Thursday, June 10, 2010
My Life With Comic Books: Part # 108
The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 41
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 17
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 12
MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 108
One day in late 1996, when I happened to be in my Worcester store, one of my favorite people, Zvi Szafran, came in to pick up the huge lot of new comic books that we reserve for him each month. As usual, we spent quite a lot of time trading bad jokes and talking philosophy. As I’ve mentioned before Zvi is the most intelligent man I know so I’m pretty sure I learned more from him than he learned from me. During our time together that day, Zvi mentioned an exciting new website he had discovered. He tried to explain to me the concept of this interesting new way to buy and sell collectibles through the Internet, but I didn’t understand how this whole “cyber-space” thing worked. We went up to the office area of the store and he typed in the website address of eBay, showed me the basic workings of this auction-based site and related a few of his buying experiences on eBay. I told him that I didn’t really have time to play with this right now so he “bookmarked” this website so I could easily get to the site sometime in the future.
Even though I didn’t yet grasp the importance of the Internet, I had just recently allowed my son, Adam, to establish a connection to the Internet at our home. Adam knew how to navigate his way around the Internet but I didn’t even know how to connect to it! After a while, Adam taught me some basic things and one day I remembered what Zvi had told me about eBay. I connected to the eBay site and somehow I figured out how to do a basic search for a collectible item I had been actively looking for over the past ten years. I typed in “The Man From Uncle Thrush Gun” and I was shocked to see that someone actually had one of these ultra-rare toy guns available in perfect, mint condition, still in its original box! The current bid price was only five hundred dollars. This was “The Holy Grail” of “Man From Uncle” collectible toys from the 1960’s. After many years of searching, I was beginning to think that these guns were originally sold without a box because none had ever been seen at any of the toy conventions or in any of the printed toy publications.
I asked my wife if she’d mind if I spent a bunch of money on this gun set and she encouraged me to go after it. I bid one thousand dollars for it and I was still the high bidder as of the final day of the seven-day auction. I made sure that I was sitting by my computer when there was only fifteen minutes left for this auction and I was excited that I was still the high bidder. If I got this “Thrush Gun” it would be the most rare “Man From Uncle” toy in my massive collection. I waited as the minutes went slowly by. With only five minutes to go I was quite secure that I was going to be the high bidder at the end of this auction. Certainly no one would think that this toy gun set was worth more than one thousand dollars!
I decided to spend a moment or two searching on eBay for another item I was looking for. By the time I went back to check on the “Thrush Gun” I found that I had been outbid and there was only one minute left before the auction ended. I quickly placed another bid of $1,100 but four other collectors outbid me within the final ten seconds and this rare toy ended up selling for $2,700! The “collectors world” has gone crazy! Within a year eBay would become an important part of our business.
Next chapter: Chris, our company manager, gets Ty Law of the New England Patriots to be a guest at our Fitchburg store.