Buying from local comic book stores is not the most common way source to buy your books today. Your local comic book store still is relevant to today’s investors and collectors. Ignoring this source of books and other collectibles severely handicaps your access to a diverse stream of products. Many benefits exist at your LCS that you may be forsaking by only buying items online.
Benefits from Buying at Local Comic Book Stores
I. See it before you buy it!
What you know already
eBay is the king of the comic book market. This is the site on which the majority of you buy your books. The reason people buy online is because of grading companies such as CBCS and CGC. They remove the fears from making online collectible purchases. The grades affixed to books attempt to apply company uniformity to the grading condition of the books.
In a previous column, I discussed how books with the same grade could be seen differently by buyers. Paper memory and cover imperfections impact the price a consumer is willing to pay for a book. Sadly, with most scans online you can see only the grade and rarely get the full comic book reveal. Ask the seller for higher resolution scans on graded books and you may get a nasty reply as to the reason why you need that information when you can see the book’s grade.
Buying comic books that you can see in a store allows you to closely inspect the book. I have observed many a savvy investor who can tell that a graded book was not pressed or cleaned. This observation will allow them to realize a great profit by unslabbing the book and then re-slabbing it after it was pressed. Graded books can also be closely inspected to determine how the cover could influence greater profits. A flawed cover may look great slabbed in online pictures but not in person. Cosmetic imperfections that are important to buyers are much more evident with a real-life inspection.
Finally, the greatest reason to go to a store is potentially the means to make the greatest profit on books. Buying local allows one to buy unslabbed books safely. How many times has someone purchased an unslabbed book only to find an NM- drops to a Fine+? See that book up close and you can avoid the purchase before you make it. These reviews also allow you to purchase unslabbed books with confidence and get them graded to see an even greater return on your investment.
II. Global versus local
Collectors can buy comic books online from anywhere around the world. Buying comic books from your local shop is a bit different. Owners’ tastes can impact titles and sales prices. I visited a store where the owner loved superhero books, yet discounted all horror, war, and western comics because he did not like them. I obtained an All-Star Western #10 for a song because the owner of a store said ALL western comics at his shop did not sell. The first appearance of Jonah Hex was not an exception to his rule. Some owners see their stores as their collections rather than a store’s inventory. As a result, you may find great deals on books simply because the owner does not like certain genres of books.
Buyers should also realize that not all sellers enjoy selling to people online. Sellers have their share of nightmare stories with problematic purchasers. I have heard owners tell tales of buyers who complained of books not arriving when tracking indicates that the book did arrive at the location. In addition, countless stories have been told of buyers blackmailing sellers with negative feedback reviews if a rebate was not offered on their purchase. These negative attacks could greatly impact a person’s ability and desire to sell key high-dollar books online. Your local comic book shop does not have to face this aggravation with in-store sales.
III. The GoCollect Factor
Stores that Use the Data
Local comic book shop owners deserve to have hobbyists support their stores. I want to stress that you are not taking advantage of these stores by buying a book below the FMV. Some stores may be trying to drive foot traffic with sales. Other stores may need to generate some investment capital because a book sitting on the shelf is not doing them any good. Still other stores may just be looking at keeping low prices as a business model to success. These owners may know what they are doing and thus, do not feel bad for getting a deal. They do have access to the same sales data you do, and can see what books are selling for in the latest auctions.
Stores that Do Not Use the Data
That does not mean that buyers should not benefit from those owners that do not utilize all the tools at their disposal. I have been to many stores that still use out-of-date price guides to sell their books. Their dollar bins are full of ignored books that now have value because of a plot element or character that has appeared now in the MCU. The owner that is not using GoCollect and is thinking they are getting the best price on books is not using all the tools at their disposal.
Stores like these may not be around for long in this competitive market. Selling comics at a discount to drive business is one thing, but to not know that you are doing so is just the opposite. My suggestion is to buy these below-FMV books because if you do not, someone else will.
IV. Personal Connections
This is the most important benefit you can obtain getting books at the LCS. Information that is hot and local is something that you may not get from the internet. This knowledge can supplement information obtained on the internet to assist you in your purchases. A different perspective on buying and selling can also be obtained from owners. The former owner of a comic book store I almost lived in gave me advice that helped me purchase key books like the 2nd G.A. appearance of Cheetah in Sensation Comics #22. This one rose in value while others focused on the “hot book,” Batman: Sword of Azrael #1. The internet said go for Azrael but I listened to the local advice and I am glad I did.
Comic book owners also will go above and beyond for their customers. Owners pulling off hot books for late-arriving customers will regularly occur. In addition, they will give reliable customers first crack at recent purchases that walked through the door. Sometimes they will do even more for a customer. They may introduce you to others in the hobby.
Mike Pascale is one of the moderators of the Neal Adams fan appreciation page. He is also a local artist that used to self-publish a comic book that contained images of LCS customers and staff in the book. I was introduced to him by the owner of an LCS one day and I am glad to say that I am now lucky to call him a friend. You say you never heard of him? Maybe you know him from a work of his that appeared on a little show that made being an intelligent adult who collected comic books cool.
More than a Customer
Mike Pascale worked on a print for John Lustig’s Last Kiss Comics that would feature a brain-eating zombie. These works put a funny spin on classic romance comic book imagery. A studio worker for the Big Bang Theory had selected some of Last Kiss’ items for possible inclusion on the show as props. Last Kiss tote bags would appear on the show in various scenes.
Mike’s work would, though, be the most visible. His zombie romance image was chosen to be made into a “one-off poster” that would hang in Stuart’s comic book shop in the May Season 8 Finale. Mike’s work had already appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and MTV, but this was his biggest reveal to date.
Imagine knowing that someone you met and talked with about mundane topics at a comic book shop would have his work appear on the biggest TV show in the world (at the time)! The only thing better could be having that one-of-a-kind screen used prop be given to you by Mike and the owner of the LCS. I am…I mean “that unknown comic book fan and writer” is a lucky guy to have received such a piece of Americana. Bonds like that are not formed by buying online!
Buying online is easy, but that does not make it always the best method. Buying from your local comic book shop is something that should not be abandoned by investors or collectors. The reason is that benefits exist beyond supporting a local business in your community. Deals can be unearthed if you take the time to search in these bastions of pop culture using the information contained at GoCollect.com.
Everyone can find a book online, but a true treasure hunter has the ability to locate assets where others do not even know where to look. Take advantage of a place others have maybe abandoned. Great books and others will be found by you during these visits and in the process, you will also make friends that can last a lifetime.
Last note –
GoCollect uses data from online purchases to create its price guide. Why then would they allow this writer to publish an article that seems to contradict that business model? The reason is simple…GoCollect main goal is to provide hobbyists the most up-to-date and comprehensive resources in the hobby. This makes GoCollect one of the leading comic book and collecting authorities out here on the internet.