Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 12

MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP - Part Twelve

I was a comic book reader and collector. My boss at Sparkle City Comics, Jay Maybruck, was not. He understood the business side of selling comic books and had access to a lot of cash to buy comic book collections. Together, we were quite a team. Jay was not the kind of boss who forced the boring tasks on his employees. Jay would bag, sort, and price the comic books right along side of my wife and I. Jay had a natural ability to price his comic books at just the right price to make them irresistible for the collectors. He didn’t really believe that the pricing information in the Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was accurate for most comic books. The common comics from the late 1960’s-1970’s were readily available and although the price guide listed them at $2.00-$3.00 each, Jay would price them at 75 cents. Because of this low price policy, we would sell thousands of common comics each month. Other comic book dealers would spend thousands of dollars on our inventory to fill in their stock.

The pricing inaccuracies were even more noticeable on what we called “key” issues. Collector demand was very strong for the first issue of a comic book series, or a first appearance of a major character, or issues drawn by popular comic artists of the day and because the demand was greater than the supply of these key issues, Jay believed that these comics should be priced higher than the official price guide. I remember Jay and I surprising other comic book dealers by paying 100% of the current price guide price on certain comic books. We would then price them at what we thought they should sell for and usually we’d be right.

One day, at a convention in Buffalo New York, I saw a copy of a comic book titled “An Earthman On Venus.” A talented artist named Wally Wood drew this comic. I recognized that this comic book was very scarce (mostly based on my own experience) and so I bought it at the dealers full asking price of $18.00. We put it into a clean new plastic bag and priced it at $120.00 and sold it within a week.

At another show, after we closed up our booth on the first night, I was reading an old comic from 1954. It was World’s Finest #71 and it featured Superman and Batman together in an adventure. Earlier in this series, Superman and Batman had separate stories in each issue, but I realized that this was quite possibly the beginning of their “team-up” stories that would run for many years. We had paid about $8.00 for this issue. I put a large label on the plastic bag that read “first Superman-Batman team-up” and I sold it the next morning for about $180.00. If I had this same copy today, it would sell for $1250.00.

On another night, I was reading an old Batman comic book from the 1960’s that had a reprint of a 1950’s story called “The Riddle Of The Red Hood”. I remembered reading this story when I was a kid, but something struck me as odd. At the end of this story, it’s revealed that the criminal known as the “Red Hood” was actually “The Joker” (Batman’s most famous villain). I realized that it was in this story that the origin of how “The Joker” became a green-haired, white-faced criminal was explained for the first time! I did a little research and found out that this story originally appeared in Detective Comics #168 from the early 1950’s. When the convention opened the next morning, I searched the other dealers’ inventories until I found a copy in nice condition for under $20.00. Again, I re-bagged it and labeled it as the first origin of The Joker and sold it very quickly for about $300.00. Keep in mind that this comic book had been sitting, unsold, in another dealer’s booth for the entire first day of the comic book convention! (This comic book sells today for about $4000.00 )

We became so “respected” by comic collectors and other dealers (for our pricing intuition) that we decided to cash in on our newfound reputations as experts. So, in 1978, we started publishing “The Investors Newsletter”. This 8-12 page monthly newsletter featured our opinions about the comic book market. We would list the comics that we believed were underpriced and would explain why we thought this. We would list the comics as good long or short-term investments. Most issues also had a front cover of our sheep mascots drawn by popular comic book artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s including Marshall Rogers, Howard Chaykin, Gil Kane, Walt Simonson, John Romita, and more.

These are some of the comic books that The Investors Newsletter recommended as good long-term investments:
Brave and the Bold #28 (first appearance of The Justice League) was listed in the price guide at $27.00 while we were selling them for $125.00. They now sell for $7000.00
More Fun #101 (first appearance of Superboy) was listed in the price guide at $210.00 while we were selling it for $325.00. It now sells for $10,000.00
Showcase #22 (first appearance of the modern Green Lantern) was listed in the price guide for $60.00 while we were selling it for $90.00. It now sells for $6200.00
The Incredible Hulk #181 (the first appearance of Wolverine) listed in the price guide at $1.20 but we were selling them for $2.50 each! They now sell for about $1500.00
(we did goof, however, and suggested this comic book as a good short term investment!)
Amazing Fantasy #15 (the very first appearance of Spider-Man) was listed in the price guide at $360.00 while we were selling it for $500.00. It now sells for $42,000.00

Now I’m sure that many of you are thinking, “Well, almost all comic books are more valuable now than they were in 1978!” The point is, we predicted many of the fastest rising comic book prices in the hobby. If a collector had followed our advice he could have made an average return of about 200% in a twelve-month period. Our advice was so good that it wasn’t long before the popularity of our newsletter made it difficult for Sparkle City Comics to profit on these trends. Our newsletter subscribers were now buying up the recommended comics before we could buy them. After 13 issues, we discontinued publication of The Investors Newsletter.

Next chapter: My comic reading leads us to an important discovery!

3 comments:

  1. I had all those comics but my parents threw them out...

    (Not really, I just figure comic folk hear that a lot and I like to pretend I'm funny sometimes.)

    (Glad you're keeping this blog going...almost a post/day! Color me impressed!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. *grin*

    I'm glad someone other than me thinks so!

    ReplyDelete