Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Craigs List Update: Power Comic Buying

Wow! Did Craig's List work for me!!
Not in the traditional way you would expect, but indirectly.

My original motivation was to find a way to reduce the cost of purchasing comics as they are not the ideal investment (they usually appreciate, but are fairly illiquid and the transaction costs and energy to liquidate them rarely make sense. also they suffer poorly from scale - selling many comic books is much harder than selling a few, where you have time to focus on individual merits of unique -- must be unique -- characteristics of specific comics). My gut says the average liquidation value of a comic in near mint condition is probably -40% to 60% from going market rate of $3.00 today; i.e. $1.20 - $1.80 each.

My experience falls into three categoris (btw, we're in day 3 - it may change over time):
  1. The casual "I have a comic in the attic" seller - who doesn't know what it's worth and is secretely hoping it could be listing in antiques road show. Boy are they in for a disappointment! Most comics written from the mid 1980s and recently have been mass produced in very large volumes. Dealers and collectors tell me there is very little scarcity for main stream publishers. Instead, collectors look for unique attributes in comics, such as how black is the cover of the Spiderman 9/11 issue. The blacker the cover the more it's worth - it's overboard for me, but it matters to the serious collector.
  2. The "I'm moving" seller - who collected comics a while ago. They even put them in preservation bags and inserted card board backing. They haven't read or even looked at the comics for a long time, but they'd rather not move them to a new house (the boxes may have moved to several times new homes already). They usually want $150 - $250 for the collection of 200 - 400 comics. If they find the right buyer, they'll do well. Unfortunately, they're moving and are unlikely to find the right buyer.
  3. The "I'm buy entire collections / close-outs and sell at flea markets" seller - this seller has tens of thousands of comics. His valuable comics are priced in the thousands or tens of thousands. Average everyday comics are just not worth his time. He buys large amounts of comics and sifts through them quickly hoping to find extra special treasures or specific issues missing from his collection. Anything that doesn't fit he sells dirt cheap at a flea market or to comic book stores or a similar venue. He is the equivalent of a commercial fisherman using nets or even better a prospector panning for gold in a river.

Yesterday I bought about 550 c0mics from seller #3 - the buyer of entire collections. His problem is that he has too many comics. I told him if I liked what he had - and he has almost everything - nets don't discriminate - I'd buy 400 - 800 comics every month until I had space problems. He seemed very interested. Before I went over he confided that he would be happy if I bought only $50 worth of comic books priced evenly at $0.33 each - excluding any Wizard or Dynamic Forces special collectors edtions. I was so suprised when I saw what he had, I bought much more than expected. In appreciation of the volume, we renegotiated the price down to $0.22 each. I was very suprised by the quality of his books. I had been expected fairly poor quality. Overall, they were quite good. Some were even bagged and boarded.

I expect to develop a fairly serious ongoing purchasing relationship with seller #3. I'd especially like to buy as many books that interest me (or may in the future) before he opens a store he is considering. Right now, I have the run of his collection (as do several other buyers). When the store opens up it will be a different story.

I do have to be judicious - this is very much like the kid in the candy store - I have only so much time and so much space and ultimately, so much money.

Buying from #3 has certainly jaded me and influenced my interest in other sellers. Today I politely sent four letters out to other sellers (mostly the #2 movers) telling them that I had a source for comics at $0.22 a piece and that although I did not specialize in collecting what they are selling (which is true - I generally avoid mainline super hero comics), I would consider their entire collection minus anything they would like to cherry pick to sell on ebay for $0.22 each comic. I'm waiting for the replies. $0.22 each is substantially lower than their expectations, but I am learning that bulk buyers purchase very large quantities and pay $0.15 - $0.25 per comic.

If the #2 sellers, the movers, truely need to move and save space, they may meet my price. Frankly, I think they'll have sticker shock and put the comics back in the attic.

Have a wonderful day,


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