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:
Reminded me of …
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:
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:
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.
I found an issue from the Claremont/Byrne run of Marvel Team-Up (which I still want to review here eventually):
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.
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.
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!
This may not look like a lot to you, but to me, it’s like a shady tree at the end of a long, hot, dusty road:
Boxes, right? But not just any boxes. That’s two-hundred-bucks-and-change worth of comic bags, backing boards, and various long and short boxes for comic book storage.
My intent is to replace the worn-out boxes presently containing the Longbox Graveyard collection — some of which I have hauled around for going on thirty years!
This will afford a trimmer look to my comic book Man Cave, but more importantly, it will mark the symbolic conclusion of my Longbox Graveyard project. This blog was founded to keep myself on track as I transform my comics Accumulation into a collection … and when the last of my comics go into those new boxes, that job will be largely complete.
But the joke is on me for thinking this would be the end! Instead, in these past few years, I’ve rediscovered a love of comics, and come to genuinely enjoy building Longbox Graveyard, page-by-page. My collecting odyssey may be coming toward an end, but the Longbox Graveyard will sail on, for a little bit at least … thanks to all my many readers who make this endeavor worthwhile.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a bunch of comics to file away (finally, and forever!)
With all the reviews and other goofball features I run here at Longbox Graveyard, it’s easy to lose track of this blog’s original purpose — to keep me on track in reducing and organizing my comic book Accumulation. Early entries in this blog concerned themselves with sorting my books and trying to appraise their condition, but aside from incidental mention in my Man Cave Monday series, I haven’t blogged a lot about the state of my collection recently.
But I have been busy.
why is Mole Man smiling?
From the two-dozen longboxes that made up my Accumulation when I started this project, I have settled on the dozen longboxes that I will keep, most of which are Bronze and Silver Age Marvel and DC books.
organizing the last of the Accumulation — guess where I was sitting?
I’ve sold off a couple longboxes worth of comics, both individually, and in lots (and plenty more are still available for sale — click HERE for individual books, and HERE for bulk deals). I’ve even separated out two full longboxes containing only (multiple) copies of comics I wrote, back in the day.
organizing books I wrote
But for all this diligent organizing, selling, and shipping, I still had four or five longboxes worth of books that I just couldn’t move.
So I did the unthinkable.
I threw them out.
Hey, at least I recycled them!
The longer I shuffled around the rump end of my Accumulation, the more it became obvious that no one was going to take these books off my hands. I tried every channel — selling here on Longbox Graveyard and on eBay … sometimes at a loss, and infrequently at anything approaching a profit. After factoring in the time it took to pack and post the orders, speaking strictly from a profit perspective, I would have been better off throwing many of my books in the street.
I resisted this last measure for a long time … partially out of respect for the comics themselves, but mostly because I just wasn’t ready to do it. For one thing, I wasn’t certain how much of everything I had, and it would have been reckless to start tossing things before I knew the full extent of what I was doing. But mostly it was a process of settling in with the stuff I had elected to keep, and deciding I was comfortable just tossing the stuff that was taking up space.
Interestingly enough, most of the books I threw away were books I wrote.
they evaded the bin (barely!)
A full five longboxes of the old Accumulation were comp copies of my own books from decades ago. By cutting myself down to five or ten copies of each book, I was able to reduce everything down to two longboxes. That meant throwing away hundreds of my own books, but I found it an easy process. They were my own books, to keep or to toss — I found it easier than tossing books that I didn’t write (and there were a few of those that went to the curb, too). There was no urge to self-annihilation here! I was just ready to let them go.
I think I found it easy to purge my own stuff because I’ve come to be more at peace with my past as a comic book writer. This blog project has helped me place that part of my life in perspective — increasingly, I have come to view that era with nostalgia, rather than regret over a career that never quite took off. I’ve come to accept that my work had merit, and that the reasons I never went further in the field had more to do with my poor networking skills and freelancer naiveté then they did with my ability as a writer. I’ve come to recognize my comics failure was a business issue, rather than a creative one — and I can live with that.
letting go has been a relief!
I can also live with considerably fewer copies of my work! Five longboxes of those old books was an anchor. Two longboxes are a treasure.
There remains a bit to do. I still need to sell off about three longboxes worth of books (though the clock is ticking on whether they will follow their fellows into that blue recycling bin). I want to buy clean, new longboxes, and get everything filed and catalogued, once-and-for-all. There may be one more small round of purging.
But the end is in sight!
And what will become of Longbox Graveyard, when my comics project is at last complete? I’ll tell you next month, in my winter Longbox Soapbox editorial column!
In the meantime, thanks for reading this blog, and acting as my virtual support group while I’ve transformed my comics Accumulation into a beloved Collection. It has been every inch worth the long, long journey.
UPDATE: In the social media conversation about this article I’ve been asked why I didn’t donate my comics instead of throwing them away, with the idea being that libraries, hospitals, or some other charity might benefit from my books.
In this specific case, I chose not to donate my books largely because I did not think them appropriate for kids or even your random “Hey Kids Comics” thrift store audience. Almost everything I threw out was a book that I wrote, and nearly every book I wrote was an obscure black & white comics of little interest to anyone (even if free) and/or laden with inappropriate violence, sex, language, or other content that would cause the Library Lady to dial 9-1-1.
However, if you are contemplating a similar terminal step with your collection, please consider donation if appropriate. Here is one source I may use in the future, offered without endorsement or special insight as I haven’t yet used them myself: Comics For Heroes.
NEXT WEEK: #116 The Day They Walked Away: Captain America!
- I’d part with my childhood but no one wants it (infinitefreetime.wordpress.com)
- Comics Buying Guide (walmart.com)
- Mars Attacks Gallery (longboxgraveyard.com)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Gallery (longboxgraveyard.com)
- Ben Urich: A Role Model in a Sea of Superheroes (longboxgraveyard.com)
- Hulk Gallery (longboxgraveyard.com)
- Back Issue Speculation Avengers 158 (comicsheatingup.net)
- Comic Book Legends Revealed #441 (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com)
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