How NOT to Buy and Sell Comic Books: My story, part 7

EARLIER INSTALLMENTS: Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

The obvious problem with buying and selling vintage comic books is, they’re vintage. You can’t send an email to a Chinese factory and get a crate shipped over when you sell your stock. That’s problem one.

Problem two is, the key issues always sell really well, and everything else sits around in boxes stinking up the place.

For reasons which I hope are obvious to you, the first appearance of Incredible Hulk will always find a willing buyer.

Even this one…

The stinkiest, but complete, copy of Hulk #1 you will ever see

The stinkiest, but complete, copy of Hulk #1 you will ever see

For reasons which I also hope are obvious to you, Wonder Woman #63 from 1992 will RARELY find a willing buyer.

The Hulk #1 in a CGC holder. It sold for just under $2,000. Five years later, it's worth $3K

The Hulk #1 in a CGC holder. It sold for just under $2,000. Five years later, it’s worth $3K

QUESTION:

What do dealers do with their boxes of back issues which sit for months, or years, gathering dust?

ANSWER:

Wait for a numbskull like me to come along and buy it all.

For a brief period which I like to think of as my education… (and like any modern education, it resulted in a debt to repay at the end)

…I was the savior to many a dealer’s junk, in my desperation to make money. Buy and sell comic books? The buying part was easy.

At first, I tried to buy and sell comic books on eBay. Lots described really nicely, but in fact loads of unsaleable crap. I saved tons of time by not driving down to see these fine lotsInstead, I’d buy them on our credit card, and have them shipped straight to Sean at Comiclink.

He must have wondered…

  • “Who is this idiot?”
  • (Me.)
  • “Why does he keep sending me loads of crappy comics?”
  • (Because I didn’t know any better.)
  • “Does he like losing money?”
  • (Apparently I didn’t, because it began to hurt, and I realized I needed to get better at this, fast.)

I Don’t Think We’re in London Anymore, Toto

About that time, I went to the Montreal Comic Con. Surely  I could buy and sell comic books there? It was so unlike the little one I went to in London all those years before!

To begin with, there were lots… and lots… and LOTS… of really cute women walking (sometimes stalking) around in superhero costumes. This was my first cosplay experience. I was impressed. My dick was impressed, too. So much so, I began to question my real motives for being obsessed with superheroes.

Was it all pre-adolescent fantasy all along?

There were swarms of people at the Con. But not too many of them seemed to be there to buy and sell comic books. Nor were they even interested in looking at them. Packs of Spider-Mans, Star Wars characters and people dressed as Hellboy or Harley Quinn roamed the halls.

Knee socks seemed to be all the rage among the hot chicks. Every minute or two, some pervert like me would ask for a picture, and they’d stop, pose, and move on. Nobody seemed to mind. In fact, that is WHY they were there.

“I’m hot. Take my picture!”

There are three kinds of cosplay peeps.

Type one is the all-out, hardcore fan boy or girl. They spend hours (and big Dollars) on their look.

They are perfect, their bodies are perfect, they’re the fantasy of many sad guys like me. Cosplay couples are common, too. The ones going in couples tend to be the most awesome.

The cosplay couple: Supergirl and Superboy. Just about perfect

The cosplay couple: Supergirl and Superboy. Just about perfect

You think, “Maybe you’re not actually superheroes, but you COULD be.”

Type two is the wannabe, the in-betweeners. They vaguely resemble… something… somewhere, in a comic book far, far away… We’re talking home-made clothing, sprayed-on makeup, weapons made out of old camping mats covered in duct tape…

…The cosplay equivalent of the people you take home at closing time at the bar, when the tens, nines, eights and sevens have all been picked up by braver people.

Type three is perhaps the most entertaining. These daring souls don’t give a shit. They love (say) Deadpool, and no matter what, they will dress like Deadpool. Nothing holds them back: certainly not any lack of artistic style, no ability to copy accurately, altered realism (Deadpool weighs less than half as much as them), or shame.

You see plenty of Supersize Superboys, XXXL-Men, Fat-Mans and Blobins.

I saw a female Magneto who was so huge, that despite her not being magnetic, objects were attracted to her gravitational field.

XXXL-Men are common at comic cons

XXXL-Men are common at comic cons

And good luck to these crazy folk. Just as long as I don’t have to sit beside one at a dinner party sometime.

Scattered throughout the Montreal Comic Con were maybe a dozen dealers set up with long boxes, wall books and (remember, CGC didn’t exist in my London days) boxes of CGC-graded comics.

I felt like I was out of my depth trying to buy and sell comic books here. I thrashed around with no sense of what to do.

Actually I had printed out my tip-sheet (then about 200 books strong) and carried it around from booth to booth, looking for the gems the Overstreet advisors had mentioned.

Shock! I actually made at least ONE good purchase at that show. A copy of Harbinger #1I paid $50 CDN for it. After it was graded CGC 9.8, it sold for $500 USD.

Fortunately, a kindly dealer saw I was struggling and took me under his wing. Unfortunately, it was Terry Gross (not his real name), who I later discovered has a very poor reputation in the industry. Here’s a very old video of him:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j03FeFuZkg

I spent around $900 CDN on some of his stock and promised to come back and buy more another time.

Having submitted the books to Comiclink, two of the four worth grading came back restored. I’ve heard that this is pretty common, and I shouldn’t feel bad about this relatively cheap education. Call the class “Dodgy Dealers 101” class of learning to buy and sell comic books. I aced it.

My entire Con experience ended badly. Outside, it was raining crazily. I hurried to the station, my head full of comics and money and stuff. I got on the train, forgetting to buy a ticket.

BAM! $110 fine from a very pissy female ticket inspector, who treated me like a criminal for being absent-minded.

Things could only get better from here. Right?

Enter the Sea Bass

I’d seen this guy advertising pretty aggressively on Craigslist. He seemed to buy and sell comic books all the time, in big lots. His name was Sebastian (“Call me Sea Bass”) and I ended up waiting until exactly the wrong moment to buy from him.

He offered me a collection, around four long boxes, a couple of short boxes and some CGC books. It looked like treasure to me. He claimed to be sending most of the valuable ones to CGC if I didn’t buy them.

(Great marketing, false scarcity!)

He wanted to be called Sea Bass, but I was the stupid fish who bought them. There were lots of foil and hologram covers.

(That says it all.)

I didn’t lose TOO much money on that deal. But clearly, something was going to have to change, soon. We were maxing out our line of credit again, and I was making no progress worth speaking of.

Still, I was getting better at not getting worse.

Buy and Sell Comic Books — My First Success: The Massively Overpaid Collection

Then I contacted a guy who was advertising a full run of 2000 AD for $5,000,000. (I think he was joking.)

He was in Ottawa, about two hours away. 2000 AD was a British comic first published in the late 1970s. I used to read odd issues of this great comic back in the day. My step-father’s mother used to get them for me from somewhere.

We talked.

  • His late brother was a fanatic.
  • (My ears pricked up.)
  • He bought every Marvel and DC comic from the 1960s onwards.
  • (My heart rate picked up.)
  • The surviving brother (Tom) sold them all for $240,000 a couple of months earlier.
  • (My heart and ears both sank.)
  • But he still had some old Marvel magazine-sized comics, and the 2000 AD.
  • I figured it was worth the drive.

So I scraped the rest of the money we couldn’t afford to borrow together and pointed the Ford Focus towards Ottawa. When I arrived, Tom showed me up to his apartment in the elevator.

The 2000 AD collection was a bust. The free gifts were all missing, and the #1 was a facsimile. But the Marvel magazines were pristine! I bought the lot for $1,500.

What had I done? Had I made another mistake I couldn’t afford? In a moment of sweaty late-night financial panic, I emailed Terry Gross with the list, and bigged-up the condition to him. I wanted $1,800 for the lot.

He said, “You massively over-paid for this collection. You’ll do well to get your money back.”

Marvel Preview 4 sold for more than I paid for the entire collection. Maybe I COULD buy and sell comic books successfully...

Marvel Preview 4 sold for more than I paid for the entire collection. My first major success!

The Gross Magic Moment

Little did he know it, but that conversation with Gross was the turning point. Had I sold him those books for a mere $300 profit (minus the gas), I doubt whether I would have made it in this business.

By then, I was beginning to get majorly discouraged. I didn’t admit it to my wife or to Sean, but getting the shit kicked out of me, deal after deal, was starting to depress me. On top of which, I was getting really tired of scanning ads every day. Surely there was a better way?

That’s when I started thinking about building a website.

The next day, I dutifully mailed off the best of the books to Comiclink. Secretly, I braced myself for the “You massively over-paid for this collection” confirmation from Sean.

Instead, he said, “Wow. These are the most impressive books you’ve sent in so far.”

They were?!

“You have the first appearance of Star-Lord in here. They’re making a movie of Guardians of the Galaxy soon.”

Who the fuck was Star-Lord? And why were movies important?

(That book got a 9.8 from CGC and sold on eBay for $2,000.)

“Here’s the Punisher origin. That’s worth decent money in this shape.”

I more than tripled my money on this collection. Every time we sold a book, I told my wife how badly off Terry’s dire prediction had been.

I kept a spreadsheet of books sold in the Massively Over-Paid Collection and laughed every time we got more revenue.

This was also the origin of giving nick-names to collections.

Here’s a list of the memorable ones:

  • The Febreeze Collection (the whole thing stank of mold)
  • The Dime Collection (I offered $150 for the keys, and the guy presumed I wanted everything and mailed the lot to us, so we got 1,500 high-grade copper age for 10c a piece)
  • The Virginia Collection (big collection of high-grade Marvels located near Washington, DC)
  • The Boozer Collection (38 long boxes of duplicated Bronze Age)
  • The Pig-Nutella Collection (good runs of Marvel south of the Mason-Dixon line)

And the complaint about sourcing material to buy and sell comic books, and the thought about building a website, was the best train of thought I ever sent from the station.

October, 2012: First Appearance of Sell My Comic Books

It was actually the 20th of October 2012 (though I have to admit, I had to look that up). I registered the domain name and began building the site.

In fairness, I should point out that I had been doing client website work for a couple of years now. In fact, I worked as a contractor for Ken Evoy’s company, Site Build It! The guy who got me into this in the first place, if you recall, inspiring The Church of Texas Holdem.

In addition to building several websites of our own, I created them for clients on topics as diverse as RV loans, zippers for yacht covers, and glamping.

(Sometimes, a client’s idea was so bad that I really couldn’t work with them. My favorite crackpot project was fat loss… and learning SpanishThe business model proposed was to bring people to a tropical resort, teach them the language, and simultaneously convince their bodies to shed the fat, all using quantum learning.)

So building a website on a topic I actually cared about was a snap. Not for any bragging rights (okay, I’m totally lying, ONLY for bragging rights), here is a graph of my traffic since launch.

Sell My Comic Books enjoys tons of traffic

Sell My Comic Books enjoys tons of traffic

In the past 30 days alone, we have had over 380,000 page views on our website.

I knew things were turning around when I started getting phone calls asking us to buy and sell comic books…

Next time: Our first big comic book collections! >>>

EARLIER INSTALLMENTS: Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6