Long before the calendar turned to 2020, a whole economy and ecosystem revolving around comic books appeared on Instagram. The visual nature of the popular app makes it a logical place for collectors and sellers to showcase their collections, offer books for sale, ask for advice, and track sub-genres of characters or books. The hashtag feature allows any user to follow ultra-specific parts of their comic interests such as #WakandaWednesday, #Comics4Trade, or #SplashPages, just to name a few.
In the year or so since I have decided to create a separate Instagram profile exclusively dedicated to comics, it has been a tremendous experience for me, and I know I am far from the only one. In that time, I have bought, sold, traded, showcased books, as well as joined various groups to keep up with relevant news and trends around the country. With what I feel now is a firm grasp of the inner workings of comic books on Instagram, what follows is advice for those interested in getting involved with the app’s passionate community.
Dig in with me and feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments or on my Instagram page @kirkseycomics.
Community: When I talk about “community,” I mean it in the truest sense of the word. It is so much more than just a force of the invisible hand drawing buyers to sellers, deliberating to find a fair market value. This community – overwhelmingly – cares about the well-being of those within its walls.
I have seen users buy expensive books just to gift them to someone who couldn’t afford it. I have seen someone in the community or their family member pass away, and their followers organize a sale where the proceeds all go to the affected family. I have seen accounts who, with no incentive whatsoever, track down specific copies of a book at a decent value just because another member expressed an interest in owning one.
I am on more group chats than I can remember and through those have developed friendships with people I would have never met otherwise, except for the fact that we share a love of the same hobby. On a couple of occasions, that has translated into getting to meet fellow Instagram comic lovers who live near me. In one example, we completed a transaction and decided meeting up at a comic shop to do the exchange would be more interesting.
Availability: It’s safe to say that literally any book, publisher, or genre you might be interested in can be found on Instagram. Whether you prefer Golden Age DC, Modern Age Image, or NSFW comics, there are going to be thousands of people who share that interest.
Shortly after the new year, I created a post detailing how I wanted to complete a Daredevil #1-191 run in 2020. Within a day I had a couple dozen people direct message me with thoughts or offers on every book in that run at all price points and all grades. I scored a Daredevil #43 for $10!! Earlier in 2019, I put some Bronze Age Batman books (for example Batman #268) up for sale and someone reached out to me because they were the exact books they were looking for to complete a run of their own.
Whether you are hunting for a hard to find variant cover or a rare Silver Age appearance, it’s all at your fingertips on the app.
Direct Communication: Too often on sites like eBay, it is a complicated, arduous process to try and communicate with someone who is buying or selling a book, and the communication must be done on the third-party site. On apps such as Mercari, their algorithm monitors buyer/seller communication and deletes any posts when they detect any form of personal information is shared.
On Instagram, it is exactly the opposite. Simply go to someone’s account and hit the “Message” button and you can communicate or negotiate with them directly and confidentially. As mentioned before, it’s not just one-to-one, but group chats and Instagram Live videos are also available forms of communication.
Repetition: A great example of what I mean by repetition happened on January 13. That morning, the trailer for the new Morbius movie dropped, much to the delight of many in the Instagram comic community. As you can imagine, for two to three days after that, half of the posts I scrolled through were collectors showing off their copy of Amazing Spider-Man #101 or offering it up for sale (at slightly higher rates than market value; imagine that).
Similarly, I must have seen Beta Ray Bill’s face about 8,000 times on Thor #337 when Christian Bale’s name started to be attached to the character.
Any time news breaks within the MCU or the DCEU, Instagram becomes flooded with posts about the relevant books or characters, almost to the point of wishing there was a mute button for certain comics or characters for a short time. Also, on Wednesdays, be prepared to see nothing but posts of the same 15 comics everyone is buying at their local comic shop on release day.
Deregulation: As you can imagine, all of this freedom on the site to do business however and with whomever you wish comes at a price. All transactions are left to be self-policed. If someone doesn’t pay, you have to track it down yourself. If the post office screws up and sends your package to Illinois instead of Nevada where it is supposed to go, you have to figure that out on your own (still bitter about that one).
With eBay or Mercari or even Etsy (where there are some great shops), there are pages and pages of policies in place to protect both the buyer and seller in a transaction. On Instagram, it’s purely a self-regulating economy. There will be people who will not pay. There will be screw-ups in shipping. You have to have the stomach to jump over all of those hurdles on your own.
For me, these instances are in the vast minority, but they do happen.
Scammers: As in any community, there inevitably will be some bad actors. No matter what kind of transaction you are working through on Instagram – claim sale, auction, raffle, trade, etc. – there are accounts who are going to purposefully try and take advantage of others.
I have seen cases of collusion – one in particular where two people worked together to make sure one won a raffle of a high-grade Incredible Hulk #181 and they split all the money that was sent in. I have seen blatant ripping off of pictures – someone will take a picture from eBay, for example – and post it to Instagram like they own the book. There are all kinds.
If you do comic business on Instagram, make sure you follow @ig_comic_sheriff. They are an independent account whose mission is to sleuth out and expose scammers on the app. And they do a fantastic job. On their account, they link to a spreadsheet showing their investigations and the results.
I am not a fan of the fees and pricing policies in place on eBay and Mercari, so while I don’t exclusively do work through Instagram, I primarily do work through Instagram. I would recommend you don’t participate on either side of any high-dollar transactions on the app until you get a feel for the unwritten rules and the nuances.
It is truly a great community that is looking out for one another, and I hope you get as much enjoyment from it as I have. If you have any questions about operating within it, feel free to reach out!
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