Posted on February 16, 2016
‘Why Your Comic Books Aren’t Worth Shit’
‘It’s Gettin’ to be Re-God-Damned-Diculous!’
A simple telling of truths and deceptions that abound in the secondary comic book market, by one who has worked in and been witness to its mechanics for 30+ years: Michael Hempen
Brought to you by: Cous’n Hemp’n Entertainment!
If it don’t say “Cous’n Hemp’n Entertainment” on it, then it’s grammar ain’t none to good!
Ah, the comic book. I can recall a certain sense of childhood community when thinking upon my youth with the illustrated word. I remember purchasing ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #289 (June ’87) when I was in Military School at the age of 13. This was the issue in which we finally were to learn the true identity of the Hobgoblin. The issue was passed around to each kid in my bunk house, and all of us were incredulous that fucking Ned Leeds, who had recently been killed off in the ‘Spider-Man vs. Wolverine’ one-shot (Feb ’87), was the troubled villain. Where was the justice in that? You can’t kill off a character in an unrelated story line FIVE months BEFORE he’s been revealed as the mysterious baddie in ANOTHER story line! Our little minds were blown; but such was the wonder of the comic book that brought us closer as friends.
I’m still amazed, as I’m sure many of my contemporaries remember, that comic books were once a literary forum to be looked down upon by adults. Now producing a multi-billion dollar global film franchise, the reading of comic books was once considered something of a dorkish behavior. While our imaginations were swept away by the thought of having super powers, fighting evil in space, or just plain doing something nice for someone else, our parents were tossing our shit out, while we were in school, and then telling us our comic books were nonsense.
Surely, this wasn’t true in all cases–either scenario. Many people read comic books because they were lonely and nobody would play with them or because their parents didn’t give a flying Wallenda of a fuck WHAT they were reading. Oh, they may comfort themselves by heaping spoonful’s of self-deception into their childhood cereal bowl with, “It was BECAUSE I read comic books that nobody played with me,” when the truth is that nobody played with them because they were creepy and weird. Comic books were a by-product of you being a weird kid, friendlessness was NOT a by-product of your comic books, so don’t blame the inanimate object you tool.
My mom might have sucked ass as a parent, but I never experienced being picked on for reading comic books. In fact, comic books made me feel more accepted as I got older and learned how to draw. Drawing comic book scenarios got me in with the seniors in high school and eventually led to my first collection as I would trade drawings for old comic books. That being said, it wasn’t until I got older that comic books taught me their ultimate lesson.
Some of you may recall my incessant whiney ramblings regarding the former boss at my 1st ever job, working in a comic book store. When he wasn’t in the back room of his store beating his ‘little person’ wife (seriously, she was 3’ 10”) and her MOTHER…he was in the front of the store, smelling of poo dipped in B.O., attempting to rip off children and adults of all ages. He would stand on the sidewalk and shout, carnival barker style, that his brother was in jail and he needed to sell his comics at a discount to see to his release. He would mark up worthless comic books, which had a slight misprint on them, and convince children that they were a diamond in the rough; that they were the upside down aero plane on a stamp. “This is so valuable that it will put you through college one day,” he would tell a kid, and smile to himself as the child ran off to secure 50 dollars from the parent he would repeat this lie to, in order to pay for what any normal retailer would throw out as trash or send back to the wholesaler for a refund.
Not only did this disgusting example of human fucking being-ery rip off strangers, but he belittled and stole from his employees as well. You can read about the entire incident here: https://generaldouchebaggery.com/2013/11/18/heroland-issue-1/ , but needless to say he stole every comic book that I worked my entire adolescence to accumulate, and it’s mostly because of this bloated, now dead (say thankee sai) liverless behemoth, that I don’t frequent comic book stores anymore.
Now, I know what you’re saying, “But Mike, surely you don’t associate ALL workers of the comic book industry with this fat fuck right here?” No, a majority of the people who work at comic book stores aren’t smart enough to be as evil as my former boss. I don’t like NORMAL people, much less these socially inept register jockeys. THESE are the adults who were once the weird kids I spoke of earlier. Now older, and STILL full of self-deception, they tell people they are ‘in the industry’ and act as if they possess a super-human like power to balk at the taste of others, as if their own opinion somehow stood above all. So listen ‘Gary’ (Fact: 93% of all comic book store workers are named ‘Gary’), the only opinion that can be considered fact, is mine; and it’s my opinion (fact) that your sense of entitlement precludes any power you believe you possess in your 1200 square foot strip mall domain, by making you seem to me, a silly and ignorant caricature of a salesman. But kids don’t know this.
To children, the comic book store worker may be the first adult they are likely to converse with outside of parental supervision. And rather than stand there, vulture-esque, waiting to pick at the carcasses of kids who are just seeking a bit of mystery and imagination in the form of graphic literature, shouldn’t it be incumbent upon this man to speak with the child, ascertain his / her interest, and point him in the direction of the comic book that best suits his / her imagination? It should, not only because it’s the right way to treat people, but because, from a business perspective, you can potentially create a lifelong reader who will not only come back for that all important NEW issue, but may seek to build a collection from your stoic back-issue lot that sits there, untouched like YOU on prom night, you dick. But these poor little bastards get sneering glances, shitty remarks, and a disdainful ignorance.
Now, to be sure, I’m not speaking of ALL comic book workers. My friend Jim works at a comic book store (Tenth Planet in Indiana), and I know for a fact that he and his boss treat customers with the respect their money deserves. Jim is a collector, and he wants to give children the opportunity to have the same joy that comic books brought him in his youth. No, I’m not talking about Jim, I’m talking about 90% of the other comic book stores out there, one’s that I’ve had the displeasure to frequent, where I’ve witnessed, first hand, the assholery of the worker towards me, towards others, or both. They don’t get my money because, and let me address the workers of the comic book store industry directly; a majority of you have a chip on your shoulder so big that Atlas couldn’t carry it on his back. Your attitude is that of a crotchety old man in the late stages of dickheadedness.
When asked if you have a certain comic book, rather than help your customer find it so you can make a sale, you let the air out of a tire with the same put upon exhale you use to show derision when your never-to-be-a-grandmother mother asks you to climb out of the basement and take out the trash. You then look at your customer as if he just asked to take a shit on your chest. Then when he leaves, you begin bitching that ‘sales are down’ and you might have to get a job asking your parents for more money. You are banal and tedious in your conversation, of which you talk with an inflection that harbors no room for debate or discussion which is why NOBODY wants to fucking talk to you. You have the personality of a roof shingle, you wear comic book t-shirts with NO sense of humility, on a more personal note: you smell bad and worst of all you proudly, and with a sense of entitlement that boggles the mind, watch “The Big Bang Theory” Oh, fuck you people HARD; you are the absolute worst.
Now that I’ve properly shit on the in-store workers of the comic book industry…let’s turn our attention to the other side of comic book sales. I am a collector of the ‘OCD’ sort. When I buy comic books online, I throw away the bag and board they came in and put on bags and boards that I purchased, so my collection will be uniform. I have a neat shelving unit, that I purchased at home depot, which harbors my current collection. I alphabetize by publisher, then by title with all mini-series at the end, and I keep a detailed (I mean DETAILED) Excel spread sheet which lists issues, artists, guide value, what I paid, the difference between those two numbers, has a photo of the issue attached via a ‘comment box,’ and the date I purchased each issue. I am the Rain Man of the comic book world. I am, not only familiar with the worth of my collection, but of its value as well. What do I mean by worth AND value?
A comic book may be WORTH forty dollars in a price guide, but its value can only be determined by what someone is willing to pay, as with all things. THIS…this is where some of you people out there have lost your GOT damned minds.
I know that a LOT of you are shouting at your computer screen: “BUT THE GUIDE SAIS! BUT THE GUIDE SAIS!” and you are only deflating you own argument jackass. The ‘GUIDE’ is just that, a ‘GUIDE’. It’s not set in stone that you must get what the guide sais your comic book is worth. The ‘GUIDE’ is the reason that comic book stores have SO many fucking back issues that just sit, like Patience on the Mount, waiting to be chosen and scooped up out of the endless desert waste of overpriced, over-graded, junk back issues. Then, when these stores go out of business, the owner throws his hands up in the air and exclaims, “Wasn’t my fault, it was Marvel and DC’s fault for starting all of their titles over at issue #1 every three months!” Well, that’s as may be, but YOU have to take some responsibility, Captain Shipwreck, because YOU used that fucking Comic Book Price Guide as your map instead of following the stars and crashed your fucking ship on the rocky outcrop of being an asshole.
Let’s break it down. So, you own a comic book store and you’re ordering “Deadpool: Cattledrive” #1 from your distributor (well, THE distributor in any case, but that’s for another blog) in the current issue of ‘Previews’. If you order 100 issues of that “Deadpool: Cattledrive” #1, at 40% of the cover price, you get ONE black and white variant cover. We’ll call it $3.99 (Cover price) x 40%=$159.60 for a hundred issues. You get the black and white gratis. Obviously, you’re not going to sell all 100 issues, I get it. Plus, your club members are going to get what? 10%-30% off, right? If you sell 50 issues at 20% off, you’ve made back your money. Now, the GUIDE says that black and white issue is WORTH $350.00, but WE know you essentially got it for free because, we, being the loyal patrons of the comico libro art, frequented your smelly establishment and bought 50 issues of that “Deadpool: Cattledrive” #1. SO when one of us, decides to not pay our electric bill or foregoes the purchase of Huggies, leaving little Johnny at home with shitty diapers to help keep you in ‘Mickey’s Gyros’ and masturbatory Wesson Oil, and musters up enough courage to speak to your vile lethargic fat ass and offer you $200.00…instead of making the “I’d rather kill you than sell you anything” face, WHY NOT TAKE THE 200 FUCKING DOLLARS???
I was at a comic book store, a few months ago, that had an issue of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #700, the Ditko Variant, hanging on the wall with a price tag of $700.00. Now, this issue isn’t slabbed, and in fact there’s a bit of color fading on it because this idiot has it in direct line of the morning sun where it’s sat for almost three years because nobody wanted to venture into this viper pit to catch a dose of price poisoning. I was standing near the counter when a man asked to SEE this issue. He studied it like a collector would, then he took out his phone and looked the issue up on ebay, and choosing the ‘sold for’ listings, showed the store owner what the issue, IN MINT condition had been selling for; the most recent sale was $400 dollars. He then offered the owner $500 bucks and was speedily hurried out the door at the owner’s show of indignation as to being, so obviously low-balled by this ‘huckster’. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I left as well, because I’d found a few back issues I’d been searching for in the bins, that were overpriced by a decade and what made me think this guy was playing with a full fucking deck? Recently, upon having driven by the previously stated establishment I saw that its doors were shuttered. Fucking duh.
This is one of the many reasons why I don’t bother with comic book stores. On the odd occasion that I have frequented one, before wanting to punch the clerk in the face, I perused the overpriced back issues with a scrunched up nose and a look on my face that tells of deeply inhaling shit, because that’s what the prices are…shit. Most stores don’t bother updating prices; their back stock has the same price they took out of Wizard in 1993. A comic book that ‘guides’ today at three dollars will have a tag on it for ten dollars, and I’m willing to pay one dollar for it; when I broach this to the cashier, he inevitably looks down his nose at me from over his fancy independent comic book, and shouts so he can be heard over the VHS episode of Dr. Who playing loudly on the TV behind him, that “Prices are set” or “You’ll have to talk to the owner. He comes in most Augusts.” Now this piece of shit issue of ‘Marvel Age’ #4 is going back in the box where it will sit with all the other worthless shit until the store closes down, because I ain’t the one.
Comic book store owners are probably reading this and saying, “But we don’t make money on back issues, all the money is in CURRENT issues.” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying you fucking moron. Put some god damned effort into selling your back issues or don’t sell them at all. You have 4 fucking acres of back issues that just SIT there, so why not sell them at a price that will allow kids to get into the comic book stories of old so they DO come back and start perusing your sea of back issues, because seriously…these stories today just suck and if sales are based on good stories? You may be struggling for a looooooong time to come; ESPECIALLY since Marvel and DC have decided to forego decent story telling in favor of slapping a “#1” on every fucking issue. And teach your employees to speak intelligently and with aplomb to your customers instead of giving them that “I just caught you fucking my neighbor’s cat” look when they ask you if you have the Skottie Young Variant of “Mutant Rimjobs” #4, so that they aren’t to be made to feel like assholes for trying to give you their hard earned money. If you like, I’ll come down there and make fun of your simpleton lot of employees in order to teach them some humility. In the industry of humiliating people? I’m kind of a big deal.
Because of the state of a majority of comic book stores, frequenting the internet to build your collection can be a MUCH more satisfactory way to make your purchase. No judgement, no attitudes, and you have the benefit of looking for a price that YOU find fair, rather being beholden to the jacked up prices of the businessly inept. You can choose your poison but I feel like something needs to be said to the litany of entitled dickwads out there who are crowding up the on-lines with their “This is what my issue of ‘X-Terminators’ #1 SHOULD sell for” instead of “This is what my issue of X-Terminators’ #1 WILL sell for”.
There are a plethora of people on the internet who are trying to gouge my wallets eyes out for the most amazingly worthless shit to have ever graced a magazine shelf. I see a lot of steroid-esque enhanced wishful thinking on the Craigslist, and I don’t know if it’s because these people don’t want to be bothered with setting aside their SSI check for a moment, climbing out of their deeply hoarded living rooms, and contemplating their virginity at another time so that they can look up their comic book’s value in a price guide, check it’s comparable offerings on ebay, or just run into a comic book store wearing nothing but a t-shirt that reads: “I have no sense of humor or self-worth, which is why I watch anything on the WB” while shouting “ANYBODY WANT THIS? HUH? HUH?”, but the comic books listed on CL are worth less than their owner’s value as a human fucking being.
Here’s an example of a comic book listing on Craigslist RIGHT fucking now:
“I am selling my collection of softcover comic books. In good to wear condition. There are about 40 different comic books. $65.00”
Now, I’ll ignore the spelling and grammatical errors to focus on the obvious. This is a small hoard of the worst comic books ever made, from the 90’s, in shitty condition…and this numb-nuts wants sixty five bucks for them. Talk about an inflated sense of value; and this is indicative of 99% of ads for comic books on Craigslist. First of all, ANY comic book made, between January of 1990 through December of 1999 should sell for a nickel, and you’d be lucky to get THAT. If there was a golden, silver, and bronze age in comic books, the 90’s was the milky brown poo age of comic bookery. Oh, to be sure there are a few exceptions, but maybe 5-10 out of a hundred thousand, and it is a veritable certainty that NONE of those 10 issues are in this guy’s 40 comic books. 90’s comic books are great for the following reasons:
- They make excellent cage liner for birds to shit on.
- You can spread them out on the floor for your dog to shit on.
- If you’ve ran out of toilet paper, you can wipe your ass with them.
- Any variation of actions that causes shit to be upon them.
And there are times when ebay isn’t much better. Right now, there is a lot of 80 Punisher comics, mostly from the 90’s, up for 199.99 (391013467763.) Now, I’m a Punisher fan but I wouldn’t pay more than 20 dollars for this lot because, until Garth Ennis got a hold of him, the Punisher mostly sucked. But this wishful thinking mother fucker right here, for what-ever reason, believes that age equals value. It does not (Me, being the exception of course, as I’m 42 and my girlfriend is 25. THAT’S gonna piss off comic book store workers WAY more than anything else I’ve said here today.)
Although EVERYTHING on Craigslist is shit, I’ve built a great majority of my collection from ebay. Sometimes I’ll see something I want that’s overpriced, and even though it doesn’t have a ‘or best offer’ option, I’ll contact the seller and sometimes he’ll come to a deal with me, sometimes he won’t and I’ll patiently wait for a price that I feel is fair. That’s the beauty of ebay. Why ANYONE who owns a comic book store would not try to best or match this sales technique by simply being DECENT to their customers and using EBAY as a guide when selling back issues, is fucking beyond me.
I have a friend who recently bought a run of The Incredible Hulk comics from 301-474 (the last issue) with annuals and extras, a total of 190 comics, for 250.00 dollars from Gary Dolgoff Comics on ebay. Gary has a bunch of lots like this for sale on ebay and for a collector? It’s the best possible deal. This run guides for roughly $750, but Gary knows something that comic book store owners and some online dealers don’t (I’m talking to the, appropriately named ‘Mile High Comics’ because that’s what their prices are), that is that NOBODY in their right fucking mind is going to pay $750 dollars for a late 80’s – early 90’s run of The Incredible Hulk. Gary wants to TURN that fucking back-stock OVER. He’s going to use that 250 to buy some collections from comic bookers who just want to get rid of their old issues or who just need 250 dollars; then he’s going to sell THAT collection at an appropriate and affordable price to some kid who has a gap to fill in HIS collection. This strategy will keep Gary in business and makes him a pillar of the comic book sales force.
I haven’t even delved into the comic book convention with it’s unbelievably priced autographs, unwarshed masses of all shapes and sizes, and dealers who have no choice but to price gouge because the convention halls price gouge THEM. And I don’t claim to know all the answers to make a decent balance between making a profit and making your customers happy. That being said, based on my 20+ years of sales experience and 30+ years of comic book experience, here are some things you can do as a comic broker, whether you own a store or are just some schlub selling on the internet:
- Just because something has the number 1 on it, doesn’t mean that you get to sell it for ONE thousand dollars, you inept ass clown.
- Just because YOU like it, doesn’t mean everyone (or ANYone) will. Your approval of a comic book character does not intrinsically inflate its worth. You have horrible taste in EVERYTHING, that’s why nobody likes you.
- When selling on ebay, make EVERYTHING you sell a ‘Or Best Offer’, and then ACTUALLY take the best offer. Don’t put ‘Ambush Bug’ #8 up there for 800 dollars with a ‘Or best offer’ option, and then when someone offers you four dollars, you counter with $799. Take the four dollars shithead.
- If you are selling comic books ANYWHERE but on ebay (Craigslist or in a store only), it’s because you are old and don’t know how to work a computer OR you want to exacerbate your prices and you know the ebay community will kick you in the nyuts. You think some rube will see your stuff accidentally and say to himself “why NOT pay 65 dollars for a beat up copy of ‘Ren & Stimpy’ # 12?” He won’t. You’re a delusional dinosaur who is worth less, as a human being, than ANY comic book from the 90’s. Sell on ebay or don’t sell at all.
- IF you own a store and someone, who actually knows something about comic books, walks in and attempts to haggle with you…HAGGLE MOTHER FUCKER, HAGGLE. You want to sell that shit or let it sit there? I understand that you have ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #94 slabbed at 9.9, but you have to accept the fact that Donald Trump may not be frequenting your store with a quarter of a million dollars cash on him. (And get a fucking credit card machine; it’s 2016, NOT 1916.) You might have to let that shit go for a measly 10 grand.
- Just because a TV show or a movie is coming out, does NOT make your comic book worth more money. The fact is that a TV show or Movie will drive DOWN the value of a comic book or series because it’s saturating the market with content. Who wants to read “The Avengers #67” featuring Ultron for a hundred bucks when you can go to the Best Buy and pick up a Blu-ray of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” for 19.99? So fucking stoppit. I can remember when ‘The Preacher’ #1 was selling for twenty bucks. Then the guy who made, arguably the WORST super hero movie ever, decided to produce a ‘The Preacher’ TV show on a non-cussy network cable channel, essentially hamstringing the rated ‘R’ nature of the source material that was so intrinsic in it’s excellence, now the comic book is no less than 300 dollars everywhere. Nnnnnnnn-NO! (Rolled up newspaper whack to the nose.)
- Before selling your comic books on Craigslist, come up with a price and write it down. Then, if you have a cognitive ability towards the math, cut that number in half. Then, if the math still resides in your noggin, multiply THAT number by twenty percent. That balance is what you should sell your comic books for on Craigslist. Idiot.
- I’m not going to pay an exorbitant price for a comic book just because you did. Just because you paid six hundred dollars for ‘Batman Vs. A Herd of Sheep’ # 17 (Also by Garth Ennis) doesn’t mean anyone else will you asshole.
I guess my point, if I have one here, is that there need not be a great divide between a Comic Broker and a Comic Booker. The broker should cater his sales to his customers, based more on what he paid for something, rather than taking that fucking guide as bible verse. If you need to sell an ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #700 Ditko Variant for 700 dollars to pay your nut, then you have no business being in business, and you have no nuts. Stop price gouging like a boss. And as for us? Comic bookers are a community that should be supporting each other in our collecting; you should be happy for someone who finally got all 17 issues of ‘Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham’, instead of judging that person (Yes, I’m currently in the market for all 17 issues of ‘Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham, so fuck you.) Enjoy your collection, and practice some humility when doing it. If you have an attitude towards someone who wants to discuss comic books with you, or towards a young person seeking guidance in the ways of the comic book, you are doing it wrong and should go collect something more suited to your disposition…like dog turds.
As a side, if anyone out there is looking to unload a collection, hit me up. I may offer you the same or less than a dealer will, but you have the benefit of knowing that I’M not going to then sell those books at a 900% mark up. I’ll actually keep them. THANKS!