day you can hear your own heartbeat because the store is so quiet.

Chris V says something else I’d like to comment upon:

“I’m concerned about the state of the comic industry as it currently exists, but more from a lack of collectors rather than from speculation.”

I don’t know about other shops, but I can tell you this about my experience. I know I bring up speculation a lot on this site and on the Twitterers, only because that sort of purchasing behavior can throw a monkey wrench into my planned orders. But that’s a minority of transactions. Most people coming into the shop for comics are readers, are collectors, and not just looking to flip this week’s first appearance to other speculators on eBay.

My business health has also been fine, with 2021 being my best year yet, financially. Sales are up, overall, I’m seeing new faces in the shop every day (even if, on a slow day, that one new face is all I see!), and I’m very happy. Given that there are many other comic shops in surrounding towns, I am grateful for the clientele I’m still acquiring.

Which reminds me, someone had asked (and I can’t find who did so at the moment) if my previous place of employment shutting down meant a lot of their customers coming my way. And the answer to that is “not really, maybe too soon to tell” which isn’t a surprise, as my shop is about a half-hour drive from the old one, and there are a few shops in the immediate vicinity of the defunct store, and the store’s pull list was transferred to one of those shops. Frankly, I’m too far out of the way to get much of that customer base, especially given today’s gas prices, not to mention any customers who were going to leave that old shop and start shopping with me already did years ago when I opened up. Not to say I saw no new customers from that unfortunate closing, but not nearly as many as you think.

Okay, even more questions in the queue (yes, even your Miracleman one, Thom!) so I’ll get to those shortly! Thanks for reading, pals.

Trying to cover all bases.

§ April 1st, 2022 § Filed under retailing, variant covers § 2 Comments

Okay, let me catch up on a few more questions from some posts earlier this…er, last month:

Mike Loughlin wants me to cover

“Is there any demand for older, limited variants? For example, do people come in looking for the 1:100 Superman Unchained cover anymore, or does the interest dry up once the book has been released? What about for less popular books (say, a 1:100 variant for an Outsiders series from about 5 years ago)? Do you sell those variants at a discount if they don’t move after a few weeks?”

Usually once the sales window on a new comic closes (generally about a month, when the next issue comes in), if any of the pricier “ratio” variants haven’t moved by then, that’s likely it. I’ll put them in a box on the counter marked “VARIANTS,” and occasionally they’ll sell out of there, but honestly I really should mark them down or something.

But yeah, with rare exceptions the demand drops on these variants almost immediately, regardless of how big or small, how hot or lukewarm, the comic may be. I can see some of them going for, and actually selling, for big money, but every time I try to sell a pricier variant online I get bupkis, so I stopped trying. Though maybe I should throw a few for cheap up on my Hipcomic page. I’ve been having better luck selling comics there than I ever did on eBay.

• • •

Joe Gualtieri speculates

“Wouldn’t some artists with established fanbases like Hughes or Campbell be worth it to get the variant every time out, or close to it?”

Well, sure, if you like those artists. And sometimes they can hold value…but not always. And usually it’s not the one you’ll think it’ll be (though with “investment” apps and a pretty wide echo chamber repeating to all who will listen “this will be hot” we get a lot of self-fulfilling prophecies).

• • •

Matthew Murray crowns me with

“Did you notice any increase in interest among your customers for the King Spawn series after selling those #1s for 99 cents each? Did m/any customers add the title to their pull lists? Did you order more of #2 than you would have otherwise?”

I did bump up orders on #2, and sold through, but as time went on the King Spawn orders normalized to about what I’d normally order on Spawn comics. And by “about” I mean I’m selling a little bit more on all the Spawn comics, though sales on those books had been creeping up a tad of late anyway.

Will get to the rest of questions later. But first, I must enter the Odinsleep. See you folks on Monday, and as always, thanks for reading.

It was either that or “Signie.”

§ March 16th, 2022 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, retailing § 2 Comments

It’s because the atomic number of iodine is 53.

Anyway, about Monday’s post…the plan was to respond to some of your comments from a couple of weeks ago, long delayed because of early morning doctor appointments disrupting my late evening blogging habits. However, I got caught up with looking into that whole Saturday Night Live thing I decided to make investigating that the whole post. Of course, being weeks after the fact, the matter had already been long settled and I’d come to the wrong conclusion anyway, so there you go.

I did get in a brief anecdote about my previous place of employment helping out a local theater production, as well as ending the post with a fairly solid gag, so it wasn’t all in vain!

Speaking of the previous place etc., Eric had this question about the old sign I procured from there:

“Did the dragon have a name?”

Here’s a better pic of the dragon from the sign:

And no, to the best of my knowledge the dragon had no name. Which is weird because we sure liked putting names on things at the store. At one point former coworker Rob had brought in a skull sculpture (a skullpture?) that he’d just kept on a shelf behind the counter. The skull was dubbed “Sid,” and eventually, when we got a second somewhat smaller skull from parts unknown (or forgotten), it was called, of course, “Marty.” And there were other things around the shop we named…most notably, the old wooded baseball bat Ralph kept behind the counter that was referred to as “The Peacemaker.” (No relation.)

But alas, our painted dragon friend lacked a sobriquet. Well, the sign’s mine now, so I shall dub…her, let’s say she’s a her, “Jennifer,” for no good reason I could adequately explain.

And adrian hunter sez about the sign

“I love how signage like this always ends with ‘science fiction.’ Science Fiction…what? Double-Feature? Books? videos? games? all the above? I don’t know about the rest of the world, although from this sign it seems endemic but in CT it happens a lot. It’s just amusing to me.”

Ralph (if you recall from my recap of his retail history) had been in a shop up in Santa Barbara that specialized in science fiction books and comic books. Ralph was the one in charge of the sci-fi books, as that had been, and still is, a particular interest of his (along with comics, of course). So, when he opened up his own shop it was probably no surprise that he wanted to emphasize the “science fiction” part of the business, especially with all the Star Warsing and Star Trekking going on.

And to your question of “science fiction what,” the answer is “yes.” Books, videos (eventually) games, even comics sometimes. And “double feature” of sorts…Ralph had plenty of Ace doubles.

But seriously, “science fiction” is a good, overall eye-catching term to grab people where things like “comic books” and “baseball cards” might not. Come to think of it, I should probably replace that “SPECULATIVE EVOLUTIONARY DIESELPUNK” painted in the window with “SCIENCE FICTION” instead. Might get more positive attention.

Fun flies when you’re having time.

§ March 4th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 4 Comments

yet another artifact from the Previous Place of Employment (if you missed it, I posted one on Wednesday): the Ralph’s Comic Corner clock!

Gifted to the shop by a customer (and alas, which customer I can’t remember), the image for the clock’s face was blown up from a business card and colorized. (The drawing, like nearly all drawings done for the store’s business cards, fliers, signs and such, was by cartoonist/animator Tom Foxmarnick).

As a nod to the ol’ role playing game part of the business, please note that the clock’s numbers are made up of teeny-tiny dice:

When Ralph brought it to me, he wasn’t sure if the clock still worked, as he replaced the battery in the back and no tempus fugited. However, I am happy to report that I had a fresh new battery at home, and once placed in the clock, the hands once again started ticking off the remaining seconds of our fleeting lives. Hooray!

• • •

In other news, comments have been left on the posts from earlier in the week, and I’m not ignoring them! I will respond to those that need responses sometime next week. Thanks for reading, and commenting!

Sign of the times.

§ March 2nd, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 8 Comments

As was mentioned before, my former boss Ralph had moved from the back room of a thrift store in downtown Ventura, CA, to a small storefront midtown, in the early 1980s. To help grab some attention for the shop, in 1984 Ralph’s friend Tom Foxmarnick (a cartoonist and animator, graduate of the Joe Kubert School) painted this sign for him:

If you look closely, you can see this sign is now sitting in my store, brought to me by Ralph after the closure of Seth’s Games and Anime (the shop Ralph’s eventually became). It’s wood, pretty good size…the exact measurements I meant to get prior to making this post but like a dummy, I forgot. I’ll try to edit them in later. But it’s up against the side of one of my comic tables there, so that should give you an idea.

Anyway, the sign would rest in the front of Ralph’s 1984-1990 location, sitting on a large brick step that was just to the side of the shop’s door. When we (yes, we, I started working there in ’88) moved to larger digs across the street, the sign was put in the front window. And in ’97, when we moved again to the larger space next door, the sign also came with us and, at least for a while, put in one of the windows there.

Eventually, when Seth took over the majority of the store, the sign went to the back room, where it stayed, well, pretty much until earlier this week when Ralph hauled it through my front door.

A little worn, clearly had seen some use — I’m talking about the sign, not Ralph, to be clear — but it’s a nice memento of a shop that meant a lot to a whole bunch of people, myself included. A big chunk of my past, now on display in my store, reminded me of where I came from and what I hope to continue.

End of an era.

§ February 14th, 2022 § Filed under retailing § 10 Comments

From the “About Us” page on the old Ralph’s Comic Corner website:

“In the late 1970s, Ralph Holt joined forces with a friend of his and began selling comic books and baseball cards at the Santa Barbara swap meet and conventions all over California. Eventually they opened up the Andromeda Bookshop, a store specializing in science fiction books and comic books, in Santa Barbara, CA. After a couple of years, Ralph decided to head out on his own. He made his way about 40 miles down the coast to Ventura, CA, and, in May of 1980, opened up the very first incarnation of Ralph’s Comic Corner. Originally located in the back of a thrift store (where it literally was just a corner), he carried only new and used comics. Ralph moved to a larger location, with his very own storefront, down the road in 1984. In 1990 Ralph moved the shop across the street to an even larger store. In 1997, the store doubled in size again, having moved next door to its current location of 2379 E. Main Street, becoming the Cultural Hub of Ventura County. Along the way, the store added trading cards (both sport and non-sport), role-playing games, science fiction paperbacks, card games, trade paperbacks, T-shirts, posters, board games, Japanese animation and manga, Pogs, and everything else you might expect to find at a Giant Pop Art Emporium.”

Not mentioned in that history I wrote for that site way back when:

1. My hiring in 1988 to replace departing employee Ray.

2. Seth, who’d been working at a comic shop north of us, coming down and buying out the gaming half of the store in the mid-ish 2000s, thus launching his own store “Seth’s Games and Anime.” Which means, yes, there were two stores operating side by side in the same location. Even, for a while, with different hours, which took some doing, let me tell you.

3. A number of years later, Seth would take over pretty much the entire shop save for Ralph’s own back issues. And eventually Ralph would stop being an active participant in the shop, meaning the entire store became Seth’s Games and Anime. (Ralph would continue to have an office there, and sell comics independently of the shop…does this all sound complicated? It is. At one point between Points 2 and 3 I was getting two paychecks, one from Ralph, one from Seth, which meant I have to keep track of what hours I worked for whom.)

So anyway, as of Point 3 “Ralph’s Comic Corner” pretty much stopped being its own storefront, and while there was a continuity of existence between Ralph’s store and Seth’s, the Comic Corner as we knew it was over.

Which takes me to the current sad news: Seth’s Games and Anime will be closing its doors for good at the end of this month.

As anyone who’s been following my social media probably knows, I’ve had some feelings about this. Now I’m at my own shop, a few towns over, and have been for years. This closing doesn’t directly impact me. But nonetheless, it’s left me somewhat discombobulated since I’d heard the news.

Part of it is that continuity of existence I mentioned before. Yes, it’s no longer Ralph’s Comic Corner, nor has it been in a while, but it’s still where I worked for many years, learning the trade and creating relationships, several of which I still maintain at my current shop. I moved the contents of this store twice, I built shelves and arranged stock, created displays and tried hard to make it a friendly, accessible place. Working for Ralph’s and later Seth’s represents well over a quarter century of my life.

As pal Andrew put it on Twitter:

“It was the apprenticeship and booster rocket that helped get you where you are now.”

Ralph’s Comic Corner, and the shop it became later, loom large in my history and development. And I guess I always sort of took for granted that they’d always be there. But as I was there the other night, picking up some stock for my own store at Seth’s urging, I knew this would be the last time I’d be seeing the inside of this building. It definitely wasn’t the comic shop I remember, but I could look around and see where it had been, beneath the new arrangement of fixtures and varieties of stock that existed there now. When I come back and the building’s been rented out to, I don’t know, the Screen Doors for Submarines store, even that connection to my past will be gone.

So, it’s been a pretty sad day for a lot of us, whether we were old-timey Ralph’s customers or folks who just started popping into Seth’s recently. I of course wish everyone there the best.

Ralph will still be around…I’m still doing business with him, and I’m sure he’ll turn up filling in for me at the shop once in a while.

Speaking of Ralph, pal (and also former Ralph’s employee) Cully sent me a scan of a panel that appeared in Gilbert Hernandez’s Luba #6 (2002)…warning, dirty words, don’t look kids:

In case you didn’t know, Ralph’s Comic Corner was the first comic shop anywhere that carried Love and Rockets, the original black and white covered one they self-published. Ralph often said “I told them to send it to Fantagraphics, that was the kind of thing they’d publish!” (Also, Jaime noted that Ralph’s was the first comic shop he and his brothers had ever been to.)

Ralph did make an appearance in an early Love and Rockets…#4 (1983), to be exact, in a story by Mario:

Mario would sneak Ralph into the mag again in issue #50.

Here’s one of Ralph’s appearances in Groo the Wanderer #28 (1987) by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones…Sergio was just over the hill from us in Ojai, and would pop in on a regular basis:

And here’s Ralph in Tom Foxmarnick’s story for Taboo #2 (1989)…Tom’s an old friend of Ralph, and in fact drew Ralph’s business cards and various flyers and even that logo at the beginning of this post (a very pixelated GIF from the website…I’m sure I’ve got a good black and white scan of the original art somewhere):

By the way, the photo references Tom took of Ralph for this story are pretty great, but I haven’t seen them in 30 years. Hopefully Ralph can turn them up again.

Ralph’s shown up in other places here and there as well…both Ralph and I have a “thank you” in Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics, as well as the recent Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures omnibus collecting Evan Dorkin’s work on the title. And at one point whoever was putting together the “Death of Gwen Stacy” paperback for Marvel inexplicably didn’t have a good scan of Amazing Spider-Man #122’s cover, and called us for one in exchange for a credit in the book. Sure enough, when said book was released there was a “thanks to Ralph’s Comic Corner” inside…at least for the first printing. For all I know Marvel’s still using our scan for things.

It’s fun stuff like this that I’ll try to hang onto, the memories and occasionally weird experiences I had in my 2 1/2 decades of working for Ralph’s and Seth’s. The stores may no longer be with us, but everything I learned there is still with me now, and informs how I approach this business. As the cliché goes, so long as someone remembers, they’ll never really be gone.

Do they even still buy physical textbooks in college, or is it all digital?

§ January 3rd, 2022 § Filed under collecting, death of superman, retailing, variant covers § 4 Comments

So I recently found out that the Roku Channel, which is a free streaming service available on, of all things, the Roku streaming device, features a series called Slugfest. It’s a number of short episodes devoted to the back-and-forth between DC and Marvel Comics over the last eight decades or so. (Yes, I know it wasn’t technically “Marvel Comics” early on, nor was DC technically “DC,” but you know what I mean.) Each episode is only a few minutes long, with a mix of vintage video/images and actor reenactments. (Most interesting is Brandon Routh playing a young Jack Kirby…I mean, he’s got the eyebrows, but he’s gotta be at least a foot taller than Kirby ever was; and Ray Wise as older Jack Kirby is about as perfect a casting as you can imagine.)

I bring it up because Episode 8 of the series, “World Without a Superman,” brings us back to our old friend, Superman #75:

Yes, longtime readers of this site have heard me go on and on about this particular event, from my experiencing the madness from behind the counter at the comic shop I worked at back then, to the aftermarket life the book enjoyed (for varying values of “enjoyed”) in the decades since. Well, if you’re new around here, this here link will catch you up on all those ramblings.

And of course I have touched upon the Death of Superman madness in this very series of Variant Cover-age posts, mostly just talking about the “platinum editions.” But it occurs to me, I haven’t really talked much about the more common black-bagged version in this context. Not that I haven’t spoken about it at length in the past, but I feel like it should at least be brought up, especially in reference to that Slugfest episode.

To give you a little context, the Superman family of books (Action, Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Superman: The Man of Steel) were selling relatively well, at least for us, at the time. They effectively functioned as a weekly Superman comic, with each issue of each series coming out on separate weeks, storylines and subplots flowing from one to the other. It was very effective serialized storytelling. Also, keep in mind we were still riding the wave of the comics book of the late 1980s/early 1990s, so lots of comics were selling very well.

When it came time to order Superman #75, the actual Death of Superman issue, we ordered high. We’d already bumped up numbers on the preceding issues featuring the story leading up to the Big One, but on #75 itself, we ordered something like ten times what we’d normally order on the Superman comic. We were, we thought, taking something of a chance on this event book. It would do well, surely, but well enough to sell us out of 10x normal Superman orders? We’ll see.

Oh, and by the way, when I’m saying “we ordered” and “we thought,” I mean “Ralph ordered,” as my former boss was placing all the numbers, and I was but a lowly employee.

Anyway, as you all know, it came out, lines around the block, stores could’ve sold lots more than they ordered, et cetera et cetera so on and so forth. And the variant sealed in the black bag with all the goodies, the one we ordered the heaviest numbers, was the one in primary demand. Not to say the “standard” edition:

…didn’t also sell, because it sure did. And when the reprints hit, we sold lots of those, too. Needless to say, there were tons of copies of this sold. About 3 million copies altogether, according to the Slugfest episode.

And yes, here we come to the reason for this post. There’s a scene, a reenactment with actors portraying Superman writer Louise Simonson and a friend of hers, just hanging out at home. It had been noted that the Superman creative team were under a Non-Disclosure Agreement regarding the eventual resolution of the Death of Superman storyline (spoiler: he comes back). The scene, going entirely from my memory, was something like this:

FRIEND: “My son is buying lots of copies of this comic. When he gets more money, he’s going to buy more. These are going to put him through college someday.”


And the narrator (Kevin Smith, naturally) makes sure to tell us “the comic only goes for about five bucks now.”

Mmmmm…I beg to differ.

A while back I wrote about the fact that most people who bought the Death of Superman books were not comic collectors, were mostly folks from outside the hobby who picked up an issue out of curiosity or “investment,” who had literally no idea how to properly store or care for a comic book. The vast majority of comic collections I see from around this period, even from folks who bought the bags and boards and Mylar™ and such, are not in Near Mint, or even Fine or better, condition.

In the nearly 30 years since Superman #75 came out, I’d imagine most copies held by non-collectors were not stored well, or even just straight-up discarded once their passing interest in the comic faded. Plus, I suspect attempts to sell the book later to recoup on their investment resulted in some disappointing offers. “Wait, it’s not worth thousands?” It’s probably even worse for the folks who bought copies from opportunistic scalpers, selling them for a hundred dollars a pop the weekend after release (as I heard about locally, and probably wasn’t uncommon elsewhere).

End result: probably not as many minty-mint copies of any version of Superman #75 out there as you may think. It’s not uncommon, but it’s less likely now that you’ll walk into a store with a ready stack of them for sale.

I only ever see one or two at a time of the black-bagged version, and almost never see copies of the standard #75, or even its many reprints. And while I’ll buy the mint copies (or at least cleanly-opened copies with the extras perserved) from collections, I have seen plenty of copies that are just trashed and that I’ve passed on purchasing. As such, it is my belief that a nice copy can still fetch a premium price…and actually does, as I’ve sold more than a few in my shop. And by “premium” I definitely mean more than five bucks.

A quick look at the eBays shows copies of the black-bagged edition selling for, on average, between $10 and $30. Yes, to be fair, I did see a sealed copy sell for $5, but that seemed like an outlier. A couple of the standard editions did sell for about $6 to $8, so that’s a little closer to the show’s assertion. A check of currently-offered copies at Hipcomic don’t show much variation, though they do seem to have a lot more of the reprints than eBay did. (I’m not bringing up “professionally graded” sales, as that’s its own super-distorted marketplace.)

I also did a quick search of a couple of the larger online stores and didn’t even spot any (except for one store that had it for over $150, which is probably why they still have it). Hardly a scientifically thorough search, and for all I know they just had it and sold it before I looked.

The end result is…no, Superman #75, in either its black-bagged or standard edition, isn’t going to pay for anyone’s college. Even the platinum edition might only net you enough to pay for a couple of textbooks. But, I think the “five bucks” descriptor was bit of an underestimation. There’s still a market for these, just that the market value has normalized to meet actual demand, long after that initial rush and immediate scarcity drove some panic buying.

Now that white covered Adventures of Superman #500…if I got five bucks a pop on those, I’d be ecstatic.

Let me know if you’d seen any of those Superman #75s out for sale in your area. Are they going for premium pricing? Are stores stuck with a bunch and trying to unload them? (I’d rather you didn’t mention store names, in case they take offense to being held up as an example of “charging too much” or something.) I’d be interested to hear what’s going on with these across the marketplace now.

Nothing more than feelings.

§ December 31st, 2021 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 1 Comment

Thelonious_Nick asked, in reference to Wednesday’s post

“How do you go about determining if these signature are authentic? Do you up the price for a signature? How much would you bump up Roy Thomas vs. Jack Kirby?”

Another reader, Chris V, gave his answer and I don’t think there’s anything there I’d disagree with. In this particular case, with this collection, my personal answer as to whether or not these autographs are real is “context.”

This was a largish collection, held by a private collector for many decades, kept in some pretty crummy plastic bags but were in consecutive order and very clearly part of an acquired run of books. It looked like a collection where someone bought each issue as it came out (or filled holes in their runs with back issue purchases), read ’em, bagged them up, then kept them in boxes. And that’s where they stayed until they were brought to me.

As such, finding the occasional issue with a signature inside very likely had that signature in it for many, many years. Could someone in the 1970s been going around forging signatures of comic book professionals? Sure, but it seemed like a pretty low-stakes crime for someone to have been pursuing. And nothing about these comics really seemed to make them stand out from the rest of the collection…they were just in there numerically with the other issues in whatever series from which the signed comic hailed. It just looks like a fan took a comic or two to a signing, had it signed, then dropped it back in the collection.

In short, it just feels like the signatures are authentic. Nothing about the collection or how the comics were kept make me suspect otherwise. I realize that when removed from this context, it may be harder to convince buyers of their authenticity, but I’m sure they’re exactly what they appear to be.

Like, I’m totally sure that’s Steve Ditko’s signature on this issue of Speedball. “Hang loose, and have a crazy summer!” it reads. Boy, if anything ever sounds like Ditko….

As for pricing them? Eh, maybe I’ll bump up the price half again, maybe twice. There’s no hard and fast rule on what to price these. Bigger the name, bigger the jump in cost, I guess? Just kinda winging it.

Okay, that’s it for 2021! Come back to my site in 2022 where I’ll ask the quesion “boy, remember how good we had it last year?” And speaking of next year, don’t forget to contribute to the 2022 comic industry predictions post! I’ll be starting to look back at the 2021 predictions in a week or so, so get ready for that!

Happy New Year, pals, and thanks for reading! Stay safe, and we’ll all meet back here on Monday!

Wanted: more collections like this.

§ December 27th, 2021 § Filed under retailing § 6 Comments

Okay, sorry, the Variant Cover-Age post you’ve come to expect purt’near every Monday ain’t happening today, as I was surprised Sunday afternoon at the shop with quite the sizeable collection of 1960s/1970s comics…heavy on the Marvels.

After shucking the yellowing plastic cling-wrap bags that surrounded each comic (terrible, but better than no bags) and getting them halfway organized, the collection looked a little something…like this:

Two and a half short boxes of comics may not seem like a lot of work to buy or process, but when they’re all older comics, and many of them are specifically premium comics with quite a bit of demand, well, the processing time increases a bit. More thorough checking of conditions, more researching prices beyond just using the price guide, etc.

Anyway, the need to get these processed relatively quickly had me actually bring the boxes home with me to start that particular job, even if it’s just to get comic bags and price stickers on everything. Which, okay, I mostly did but at least it’s a head start. And it definitely bit into my writing/research time for another variant cover post. Hence, what you’re reading now.

I did already sell a couple items, which I’ll show you here and will give you an idea of what I’ve working with. Like, for example, a Giant-Size X-Men #1:

…in a pic that’s a tad glare-y on purpose, as to show that long crease down the right hand side of the front cover. Thus continues my streak of not having a copy of this comic available for sale longer than about a few hours.

The other surprise was a beat-to-the-dickens copy of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #1:

…that still has an amazing cover image, despite the wear. And alas, the centerspread of the comic is missing, but I still managed to find a buyer for the comic anyway!

The dominant feature of the rest of the collection is the majority of Amazing Spider-Man issues from 10 to about 160 or around there. Missing issues around the 100 mark, but still has the first Punisher, the whole original Spider-Clone thing, first appearances of many of the Spider-Man rogues gallery (Green Goblin, Rhino, Kingpin, Scorpion, like that) and, of course, the first Spider-Mobile.

Other highlights of the collection include more ’60s X-Men, a bunch of late ’60s/early ’70s Avengers (including a #100 signed by Roy Thomas!), a bunch of ’70s Captain America (with what seems to be almost all the Cap/Falcon stories, including the first Falcon), about 2/3rds of the Silver Surfer run, and other scattered books (such as the Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow with the first John Stewart and, yes, that one).

I already have a buyer interested in most of this stuff, so we’ll see what’s left over. But I gotta get the darned things priced first. One thing I’ll say is that this is the most I’ve ever paid for a collection, and I was willing to pay that price because I knew nearly everything here would sell quickly. I mean, ’60s Spider-Man, duh. This was not a risky purchase.

I’ll try to get more pictures taken of what’s come in as I find the time, even if just for posterity and not, like, a “for sale” listing as the time could very well already be spoken for.

And here’s the thing: the fella that sold me the comics says he still needs to bring in the really good stuff. Egads. I’ll let you know if that happens.

In the meantime, don’t forget to give me your 2022 comic industry predictions! Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll try to be back on schedule next week with another variant cover we can gaze upon.

What? Throw something away? BITE YOUR TONGUE.

§ November 12th, 2021 § Filed under retailing § 5 Comments

So I’ll hopefully be back to business as usual on the site next week, when I will have a new variant cover-age post and get back to answering more of your questions. In the meantime, though, lookit this thing I found in my stack of old CD-ROMs:

This is a disc, provided by Diamond Comic Distributors in 1999, featuring thousands of images of products then in their Star System reorder catalog.

I don’t recall why I have it in my evil clutches specifically, other than perhaps to use some of the pics on the website for my previous place of employment. Which is, I think, one of the reasons why the disc was made in the first place. Also, I think it was to provide easy reference to the items available back in those pre-broadband days for anyone not wanting to dial up their internets and wait for the pixels to gradually load.

Some of the files are pretty good size…this is the actual size of the largest file on the disc (324kb):

And this is the smallest-sized file of an actual product, at 14kb (there is one smaller file at 13kb, but it’s for retailer cycle sheets):

While probably fine for whatever purposes they were put to at the time, most of the images on the disc are too small for modern purposes, beyond perhaps just providing tiny thumbnail pics for an online catalogue or some such.

It is kinda neat just to open some of the images at random to see what products they reveal. I remember most of what I’ve found, even some of the old gaming and anime stuff, but I’ll occasionally come across some item forgotten in the mists of time:

Or some book I wish was still in print:

Or some book I really wish was still in print:

Anyway, I’ll poke through it some more and see if I can find any surprises. Like this Sandman statue:

Boy, I bet I could still sell those.

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