Comic Book Investing by App
One of the first apps I created using SkyBuilder was on comic book investing.
I thought I knew a bit about investing. And I thought I knew a bit about comic books. Really, I didn’t know jack about either.
But I created the app and uploaded it to Google Play. That app made me, literally, several Dollars every month!
But the real benefit of it was, it got me thinking about comic books again,
- and the Stroller of Doom!!!,
- and the Fantastic Four,
- and X-Ray Glasses,
- and London piled high with garbage,
- and my mother and grandmother,
- and Julian Bamford,
- and Adam West and Burt Ward,
- and the Overstreet Price Guide.
I ordered the latest Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide from Amazon. (The last time I bought one, Amazon didn’t exist.)
I rediscovered the Martin Smith-taught love of poring over Overstreet for hours, reading prices, absorbing articles.
As I picked up tips from the advisors (just over five years later, I’m now an Advisor myself!), I began a spreadsheet and wrote each one on its own line.
This was “the origin” of my comic book investment tips newsletter.
There are over 700 books on my comic book investing list these days.
(I’m trying to figure out how to make it available to my mailing list… Or whether I even should.)
I spent hours on eBay, looking at books I had once thought we rare.
(There are more than a dozen copies of X-Men #1 in the first three pages on eBay right now.)
Comic Book Investing, Wild West Style: Ode to a Nightingale
Then I found ABEbooks.com. I was a member of their affiliate program years earlier, but had done nothing with it.
To my shock, I found an original owner Marvel comic book collection being broken down by Nightingale Books in Massachusetts.
He had X-Men #1. Avengers #1. Amazing Spider-Man #2 and up. Tales of Suspense #39.
And hundreds more.
My hands started shaking. His descriptions of their condition and asking prices were crazy. (There were no photos in the listing and he told me via email that he didn’t have a camera.)
This was it! I was going to buy his stuff and make a fortune!
I picked up Overstreet. Inside the front cover was a double-page advert for Comiclink.
Consulting Google Maps, I realized I could do a triangle.
- Down from Montreal to Mass.
- Up to Maine with the loot.
- Back home, rubbing my hands in glee.
I called and got a guy called Sean Goodrich on the phone. I told him I was buying a collection in Mass, and I wanted to drop it off at the office on my way back to Montreal. He said okay.
My wife maxed out our line of credit. I carried my entire bankroll, $9,400 US of borrowed money, converted at a dodgy backstreet currency place to get me an extra couple of cents on the Dollar. This is comic book investing, Wild West style…
For days I agonized over the Nightingale Books list, and the Overstreet price guide, and eBay. The dilemma was, his thousand or so books were priced at over $75,000. I had to figure out which books to buy to max out my profit, so I could go back and re-invest the proceeds buying another batch from him.
I finally had it all planned. The spreadsheet was color-coded by the percentage profit available, and pages long. It was a word of Excel art. I got my friend, Robert Yee, to drive me down. It took over nine hours.
We arrived at Nightingale Books. It was a ramshackle house in the middle of a sprawling suburb. Any nightingales with common sense were far, far away.
The owner came out. Kelly was super-thin, with red shorts and a baggy white vest that hung from his skeletal frame. His eyes swirled around behind Coke bottle bottom glasses.
There were holes in the deck. His wife told us they were renovating.
I remember thinking, “Well, collectors are crazy people, and he might be the kind of guy who is fanatical about just comic books.”
(Straws. Clutching. At.)
We climbed the rickety deck stairs and walked in through a sliding door.
I was holding my breath in excitement… I let it out again when I saw the books.
Four crusty old long boxes without lids. All I could see was the tops of four rows of comic books.
They were a kind of nicotine-stain, giraffe-vomit, orange-brown color. No bags, no boards.
“I keep them in the garage,” he told me.
Robert said under his breath, “Do you want to get out of here?”
God help me, I sent Robert off to amuse himself, sat down and started going through the boxes.
Paper beetles, those little white spider things, were crawling across some of them. (Spider-Man finally met his match.) After each stack was moved, I saw little triangles of paper — the brittle page corners — flaked off on the tablecloth.
As I looked through this trash-not-treasure, I thought, “How could somebody be so off that they could describe this as near mint?” Then I remembered Kelly’s tomato red shorts, googling eyes and vest-covered torso. That’s how.
Kelly went to the post office to mail off more treasures to his customers. He left me alone with his wife. She could tell it wasn’t going well. She said,
“Did you find all the ones you were looking for?”
I picked up a copy of Avengers Annual #1, described as NM in his listing.
Never mind the page quality. The front cover was twisted and had long creases across it. I pointed this discrepancy out to his wife. Quickly it became apparent that she, not Kelly, was the grader of the team.
“That happens when the glue dries out on these books. It happens as they get old. It’s not damaged.”
The Way Forward
Robert came back to pick me up. He could tell from my face I was devastated.
Before I went, I told Kelly to his face that he had wasted tons of my time, and that his comic books were nowhere near as nice as described, and that I would be taking my $9,000+ home with me.
“Fair enough,” he said. Succinct. You’ve got to give him that.
Robert drove us up to Maine. We had a hotel booked (I’d checked ahead of time to make sure there was a safe big enough to lock away the key issues I ended up not buying).
On the way, we opened the sunroof and windows, and sung along to U2’s The Joshua Tree album. We ate lobster bisque and fish ’n’ chips in a pier restaurant.
The next morning, I walked from the hotel to Comiclink and met Sean.
“Where are the books?” he asked me.
I told him the sad story.
“Well, you know, the Marvel keys would still have been worth buying, at the right price.”
I was shocked. They would? Those dried-out flaking pieces of crap?
“Why don’t you try to buy them before you go all the way back to Montreal?”
I called Kelly from the hotel. I re-iterated the collection’s faults, and offered him $1,500 for all the keys.
He said, “Have a safe journey home now.”
“Fuck you” in any other language.
I had a safe journey home now. But the fire had been lit under me. I had found my purpose. Comic book investing was my future. I hadn’t felt this way since starting to play poker, and losing all my money doing so, in the mid-90s.
It was time to get serious about losing money with the simplest comic book investing option: buying and selling comic books. Badly.