So far I haven’t given much thought to selling my comics.
It’s been enough to process the books from the Accumulation to the Collection, make note of them in my database, and sometimes read a book or two as I go.
But now I’ve come to my 1970’s-era X-Men books. If I have any books that might command significant prices, it is these.
I like X-Men well enough … but if books I bought for .40 can be listed for forty bucks then I have to sit up and take notice. Besides, many of the most valuable books that I own have been collected in the excellent Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Volume 1 (and if you don’t have it, you should — get it HERE). I find the idea of selling my X-Men to finance purchasing Omnibus Volume 2 if/when it comes out very attractive. Especially when spitball numbers tell me I should be able to afford that second Omnibus several times over, thanks to the completeness and condition of my X-Men collection.
Problem is, preparing comics for sale plunges me straight into terra incognita (value grading comics) and terra I-don’t-wanna (eBay).
The first issue is one of authority.
Yes, Judge Dredd IS the law … but he’s not here to grade my comics. Who decides what a comic is worth?
Back in the day, we were supposed to look at the Overstreet Price Guide. The Guide is still being published, but it has no significant online presence that I can find. Overstreet Guide is probably still the “authority of record” for comic book values, but as a print-only resource publishing on a yearly basis … well … as far as I’m concerned, the information superhighway has done a Radiator Springs on that rest stop. I like thumbing it at the book store to skim the chatty and anecdotal market reports, but I’m not ready to drop thirty bucks on getting a copy.
A little more current-century is CGC. The Certified Guarantee Company is an independent grading company, who will examine your books, offer an objective grade, and seal the book into a plastic clamshell likely to survive the apocalypse … for a not-inconsiderable fee. If I was grading Amazing Fantasy #15 or, say, a copy of the Bible, numbered and signed by the Original Author, then I’d spring for this service in a heartbeat. But paying CGC twenty bucks to grade books that might be worth forty doesn’t pencil out.
So after groping about for a bit I’ve decided to invest blind faith in ComicsPriceGuide.com. For the price of a (free) registration, I get access to their price guide, which at least gives me a consistent baseline for valuing my own books. “CPG” also solves my second issue …
… which is methodology.
CPG has outlined a reasonably in-depth Comic Book Grading Guide on their website.
Beginning with (I gather) standards established by prior authorities, the CPG list outlines thumbnail guidelines for rating comics on a ten point scale, from “GEM MINT 10.0” all the way down to “POOR .5” (we won’t consider the existential despair of the even-lower “NO GRADE” grade). Working from this standard, I think most of my old X-Men books fit into “FINE” to “VERY FINE” categories, between 7.0 and 8.0 grade. Not bad, but I think they would rate higher, if not for a slight-but-noticeable curl for my books, a result of being stored on-end (but without backing boards) for decades. Curiously, the CPG list doesn’t call out “cover curling” as a consideration in grading, but I think I can draw equivalents by knocking off points for curling the same way points are deducted for a “rolled spine” (shudder).
OK, I’ve solved authority and methodology to a comfortable degree. This leaves me with the third and largest issue …
There’s a big difference between value and price — almost as big a difference as there is between asking and getting. It’s one thing for me to note in my Collectorz database that I have issue #120 of X-Men, that I have it stored in Box 2 and marked “For Sale,” and that I rate it “VERY FINE 8.0” with a current value of $50.00. It’s another thing, entirely, to sell the book for that or any other price.
I’m no stranger to eBay. My feedback rating is positive enough to earn me a fancy star over there, garnered mostly from buying and selling boardgames. But I don’t really like eBay. I don’t like the interface for listing items, and I especially don’t like persnickety buyers busting my balls over problems, real or imagined, in the condition of my items. And if people have given me grief over the condition of used video games, what are they going to say about my comics? I’m trying to err on the side of the buyer when assigning grades, but still. I’m new at this. And we’re talking about eBay.
There’s also the issue that eBay appears to be a ghost town of a market for comics right now. Searching for current auctions on the books I’d offer reveals a lot of overpriced “Buy It Nows” and zero-bid items. The only upside is that the care I’m taking in grading my books appears to put me in the minority for sellers in this category, who seem to pick just any-old number to grade their books, and price them — shall we say — optimistically, in view of market realities.
Which means there might be a niche for me here, as the Honest Guy Who Undergrades His Comics & Genuinely Cares About His Customer.
I’m just not quite ready to change into my eBay costumed identity. Until then, I’ll keep marking select books “For Sale” in my database, so I will be ready at a moment’s notice to offer “Captain Marvel #1 VERY FINE (MINUS) 7.5,” “Tales of Suspense Vol. 1 #65 FAIR 1.0,” or “X-Men #96 FINE 5.5″ for sale.
As an experiment (and with little hope of success), I’ve put up a page on this blog listing a few of my comics for sale. If you want to buy a book from the Longbox Graveyard — complete with a little sticker on the backing board to establish the book’s provenance — then hit the Back Issues For Sale tab at the top of this page!
The Longbox Graveyard back issue store is open 24/7, and graded VERY FINE 8.0 for ubiquity and ease-of-use. Thanks!
NEXT WEEK: #15 Catching Lightning