Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Here is a fairly common scenario for a collector who has decided to sell some or all of his treasured books.

You wake up one day and notice that the path between you and the bathroom is blocked by a full run of Punisher 2099 , The Golden Girls Vs. X-Men Mini Series, 7,000 copies of Superman #75, your autographed copy of One More Day The Next Generation and a complete run of EVERY COMIC BOOK HERO ACTION FIGURE EVER PRODUCED IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND.
Your “hold box” at Comic Book Jones is so big that the USPS has assigned it a zip code and the FAA has declared it a “no fly” zone.

Your (pick one) mom, dad, girl friend, wife, dog, cat, bartender, guinea pig and the local fire inspector are all brandishing lit torches in your general direction. And to top it all off you don’t have the money for luxuries such as food, shelter, getting your stuff from that “hold box” or VIP Tickets to Comic Con.

Clearly something needs to be done.

With sweat on your brow and a lump in your throat you declare for all to hear…
“I’m gonna sell these $#$@# things!!” (lightning crackles and lights flicker as dramatic music swells)

Over the next several weeks you make sure everything you own is bagged, boarded and boxed. You painstakingly grade every book in your collection and take a full inventory. Next you plunk down $30 for the newest Overstreet Price Guide and ONE AT A TIME you value out your comics.

Finally you emerge from the cave that is your comic collection. A week’s worth of stubble on your chin, eyes glazed from lack of sleep…According to “The guide’ your collection is worth (cue lightning!)….


and 33 cents!

Quickly you borrow your neighbor’s 54’ tractor trailer and with a hastily hired team of…ummm Teamsters shanghaied from Tibet, you load up your books and go in search of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice

Good luck with that.

You show up at your local comic shop or comic show and offer up your sure fire, million dollar making collection and one of two things happens:

1) You are offered between 10% and 30% of guide value or
2) They don’t want your comics at all.

You grumble loudly about “cheaters” and “know nothing dealers” and swear that some other “enlightened” dealer will JUMP to give you what your comics are worth!

Two weeks later you STILL have all of your books and all of the offers you have gotten fall within the low percentage to “take your comics and get lost range”.

Finally you throw your hands up in frustration and give up. The books are back, moldering, in your basement leaving you angry and disillusioned with the hobby in general.
What happened?

Simple. You went about trying to liquidate your collection with a whole BATCH of misconceptions.

Misconception #1 – Comic Book Price guides are accurate.

“But the comic book price guide says my copy of Beaver Boy #1 is worth $200”
Well that’s why they call them “guides” . Overstreet, CBG et al. are not meant to be a 100% accurate representations of what your comic books are worth. These guides are put together through a combination of retailer experience, statistics and a LOT of wishful thinking. This is especially true of comics after the Silver Age (1958-1970).

Most collectors believe that their comics have an intrinsic value like gold or silver.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Comics have NO intrinsic value beyond the cover price. Quite often they are worth less than that. You simply cannot expect to barter your comics like commodities such as oil or coal. As collectibles, the value of your comic books is highly subjective and unstable.

Comics are ONLY worth what collectors are willing to pay for them. In all the years that I have been buying (and sometimes) selling old comics I have never, and I mean NEVER paid “guide” value for a book. I have only very rarely SOLD at “guide”. As a buyer I have usually managed to acquire books at between 10 and 30% and as a seller I generally get 40-60%. Not exactly the sort of mark up that makes anyone rich! Sure, once in a while I pay closer to “guide” but that has been for truly rare books like FF Annual #1. Even then I only paid 50%. And I am FAR from the best at this game. Just check out Ebay and you will see real PROS getting books at LESS than 10% of guide.

In fact your BEST “guide” to comic values can be found in online auction sites. (Funny that the Overstreet people don’t take this data into consideration) . On sites like Ebay you will see what collectors are REALLY paying for your Beaver Boy #1. A good example for me was a 1st printing of “Dark Knight Returns” . This book is valued at about $50 in the Overstreet Guide in NM condition. I was able to get FIVE copies for that price from one Ebay auction. I use this book as a baseline for relative values so I check on it from time to time and it almost never goes at auction for more than $25 which is still HALF Overstreet.

Bottom line. Comic Book Price Guides are NOT an accurate reflection of your current comic values.

Misconception #2 – All Comic Eras are created equal.

It is easy to be deceived into believing that Modern Age comics are as likely to go up and retain collectible value as Golden, Silver or Bronze Age Comics. We all saw the Obama issue of Spiderman climb to over $100 and the obscenity error issue of All Star Batman do the same. Take a peek on Ebay. BOTH books can be had for $20 or less and the price is dropping as I write this.

YES new books can temporarily rise dramatically in value because supplies run low. However it is now common practice to produce multiple printings of sell outs as well as reprinting them in trade paperback form. Plus there is always the next “big thing” coming along. So there is a dramatic a fall as there is a rise in the value of modern comics.

Here is a great case in point. In the months leading up to the release of the film version of Watchmen, prices for the mini series ran to the hundreds of dollars. They were flying out at shows and online at high prices. No sooner did the movie come out to mixed reviews than the prices dropped right back to about $50 for the run.

Why do modern comics generally fail to hold collectible value?

There are several reasons:

1) Modern comics are plentiful. As I mentioned earlier, there are reprints, trade paperbacks etc. To fill the demand. Modern comics simply are not rare enough to hang on to long term collectors value.

2) Modern comics are durable. Unlike comics printed in early eras, modern comics are printed on high quality stock and are less vulnerable to damage than older books that were produced on fragile newsprint.

3) Most retailers have a (too) large back stock of modern comics and simply do not need YOURS. Comics take up space and retail space is very expensive. Any good retailer understands that the longer he has to store back issues, the more they wind up costing him. Say you sell your books to a store owner at ten cents a book. That store will likely sell less than 50% of those books and will have to put them on sale at a fraction of guide value in order to liquidate the rest. If it costs them only an additional ten cents a month to store them, the price to the retailer DOUBLES every month. At some point the cost of storing those books exceeds any profit the retailer may have hoped to make on your books.

So you see, the dealer/retailer is not out to cheat you. Most of these guys are on the up and up. BUT they are in the business of making money and taking your Modern Age comics usually makes no business sense.

Generally speaking the back issue market for Modern Age comics is limited and capricious. What is highly sought after one week is forgotten the next week.

If you want to sell Modern Age Comics at a profit you have to move very quickly! Got that new cover variant of X-Men #1? You had better pop it on Ebay within no more than 60 days if you want to make a few (and I stress the word FEW) bucks on your books. Remember, the next “big thing” is coming. After Blackest Night comes Brightest Day.

Comics produced in earlier eras are less plentiful (especially in high grades) and fetch higher prices from collectors. In the Golden Age millions of comics were destroyed in WWII paper drives, making many titles nearly impossible to find. During the period before direct market comics and the advent of the Comic Shop, candy stores and news stands got credit for their unsold comics. They would have to strip of the top part of the cover and give it to the distributor to prove the books had not been sold. This practice destroyed millions MORE comics.

And we ALL had to deal with our comic hating MOMS who would go to any lengths to throw away our beloved comic books!

Now if your collection is heavily loaded with Gold, Silver or Bronze Age books in mid to high grades, you will have an easier time selling them. You will still only get a fraction of value from the dealer for the same reasons we have already discussed but the dollars you can make will be higher.

At the end of the day, though, the only way you will get the MOST money is to sell your books directly to other collectors. There are several ways that you can do this:

1) Take a table at a comic show or flea market. You can wheel and deal just like the…ummm DEALERS. Just remember that you have to factor in the cost of the table(s) and YOUR TIME. If you take this approach don’t expect to sell everything at one time AND be prepared to give good deals. There is a lot of competition out there!

2) Sell your books online suing Craig’s List, Ebay, Atomic Avenue etc. Online selling brings your books to your target audience in a very efficient manner. Bear in mind that there are insertion and commission fees to take into account. Also when you post online it is up to you to make sure your pictures are sharp and truthfully represent the condition of the book. BE CONSERVATIVE IN YOUR GRADING! YOU should be the worst critic of any book you are selling. Better to sell it a half grade LOW than a half grade high. Your description should list all flaws that you see. Most sites have customer feedback that your prospective buyers see when they look at your items. It is VERY easy to get a bad reputation selling on line. Go the extra mile to give good customer service!

3) If you have tons of books (and who doesn’t?) that you can’t sell at any price and you MUST get them out of the house you can often get a tax write off by donating them to an accredited not for profit organization or thrift shop.

Yes you CAN make a few bucks from your beloved comic collection. If you happen to have a Fantastic Four #1 or Superman #1, you can make LOTS of money. But for the vast majority of collectors who have more modest collections the returns are more…modest. I actually do a lot of buying and selling myself and though the returns ARE modest , that profit allows me to buy…MORE COMICS!!

YUP my whole reason to ever sell comics is to enhance and deepen my collection! The gretest value comics have for me is Collecting and enjoying them!

That’s 30!

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