Just like the guys of American Pickers (one of my favorite TV shows – catch it on the History Channel), on my days off, I’m going to auctions, flea markets, yard sales, and answering Craigslist postings looking for some sweet deals on comics and related material. You win some, you lose a lot.
A couple of weeks ago, I left the house at 5:30 in the morning to travel 2 hours to an auction somewhere on the outskirts of East Gebyp, PA. Reason: I saw pics of comics on a site that included Fantastic Four #4, #6-24, and #26 through #48 plus some other silver age books. Mapquest gave me the idea that the auction site was in the middle of nowhere, and I figured that maybe, just maybe, I would be one of the few people to catch these and, more importantly, know their value. The site also gave the impression that the auctioneers did not realize the potential, since the comics where just arranged on cafeteria trays with about a dozen issues per tray–not even bagged.
One problem with attending most auctions is that you do not know when they will get to the item(s) that interest you. Some will have signs posted when you arrive indicating an approximate time for certain categories. Not this one. So… I’m there for the 8:00am start and sit through sale after sale after sale of “stuff” going for as low as 50 cents. Naturally, they started at the opposite side of this large warehouse building to where the comics are sitting on a table; and I’m thinking, “At this rate, I’ll be here ’til late afternoon!” But after about two hours, the auctioneer announces that they plan on jumping to the comics in a few minutes. Sure glad I didn’t decide to run out to the car and sit there for a while–hard folding chairs, you know.
Here’s what happened: they brought up the first two trays of comics and high bidder would be able to take one or both. The first two were groups of about 15 cover-less comics each. Yours truly happened to actually check out the issues included and in there was a cover-less copy of Showcase #8–the second appearance of the Silver Age Flash, which guides at $18,500 in “NM”. I wish they hadn’t started with these lots since it seemed to set the tone. I won my choice of taking one or both, but the crowd saw a couple of idiots willing to pay a stupid amount for a small stack of cover-less comics. If that’s the case, what are the others worth?. Yes, I paid A LOT (broke triple digits easily, my friends) for that group and declined the other. Then the second tray sold for $15. The auctioneer then went back to selling something like a used blender and then back to two tray lots of comics. It alternated this way until all of the comic trays were gone. The auctioneer even bemoaned the fact that he had to sell the minor items when the comics were bringing so much. The FF‘s were spread out among the remaining trays and one lot that I had figured would be a decent buy at about $600 ending up going for $1300. Darn bidder # 224 and the other guy. I hope bidder # 224 was a collector, and if so, he got a reasonable deal, for he won most of the lots. But for a picker, as Frank says, “I gotta have some meat left on the bone.”
Last Tuesday, I went to Cowtown and bought two boxes of comics and magazines from a vendor. Not a single one had a full cover! Most were from the late ’60s and must have been unsold copies because the logos were missing! This was the practice back in the days when newsstands would get credit for unsold copies by just returning the logo. I flipped through them quickly, saw Vampirella, Creepy, Savage Sword of Conan, Mad, and other mags, and well over 100 comics. I asked what he wanted for the whole group, came back with a counter offer and carried the two boxes to the car. This pickin’ got me to grinnin’ when I found Silver Surfer #1, #4, #8, and #10-14 near the bottom! They were a bonus. I threw these up on eBay immediately and got my initial investment back already. More than half those lots did not sell the first time, but I plan on relisting soon. Find “cbhcomics” when searching for sellers.
This past Saturday, I traveled 90 miles to an auction in Maryland. At least this one didn’t start until 9:30am. The auction site showed 5 pictures on comics. In each picture was 6 comics laid out on a floor, not in bags, of silver age comics. I could not make out the actual issue numbers, but there were some Brave and the Bold, Batman, Superman. What caught my eye was a cover showing this guy in a crude, goldish, roundish, robot-looking outfit. Yes, it was Tales of Suspense #39–the first appearance of Iron Man! You bet I was going! And, again, Mapquest made it look like it was in the middle of nowhere, and it was–a beautiful ride in rural Carroll County. Once I arrived, I saw the signs saying that comics would be sold at 11:30. O-kay, two hours, I can do that. They started outside with box lots, moved inside to the more “antiquey” stuff, and as promised, started the comics at 11:30. About 8 of us gathered around the table with the comics spread out–still unbagged. One of the workers was holding the TOS #39 and a customer remarked to her that he had never seen her shaking while holding an item before. What I could not tell from the picture, was that it had two chunks off the right edge, the cover was completely detached and almost split in two. She claimed the rest was okay, but no one seemed to be allowed to handle it. The deal was, we were bidding on any comic of our choice, with the option of taking as many as we wanted at that price. My thoughts were, considering its condition, member discounts, Joe’s commission, and “leaving a little meat on the bone”, I would go $350, maybe $400. THAT would probably scare off these yokels! No, No, No. As it turned out, there were two “phone bidders”–one from Colorado and the other from California. One of these guys started at $525. All of us around the table gasped. The other phone bidder went to $550. And there it ended. Naturally, he only wanted one comic. Again, I hope a collector was bidding, because if it was a retailer, he/she was going to be disappointed. Then it went back to high bidder takes one or as many as he/she wants from the table. That same phone bidder went to $25 and took about 5 more form the table. Believe me folks, nothing left on that table would be marked at $25 or more if I brought them in to the shop. I watched as the rest were picked over until the auctioneer just bundled up the remaining ones, which I picked up for $12. I had to buy something to pay for my trip and time! In there was a copy of Batman Annual #1 with a detached cover (“NM” guide is $1400).
I got back in the middle of the afternoon, it was nice outside, and ended up helping the wife with her Christmas exterior illumination. Did I miss Thanksgiving?
[For a kick-butt website with almost any comic cover, go to Cover Browser.]