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Archive for June, 2011

Having finished packing up some well-worn and beaten comics that I just sold on eBay, I’m having one of those blue days. I was able to sell some X-Men from my reprint run and stash some cash in my account for future purchases. I realized I am now sitting on three missing issues in my collection.

X-Men #1
X-Men #4
X-Men #77

That’s it. While I can say I am feeling a sense of satisfaction, I know that I will for the rest of my life be chasing better condition copies of my books, the elusive “Mint/Near Mint” crisp books with pages barely touched by human hands, all to be stored away for the unknown future, and cashed in hopefully for retirement.

But I’m really at the end of the road.

I do have my X-Men Omnibus books so that I will forever be able to reread the stories, but I feel a bit blue. I know I have a ton of other books to sell off from my comic cave (i.e. walk-in closet) but now THAT project seems to be my new Hell. Each book is a teaspoon of sand as I am tasked with moving an entire beach. I could, I really could, drop off the long boxes at a store and get nickels on the dollar just to get rid of them, but that’s not as profitable. I feel like a hoarder trapped in my own rubble.

Ok, that’s a tad dramatic. If I were a hoarder, I’d have some dead pets and used underwear under my copies of Gen13 or Justice League.

I never thought as a 12-year-old boy that I’d have such cool comics… but I also never thought I’d have more comics than I wanted.

So WWBGD? What would Booster Gold do?

He’d stop moping and realize how awesome he is, that’s what he’d do!

 

I’ll get this all worked out. Someday.

 

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Over the past weekend I went to the Philadelphia Wizard World ComicCon. Amid the bustling crowd of costumers, nerds, bargain hunters and children, I had a few select interactions that made me come to a horrifying conclusion.

Comic book collecting will die.

Not comic books, per se, but the entire collecting infrastructure will implode.

Now if you are, like most Americans in 2011, very short-sighted in your economic history, you will probably already say “it’s dead, it collapsed in the 1990s when there were 400 variant Spawn hologram foil gatefold covers and Wolverine effectively became the Marvel logo since he appeared on every cover.”

That’s true, but similar to the current recession, we have no sense of perspective in the markets. We do not remember the 1970s oil crisis, recession, and inflation, which came at a decimating time as manufacturing moved overseas in bulk (again, let’s not have a shortview; outsourcing is a recent buzzword, but Wal-Mart would not have risen to prominence if decades of contracts for consumers goods weren’t already moved and at full steam in factories overseas). My intent is not an economics lesson, but I have to first explain to the lurkers and internet snipers that Comic Collecting is a multidecade phenomenon that goes far beyond the media’s “kinda sorta” acceptance from the past 10-20 years. The “Death of Superman” drives short-term sales and new readers without high disposable income. The long-term collector is an aging population of old men who, as I learned this weekend… are jerks.

As an early onset middle-aged man, I find that I am more often the exception, going up to comic book dealers and asking about a yellowing copy of Captain Midnight, poking around and asking to go behind the counter to look at a valuable book, and often they are shocked when “The Kid” (that’s me) asks how much for a copy of Whiz Comics, and what they can do about the price for a cash discount.

I had contacted one of the dealers during the week and asked about brining in some Silver Age & Bronze Age X-Men for sale or trade. He said no problem. So I went to this person, someone I have made purchases from in the past, and brought my bag to his table. I introduced my self, and gave him the stack. He thumbed through half of the books (leaving the last 5-10 in a perfectly neat pile without even seeing the covers and he said “Too low-grade”.

I held my poker face as long as I could before picking up the stack with a flippant gesture and walking away.  I can deal with the concept that someone is not interested in these particular books for sale or trade. Just be honest as a decent human being and say “I’m not looking for these”. At least pantomime the gestures of thumbing through the stack and actually LOOK at all my books. There were only about 30. Don’t lie to me. And finally, if they are indeed too low-grade, you’re feeding into a trend I’ve seen where books are now being skewed as trash or treasure only.

I want to reiterate, if you are a private businessman, in any career, do not lie to people.  DO. NOT. LIE. I have ZERO reason to now trust this person for any business. Tell me you are not interested in the books. I’m not asking for a Sherlock Holmes inspection, but at least finish thumbing through the stack (It took him less than 10 seconds to scan the first half of the books. Side note; am I supposed to be impressed by your ability to “grade” comics so quickly? It makes me doubt your abilities to price your inventory. Severely.)

Let’s get back to my comment on trash or treasure, as this is leading to my underlying argument. Comic collectors are becoming more and more fickle about prices. If you want a good copy just to read, you can find one very cheap on eBay. Comics such as X-Men 101 (Phoenix! Holla!) are being driven up to insane values for near mint/CGC 9.8 copies… AND THESE ARE PRETTY COMMON. Incredible Hulk 181, the first appearance of Wolverine, continues to swell in price even though it is a widely available book AND you can have a monkey type in google and find a high-grade copy.
Many articles have been written recently covering the million dollar copies of Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27, as well as the recent sales records for Amazing Fantasy #15, X-Men #1 and other books of significance, but one major underlying factor is these comics are rare. I can hear you fanboys making collective groans, since rare is a relative term (get out your Gerber Guide and Overstreet arguments for and against scarcity) but even in the case of X-Men #1, there are not many near mint copies in existence; this was a book that was almost cancelled and barely floated along while REPRINTING issues as part of the continuing run on a bi-monthly schedule.  Incredible Hulk #181 is not in this boat, folks.

I can buy a copy of X-Men #1 for under $1000 in a fair to good condition if the auction is right. Try that with Marvel Comics #1 or Detective #27. These early books are indeed rare collectibles, which is not exclusive to the comic industry. The comic collecting industry can (and will) drop dead and not affect the value of these singular instances.

The dealers are now trying to hoard these mint copies of books. They have zero interest in the middle grades, and are willing to cut deals or sell in bulk to clear these out, driving down prices by flooding the market and decreasing demand for a population that is arguably dying off. Digital comics and trade paperbacks continue to gain momentum. As a kid, I bought comics to enjoy them, and found out years later about the value. An 8-year-old today is not going to look at a thumb drive in 5 years and say “gee, some of these files went up in value”. The top branches are being cutoff of the collecting tree by the new consumer model, which is okay with me since new content is still being provided, but the collectors will be a continually diminishing population.

Now I do look at the view that the higher quality stuff may be the only stuff of importance to a shrinking population. If there are only 3 hyenas instead of 10 in a pack, those 3 will compete harder for the prime rib on a wildebeest (yes, that’s spelled correctly, odd word…) instead of the ankle meat.

But there’s no need to lie and be a jerk. The slippery slope here is that if people are being turned away from selling decent copies of books. why bother collecting them… or the high grades. This isn’t some exclusive billionaire boys club. These are $10-1000 books.  If some dealer is going to think he’s “the man” because he has a large number of comic assets under management, he should remember that paper is only worth the value someone else will pay for it. You don’t gain or lose money on a share of stock until you sell it, and as the baseball card market knows, having $100,000 in boxed sets in 1990 means nothing in 2011.

I do buy comics, I do buy high-grade ones. I have goals though. I would never collect anything I don’t enjoy. If the monetary value is zero, I will still own something I like and can display. I began my quest to collect X-Men #1-201 by getting ANY condition possible. I’ll take a running rusty ’69 Mustang over having mint hubcabs and an unused factory stock steering wheel. As I upgrade my collection, I release the lesser quality copies back into the pool. But if that pool is getting smaller, and the upgrade tiers are getting further apart, one has to wonder if the community is building a Tower of Babel, while simultaneously surrounding it with the Walls of Jericho.

Ease of entry to market is a principle in evaluating monopoly businesses, and thus enables supply and demand to control and extend price elasticity. The current comic market is showing that one side is skewing very high, and the other is skewing low. It’s almost turning into an anti-bell curve. If this separation continues, it will pull the sides apart leading to complete segregation, and two lesser organisms that may not survive at all on their own.

For these reasons, as someone with 25+ years of comic collecting experience, I blame this gentleman at Wizard World as one example.

It’s not slander to accuse someone of lying when they do not look at all the presented inventory and reject it (especially when some of the books are right there in his bins). But it is a reason to suggest that someone does not do business with this person. I’ll let him remain nameless though. Do I want him to go out of business? Hardly. Yee have to remember not to bite the hand that feeds you in a dying hobby.

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This weekend I’ve got a 3 day pass for Wizard World in Philly. This is the first year that I have skipped on the VIP package, so no freebies or goodie bag waiting for me, but this year I am focused on economic efficiency. You can blame The Simple Dollar for my new-found attempts at thrift and fiscal responsibility.

I got in touch with Harley Yee, a seller that I have bought from on eBay as well as in person in Pittsburgh this year. The game plan is to flip some of my X-Men duplicates for cash and/or some of the books on my wish list. After two recent purchases, I’m down to six books left on my X-Men 1-201 run. Issue number 1 still eludes me, mostly because I have a mortgage. But someday, someday.

Debating a costume for Saturday. With the current bearded look I’m sporting, my options are limited. I went through my closet and I think my low-cost pret-a-porter costume is Shipwreck from GI Joe.

My only fear is looking a sailor on shore leave in the middle of the City of Brotherly Love.

 

Hopefully, I’ll look better than this dude:

Someday, my girlfriend will dress like the Baroness. Someday, someday…

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I haven’t done a tech type article in a while, which I’m feeling a bit guilty about, but yesterday lit a fire under my ass while discussing how to improve Sirius/XM radio with a friend of mine. Driving home after the discussion, I realized that the whole conversation would have made a great article, discussing hardware, legacy units, subscription models, and a blue-sky business plan.

This isn’t that article.

What I did think about, after the fact, was that I was using my browser during the discussion to look up various points. We take browsers for granted. At best, they are the unobtrusive frame for our internet experience. At worst, they are like a crying child at the mall. Our hands are tied, we’re always distracted by it while doing our business, and we just want it to grow up so it can take care of itself.

I have 3 machines:
-Dell Inspirion netbook running Jolicloud OS based on HTML5 and Linux.
-HP G42 laptop running Windows 7 (3GB RAM)
-Cyberpower custom build running Windows 7 (8GB RAM)

I didn’t include the processors here because I don’t have the exact specs off the top of my head, but I figured the ones above will be evident in the comparison. Bear with me. If you’re not a tech person, just remember “netbook, laptop, big fugly nerd computer.” I have a little tale of how each computer got to where it is now, but if you just want the pros and cons, skip down to the bottom.

I also didn’t include pictures because honestly, do you really want to see a picture of a browser window in your browser window?

IE8 vs. IE9 vs. Chrome

My netbook is lightning fast, which is partly because of the flash hard drive and the Jolicloud OS. Jolicloud runs like a tablet interface, and the majority of the software is run via cloud. Jolicloud recommends Google Chrome, so I have been running that for a while. Again, lightning fast, and on the small netbook screen, it take up very little space in the top toolbar and other navigation bits. I’ve had it for about 6 months now, and I noticed that when I need to jump online for a moment, the netbook is the device of choice.

My home computer, the big ‘un, has Windows 7 and came with Internet Explorer 8. This is very boring, it’s vanilla. Not that I’m trying to diss vanilla, it’s better than eating Elmer’s Glue, but you know, it’s not something that will take you to new places. Most links will launch a new window, so you can end up with lots of open IE boxes if you’re not careful to right-click and  “open in new tab”.

The laptop is the same, Windows 7 and IE8.

Recently, I upgraded the home system from IE8 to IE9. The first observations were that it was cleaner looking, and had some great autorecovery features when pages crash. Also, crashes do not affect other tabs, so you don’t lose your 10 webpages just because lolcatz is having a bad day. I noticed though that after a reboot, IE9 takes a bit longer to load than IE8 on my laptop. So I compared, in a non tech spec methodology, the times to load pages and the ins-and-outs of IE8 vs IE9 vs Chrome.

I installed Chrome on the HP and noticed it was also faster on that laptop, and more stable. So is it my home PC that has other issues? With 8GB of RAM and a faster processor, unless my home computer is severely infected with something malicious (highly unlikely), I have to think that the young IE9 still has some issues to be worked out.

Chrome on the HP was easy to install, and I was able to import my existing bookmarks and update the default search engine, but I really felt like every check box was trying to trick me into the Google collective more than Microsoft. I guess a couple of anti-trust suits made sure MSFT gives you clear enough opt-outs, so I thank Bill Gates and the boys for being a monopoly.

After this conversion, here’s the nutshell:

CHROME:
Pros
-Fast loading and browsing
-Clean interface with little obtrusion
-Integrates well with my other google products
-Launches “new” windows as tabs

Cons
-Cumbersome customization; there’s no “ok” to save your homepages so you’re left wondering “did it save my changes?”
-Too clean; yes, too clean. The default view leaves you poking around to find some of the settings, wondering if you should right click on the top of the toolbar or tab, or do you click the wrenchy looking icon.

IE8
Pros
-Familiar
-Decent speed
-Most webpages are optimized for IE8
-EASIEST browser for changing default search engines

Cons
-Old
-Old
-Old. Being behind the trends means you’ll get where you want to go, and most of the bugs have been long worked out, but you’re in a Toyota Corolla. It won’t ever get better, and you’re going to be left in the dust the longer you drive it.
-Terrible when a page crashes. Hope you saved those links, because the whole browser is going down.

IE9
Pros
-Fast (after initial boot up)
-Nice autorecovery
-Unobtrusive interface with more intuitive settings and customization than Chrome

Cons
-Why is initial boot up still taking longer to initialize?
-I haven’t noticed Chrome’s autorecovery… hmmm… you see what I’m inferring.

I’d say Google Chrome is the winner, after it’s installed and you set your customization. Point blank: go to the Chrome download site, watch the little pictures, and install it.  It’s easy, it’s fast, and it will keep you happy while browsing with that “forget it’s there” positive experience.

For the Apple crowd, I don’t own any Apple OS devices other than my iPods, and my tangent experiences with their browsers left me unimpressed, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just, you know, a Camry.

And you Firefox fans? I’ve been skeptical of installing Firefox upgrades, mostly after seeing high memory use become a more common issue with upgraded versions after 2.0 was released. I’m not going to dog Firefox though because it still has a great experience (I used this on my netbook when it had Ubuntu, and it was fine).

Go out and give Chrome a spin. If you don’t like it, you can always uninstall it. No harm, no foul, no fanboys.

Finally, in one of those joyful moments of Murphy’s Law, regardless of which browser I use, the WordPress spellcheck function isn’t working today…

*UPDATE* NEW SAFARI ANNOUNCED AT WWDC BY APPLE. Looks like our choices continue to grow and change… looks promising…

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This is awesome. Embedding disabled, so just follow the link for animated critters and Loverboy:

http://youtu.be/NkSwHy9eG9U

Today was a tedious day. Packed Ebay stuff, picked up Ebay stuff (registered mail, my copy of X-Men 2 ahhhhh) and dropped of a 37 pound box of books for Amazon for a $100 trade-in credit.

I put the new Ryobi weedwacker together, but have to charge the 18 volt lithium-ion battery, so I’m putting off yard work for tomorrow.

But, most importantly, my girlfriend tipped me off to http://hellogiggles.com/. Oh man. Zooey Deschanel and friends made a fun website. Check it out if you have the time, or make time.

Not much of a post today as it is random ramblings, but I’ve got my first gig tonight since college playing a 45-60 minute set at a local bar. I’ve got the jitters, can’t think too clearly, and hoping to make it out without being embarrassed. But as the saying goes, if you’re not afraid, you’re not doing anything worth doing. Or something like that.

(Side note: why doesn’t spellcheck like Zooey Deschanel? She’s probably the most adorable girl since Audrey Hepburn….)

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So I wanted to share a little gem that I came across, but all of my ideas for an article title ending up reading like spam:

“How to Score a Free Kindle”

“Free Money”

“My New Income Stream”

My original title would also give away too much of the article:

“I Am Trading In My Old Used Books For Credits On Amazon.com”

At this point, some of you will begin your exodus from this site. That’s cool. For the rest of you, here we go.

The other day while doing some Amazon.com browsing/daydreaming, I started looking at a little link on the site next to some items. There was this beautiful blue box that looked like this:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Huh.

So I clicked it, and BAM I discovered the Amazon trade-in treasure chest.

Here’s how it works. You select the trade-in button on items, and add them to a “cart”. When you’re ready to “check out”, you print a prepaid label and drop the box off. Upon delivery to the Amazon center, they are reviewed and prices may be adjusted up or down depending on condition, and a 3rd party merchant usually buys these from Amazon. You will receive a credit into your Amazon.com account to use towards your next purchases. It is that easy.

I sat staring at the screen, blinking. Then I looked at my bookshelf… and my DVDs… and my downstairs bookshelf… and I got to work.

Ebay is a great place, I love it, but for many items, the effort vs reward just isn’t worth it. To list a book that may get $5, plus have to deal with the fees, shipping, and feedback sometimes isn’t worth it. For Amazon, that book may only be worth $2.50, but I can do one transaction of 4-10 books vs all the separate micro transactions on eBay. With an online auction, there may be a higher ceiling, but you also run the risk when selling a used item, even with pictures, of an unhappy buyer saying “this isn’t the condition as advertised” and then the unfriendliness can go off the rails.

I enjoyed many 10-15 minute intervals over the weekend where I scanned a shelf, looked at a book, and then had Amazon appraise it. I usually take decent care of my books, but some page turners take a sharp turn south if they happen to go to the beach, or camping, or anywhere else where a one time event changes the condition from “good” to “greasy and torn”. When the weekend expired, I had built a cart of about $80 in books, which I can use towards a Kindle, or any other upcoming Amazon purchases.

There are many books I will keep forever, but some are tomes that I’ve outgrown, or bought and never read. I have quite a few of these coffee table “reference” books for comics that were written for the casual fan or tweens (I don’t need these and I’ll never read them again). In the ongoing war against clutter, I think I found a good battlefield strategy with Amazon. I may be able to get a little more money by going through eBay or going full-on loco and starting an Amazon store front, but for now this is a great low effort, high impact plan. I cleared about 15″ of bookshelf space plus 10″ of DVD shelf space and have almost $100 as of this morning to box up.

I may not have found Bigfoot, but I found the next best thing: found money.

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