Friday, July 31, 2009

Comic Speculators

When I was younger, I liked the idea that the comics I bought at the time could potentially be worth something down the road. I was always excited when I could afford some sort of 1st appearance of a character, and always had a list of books to look for. Keep in mind, affordable for me as a 11 year old was like the first appearance of Hydro-Man or Cloak & Dagger.
And man. I loved the hell out of that Hydro-Man issue. I would show it to my mom or brother and go "Look! 1st appearance of Hydro-Man!" and they would go "......who?" And I would reply "HE'S TOTALLY MADE OUT OF WATER. HE'S LIKE SANDMAN. BUT NOT. AND WHEN THEY RUN INTO EACH OTHER THEY MAKE THIS MUD MONSTER THING."
......sad, really.

As time went on, I could afford stuff like the first Alpha Flight or Black Cat, or maybe something like a beat up copy with the first Ocean Master. The thing is, while I always thought, "Wow, these things are worth money.", my mind never made the next leap which was "And then I will sell it." Because I loved just collecting and reading the damn things. I think a lot of us go on to value the read more as we become adults, as well as the collecting aspect.

In general I think most people would like their copies to be nice copies. If your book has a big tear or printing error, you usually will switch it out. On the flip side of that, many readers just want the content and don't care at all. Personally I'm in the middle, because while I would like to buy a nice copy, I'll take what I can take. If I damage the book at home, oh well, sucks but I read it and I don't really need to waste more money.

Then you have the pure speculators.

The reason I bring this up is that I had this one customer who really really really embodies the worse aspects of this hobby. It wasn't because of just one thing he did either, but of a super combo attack that was just......utterly breathtaking in it's dickery, is the only way I can describe it.

We start off with the detail that during his last visit, he was in a rush and asked my female coworker to pull down a variant copy of Captain America Reborn #1 from one of our walls. The specific request was "Only put it in my box if it's in perfect shape." The guy left right after asking that, so he wanted us to hold it for him. Ok, no biggie. My coworker pulls it down, and noticed it had the tiniest of tiny tiny spine dents. Tiny. I told her to go ahead and put it in his subscription box so he can judge by himself.

So the dude comes in when it's just me. I grab his books, and he pulls that one out. Angrily, he proclaims, "I told her to ONLY pull this if it was perfect." Tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny dent. Ever so tiny. I just tell him, well it's alright you don't have to buy it. We just weren't sure because everyone has a different concept on grading. To which he replied, "The guys at CGC would give me so much crap for sending this in!"

That's a superstrike right there for me, because I'm not a big fan of slabbing books. For those unfamilair, you can send your comics to a grading company that appraises your comic, seals it in an airtight container, and sends it back to you with a grade on a scale of 1-10. We've done it as a store before, I completely understand the benefits for online purchasing, it's all cool if you want to for your own collection. I will never slab a book though, and I'm not crazy when people brag about that crap. Simply because CGC slabbing is kind of the opposite of the entire damn point of enjoying a comic.

So, we move on from this and I take the book back. The next push in the combo of stupidity was when he complained about how my coworker 'handled' the comics. Apparently sometimes she grabs the pile by the spine. Seriously. Look, if a worker just grabbed a pile and tossed it hard at the counter then I would be pissed. My coworker does not do that. I mean I grab piles by the spine. I grab them by two hands. I grab them by the top. I friggin' grab them however the hell I grab them because I am just getting your comics. It's not an art form. There is no definitive way of grabbing a comic other than not stabbing the things and spitting on it as you hand it to the customer.

After narrowly escaping my desire to bash his head in with a random Batman statue, he then felt the need to brag more about what he just sent to be graded and slabbed. This is what I would refer to as the air juggling session of the dickery combo, right before continuing with the actual attack.

As the customer was looking through his pile, he complained that he got number 3 of an issue and not numbers 1 & 2. Then he found a number 2 in his pile and complained he didn't get a number 1. Keep in mind he was very agitated and really wanted to express his concern over the missing issues. Then he complained he was missing an issue of something else, but got the issue after it. Then he found the copy of #1 of the three issue series on the bottom of his pile. Then he found the other book he was complaining about under that. They were there in his hands the entire time.

Then I think the finisher move was him trying to pass on something he preordered, and then pouting about it whe I said no. It was that or his complaining that comics aren't well produced enough because it's hard to find 9.8 or above copies to send in to be graded and slabbed.
Either way, you should all be very glad I never finished my doomsday device because you would all be crispy fried at this point. Or frozen in a glacier, I never decided just what kind of device it was going to be.

Here's the really sad thing. This customer is just one of many who act the same way. Many many many. There's a fine line between collector and speculator. I have plenty of customers who are concerned about condition in their vintage books, but of those customers I know that they actually do open and read those books. They enjoy, and they collect. People who just collect for the sake of monetary gain are doing it wrong. In general, customers of this type seem to all have that hint of greediness behind their character. It's very interesting to actually see it in action and how it shapes their interactions and their attitude about the industry. And by interesting, I mean soul crushingly painful.

That was kind of a long rant there, sorry. I'll try to post something more positive soon.


pete doree said...

I don't even think it's about greed. I think it's some kind of bizarre anal retentive fetishistic fixation where the comic itself is actually meaningless to those kind of people. That's why they never actually read them ( or read them oncer, then slab them ), it's about the acquisition and the boasting.
I agree, I almost don't mind what condition a book is in as long as I can read it, and certainly wouldn't spend more money on a 'pristine' copy of something when I can get an acceptable copy cheaper.
I wonder what that guy thinks of the Showcases & Essential's. I admit, I was snobby about 'em at first, but now I snap 'em up. Am I gonna spend months getting the set of something when I can get the trade? If it's something I always wanted, yeah, everything else, nah.

Continually Spicy said...

The retentive fetishistic fixation collectors are there for sure, and those often do scare the crap out of me. Like the guy who gets 5 copies of all Hulk comics because, "Me and the Hulk were like this [crosses fingers] during college."

wiec? said...

i have to agree with pete up there. it seems like a sort of ADD with some folks on how perfect they get their comics. i often wonder if they turn the pages with tweezers or even bother reading them at all. i saw my local comic book retailer get lambasted by some dweeb about how he "was handling" his books. throttling said dweeb would have been too good for him as he went on and on.

me personally as long as i can read it. usually i'll read something once or twice and then put it gently into a box and pile more on week after week. very rarely do i bother with bagging and boarding anymore although i do miss that from when i was a kid.

my Hydro Man like comic as a kid was DareDevil # 208. Matt was all beat up from the last issue and ends up in an Arcade style deathtrap house. i used to read that issue over and over and over. it's held together with tape. maybe i'll send it to get slabbed

pete doree said...

Wiec, wasn't that the one written by Harlan Ellison where DD literally doesn't get one second to take a breath throughout the whole thing or am I thinking of another issue?
Anyway, ADD is exactly the word, those kind of people worry me intensely.They can't be having as much fun with their comics as I am with mine. Best thing is to stand in front of the book they want to get to and watch them twitch in frustration.
Oh, and my Hydro Man issue was Kamandi 6.

wiec? said...

pete - that's it exactly. there's quick sand, exploding robot children, poison darts, spiked pits, a shark tank, poisonous snakes and on and on. all set up in an abandoned mansion. good memory bro.

Spicy- if you're unfamiliar you should check it out. not to spoil but even the ending had a twist ending. great stand alone ish.

Continually Spicy said...

Been a while since I've read it, but always did enjoy that one as well.

Lee said...

I don't dig the bagging of comics and I wonder if today's comics really will provide a financial windfall considering how many are being 'preserved'.

I remember such a big deal was made over Superman 75 when he died and those things are only worth $4 or something today.

I don't know of course because I just don't live in that world, I read comics, I enjoy them, same as any figurines I get, they all come out of their boxes.

I guess at the end of the day I don't care if someone wants to be a bit obsessive about it because I generally don't have to deal with them, but I hate when I come across someone who is horrified that I don't have acid free tweezers with which to transfer the pristine comic into its holding cell :)

I wonder how these guys are going with the newspaper quality Wednesday Comics?

Oh and great blog by the way 'first time reader and commentor!'

Continually Spicy said...

I honestly hope Wednesday Comics spurs a couple meltdowns, but that's just me.

Thx for reading and commenting Lee, appreciate it!