Monday, January 11, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 28


In the early 1980’s I went to a local comic book store in Auburn, Massachusetts. As I was looking around this store, I overheard the owner telling a customer to “make an offer” on anything he was interested in buying. The owner casually mentioned that he was thinking of getting out of the business. I waited until the customer made his purchase and then I made an offer on everything that was in this shop. For a couple of thousand dollars, I bought his entire inventory and all of his store fixtures! It was the first of many store buyouts.

One of the customers of the store that I bought out found out that I now owned the whole inventory and he began shopping at my store. Paul Dinsdale was only fifteen years old when he first found my store. He quickly became a store “regular”. Paul would come in almost every week to shop for comic books. We would talk about comics and we’d frequently play chess or the board game of Risk on slow days. Paul was such a serious comic book collector that he was one of the first customers to sign up for our comic book convention bus tour to Boston. My friend, Paul Weatherbee, let us use the old Gospel Bus to bring a group of our customers into Boston for a big comic book convention. It was on this bus trip that Paul Dinsdale became a family friend. He talked with my wife and young son Adam during the bus ride and took the time to get to know us. Years later, “Dins” would vacation with us to Washington and Florida. He would eventually meet and marry his wife because of our store. I’ll tell that story in a future chapter.

1983 was a busy year for us, personally, as well as business. Store sales were up significantly and there were quite a few “events” that made it an important year. Marvel Comics had been publishing a GI Joe comic book for about a year and it was one of the hottest selling comics in the business. The first issue was selling briskly at seven to ten dollars even though it was only a year old. One of my part-time employees, Elliot Weininger, happened to find a few copies of GI Joe #1 at a local department store and they were being sold for only 29 cents each. I sent him back to the department store to buy as many as he could find. Luckily, Elliot was a smart guy. He wasn’t satisfied with the few dozen copies that the store had in stock. He asked to see the manager and then he convinced him to order one thousand more copies for us. The manager made a quick phone call and within a week we had the extra one thousand copies. We were shocked that these were available through a subsidiary of Marvel Comics called Marvel Books. It showed how bad the communication could be in large companies like Marvel. Marvel could have sold hundreds of thousands of these to the comic book stores at a minimum of a dollar each, but I was able to get them for only 29 cents each! I made a few phone calls and sold most of them to a dealer in California for $2.75 each. I used all of the money to have my home driveway installed. Unfortunately, for some reason, we weren’t able to get any more copies.

My father was going to Hong Kong on a business trip in mid-1983. We figured, that if he was going to be that close, he should go to Japan to buy some inventory for my store. Japanese model kits of robots and spaceships were a popular collectable at conventions but not too many comic shops were selling them because they were not available through our distributors. I told my father to look for model kits based on the TV show of Starblazers but I really didn’t know very much about other Japanese properties. My father located an exporter and ordered thousands of model kits. We became partners that day and spent over $20,000.00 on model kits! Three months later, when the kits arrived in the United States, we couldn’t fit them in my store so we had the forty foot long tractor trailer load delivered to my home in Bolton, Massachusetts. The kits filled my entire basement and my garage. We wholesaled these model kits to eager comic book retailers all around the United States. It took us many years to sell out of these model kits but it was still a profitable venture. If we still had these model kits today we could sell them all on Ebay for twenty times the amount we sold them for in the 1980’s!

In April of 1983 we went to Disney World for the first time with our son, Adam. We also wanted to take my wife’s teen-aged sisters, Carol and Madeline, but there wasn’t enough room in my old car to comfortably make such a long trip. I called my old friend, Jay Maybruck, and he offered to let us use his station wagon. We drove the 1400 miles from Massachusetts to Florida and had a great time. Even though Adam was only three years old, he enjoyed riding in cars and was almost always well behaved.

Next chapter: I open our store in Maynard, Massachusetts and end up with one of the most exciting comic book collections of my life.

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