Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 45


It was beginning to be a tradition that once each year I would plan a major auction at my comic book store. These were extremely popular with my customers but I was desperately out of space in my small store so I needed to find someplace else to hold the auction. I found The Yankee Drummer Inn, a local hotel that had a large function room that was available for about $250.00. I booked it for a Friday night and sent out flyers to everyone on my ever-expanding mailing list and I passed out flyers in the store to every customer who came in for a month before the event. I began selecting individual collectibles and runs of back issue comics to be auctioned. I had a few very valuable comics left from the complete Marvel Comics collection that I had acquired earlier in the year including an almost perfect copy of The Incredible Hulk #1 that I decided to offer at auction. I invited my cousin Steven to bring some of his store inventory to sell at the auction. As I would finish auctioning off an item, Steven would start auctioning off one of his lots. This kept the auction moving quickly. My wife, Mal, came to take care of recording the results of each auction and to handle the cash-out procedure. My son, Adam, worked as a “runner” to deliver each item to the high bidder. My daughter Cassandra came but she was only two years old so she was just an observer. To complete the “family affair,” my mother and father came to help.

My mother asked if I would auction a group of collectible, stamped, first-day covers that she had bought at a yard sale. I decided that I’d play a joke on dear ol’ Mom. When she left the room for a moment I quickly explained the joke to the audience of over 200 people. I told them to bid like crazy on the stamp lot and I wouldn’t really make them pay for the lot. When Mom came back into the room I started the auction of the stamps. “Do I have any offers on this lot of first day stamp covers?” The audience played their part perfectly. The opening bid was 25 cents. Another customer bid $1.00. Then it went to $2.00. Then it was $10.00. My Mom was perking up. “Do I have $20.00 anywhere?” There was a hesitation. “Yes, I have $20.00.” Suddenly the audience started bidding faster. Within a minute the bidding was up to $200.00! My Mom was giddy with excitement. Then I stopped the bidding and revealed the joke to poor Mom. The audience thought it was pretty funny but I’m sure Mom didn’t. She was already mentally spending all of her proceeds. We did eventually auction the lot off for around $25.00. She was happy with that but not as happy as she would have been if the lot really went for $200.00.

My auction policy was that it would be a real auction. I hate it when auction companies have minimum bids in their auctions. To me, that’s like saying, “I’m willing to sell this item for $10.00 but if you want to pay me more for it, I’ll take it.” All of my items were sold with no minimum bid! Sometimes this would be scary for me but it always made it more fun for my customers. At this auction I would be offering the gorgeous copy of The Incredible Hulk #1 that was worth about $700.00 at the time. The opening bidder offered one dollar. The bidding slowed down around one hundred dollars and seemed like it would end when it finally reached one hundred and fifty dollars. I was saying, “Going…going…gone” when someone new jumped into the bidding and bid two hundred dollars. Within a couple of moments the comic book sold for six hundred and ten dollars to a man I had never met. He certainly got a great deal on that comic book. It’s now worth over $15,000.00.

By not having the auction at my store location I lost the potential of my customers spending any unused money on other product but because everyone had fun, I still considered it a success.

After the death of Mal’s mother, we had decided to begin to seriously plan for a very early retirement from the day-to-day involvement in the comic book and collectable business. It was my intention to make as much money as possible over the next eight years before I turned forty years old. I needed to somehow increase our store’s business very quickly. My employee, David M. Lynch came up with a great idea one day while we were shooting the breeze. ( I’ll tell you about his idea soon.)

In 1986, my sister Sharon and her family decided to move to New Hampshire because her husband Greg had a new job opportunity there. Sharon and Mal were very close so it was difficult to think of Sharon not being nearby anymore. Her kids and our kids loved to play together so we were all sad to see them move over one hundred miles away.

Around that time our good friend Debbie was also told that her cancer was back.

Next chapter: The Man From Uncle returns.

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