Friday, March 21, 2014

The back issue problem

Earlier today, Brian Hibbs, owner of two stores out west, posted an interesting overview of the challenge he is facing with his newly acquired back issues on Comic Book Resources. 300 long boxes/75,000 comics. I'd bet there are basements and storage lockers throughout North America that are full of collections like that. Maybe not that size, probably more like mine (4500-5000 comics).

When owners of collections like these retire/die or just decide to liquidate, the market will be flooded (moreso) with literally tons of unwanted unreadable and worthless comics. There appears to be no interest in the younger generations to "collect", and I'm not just talking about comics. Have you met many kids with baseball cards lately? What about stamps or coins? My son is nine and he has hundreds of Hot Wheels (including some of mine - love those Redlines), but is he a collector? No, he just acquired them, thanks to Santa, birthdays and trips to Target with Mom.

My basement

So if the younger folk don't wanna hoard, whatever will we do? I can't imagine we're going to return to the days of hockey cards in bike spokes and spinner racks in the five'n'dime. There are millions of comics floating around the existing (and shrinking) back issue dealer market that aren't ever going to find their way into the hands of new and younger readers.

No I can't imagine THAT either

I sold my Marvels a couple of years ago and bought a new car with the proceeds (just a Kia Soul, take it easy). There were a LOT of them in complete runs and most of them were pre-1990 ('72-'87 primarily). What I have left is the other stuff - Image, Dark Horse, DC, Eclipse, etc - and I don't see it finding a home anytime soon. I could probably dump them off on a wholesaler for a dime a piece.

I could, but I don't want to. They're worth more to me than that, and I'm not talking about their value on the back issue market (such as it is).

What are you doing with yours?

Not the solution I'm looking for

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Amazon effect part 2

Ok, so maybe Amazon isn't the way to go. Things have changed since the New Year and it is much more difficult to sell or list comics entertainment collectibles or collectible books. Check this link out: blah blah

Or don't...anyway, what they eventually say is that you must be an approved seller and you can only list one at a time (no runs or sets). Plus most of the info on Amazon Services seller central is not comic book specific, but geared more toward collectible books.

Here's the list of questions I posted a couple of weeks ago:
  • Do I set pricing? In other words, do I have to send a spreadsheet with prices for over 5000 individual issues?
    • Yes, I do, and yes I do
  • Can I sell runs or sets?
    • Nope
  • If they set pricing, do they factor the condition into the price? (no I don't have any CGC thingies and won't ever. Ugh.)
    • They would prefer I use CGC - they even offer direct access with a discount
  • Is there a comic book issue template for uniformity of listing? (there doesn't appear to be when you search on the site)
    • Nope
  • How long will they hold stuff in inventory? (Will they keep Animal Man #42 in perpetuity?)
    • They'll hold it as long as you want as long you pay their warehousing fees
  • And of course, the cost of doing business with Amazon (which frankly is not a major concern, as long as I get mine)
    • Big huge percentage for Amazon
Now, I am not knocking Amazon. They can run their business anyway they see fit. They just haven't really taken advantage of the fact that Ebay is vulnerable and people are looking for an option.

So now what? Craigslist? I don't know. Has anyone had any luck getting anything other than laughably low offers for your stuff? Yeah, yeah, free market, etc. I know how it all works. I just don't to be bothered dealing with guys who want to give me $10 a long box. There's a full run of Nexus in there dammit!

Maybe I'll get a table at the upcoming comic show...that should be interesting.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Amazon effect

Just a quick one today, and I'm not even trying here. This is a post from a very interesting entrepreneur and blogger, Steve Chau. I had been writing about my idea of using Amazon to sell my comics, instead of taking the usual Ebay route. Steve has some thoughts on Fulfillment by Amazon that I think are worth reading for anyone interested in online selling, or e-commerce in general:

How Amazon Is Changing Ecommerce And What Your Online Store Must Do To Succeed

Commenter Aaron wrote a response to my question from my post last week (now since deleted for some reason), and while I have not listed anything on Amazon yet, I have been thinking about the best possible strategy. Aaron mentioned that the warehousing costs and the Amazon cut of my action will be too steep to make the whole idea worthwhile. Not sure about that yet, but I do think cherry picking a few choice issues will help me further test the system.

like this!

Feel free to comment on the above article and on your selling experiences in the online world. Thanks for reading and we'll talk soon.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Mindworms Attack!

As I mentioned earlier, Thor #201 got me hooked instantly back in '72. The connectivity of the Marvel Universe drew me in and held me for decades (off and on but still...). I began to find myself inhabiting specific corners of this universe more than others - the Cosmic penthouse of Thor, the Surfer and Warlock, The Baxter Building and mostly, Avengers Mansion (Spidey's whining never did much for me). When Claremont and Byrne really went Uncanny, and Frank Miller reanimated Daredevil, I was a full fledged Marvel zombie. By 2009, when I moved to New York from Massachusetts, 18 longboxes of Marvel comics trailed closely behind. (Plus, another 16 long boxes of DC, Dark Horse, Image, 80's indys, oh god, so many comics...)

Sorta looked like this:
not actual collection

Why did I keep everything? Simple. It never felt disposable. Nothing I ever loved really did. Hockey cards, Canadian stamps, Hot Wheels - I still have most of the things from my childhood that gave me joy (well, not the stamps so much, but my grandmother worked for Canada Post and gave me every first day cover stamp from 1967 to 1983, so, ya know, couldn't just toss 'em).

And that joy of things was most fully manifest in those full-color 32-page mindworms. I didn't really decide I wanted all of them until I realized I could, theoretically, have them all. After all they're numbered and everything! I could keep track of what I had and what I was missing. The Completist was born.

At its root, the completist impulse is about feeling as though there's no point in collecting something unless you have every single item. Whether it's records, books, comics, toys, memorabilia or something else, the collection isn't worth having unless you have every item that belongs in the set. A set of N-1 is as worthless as an empty set. - Charlie Jane Anders io9 12/10/13

If I were to focus on one subsector of the medium, say Marvel from the 70's or George Perez art or Human Torch appearances, it wouldn't seem so insurmountable. But I wanted the entire Marvel Universe; all of it, from Marvel Comics #1 (1939) to next week's Daredevil. Is that really asking too much?

That's right, Alan, you tell 'em

(Un)fortunately for me, Ebay happened. At first, it felt like I'd found the vault from the end of Raiders. Holy crap! It's was all there: runs of the Avengers, Giant Size Man-Things, even Claremont/Byrne X-Men! After I gorged myself on the incredible deals I was finding (soon I was buying Marvel long boxes blind), I took inventory, literally and otherwise. I figured I had about 20% of the possible Universe now in my grasp.

But after a five seven eight year binge, the thrill of the chase was gone. Because of Ebay, it's just too easy (expense notwithstanding) to acquire the missing gaps.

And soon came the Ghidorah of marriage/kids/mortgage. I was in my mid-40's. Money is no object until it is, and time marches on. I realized I'd never get the other 80%, especially with Marvel pumping out content at a rate only the most seriously demented trust fund baby could keep up with.

Now it's time to say goodbye to the things themselves. It took a while for me to get used to the idea that, soon, I will not be a collector of anything other than memories and experiences. And that's OK by me.

Next up : OCD? Hoarding? How close do we get to those conditions when we strive to own a Universe?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Ebay story

Welcome back. It appears quite a few new readers have found Zombie Cat Bacon from Norway, and much thanks to Mike at Progressive Ruin, the good folks at The Comic Journal, and of course, Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter.

I received a few questions regarding my Ebay slam from yesterday. Ok, quick story. Signed up for Ebay in 1999? (hold on...double checking that...yup, December '99. Wow, I'm old in Internet years, I guess), and had a 100% seller rating until May of 2013. I sold comics, scifi paperbacks and other detritus found at yard sales and flea markets. Not a serious "business" by any measure but it was good for a few bucks, and I usually turned around and spent the cash on more comics on Ebay, filling in gaps and buying runs and sets.

Greed set in last spring (and this is where you will judge me to be a fool, and correctly so), and I stumbled upon an opportunity to sell Beats headphones via dropship on Ebay from a dude in Hong Kong. Shady? Possibly. Profitable? Well, there was no cost to me, so I made a few bucks off the margin. Fraught with danger? Not exactly high-stakes global financial meltdown danger, but I coulda been burned. And I was, but not in the way I might have expected.

The funny thing is the problem I encountered wasn't my Hong Kong connection. He never failed to ship on time, and all but one shipment made it to the correct address. It was my "customers". Most of the Beats boys were very new to Ebay (as gauged by low seller feedback numbers), and were rather new to whole "wait for the package to arrive from halfway around the world" thing. Note the Shipping Time rating in the link above. So feedback started coming in from these buyers, most positive, a couple neutral and two (2) negatives. Two.

In early July, I was informed my selling privileges were revoked permanently. I have the email responses from Ebay to my appeal (I won't bother posting them here except for this line: "We have no plans to reinstate the selling privileges at this time, nor any time in the near future. As noted previously, this is an indefinite selling restriction which we are confident in continuing to uphold".)

They were steadfast in their decision to cut me off. And not just me. Google this: ebay seller account restricted. I wasn't the only one in the summer of 2013 to be bounced out of Club Ebay. Thousands of sellers were summarily kicked to the curb due to feedback horror stories like mine.

I can still buy stuff on Ebay (thanks, guys), but not so much with the selling. I am no longer miffed as I was (and boy, was I miffed! You wouldn't like me when I'm miffed), especially since I decided to give a tryout to other guys, Amazon. (BTW, the other auction sites just don't have the critical mass of buyers to make it worthwhile). I sold a couple of comics over the holidays, and it worked out just fine, though no feedback was given by the buyers. You know, I don't think I've ever given anyone Amazon feedback either.

Somewhere over the past couple months I read about the Fulfillment service Amazon offers, and instead of listing individual issues myself, I thought it would be easier to just let them handle it.

However I still have questions:

  • Do I set pricing? In other words, do I have to send a spreadsheet with prices for over 5000 individual issues?
  • Can I sell runs or sets?
  • If they set pricing, do they factor the condition into the price? (no I don't have any CGC thingies and won't ever. Ugh.)
  • Is there a comic book issue template for uniformity of listing? (there doesn't appear to be when you search on the site)
  • How long will they hold stuff in inventory? (Will they keep Animal Man #42 in perpetuity?)
  • And of course, the cost of doing business with Amazon (which frankly is not a major concern, as long as I get mine)
There is still more research to conduct, and answers to seek. I'd be very interested to read comments regarding your experiences selling large lots of comics (non-retail division please).

More later, good readers. Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The comic collection solution?

For lo these many years, I have been a comic book guy. In the summer of '72, I bought a comic book with my own money for the first time. It was not to be the last. For the next 20 years, I devoured almost everything the House of Marvel could produce. I worked in a comic book store after school. I stored them carefully, cataloged them meticulously, and went to comic book conventions as often as possible (but no cosplay for me, thanks).

In '92 I stopped cold-turkey. The hobby and medium became a bloated dinosaur, on the verge of a nasty and brutish extinction due rampant speculation and crap content. I turned my attention to my ever growing album collection (vinyl sound recordings, kids - ask your parents). Concerts, local live music and a kick-ass stereo was all I needed, man. Plus, at the tender age of 27, I was now almost fully embracing adulthood. So, career-like efforts began.

In 2003, visiting the City with my girlfriend (and now wife - I win!), I kinda accidentally fell into Forbidden Planet. Akin to an opium den, the shop reintroduced me to that universe. You know how it goes, you say to yourself "I'll try a little bit, ya know, to get that feeling again. What could go wrong?". At first it was a little taste of the 'ol Marvel, then I got into some new indy stuff I hadn't tried before. Soon, I was going full European undergound with a dose of the old stuff:

(Oh, and I lost the album collection to basement flood shortly thereafter)

Fast forward to now. I have thousands of comics. I am 48. I still buy new stuff. I have other interests now, such as my child collection, now numbering two. They're expensive and take a lot of time store and catalog (and feed and nurture - who knew?). But the comics languish in the basement, living in darkness, alone.

I don't think I'll ever read the vast majority of my comics again, at least in the single issue format. Not because they suck (though some have not aged well), but because of time, my nemesis.

(I'll get into the collector mentality in a later post - it worthy of a lengthy discussion regarding material possessions and "completism" syndrome).

So I am going to trust Amazon with the sale of the whole lot. How? This: Fulfillment by Amazon. Why not Ebay? They're assholes (another post/rant, another day).

I think this will be an interesting process, and I'll be updating you along the way.

So Step 1: Finding the Internet...

More later

Monday, March 3, 2014

This is a blog post - yay!

So here we are.

A new blog begins and we are all very excited because we ran out of things to read.

I've thought about doing this for a while. I never bothered to do it because, well,  I have other things taking up my time.

It's late on a Sunday and I should be sleeping. But I'm not. Mainly because over the weekend I thought of the best name ever for a blog ever and I am awesome.

This web log (or webl, as we will now call it), is a place I will write about things. I'm glad I thought of it. Anyone who creates a webl now owes me money.

I want to be here for you whenever you need to read things. So suggest topics. I will write about them.

tired now.sleep

more soon...