Not A Guide To Selling Comics
Promoting a small business...in retail...in a niche sector...where most people are focused on either creators or fandom... and treat amateur sellers the same or better than pro retailers... is really hard. Hence the very small social media numbers and minimal interaction that Lucky Target Comics still has after more than a decade of business. (I know it’s not me! I don’t smell!)
In the past the blog posts that people have jumped on the most have been the ones where readers felt they were getting some clues about how to make money out of comics. Maybe if I did more clickbaity titles I’d get more viewing action. Not my style though. I set up LTC with an ethos of honesty and integrity and have never resorted to apps, follow/unfollow, incessant emailing or any of that stuff that other businesses do to gain attention. I am stubbornly sticking to it regardless of the inclement weather.
This is not a guide to selling comics.
I might offer hints, though, and I’ll often answer questions.
I once had a nice varied comic collection with a good mix of silver to modern age and a good few keys along with loads of comics that I had really loved reading and loved owning. When I decided to sell that collection I failed to find a responsive comic dealer and ended up selling the comics myself at small comic marts. Actually, if I had gone to one of those marts and talked to the scruffy old blokes behind the stalls one or two would have been up for buying a full collection like mine outright. If I had flirted with them they would probably have increased their offer. Still, would I have been happy with the bulk price for my beloved collection? Almost certainly not.
So, I know exactly where people are coming from when they approach me wanting to sell with completely unrealistic expectations about what is going to happen. In an ideal world I would be turning over a high quantity of stock every week and actively seeking more stock all the time. I’d be able to offer collectors great prices because I would know that there would be more solid turnover coming. I am sure most comic dealers would love that situation. But, even at the best of times in my career, nothing has boomed or circulated that way. I arrived after the 1990s high points. It has always been tough and things have been a lot better than they are right now.
I always say that the difficulty dealing with comic collectors is that:
· They assume it is a buyer’s market when they want to buy and a seller’s market when they want to sell.
Honestly, I don’t know if I could name what kind of market exists in Comicdom right now, especially in the very messy and distasteful economic and political environment that Britain is trapped in. Maybe a market of attrition? We all just look at each other and do nothing and so nothing moves and nothing happens.
· They often have a slightly confused notion about comic collecting and what they want from it.
LTC is all about loving the comics medium and the love of reading and art. That is what we primarily try to embody as a business. Second to that we are about collecting comics for love of them as a physical object, a printed piece of beautiful creativity and storytelling, a fragile piece of history. When collectors let me know that they collect comics because they see them as an investment, or at least assume they will be able to make most of their money back, I worry that they are just setting themselves up for disappointment and are slightly missing the point. I am not saying that approach does not work out for some people. The slabbed comic market is fairly dependent on that position and some people probably do really well by joining that club. Overall, to me, it seems like a risky bet.
· Lots of comic collectors ignore independent businesses like LTC when they are buying and only seek us when they want to sell.
We cannot circulate money back round if it never arrived in the first place. Simplistically, that is often the problem with economies and microcosms of economies. Too much cash flows in a straight line and stays in the pocket of some asshole with an offshore account and a load of buy-to-let properties.
I have not had too many selling queries recently but, I have had a few. Sometimes I get big flurries of them all at once. I have not actually moved forward and bought any collections big or small for a few years (apart from regular customers who get special treatment for supporting LTC over time). I try really hard to manage people’s expectations before they even send an email but it still all too often ends with the collector being either disappointed or angry or both. Goddess forbid they find my phone number and ring me – that always ends in disaster.
The previous website had a load of text to help people understand why we need certain information and why we don’t do certain things. Most people ignored all that info and still did all the things it asked them not to do. For this website I have opted for a Valuation page instead of a selling page. Why? A business that sells comics has to either sell lots of comics or sell skills and services before it can buy more comics.
At the bottom of the page is the button that opens the selling query form. The questions in that form are essential info. Almost every collection I have bought has involved someone giving me the totals numbers and being okay with the standard price per comic. As soon as someone tries to bypass this I know that we are probably not going to be trading with each other because their expectations are unrealistic. As soon as someone tells me that they would prefer to send me a list I know we are probably not going to trade.
What is wrong with lists? Nothing, in principle. If you have a Golden Age collection, yeah, okay, you probably should make a list. Some comic dealers ask for lists. I am not speaking for anyone other than LTC. But, what I know about most other comic dealers is that when it comes to Bronze to Modern Age collections they have pretty much the same attitude that I do. They want a total number of comics and a total price and they look at what that equates to per unit. If it is small enough to justify the cost of storage, the slow turnover, the cost of selling outlets, the massive amount of work , they might agree to buy.
When a comic collector, or even someone who has inherited a comic collection, sits down to make a complete list they start building or rebuilding a relationship with that collection. That could be a good thing. Maybe they will realise that they love those comics, start reading them all again and decide they want to keep them. I am very cool with that. Maybe they will even buy more comics! Too often they just feel that they have invested time that they then need to recoup cash for and they start attaching set values to individual comics and move further and further away from the potential for a bulk a deal.
Of course, comic collectors who want to sell their collections and cannot agree anything with a comic dealer can find a way to sell them direct to market. I did, so I am not going to tell anyone else not to. I would just say, it may not be easy or quick or very profitable. Whether you are collecting or selling you just have to decide why you are doing it and what you want out of it.