While NYCC has become a multi-media, multi-genre event ranging from live performance to movies, TV, Anime, Sci-Fi and more, for me it has always been about the COMICS. As usual I was very quickly reminded that big shows are generally not the places to shop for older comics if you are looking for a bargain.
YES there are MANY comic bargains at large shows such as NYCC. There are endless $1 boxes stuffed with GREAT reading. Modern comics tend to be heavily discounted and trade paperbacks/hard cover collections are slashed by over 50% by Sunday. You can even find decent prices on LOWER GRADED Silver and Golden Age Comics.
BUT if you are looking for higher grade or scarce Silver/Golden Age books steer clear. Even Mid Grade books tend to be over priced. The dealers are also less inclined to make deals at a big show than they are when I see THE SAME guys at smaller shows all year!
I went to NYCC with a very specific shopping list this year. I wanted high grade (VF or better) copies of Batman #227 and Detective #441, and a Fine copy of Laugh #61. I also wanted to get a copy of Vampirella #1 (1969) in VG or better condition. While I found all four books at the show, the prices on the first three were not only over Overstreet guide, but WAY over! Consequently I only purchased the Vampi at the show.
I will get into some of the reasons for the over pricing later in this column.
Now let’s talk about the Laugh, Batman and Detective comics, which I DID purchase from Ebay right after Comiccon.
Batman #227 is a highly sought after Neal Adams cover and has been going up rapidly in both demand and price. In VF the current OS Guide has it at $89 but that is a low price. I had been tracking it on ebay auctions and VF to VF+ copies were typically going for around $200. I saw an 8.5 unslabbed (not in a CGC case) copy at NYCC for $400! The dealer would not budge below $375 so I took a pass. That Sunday I put a bid down on this copy (below) on Ebay and got it for $218. When it arrived I was extremely happy with the condition (VF+) as it was every bit as nice as the NYCC copy I passed on.
Win for me!
The copy of Detective that you see below is in VF/NM condition. I got it for $20 on Ebay. It was selling for $100 at the show. FORTY PERCENT over the guide price of $60. This was even more egregious than the batman #227 because Detective comics in this issue range have been somewhat flat over the past few years. They DO go up in value but only by small increments. The dealer would not come down below $80. Ebay gave me another win!
Finally there is this Golden Age copy of Laugh #61. Not as I have mentioned in other columns Golden Age Archie comics are VERY hard to find in any condition over VG. WHEN YOU CAN FIND THEM AT ALL! So I was more than willing to pay twice guide (Guide is $30) for this book. I found two dealers with the book. One was in VG and he wanted $100. Another had a copy in about the same condition as the scan below and he wanted $225. Again, the dealers were not inclined to make what I thought was a good deal. I found THIS copy on Ebay for a Buy It Now of $30. I did not even have to bid!
WIN! WIN! WIN!!
So why are dealers at large shows such as NYCC a) over pricing the books and b) showing reluctance to “deal”?
First, a guide is ONLY that…a “guide”. A dealer, any dealer has every right to ask any price they like for a book. There is no rule here. A dealer will make a decision on the desirability of any given book. Often they sell BELOW guide because a given book simply won’t sell at the overstreet price. It is up to the COLLECTOR to determine if any given book is “overpriced” for HIS/HER collection. In my case, it was my determination that these books were over priced at the show. That judgement was confirmed by the prices I ultimately paid for these books online.
Second, a large show is VERY expensive for dealers to attend. Aside from the table fees, there is transportation, their time and the inevitable theft that comes with large crowds. The dealer must factor this into his prices or he does not stay a dealer for long.
Also, large shows tend to bring out casual colletors and impulse buyers who simply don’t know that it is perfectly acceptable to haggle (within reason) over the price of a book. In short, the size of the crowd creates a selling atmosphere in which the dealer does not HAVE to come down on his prices. I have purchased from many of the very same dealers at smaller shows in New Jersey and gotten a price they refused to give me at NYCC!
The next question I know is coming is “Isn’t buying comics from Ebay risky? How do you know the book is in the advertised condition?”
Valid question. In fact you Do have to be careful buying on Ebay. I NEVER bid on a book without large, sharp images in the ad. I often send emails to the seller asking for additional internal scans. However, given the feedback model used on Ebay, most sellers actually UNDERGRADE their books. They do not want to risk bad feedback. Typically the books I get are about a half grade BETTER than advertised. Also, keep in mind that dealers at a show display their high priced books to their best advantage. Often in Mylar which enhances the look of the book. You have to be careful with a LIVE transaction every bit as much as with an online purchase.
The really interesting aspect of all this back issue collecting is the fact that Overstreet does not take online auctions into account when they come up with the values they place on comics. Those values are determined by a board of advisors, many of whom are (guess what?) DEALERS! Now why oh WHY would they not want the actual price that collectors are paying to be the value used in the guide?
I wonder…espically when MOST of these same dealers sell and auction online at prices LOWER than those they use in live transactions. Again, they are entitled to charge anything they want to either online OR live. It is up to the saavy collector to get the best price.
Which is why I am giving you guys the heads up here!
By the way…I DID get my Vampirella #1 at the show (VG+) for a very nice price ($60 or 30% BELOW guide) so there ARE deals to be made at big shows. Just make sure to do your purchasing in the LAST hours of the LAST day when the dealers are more motivated to getting those last few sales before they pack up!
Again, let me emphasize that ther ARE tons of great bragains to be had at any big show. You just need to know where to look!