Have you ever been on the hunt for a particular book and you seem to keep coming across the same listing over and over again? There’s a reason for that. Here is my guide to spotting a comic scam.
Unfortunately, wherever money trades hands, there can be abuse. The comic book community is no exception.
I’ve been on the hunt for a couple particular books lately, Silver Surfer #1, Return of Wolverine #2 (Moebius Variant), and more. There’s always more. Yet, I keep coming across the same comic books by the same sellers with the same photos and the same descriptions. The strangest part of the whole thing is, well, they sell every week.
Spotting a Comic Scam
It’s not always easy to spot one, but you can get that intuitive caution in your gut, that spidey-sense, as we comic nerds would call it. If the deal looks too good to be true, then it is. It ALWAYS is. In my constant internet perusals, I’ve often found books priced to trick buyers. Maybe it’s a facsimile with everything leading you to believe it’s the real thing. The price is cheap for an NM New Mutants #98, and everything looks good. So you do a once over of the pictures, check out the corners and spine, and forget to read the $3.99 in the price. Maybe you spent ten times what you could have bought it for at your LCS.
Is this a perfect example? No, but it happens. We as speculators can get so caught up in the deal of the century that we miss the obvious elements right in front of us. It also doesn’t help that facsimiles, for example, are sometimes being marketed as the real thing. (Ads will often write “Be Sure to Read the Whole Listing Before Bidding” and then hide whatever defect at the bottom of the description. Whenever you see that, run.)
This is fake bidding. The seller, or the friend of the seller, will set up an unconnected account to raise the price of an item. It’s totally against all auction websites policy and very not o-k if you have any sense of moral integrity. This is why you see the same items sell over and over. Sellers will shill bid their items to make more money. But a lot of times they overshoot. If they think someone is really interested in an item, then they will go back and forth. A lot of times, they end up not selling the item and have to relist it back on the website. If you’ve seen the comic sell in the last month and yet magically reappear for sale, DO NOT BUY IT. Take your business elsewhere.
A quick note, sometimes shill bids will be raised and then retracted at the last second. It’s hard to do, but crooks are crooks, and they’ll do anything to make a buck. If you were losing an auction in the last ten seconds, it means you lost it. If all of a sudden you win it by a miracle, it means someone took you to your limit and then backed off just a step to juice you for everything you were worth. Report this to whatever website you are using.
2nd Chance Offers
This is unique to eBay (I think) but should be covered. This is another way for the seller to cover their butts in a shill bid. If they raise it past your max bid and end up winning the auction with their fake account, then guess what? They’re going to offer you a second chance. (How sweet of them.) If you get a 2nd Chance Offer within a couple hours of the auction, go on your way. The book will be back on the website soon enough and the seller will be looking to do the same thing to the next unsuspecting buyer.
Blue Tint Photos
There is a nonprofit company selling on auction sites that uses a blue tint photo in almost all of their auctions. (I really want to write the name of their alleged nonprofit, but won’t.) This isn’t illegal, or against any site rules, but it can drastically change the appearance of a comic book. Light colors look brighter and dark colors look darker. Almost always these will show up as looking way better than whatever grade is on them.
And that’s the whole point. They’ve been photo-shopped to make you think it’s nicer than it really is. The worst part is that it works. Blue tint photos almost always sell for more than comics with regular photos. So don’t buy them.
Conclusion of Spotting a Comic Scam
I’ll add some more tips in the coming weeks about spotting a comic scam, but it’s important to keep an eye out for what you can. This is a money-making industry and the tertiary market can be brutal if you let your guard down. My best advice would be to stay away from sellers that do this or report them. If we all did, then they would have to change their ways. This fights against inflation, market bubbles, and good old fashioned corruption.
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