…or “It is October 8th and my rent is now over a week late. PLEASE BUY THESE.”
So I don’t really talk about the real ins and outs of store business very often, mostly because so many of our customers read the blog and I always get a little creeped out when they seem to know more about what’s going on ‘behind the scenes’ here at the store than I think they should. But the recent story about someone finding a copy of the first appearance of Batman in their attic, coupled with comics retailer Mike Sterling’s recent post about buying comics off of the general public in that sorta situation led me to want to post about it a little.
First and foremost, I hate buying people’s comic collections.
I’m pretty lucky in that, generally, I don’t actually have to do it all that often, what withÂ the store’s owner beingÂ a CGC-level grading expert, and a long list of friends that can do similarÂ forÂ us. Five minutes with a stack of comics andÂ the owner can give a solid guess as to condition, value, and how much to pay for the lot. His efficiency at purchasing comics is a wonderful compliment to my aversion to same, and usually things work out well. But the past two weeks saw the owner on vacation,Â and that combined withÂ school starting and rent needing to be paid and all that by half of the city, I probably picked up something in the neighborhood ofÂ 8 orÂ 9 collections of comics while he was away.Â The material we picked up ranged from a poor art student sellingÂ her 20 beat-up alternative comics like Eightball and Hate, to four full long boxes of late 80s/early 90s drek, including a full box that included (and I’m not kidding here) only copies of X-Force #1 and X-Men #1. I bet when that guy bought 50 or 60 copies of X-Force #1, he wasn’t expecting a massive negative98% return on his investment, huh?
The best collection I bought was from a fella who was moving out of town and wanting to part with his beloved collection of material from the 1980s, almost exclusively bought at The Beguiling. That was awesome, and full of comics that I had (quite honestly) never seen before, as well as real rarities. Just digging through two massive suitcases of comics like that was fun in and of itself, and one of the more enjoyable aspects of picking up a collection, wading through not only rare comics, but actual comics history.
But mostly? No.
There was the sweet old guy who came in with a painstakingly collected complete run of Alex Toth Zorro comics, including some of the later Gold Key reprints. That’s a situation where a couple of points of difference in the comic’s grade changes what you sell it forÂ by quite a bit of money. The pressure to grade and price the comicÂ accurately is definitely on, and then you add in the fact that he clearly loves these comics and he needs the money that day with the implication that something terrible has happened to him, and he needs this money more than the joy of owning his favourite comics. So, no pressure there right?
Then the guy who comes in needing to sell off his prize collection, the comics of his youth, including WOLVERINE #1!!! He needs to pay his rent and he’s in a bind and… the Wolverine #1 is actually, somehow, the Rucka/Robertson Wolverine #1 from 2 or 3 years back, and anything older than 10 years is generally wrecked. Dude’s getting, on average,Â 25 cents a book when he’s expecting to walk out of the store with a few hundred bucks in his pocket. The desperation is palpable, and really, really uncomfortable. I mean, I could be all Comic Book Guy about it and try and completely disconnect myself from my job, both emotionally and rationally, and hand him his $50 and go back to watching YouTube, but man, who wants to be The Comic Book Guy? So you go through and start guiding a bunch of the books, trying to see if any of the random shit that comprises all of his childhood hopes and dreams might have a key book or two–a first appearance, an origin, a first-fight-scene, anything to push the comics he’s got out of the dreaded $3-$5 ‘filler’ range into something that’ll get his landlord off his back and make it seem less like he’s selling out for pennies. BAM! It looks like aÂ bunch ofÂ bronze-age Justice League and Wonder Woman issues are just early enough to guide for $20-$40 depending on condition, and they’re (miraculously) in better condition than any of the more recent books. That raises his per-comic payment up to about 75 cents on average, and has him leaving with enough to feel good about the transaction. I breathe a sigh of relief, and put the boxes of comics in the “to be priced” pile.
Which I think I earned the right not to have to deal with… :-/
I don’t like being in the position of breaking bad news to desperate people, and “your comics investment is not what you think it is” certainly qualifies. In the story about the Detective Comics #27 purchase, it’s mentioned that the seller originally tried to deal with another local store and didn’t feel like they were getting a fair shake. Even my first response was “that owner was probably a cheat!”Â despite the fact thatÂ I’ve been in similar situations. Sometimes what we’re willing to pay does not match the expectations of what the seller wants for their books. That’s the beauty of not being the only shop in town I guess, but we’ve had people take personal offence at the suggestion that their white-polybagged-return-of-Superman comics are, in fact, not worth more than the nickel each we are willing to pay. Or that their ‘genuine first issue of Action Comics!’ is really a give-away reprint (worth about a nickel), or that their really old Spider-Man comics are the ones that the police used to give away warning about the dangers of like, child abuse or whatever, and they’re worth about a nickel. Or, you know, the massively successful Rucka/Robertson Wolverine relaunch. **Cough**
Granted, this is an original Detective Comics #27, and if the seller didn’t feel like they were getting all that they could? I’m glad that they went out and found someone else to deal with. There are always options (hell, they could’ve auctioned it themselves if they really wanted to, and gotten the retail priceÂ for it (less commission by the auction house)Â instead of whatever fraction of its guide value, however large or small, that they eventually sold it for).
So, there you go. A little bit more about my job: things I don’t like to or try to avoid doing. Don’t worry about me though, I make up for that aversion by inserting gratuitous links to The Beguiling’s online store in my personal time. It all balances out.