Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 29


In 1983 my store had a decent staff of employees and I thought it would be a good time to expand our business by opening another store. I chose the small town of Maynard, Massachusetts. I lived about fifteen minutes away in Bolton. I knew that I’d be working there for at least a few months so the commute would be easy. Maynard was the corporate home of Digital Equipment Company, one of the leading manufacturers of computers. Their workforce was primarily made up of professional, well paid, technical people and I hoped that many of the male employees would be interested in comic books, sports cards, and adventure and war games. I rented a small storefront on one of the busiest streets in the town, very close to the main factory building.

My carpenter friend, Jim Stoll, quickly made all of our custom display racks and shelves and we were open for business within a couple of weeks after the decision was made to open the store. Many of my business choices have been impulsive. I tend to make quick decisions but most of them have worked out. This particular business decision worked out, although it was not as I had expected.

Each weekday in the town of Maynard, the downtown was crowded with employees from Digital Equipment during the lunch break. I could see hundreds of potential customers walking up the street towards my new store but they would stop at the corner before they got to my shop. In my rush to open this store, I hadn’t investigated the traffic patterns of Maynard. It just wasn’t customary for people to walk that far. My store was really the last retail building on this street and the people would have to cross the street to visit my shop so I would watch as they turned around and walked away. It was frustrating to me. My other store locations were successful as soon as we opened. This store was going to require more work.

After I had been open for a few months a man came into the store and I recognized him from the Boston comic book conventions in the 1970’s. He apparently didn’t remember me and I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I didn’t mention that I knew him. He told me that he had a large amount of old comic books that he might be interested in selling. I remembered that in the 1970’s he always had a great stock of comic books from the 1940’s and 1950’s but he didn’t sell very many because his prices were too high. He usually charged twice as much as the other dealers. I told him I was very interested in buying all of his comics so we made an appointment for me to appraise his collection. Two days later I found myself in the basement of a local music store, searching through thousands of comics. I spent a few hours digging through the piles but I was disappointed to find that they were all from the 1970’s. I figured that he must have sold all of the great old comics from the 1940’s-1960’s and I told him that I couldn’t offer him very much money for these. I told him that his best alternative would be to take all of these comic books to the monthly Boston comic book conventions and he should price them at fifty cents each. I knew that he’d sell a lot of them at that price. I gave him my business card and offered to help him with this project if he needed me.

Three weeks later this man was tragically killed in a car accident. His mother found my business card in her son’s wallet and called to see if I would be interested in buying her son’s comic book collection. I told her that I had already looked at the comic book collection in the basement of the music store and I really couldn’t make a good offer on it because I didn’t need many comic books from the 1970’s. She said, “Oh, not those. I mean his private collection in his apartment.”

She gave me directions to his apartment and I drove there right away.

Next chapter: I buy one of the most memorable comic book collections of my career!


  1. "He apparently didn’t remember me and I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I didn’t mention that I knew him."

    I'm terrible at remembering people...this is no doubt how everyone tiptoes around me on a day-to-day basis. Heh!

    Looking forward to the next chapter.

    I'm torn between being nice and hoping you're NOT in Florida...and being evil and hoping you ARE, since it's so cold and if I have to be cold, everyone does!

  2. Cake,
    My living location is very complicated nowadays. I still own our summer home in New Hampshire, and we usually "winter" in Florida (where it's usually nice and warm all winter) but we recently bought another new home in North Carolina to be near our daughter! So we've been back and forth between all three homes in the past few weeks. We hope to sell the New Hampshire and Florida homes this year.