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Short Day At Long Beach

It’s been a bit of a rough ride for me in real life lately, so when my pal Billy King suggested we spend a part of last Saturday at the Long Beach Comic Con, I leapt at the chance. Two hours on the highway from North County San Diego passed in a blur as Billy and I gabbed about comics the whole way.

We knew we were in for a hot time when we saw the parking sign:

Lobster Festival!

Reminded me of …

Spinal Tap!

The $35 one-day admission I paid at the door felt like about fifteen dollars too much … but it was still fun to be at a comic show, especially one that was easy to get to and to get around in when compared to the madhouse that is San Diego Comic-Con. Just being able to walk-up on the day of the show and buy a ticket without waiting in line was probably worth the price of admission.

The floor wasn’t worth much more than half a day, but I did score a semi-random stack of back issues, and it was a real joy to just kind of follow my nose and buy things I didn’t expect.

Like a stack of Doctor Strange books that I found in an honest-to-gosh dollar box:

Doctor Strange

These are the good stuff — Gene Colan and Tom Palmer on art, and Steve Englehart at his faux-mystical best. I already had a few Doctor Strange books from this era, and now I suppose I will have to fill in the run and maybe think about a review here at LBG (especially with a movie coming up in the next year or two).

I got Giant-Sized Man-Thing #1, just because my kid giggles like Beavis and Butthead when I say the title:

Giant-Size Man-Thing

It’s not a bad story, either — vintage Steve Gerber weirdness, with Man-Thing battling the Golden Brain of the Glob, along with a pack of entropic cultists lead by a hooded villain who bears what surely can’t be an accidental resemblance to Richard Nixon.

Billy found a stack of Kamandis at half off … I told myself I’d buy one if it was that “crazy issue with the bats,” which I previously reviewed (in digital form) here at the blog.

Sure enough:

that one with the bats

I found an issue from the Claremont/Byrne run of Marvel Team-Up (which I still want to review here eventually):

Marvel Team-Up

And I bought Son of Satan because … why not? It’s a book I missed when I was a kid buying these things, and now it seems like the kind of thing that could never get published. I confess I thought this was the character’s first appearance (actually it is the second), but, wow, love this John Romita cover.

Son of Satan

I think the most I spent on any of these was about five bucks, and most were less. Stacks up nicely against buying a $4.99 current comic off the rack.

It’s ceased to be a major theme at this blog since culling my collection to move into a smaller house, but being possessed by my possessions is something I’ve written about a lot, and wandering the show today and buying comics anew made me reassess some of those insights. Most interesting was how seeing so many books on sale gave me an inflated sense of what my own comics are worth. There are significant differences in grade, of course, but I saw a lot of books today that I own, or that I recently sold for smallish sums, and of course all those books at the show were marked up to Overstreet and beyond. If I hadn’t experienced such spotty success trying to sell my own collection last year, I might have come away genuinely believing that some of those lesser #1s I had from the 70s — the Godzillas and Devil Dinosaurs and Human Flys — really were worth sixty or seventy or a hundred dollars, instead of the five or ten bucks I scored actually moving them out the door.

Godzilla #1

my database says I still have this book in my collection … is it really worth $30 in Good condition?

Just seeing so many aspirational books ranged at the dealer booths with their high sticker prices created a kind of echo chamber effect, a self-referencing feedback loop where of course those books are worth a lot of money because every dealer says they are (until you try to sell to them, at least). I wonder how many fans’ perception of the value of their comic books is shaped purely through buying them, without the experience of later trying to sell them without taking a loss?

But no matter. I’m still a reader before I am a collector. And now I’ve got a little stack of new-old comics to read. Life is better now than it was before. Can’t ask for more than that!

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About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published once a month or so at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on September 16, 2015, in Collecting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Nice haul, Paul!

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  2. I agree with you about the market for comics. basically, second-hand comic books only have the inflated prices because a small group of people are willing to pay for them. You’ll never sell them at a profit unless you have one of those monster issues like Amazing Fantasy #15. I buy cheap ragged copies now too. It’s only the story I want, as well as those weird yellow pages with all the small ads…

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    • If there is any profit to be made in comics, it probably comes from buying good-condition, ungraded books from private owners, getting them CGC graded, and then flipping them on eBay. But you know … that sounds more like business than fun. And I can’t imagine the margins are great.

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  3. My dear wife has tried to get many things through my thick skull over the years, but here’s something that made it through. In a garage sale, the goal isn’t to get the big bucks: it’s to get the “stuff” outta the garage. And whatever doesn’t sell goes straight to Goodwill. That doesn’t completely negate the gut-feeling that the comic is “worth” $100, versus the $30 you’re offered, but it helps.

    Anyway, I think both you and she and absolutely correct: lightening up is really empowering. Thanks Paul!

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    • Yeah, we totally lose track of the (negative) opportunity cost of endless accumulation for its own sake. There is a real benefit to purging, so long as you don’t cut too deep — I generally set aside anything I’m ready to dump and leave it in a box for a week or so. If it still there after a week, I know I can let it go without regret. With this method I’ve only let loose of a few things that I later came to regret. Overall, purging my stuff has helped me better appreciate what I’ve kept and gotten me out from under the burden of just having too … much … stuff!

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  4. I disgorged my own collection over 5 years ago, also because of space issues and also for a lot less than the guides would have them listed at. But weighed against the time and effort needed to extract maximum value for the collection, I don’t regret the decision. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

    For now, I’ve settled on buying the stories I was most fond of in bound form and online for everything else. Plus Marvel and DC seem determined to stop me from buying anything new. (I’m not sure that part is on purpose, but thanks guys, anyway.) But I have to admit, if I saw a pile of Kamandi comics, in anything approaching decent shape, I’d be really tempted.

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    • I went on a rampage late last year and eBayed a bunch of stuff prior to my move … it was practically a full-time job … and it “earned” me a very low hourly rate. I took some satisfaction that I didn’t just dump the stuff — and given that we were talking decades of accumulated games and comics, doing so likely would have haunted me — but I wouldn’t want to go through that again.

      I hear ya about the new books, too, but I am taking the plunge — I’ve ordered paper copies of all the new Marvel re-launches for this Fall. I am still a dedicated fan of digital and trade editions, but I let myself get swept up in nostalgia … blog impressions to follow, of course.

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  5. It’s great that you have a real live friend that you can actually talk comics with. No such luck for me. I love the Lobster Fest and Spinal Tap signs!

    Those Doc Stranges looks great. I’d love to have them myself. I know what you mean, though. I’ve bought semi-random back issues before and felt the need to fill in the gaps, also. The Man-Thing is something I’d like to check out, too, as I try to expand my Bronze Age horizons beyond the superhero genre, and have heard good things about Man-Thing (as well as Englehart’s Dr. Strange). By the way, how old is your son? Kamandi is another fun Bronze Age tit;e that I’ve gotten random issues from at the dollar bins. Somehow, I don’t have that Marvel Team-Up, even though I pretty much bought anything with an X-Man in it, though this issue came out before I had discovered my LCS. Son of Satan is, like Man-Thing, one of those characters that I find quintessentially Bronze Age, and thus would like to pick up some of his appearances.
    Yes, I used to think get good money for my comics because I used to look at Overstreet, plus what the comic shops charge, but I now have no high expectations should I ever decide to sell. If I wanted to really sell of my collection, 1994 or 1995 would have been the time to do it, I think. The Human Fly, by the way, I regularly see in the dollar bins, so don’t ever get your hopes up on that one! Aside from the sentimental value and the reading pleasure my comics provide, I think the price they fetch almost wouldn’t be worth the bother, at least for 98% of my collection.

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    • Alas, Human Fly! There is my whole comics collector life summed up in one wretched title.

      Jack is 16 as of this writing, with more tolerance of comics than interest, but I keep trying. He’s warming to The Goon. And he devoured each of those Poet Anderson comics as they came in (he enthused about that series in a guest post at LBG here some time back). He’s off at a steampunk convention today, so he is definitely a geek … just a different flavor of geek than his deep geek old man.

      Definitely check out Man-Thing … it’s weird, but it is wonderful (particularly if you like Gerber). Marvel is publishing the complete Gerber Man-Thing in soft cover trades starting this Fall, and the moldly oldie books themselves aren’t terribly expensive if you prefer the originals (which is kind of fun for monster books).

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      • Good luck with Jack! I hope my son (now 4) will get into, and stay into, comics some day. I have to admit that I had to google steampunk. Sounds interesting. At least Jack is a geek, that’s something.

        I prefer original books, but it’s tough to pick up a run through back issues, so a trade may be the way to go, or perhaps Marvel Unlimited. I’ve just started Tomb of Dracula there, so if Man-Thing is available, it will fit right int.

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  6. That’s a pretty nice haul got there, Paul ‘ol boy. Classic Doc Strange in a dollar bin!
    I hadda pay more than that for those mags.
    Son of Satan was a respectably weird ’70’s mag.
    Ah, those moments when you hit gold make it all worthwhile.
    I stumbled across a motherload in a hippie-owned used bookstore in Minnesota once. ’70’s Marvel comics goin’ for a quarter a pop.
    Them days ain’t comin’ back.

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