Friday, December 18, 2009

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 13


In late 1978 I was working for Jay Maybruck’s comic book company, “Sparkle City Comics”. Jay was the business guy (although he wasn’t very good at managing money) and I was the comic book collector/reader. I collected almost every new comic book published and I loved to read the older comics. On the average, I’d read about 200 comic books each month. Many of these were comics from the 1940’s and 1950’s that Sparkle City Comics would get in collections.

One night, on our way home from a comic book convention, I was reading a comic book titled “ Teen-age Dope Slaves”. This was a 1952 comic book that reprinted the old newspaper strip of Rex Morgan M.D. It was an interesting anti-drug story. This comic book was worth about $150.00 . I happened to notice an interesting message on the back cover of the comic. It explained that additional copies of this comic book were available for your school or civic organization. Now I knew that most comic books were printed in Sparta, Illinois and shipped out directly to the magazine and book distributors around the country. The publishers usually didn’t get very many copies sent to their offices. But this advertisement indicated that they would have extra copies of this comic book available. Even though this offer was over 25 years old, when we got back to our Dayton, Ohio homes, Jay wrote a letter to the publisher of the comic requesting copies of “Teen-age Dope Slaves.” Imagine our surprise when we got a reply stating that the publisher was sure they had copies of “Teen-age Dope Slaves” in their warehouse and as soon as they found them they’d send them to us at a cost of 10 cents each plus postage! We quickly sent a money order to buy 100 copies.

About two weeks later we got a letter from the publisher explaining that they hadn’t found the comic books we’d asked for but they’d keep searching the warehouse. They explained that there were thousands of comic books in the warehouse and it could take a few more weeks to locate the comic book we wanted. In the meantime, they’d found a different comic book about drugs titled “Trapped”. This was a 1951 comic book “give-away” that was distributed to schools. It had a strong anti-drug message so the publisher thought we might be interested in them. This comic book was not listed in the comic book price guide so not too many collectors were even aware of its existence. They had sent us 25 copies of “Trapped.” We priced them at $6.95 each and put them into our inventory.

At the first New York convention that we attended after receiving these comics, a serious collector was astounded to find a copy of “Trapped” available at our booth. He had heard rumors this comic existed but had never actually seen it. After he bought a copy he explained that this was one of the few comic books that was favorably mentioned in “Seduction Of The Innocent”, the anti-comic book book that was written in the 1950’s by Fredric Wertham. In 1978, any comic book that was mentioned in “Seduction Of The Innocent” was in high demand. By the end of the convention, we had sold all of the copies of “Trapped” that we had. We didn’t tell anyone where these copies came from.

When we got home we ordered 100 more copies. We priced these copies at $25.00 each and sold out very quickly. We ordered 200 more copies and started selling them for $100.00 each or we would trade them for about $200.00 worth of comic books we needed for our inventory. These books were just about the fastest selling comics in the business.

Even though we were making a huge profit on these comics, we were eager to get the comic books we were really waiting for “Teen-age Dope Slaves!” When we called the publisher, they apologized for not finding them in their warehouse.

We decided that we couldn’t just sit by and wait because we were concerned that some other comic dealer would discover this treasure filled warehouse. We arranged a meeting with the owner of the comic book publisher and drove to New York to discuss purchasing everything in the warehouse. The owner seemed very pleasant. He talked about his interest in The Boy Scouts and then started rambling about his cartoon characters, community involvement, and some other things that didn’t really make much sense to us. After about 30 minutes we brought up the subject of the potential fortune sitting in his warehouse somewhere in New York. We explained that old comic books were now quite valuable and we’d be willing to pay a reasonable price for everything. We were stunned at his response. He insisted that there was no warehouse! He denied that they had any copies of the old comic books they had published. When we pointed out that we had bought some old comic books directly from his company just recently, his secretary ended our meeting.

We left the building feeling like we were part of an episode of The Twilight Zone. This ended our business dealings with this company. They stopped selling their old comic books. We later discovered that some unscrupulous warehouse employee had stolen most of the valuable comic books and artwork and sold them directly to other comic book dealers throughout the United States.

Next Chapter: The comic book business explodes and we become partners in the business.

1 comment:

  1. So an exceedingly dishonest someone made a killing. Wow. I hope karma got them later...