Friday, July 16, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 127

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 44
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 18
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 14
Kevin Burns: A friend and a vice president at Twentieth Century Fox Studios


“Adam and I spend three weeks in California: Part Two”

While my son, Adam, was working as an intern at Twentieth Century Fox Studios, I was checking out the comic book and collectible stores in the Los Angeles area. I wanted to buy some vintage comic books for my customers back in Massachusetts but I hadn’t been successful. The stores just didn’t have good inventories of older comics.

There was a good-sized, monthly flea market near the hotel that Adam and I were staying at and we decided to go to it after Adam’s first week of work. We looked through dozens of booths full of glassware, military souvenirs, postcards, and lots of Disney collectibles. We also found two separate guys who dealt in comic books. As I looked through the stock at each of the booths, I was surprised to find a nice selection of comics from the 1950’s and 1960’s. One of the dealers was rather high-priced on most of his stock but I was able to buy a handful of vintage comics from him that he had dramatically under-priced. I knew that these would sell right away at my stores. My customers would be eager to buy these comics and I’d be able to make a little bit of profit on the sale too.

The other dealer had his comics priced fairly but as I was looking through his boxes of inventory, I asked the “all-important” question, “If I buy a bunch of these will you give me a better price?” He eagerly offered me a fifty-percent discount if I spent over two hundred dollars. That was going to be pretty easy to do since he had multiple copies of “Mystery In Space” issue #53 (the beginning of the Adam Strange storyline) and these were priced at almost $100 each! Within a half hour, I had already spent over $1000 at his booth and I was almost out of money. When I was done, I was smart enough to ask him if he had any more comic books back at his house. He gave me his address and phone number and we made plans to meet at his house during the next week while Adam was working.

The next day, after bringing Adam to his workplace, I called the comic dealer and got directions to his home that was about 75 miles away. Since I was almost out of cash and I still had almost two more weeks to be out in California I went to a local bank to get a cash advance on my credit card. I took out $4000 to (hopefully) spend on much needed vintage comics for my customers. I had never taken a cash advance before so I was surprised to find out that I would be charged a three percent fee, based on the amount I withdrew, and that the interest would begin from the day the money was withdrawn. Even with these high costs for this borrowed money, it still was worth doing.

When I arrived at his house, he showed me to a room piled high with boxes of unsorted comic books. These comics were published from the 1950’s to the 1980’s and none of them had been priced yet. This complicated the procedure. I had to select a comic book and wait for the guy to look it up in the comic book price guide before he’d quote me a price on it. If the price was too high, I’d put it back in his box. If the price was reasonable, I’d keep the book and record the price on a sheet of paper to be tallied up at the end of our time together. It was a slow and ponderous way to buy old comics but it wasn’t up to me. This was the way he wanted to do it. After several hours, I agreed to pay him almost $4000 for fourteen full boxes of vintage comic books. I somehow managed to stuff all of these boxes into my tiny rental car and returned to my hotel room to unload these treasures before it was time to go back to Hollywood to get Adam.

When I returned from picking up Adam, I spent hours going through the great assortment of vintage comics. This collection was great and I knew that almost every one of these comics were needed in my store inventory. I realized though, that now I was worried about leaving over $10,000 worth of valuable comic books in my hotel room! I requested that the hotel maids stay out of our room for a few days but I was still concerned about the security and safety of this collection. I could carefully pack these all up and ship them up to my store but it would cost hundreds of dollars and there would be no way to properly insure such a shipment. Most shipping insurance specifically excludes collectibles in their coverage, so a comic book from the 1950’s that originally cost ten cents could only be insured for ten cents even though it is currently worth hundreds of dollars! I couldn’t take that chance.

I decided to try a different option. I sorted through the collection one day and pulled out about 600 of the comics that I knew would sell right away and I loaded the rest of the comics back into my rental car. I drove to the famous comic book store, “The Golden Apple” on Melrose Avenue, and asked to speak to the owner, Bill Liebowitz. Bill was one of the best-known figures in the field of comic book retailing and his store was known all over the country. When he was told that I wanted to see him, he came out of the back room right away and greeted me with his “trademark” enthusiasm. I had only spoken to Bill once before while we both attended a retailing seminar and I was surprised that he’d even remember me. I explained to him about my newly purchased collection of vintage comics that I didn’t want to ship back to my store. I suggested that he should buy the comic books from me. I offered him the whole lot that I had in my rental car for $6000. He thought for a few moments and asked, “Is that a good deal?” I said I thought it was a great deal. Without even looking at the collection, he said, “Okay. I’ll take it.” He went out back and wrote me a check while I unloaded the collection from my car. It was one of the easiest deals I had ever made.

In this deal, everyone ended up satisfied. The man I bought these comics from got the full price he wanted. Bill got twelve boxes of very desirable silver-age comic books at a reasonable price and I ended up with about 600 fantastic comics plus a profit on the whole collection!

Next chapter: Adam’s job and Kevin Burns introduces us to celebrities in California.

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