Monday, January 3, 2011

How on Krypton Did I Get Here? Part Four: A Merchant Prince is Born

By The Comics Book Pusher

The idea that certain comic books had gained some considerable monetary value to them over the years reignited my interest and brought me back into the wonderful world of comics. This time not just for the entertainment value, although I was very much enjoying reading them again, but for a new purpose that excited the capitalist in me -- profit. 
   "How do you know how much a comic book is worth?" I asked the young man behind the folding card table that served as the comic book store's checkout counter. He suggested The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, by Robert M. Overstreet.
   "Great! Do you have it?" I ventured further.
   "Nope. Out of stock," he replied from behind his comic book.
   "Can you order it for me?" I inquired.
   "No, but bookstores have them," he offered.
   I thanked him, headed over to the bookstore at the mall where I purchased a copy of the new 1987 edition of the Overstreet. When I got home, I read it nearly cover-to-cover. If you have never picked up a copy of this book, do yourself a favor and buy one. It is a treasure trove of information for the comic book collector and dealer, and a great education for those new to comic books.
   Anxiously hoping to find a valuable issue, I sifted through all the comics from the ones that survived my childhood and compared their conditions to the book's grading guide and then finding their retail value in the price guide section of the book. Most of them were in pretty rough shape, having been read, re-read, and re-re-read many times over and stored in moist garages and hot attics over the years. Even the best of them were pretty beat up.
   As it turned out, the most valuable one of the bunch was the Amazing Spider-Man issue I had spotted pinned to the comic book store's wall with the "$15" handwritten price tag. While I was a little disappointed that they were not worth the thousands of dollars I had hoped for, it did not matter. My interest in comic books had been renewed.
   A lot had changed with comics over the years. I found more comic book stores to visit and discovered how dramatically better the artwork had become. Detailed anatomy had replaced the barely defined outlines of the human body that I had been used to seeing in comics. I bought my regular Superman and a few other titles to read, but I bought dozens of others solely because I found the artwork to be so beautiful.
   I still loved the old comics of the 1960s, though, and decided to try to find some from that time era to add to my growing collection. (From 1986 to 1989, I would accumulate more than 3,000 comic books, mostly published in the 1970s and 1980s.)
   I came across an ad in the Comics Buyers Guide magazine about someone selling Silver Age and Golden Age era comic books at some amazing prices. Really amazing prices. Prices too good to be true. As the saying goes, "A fool and his money are soon parted", and there I was, the oblivious fool. 
   I sent off my check and anxiously awaited the arrival of my comics. Weeks passed. No comics. I called the man who was selling them and he assured me that they would be on their way soon. In fact, he said he had even more at even better prices and would send me a list so that I could order more. The list came. I sent off another check. More weeks past. No comics arrived.
   Sometime later I got a telephone call from the U.S. Postal Service informing me that the man who took and cashed my check, and many other people's checks, had been arrested for mail fraud.
   I would not be getting those comics.
   Losing the money was annoying, but not getting the comic books really made me angry. I had been duped. I was so upset, in fact, that I bellyached about the incident for days. I railed to anyone who would listen about the unfairness of it all and wondered if there were any mail order comic book businesses that could be trusted.
   Was there no truth? Was there no justice? This was decidedly not the American Way. Who could people trust when buying comics through the mail?
   It was the Spring of 1989 and I was about to sell my first comic book, but not through the mail.
   At my local shop, there was a fellow comic fan that I often talked to while browsing the shelves for the week's new comics. We would talk about this or that comic book, which ones were good, which ones were crap, and which ones had gone up in value since last month.
   A brief historical note: In the late 1980s and early 1990s a magazine called Comic Values Monthly was being published. It seemed a month did not go by that, according to CVM, comic book prices were not rising. In fact, if the values in CVM were accurate, comic book prices were not just rising, they were skyrocketing. A number of events were influencing the market to the point where the comic book industry was having it's own version of  Dutch Tulip Mania, a tale I'll leave for another time. Suffice it to say, many people were willing to pay ten times the cover price or more for many recently published comic books.
   One week the man lamented to me that he missed picking up a comic that had come out a few months before at $1.50 and had already reached $15.00 according to CVM. He thought that by next month the price would go even higher. I told him I had an extra copy (by that time I was buying multiple copies of some comics), and would sell him one at the $15.00 price.
   The following Thursday, (in those days new comic book day was Thursday), we would rendezvous in the parking lot of the comic book store. He brought the money in small, unmarked bills. I brought the comic in a plain brown paper bag. We made the exchange through the window of my car. He took the bag and quickly disappeared into the labyrinth of cars. I took the money, counted it, then sped away, feeling a little guilty for treading on the comic shop owner's turf, but also a little wealthier. It was the comical underbelly of comic book collecting. Not pretty, but everyone knew the score. Buying or selling, you had to take advantage of opportunities when and where you found them. 
   Now, kids, I do not condone any of you selling each other comic books from the parking lot of my store or, for that matter, from the parking lots of any other comic book stores. In my defense, before I offered to sell him a one, the man did ask the store owner if he could get a copy of the comic book, but the owner said he could not. This was, after all, the 1980s -- technologically ancient times, pre-internet, when hunting down a missed back-issue comic book could be a long, and mostly hopeless quest.
   That experience brought about an epiphany of sorts within me. Who could people trust to buy comics from, sight unseen, through the mail? Why, me, of course! That evening I stayed up almost all night sketching a logo for a new mail order comic book business that I would dub "The Comics Club".
   Soon I would be pushing comics not just to get others to read and enjoy them like I did, but for monetary gain as well. What could be better!
   Comic book pushing for fun and profit began like a cakewalk for me. I put together a little mail-order catalog of selected comic book back issues from my personal collection of about 3,000 or so and began advertising in the Comics Buyers Guide's classified ads section. It was exciting! I could not wait for my first sale!
   A word of cautionary advice: Be careful what you wish for. There are times in your life when you discover that some things have more meaning to you than you realized, and some small thing, some simple matter like, say, selling a comic book, becomes a turning point in your life.


Next in "Confessions": 
How on Krypton did I get here? Part Five: Where No Sane Man Had Gone Before (Or If One Did, Was Sane No More!)

Remember to visit these fine websites:
The Comics Club's Online Store  A Hero’s Last Resort for comics, games, toys and more!
The Comics Club's Amazing Wonder Emporium So much stuff, so little time! Browse isle after isle of wonderful, whimsical goodness!
The Comics Club @ Cafepress Wonderful, whimsical words and images on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs to pillows and more!
Princessitude! It's a princess thing! Every girl's a princess. The ones who know it have Princessitude! 
Princessitude @ Cafepress  – Find something for the girl with Princessitude!
FunnyVet.com The World's Funniest Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine!
The Adventures of Mr. Happy A FREE web comic widely known to temporarily curb the debilitating effects of boredom!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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-- The Comic Book Pusher

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