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Friday, 17 April 2015

Investing In Comics.....NOT What You Think

In all seriousness I do not understand why I have to keep explaining this to people since it is very obvious and does not take that much intelligence to work out.

Okay, comics from 1990 -2015 are going to get you money.  A decent 50 or so years if all the other copies are mysteriously destroyed.  I am quite serious. If they were worth even half of what I paid for them I would be selling those comics now. No "ifs" or "buts" involved.

Dealers and stores do not order lots of copies of all the comics from DC and Disney (Marvel) because they cannot guarantee selling them all and if they have fewer issues they can charge more as "hard to find back issues".

This whole "comics standing order lottery" -where there are five people with a Standing Order (SO) for a title but the store ONLY orders three copies and who ever comes in first gets their copy is almost standard in the UK.  I hear all the time and see blogs where people say they did not get their SO comic and have had to look around. In some cases their local shops do "eventually", after much story-telling (believe me -some of these stories are worthy of graphic novel treatment!), get the issue but the price is higher and here you'll hear how they search Ebay and other online sources so went through a LOT of trouble to get you your book.

Are you going to argue that it is £2.00/$2.00 more expensive? Hell no -that guy worked like crazy to get you that book.

I've heard from at least four former comic shop employees about this sort of thing.  "The comic was in a box in the store room all the time" and some of these people thought that was hilarious!!  They also found it hilarious to try to convince regulars that certain titles were really "hot" and would be worth quite a bit even a year on.  One mentioned DC comic that the store owner had 20 copies of and there was a bet on who could sell the most to "the idiots"!

It is why one of my local comic shops gave me every excuse under the sun why they could not get a hold of a certain comic -it was the new Atlas Grim Ghost title.  The distributor would not re-order, then the distributor did "this" or "that" and he even tried to order from the United States but no luck.  Now, I'm not dumb. I had pre-ordered this book but the people in the comic store thought I was dumb.  They must have.  Why?  Well, the book had not yet appeared!  The last words I had from the store owner were:

"I just cannot get it. I'll look again but do not -do not- hold your breath waiting."

So I told him "Okay, I'll look around online."

I went home and ordered the now new issue online and received it two days later.  A week later I walked into the comic shop. I could hear the owner talking at the top of the stairs as one of his staff said "We got you that comic" and I replied: "Oh, I got it. ___ said he wouldn't be able to get it so I got it elsewhere -I did tell him I'd try online"  The response was a tirade of "Oh, where did you get it?" "That doesn't do us any good, does it?" and some very strong language -the shop owner had gone quiet rather than come down to sort things out, he just ducked out of sight.  I left the shop.  That evening I had an email from the shop owner and though I tried to be polite he told me that "if you only ordered Marvel and DC there wouldn't be this problem!" and I responded I had missed a good few SO Marvel and DCs to which he responded by cancelling my SO and that was it.

An ex-staffer later told me that the book was in shop all the time.

I then moved my SO back to the BIG shop in town.  Issues missed and even variant covers put in my SO so I'd think it was a new issue...I gave up.  Comics were not THAT interesting any more.

It is now 4 years since I went into a comic shop.  I had never thought the time would come when THAT would happen.

You can only take crap and hiked up prices so long.

There was also something else I stumbled upon by accident as I went into one store "too early" (they had been open an hour!).  Lots of brown envelopes being filled with new comics -including ones from my SO that I had "lucked out on".  I asked "Are those for standing order customers -that's a lot!"  and the reply was an unashamed "No. It's for buyers on our Ebay store". loyal, regular customers can "screw off" if they have a SO.  I explained that this seemed unfair on regulars such as myself who were not getting their SO issues but people on Ebay were for a higher price.  The response was that it was the owners business.

Now, all of this I thought was solely a UK thing since their is a distributor monopoly in the UK re. comics. Monopolies in the UK are illegal but apparently no one cares.  But no. Watching video bl;ogs and reading blogs I have come across these things happening in the United States the self proclaimed "home of comics" -comickers there are being treated the same way.

Yes, comic shops are businesses.  Yes, owners need to make a profit to keep going and earn a living.  But a majority -not all (I hope)- seem to think "screwing over" customers, and even in most cases making it obvious or even admitting it, is okay.  "They don't like it they can **** off" was one response.  Three American vloggers showing off their weekly comics state that they never got this or that book in their SOs and had to visit a couple other shops.  Standing Orders -"Never miss an issue again!" the signs read.

The current flock of comic book geek chic take all of this because they have no idea and think this is the norm...which it is currently. But distributors know what they are doing.  Comic stores know what they are doing. Even comickers know what's going on.  Nothing.  Apparently "a fool and his/her money are soon parted" still applies in comics.

Despite posting about this and commenting on a number of sites that there was no "upcoming Sub-Mariner movie" what happened?  People began getting screwed over prices for issues of the 1960s/1970s Silver Age run.  From £10 ($20.00) for a "reasonable" copy of Sub-Mariner no.1, as soon as that rumour started the price went up to between £160-£300 ($300-700). I wonder whether any sucker paid that?

Silver Age comics were printed in their THOUSANDS.  You would need to destroy at least 95% of those books (say another Wertham outrage and what happened to Golden Age comics to make them so rare) to make a bit more than you paid for them.

Example. In the 1980s, when we had a comics boom, a man with a lot of money and flash car, used buy every new Marvel and DC comic each week -the shop even bagged them all for him. He looked at me one day and my paltry purchase: "In twenty years time I'm auctioning off all the books I have and retiring."  He was very serious.  He never read the comics -they went straight into special boxes. That was 1985 and in 2005 this same man with his pristine, bagged comics covering 1982-1990, auctioned off his entire collection.  He actually lost money.

There goes the home in the South of France.

Ebay sellers will rip you off.  If I have to explain why then I am preaching to the wrong people.

Comics as an investment might -might- work when your grand children are in their 40s.  If you want to invest then you need to ignore the people who want to squeeze all the money out of you.

Go for books with very low print runs and I am not talking Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or even Image. Look at the small press where books are printed off in 25s or 50s -they are very short run and therefore will be very scarce and hard to come by in the future. 

Go for Print on Demand (POD) publishers.  Here I can speak with experience as a POD publisher.  It works this way: you have an online store and people order your books from there.  There are no big print runs because the book is only printed when it is ordered.  So, say, Black Tower Adventure 1 is ordered by, say, 15 people.  That is it. That is the print run and that book becomes collectible because it WILL be rare to find.  Say 100 people buy it -what then?  Well, it is the same because books become damaged or destroyed or thrown out by accident which means that you still have a rare-to-find (because once I snuff it the store is gone -or if I retire the store goes so you can't just re-order another).

That is simple logic and common sense.  I have a big box of A4 and A5 Small Press comics/mags from the 1980s-1990s and they are in various conditions because of HOW they were produced.  I asked Duncan, who works at an auction house specialising in comic sales, what this box might be worth and scanned copies of the worst and best.  "You can name your own price and it depends on what the collector wants to pay because they are by their very nature rare."  Now in ten years I WILL sell them and I know they will be even rarer.

So, check out POD publishers and Small Press publishers and buy, bag and store their books. Nice Duncan reckoned my books could be as sought after as Alan Class comics in the future.  That is nice so maybe I'll stock up!

Do not buy into the "These comics are hot and will be worth a mint in a couple years" con -let the comic book poseurs do that.  Be canny and buy and invest in what WILL be worth something.  Books that regular comic fans ignore because "They ain't Marvel or DC or in colour"!

1 comment:

  1. What I like doing these days is rediscovering the comics that I have , meaning the ones that I bought in the sixties and seventies . Since I genuinely bought them myself means I don't buy into someone else's past . I went through a small phase of buying some Silver Age and possibly would buy reprints in book form , if the pages were printed from the original comics , NOT RECOLOURED ! The new colour , despite the fact that some people drool over it , this ' perfection ' is - in my opinion anyway - awful and unsympathetic to the material .