Here of late, it’s actually been the highlight of my day. Getting away from the madness, even for a few minutes, is really good for me. I’ve always liked walking. It’s good “me time”—a chance to get inside my head and sort out my thoughts on the way things are going right now. Right before the Triple Crown races, I got an mp3 player, so nowadays; it’s a chance to get inside my head with Emmylou Harris. (Not sure that came out right…)
Anyway, this Wednesday I was strolling down my usual walk route, which takes me past a little antique shop. On nicer days, the couple who own it have stuff sitting outside on the sidewalk and I like to look at it out as I pass by. Well, that day, the outside stuff included a box of comics, which of course, I had to stop and check out. A note on the box said they were 2 bucks each, so I figured I’d see if there was anything I wanted that I could get today with the six dollars in my wallet, and then come back tomorrow with a little more cash, if need be.
Now, I’ve been at the game long enough to know that you take your chances with comics and antique shops, although there are a couple in the area who know how to do it right. Usually, you find a stack of crap in pretty rotten shape, with outrageous prices on them.* Still, I’ve made some of my best finds at antique stores, thrift shops, yard sales, and the like. I guess one of my basic rules of life is “Never pass up a stack of comics** that’s for sale without at least looking at them.”
Since I had already seen the 2 dollar price sign, I figured it was worth a few minutes to look and see if there might be anything I’d drop a couple bucks on.
There were a couple mid-60’s DC, lots of late-60’s to mid-70’s DC and Marvel books, and a few Gold Key, Archie, Dell, and Harvey titles. Everything was pretty beat up—stuff that had been read and loved quite a bit. Three or four had severe spine roll, and there were a couple that I could tell were not complete just by the way they felt. Still, most of the books were in good/fair condition, and some were a pretty solid good, depending on who was doing the grading. In other words, good reading copies, but nothing that was going to make anyone rich.
Now, I’m not a terrible condition-whore. Much of my collection is not bagged or boarded. All I really ask is that a comic be complete, readable, and have a cover. (And the cover is actually a pretty recent addition to my list of conditions.) I honestly don’t mind paying a couple of bucks for a beat up, but complete DC SA book. In other words, I did feel the stuff was worth looking through, and there were a few things I would not have minded spending a couple of bucks on.
While I’m going through everything, the old guy who runs the store came out and asked me what I’d give for all of them. He kept saying that he didn’t care about them and just wanted them gone, but that “some of them” are pretty old, which really left me kind of fuzzled about what kind of an offer to make. Either you want to clear them out cheap or you want to make some money on them, so the mixed message was a little perplexing.
So I started weighing the factors in my head:
- My standard acceptable condition, my typical price range, and lots of DC’s from the era(s) I concentrate on these days, plus a few surprises.
- I’ve got some cash in the bank for this weekend’s yard sales. It’s not a lot though.
- A few of the books I already have. Not many, but enough to factor into a decision to take the lot.
- Honestly, there were also some books in the lot that I really didn’t want. (The Marvels for one.)
All that taken together was actually pushing me towards making a stack of what I did want and seeing what kind of deal I could get. But right when I was about to say something, the owner said “Ill let you have the whole batch for fifty cents each.” I guess he figured my hesitation meant I was going to wander away.
So, he and I counted them out—79 comics in all—and I agreed to the deal. Fifty cents each for what I wanted out of the batch was a great price. In terms of the few books I didn't really want, I just look at it like I paid a buck for a few of the other issues instead of fifty cents. Still well worth it, in my mind. I had to run to the bank to get the cash, and now I’ve got a “new” stack of comics! (I'll try to work out some time to put some scans up over the weekend.)
I figure I’ll put anything I’ve already got and what I don’t want in our next yard sale. Might as well see if I can make someone’s day. I got started as a “serious” collector/reader by finding stuff at yard sales and flea markets as a kid, so maybe there’s someone else out there like me. One of the real tragedies of the way the hobby has evolved over the last decade or so is the sense of insularity and rigidness that’s developed.
The dominant mindset that says comics have to be from only two publishers and of only one genre also seems to insist that they can only be purchased at comics shops and have to be bought on “New Comic” day. Nothing else seems to count. There’s no room in that picture for the kid who finds a bunch of neat stuff at a flea market or for the middle-aged guy who goes back to his toxic workplace a little happier because of a great find at an antique store on his lunch hour. Where’s the joy and fun in that?
There is one downside: I’ll need to try and make some “creative arrangements” if I want to hit any yard sales over the weekend. I could just sit home and read comics and work in the yard, but there’s a yard sale ad in the paper for tomorrow that lists “vintage comics.” Gotta check that one out, don’t you know?
Here we go again…
*Either that or a bunch of “hot collectibles” from the 90’s glut. I’ve seen two or three long boxes full of Adventures of Superman 500 (and the like) during our yard saling jaunts this summer. One guy was trying to get a buck a piece for them. Another one only wanted a quarter each. It was kind of sad and kind of scary all at the same time.
**Or books, or CDs, or…you get the picture.
A related note: If you’re in the Boston area tomorrow don’t miss Beaucoup Kevin’s comic giveaway! To paraphrase Tom Spurgeon: “If I were in Boston, I’d go to this!” There's nothing cooler in my mind than someone dealing with his excess comics by giving them away! Hope it goes well, Kevin!