Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

Nothing makes me recoil like the thought that my long boxes of comics are gathering dust and steadily declining in value. Sure, those copies of Gen13 aren’t going to buy me a cup of coffee, but there has to be some value in the issues, whether monetary or experientially. Now that time has passed, someone new to comics surely has to want to read a highly published long story arc featuring characters they never heard of before, right? Someone… right?

That’s the way I look at classic comic books. I often name drop Captain Midnight as an example of a popular and forgotten piece of pop culture. The good old Cap was a radio serial (you can google that) and got his own book that ran for many years. Then… he disappeared. Third hand references to him got me interested, and I finally scoured the web for info, went to a few shows, and grabbed a few issues.

At some point though, isn’t curiosity going to lead people to broaden their minds besides the Marvel movie characters? Isn’t there a kid who is going to see that he can grab 20 issues of a title for $5 in a bargain bin and read them? I’m not sure anymore. The more conventions I go to, the less transactions I see with the big dealers. You know them by sight, the 50+ year old man with his wife or son, a big yellow and red banner, and a wall of very expensive old books that seem to sit for the entirety of the show. Who buys this stuff anymore?

A rather famous dealer I know shocked me when I saw his car one day. It was a beater that looked like something Peter Parker would be wrestling the Macho Man to buy with prize money. I thought, “this guy has a collection and warehouse worth millions, where’s the money?” The answer was, and is, it’s not there. It’s just an anchor weighing him down.

Any collectible is only worth what someone will pay, and in the world of comics, there are less and less players who will pay the big bucks. I’m not talking about a Nick Cage collector, I mean someone who is looking for a Captain Marvel (Shazam) issue with a sticker price of $800 in fine condition. Those guys are gone. If they wanted it, they have it by now. The middle-aged people of today who are now coming into disposable income and nostalgia are buying their 1970s and 1980s toys, and not buying comic books.

But buying old comics shouldn’t be about money, it should be about VALUE. Nostalgia. Exploration. Adventure. Inspiration. But there’s something I can’t describe that isn’t connecting people today with the books of long ago… or even “not too long ago”.

I sat the other night walking my fingers through my books. Seeing amazing stories like Wildstorm Spotlight #1, or Fall of the Mutants, or the first years of Spawn. No one seems to care to seek these out.

So as I prepare to go into Wizard World this weekend, I walk alone in a crowd of cosplayers, pop culture and Japan fans, Disney Marvel Maniacs, and the zombie aficionados. I will be alone combing for Legion of Super Heroes back issues. I will be undetected seeking out Golden Age heroes. I will be silent amidst the moans of the Walking Dead.

And somehow, I will have a great time. I’m just not sure who’s having the same fun as I am.


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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:

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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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Over the weekend, I decided to grab a table at a local church flea market. It was $10 for an indoor table and I had a load of random items that I wanted to remove from my house, plus I didn’t mind trying to make a few bucks on a Saturday morning.

I like going to flea markets. It’s something that is a very unique experience from location to location. I enjoy bringing a box of old comics (1980s – 1990s) that I can’t unload efficiently online, and I usually bulk price them at 25 cents each, five for a dollar. Sure enough, a couple of kids each asked their mom for a dollar to pick out some books.

Seeing the look of awe as the two brothers sifted through the box was exciting. One brother, the younger one, was speed-shopping and grabbing books one at a time, then swapping them in and out. The older brother, not more than 9 or 10, was carefully working from the front to the back, and placing his copy of the Avengers or Spider-Man carefully on the table. Occasionally, he would stop and show a book of interest to his brother, and if it was chosen, he would place it in his own pile. It was great to see the care he took in making sure some of the “best” books made their way home whether it was in his stack or his siblings.

I did notice though during the day that some of the other young people who came up did not haggle on price. There were no counter offers to the prices I offered. I frequently said “I’m hoping to get X dollars” or some variation, but often kids would not try to negotiate. I had worked on every vendor when I was at the Pittsburgh Comicon, always starting with a “do you give a cash discount?” to open the door. At the flea market, either no one was that interested, or they didn’t think about it. I’m not sure if it’s some big social shift or just a skill that you learn as you get older, but I did find it interesting, to say the least.

These types of observations are the other part of the flea market fun. It’s also nice to see your neighbors, and you get a sense of the local economy. The seniors would take their lunch together, leaving their tables to sit and have dark burnt coffee and a hot dog or egg salad sandwich. I noticed at this point that I was the youngest person with a table, and maybe that’s part of the experience and transition of life, and again thought about the bartering (and lack of bartering). Are flea markets for the old, or are they a dying part of culture? 

I thought about my comic collection, and how I was focussing mostly on 60s X-Men and 1940s Golden Age heroes, and the decline in popularity of physical comic books (despite box office successes), and thought either way, I’m a flea market guy now…

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There it is, one simple obituary for a 62-year-old man who died last year. It didn’t even mention his occupation, a bus driver. No wife, no children. But Gary Dahlberg has left behind an incredible legacy that would only be appreciated after his death.

Gary collected comics.

A lot of comics.

Gary began collecting at an early age, and quickly began to admire and value the art. As an aspiring cartoonist, Gary never fulfilled his dream to be paid for art, so reality and bills guided him to a career as a bus driver. But he never gave up his passion for comic books. Year after year, serendipitous collecting during the Silver Age of the 1960s helped Gary amass a huge treasure trove of Marvel and DC heroes. These books were lovingly handled, stored as works of art, and only sold off in extreme circumstances.

He sold one comic for $1,000 to buy a computer… to catalog his comics.

He sold another comic for $50,000 to pay off his mortgage.

These were his children, as he had none of his own.

Gary retired, and sadly died as a result of a house fire that burned down every room in his house.


His remaining family, after a process of investigation and appraisal, have now consigned these to Heritage Auctions for sale. These comics, as original owner copies, have been revered for their exceptional quality and quantity of series runs, so they are now officially a new pedigreed collection, the Twin Cities Pedigree.

What Gary has done is something we all aspire to in life. Gary has provided financial support for his relatives; he has made their lives easier with a potential windfall of over a million dollars. With the uptick in comic auction prices now breaking into the Silver Age, where books are now crossing the million dollar mark,  it’s quite possible that this collection will reap far more than the estimated values for his family.

In the broader view, Gary has some of the most well-preserved and highest quality copies of these comics. For some issues, he has THE highest quality copy in existence. These are heroes, pop culture icons, media money makers, and part of our American heritage. This bus driver has been an archivist of the 20th century. We owe Gary our gratitude. Every day, people die with many millions more in assets, but we never see them in the news. Something about Gary’s story resonates with people, makes us believe in the everyman, and makes our dreams a little brighter knowing that maybe, just maybe, we can be a hero in our own way.

If nothing else, we should learn that having passion in our own life is something to work at every single day.

Thank you, Gary.

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Quick Look at Me!

Oooh my CGC registry banner! Goodnight!

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Over at the Collectors Society website, I’ve started updating my X-Men 1-201 run in their graded “competitive” sets. With the help of copying and pasting,  here’s the scoop: 71 issues, 33% complete, for 6038 points and a rank of 54 in the run. I’m pretty happy with that for a start. I have most of the X-men 1-200 in my hands, but the CGC has another 30 in process and I have another 6 shipping to me. The process is pretty simple but tedious bookkeeping as I have to enter the bar code numbers for each copy. If a graded issue is owned by someone else previously and in their set, the Collectors Society sends them a notification and the previous owner “oks” the transfer of ownership. I wonder if some people are jerks and deny the transfer even though the new owner has the physical copy. Hmm.

It is a nice resource to scan through other competitive sets and view the comments and scans from other owners. It does make me feel like a part of some kind of elite club, even though it’s a club full of people who would rather be on Asteroid M or have a bumper sticker that says “I brake for Box“.

After doing the cataloging work last night, I also thinned the herd of some of my CGC duplicates and lower score issues, including my CGC 0.5 restored copy of Black Terror #5.  I obtained it during a convention a few years ago and was hoodwinked, not realizing it was missing an entire page. Lessons learned, but unlike a drunken trip to Atlantic City, at least I am able to recoup some of my money; it already sold on eBay this morning.

I’ve got the sad feeling again, like I’m saying goodbye to old friends, but I know that the long road to selling off the bulk of my collection doesn’t mean that I’m no longer a fan or able to enjoy the books that are now online or in collected trade paperbacks. It’s just less stuff in the house.

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T-minus about a week until the Pittsburgh Comicon. It’ll be a long drive from New Jersey out there, but I’m psyched. Pittsburgh is one of the very cool Comicons where you get a lot of indie representation plus big stars without the glitter and packaging to bog it down, attract riff-raff, plus it keeps costs reasonable.

There are a lot of “guides” to surviving a Comicon, many written as good advice for first timers or outsiders who want to see how the other side lives when they’re outside in daylight (we’re people dammit, not C.H.U.D.s), but I think there’s something to be said about the evolution of myself over the years at conventions. I’ve been to a few horror conventions from the Chiller Theatre to Fangoria (Chiller gets a hotlink, Fangoria doesn’t need the help) and also SouthbySouthwest (again, SXSW doesn’t need the website hits, so not hotlink. Hmm I’m using the “fourth wall” a lot today in these parenthetical notes. I’ll try to rein that in.) Each convention is a learning experience, and there’s always something to improve upon. Here’s my lessons learned and prep list specifically for Pittsburgh.


Only Hobbits and R2 units don’t understand what “comfortable shoes” are. Walking around all day can be painful in flip-flops or even Chuck Taylors. Don’t be stupid.

Shirts are a fun way to show your fandom, but be prepared to discuss your clothing with some miscreant fans who want to engage in open debate about who would win in a fight, Gambit or Nightwing. Doctor Who fans should prepare an opening statement and closing argument on their favorite Doctor.  In my experiences, Superman and Batman logo shirts are so “dull” that most people will ignore you as a poser or noob. Consider them a form of urban camouflage for the Con.


After I empty out my giant jar of change at the bank, I’ll have a nice chunk of money towards buying some more X-Men back issues. CASH IS KING. I stumbled in a negotiation for an old issue of Exciting Comics when I could only pay by credit card. To further add insult to injury, a page was missing from the comic giving me a whopping 0.5 CGC rating. But I digress. CASH is a negotiating tool. Many sellers are paying transaction fees for small-scale business even if they have a card reader or some kind of app. You save them money when you pay cash, and some of the dealers who are more shady know that they have a shot at hiding their income with cash sales. That’s not your responsibility, it’s just something to be aware of when it comes to buying from a dude at a table.

Do NOT count on the ATM at the Con. Besides obscene fees and possible shortages, almost every convention I’ve been to features an ATM using the modem from War Games, so every transaction takes 10-20 minutes. You can spend that time doing more useful things, like waiting 10-20 minutes for a bathroom stall, or waiting 10-20 minutes for a $10 hot dog, or waiting 10-20 minutes to meet the WWF’s Virgil, who currently ends all his sentences with “That’ll be $10”.

BRING CHANGE. SINGLES, FIVES AND TENS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED BY THE VENDORS, AND NOTHING KILLS A NEGOTIATION LIKE PULLING OUT A TWENTY AFTER YOU WHITTLED THEM DOWN TO $8 AND ASKING FOR CHANGE. It’s bad form, bad karma, and you better come to terms with the fact that you’ve been blackballed from price negotiations by that dude for the rest of the con. Good luck on Sunday, bro.

Cigarettes are worth the price of a pack, as is a lighter. You meet and chat with people easily in the smoking areas. I’m not available for dating myself, but this is a huge “in” towards picking up the few girls at the Con if you are single, AND you sometimes catch a break if you’re “the dude” who lent a smoke to some artist on his break. I met Ken Hauser of The Living Corpse when I was grabbing a smoke outside my hotel last year, and we had a great talk about tattoos. Obviously, having a lighter is also part of this. Even if you don’t smoke, always be able to say “yes” when someone asks for a light.


If you’re going to bring a backpack, have a solid liner or backing in it so books and items aren’t damaged by warping/bending or SWEAT. I ruined a vinyl LP at one fest due to the warping on my back and long heat of the day. Even better, bring a caddy cart or pull along. It may feel dorky, but you’re at a COMIC BOOK CONVENTION. You also have a makeshift seat with that American Tourister you’re keeping in tow. As I also found out last year, a travel bag with a handle is probably going to be more waterproof than a backpack. Luckily, I had my comics double and triple bagged (which implies to bring a plastic bag of some sort to line your bag of choice; it will also double your cargo capacity in an emergency if you pull it out).


Comics are both a currency to trade with some vendors (most are not looking to acquire your crappy books during the con) but also you have valuable autograph material. Check the guest list and bring your items. If you are not getting a comic graded and certified, but want to just get a cool keepsake, bring a reader copy or maybe a trade paperback. TPBs are great for getting an interior sketch. Remember that posters, toys, bas reliefs, frescos, and large wooden horses will be your burden to tote around all day unless you have quick access to your car or hotel.

The CGC will be taking grading submissions at Pittsburgh again this year. I have already triaged a group of old X-Men to bring, and am printing out the forms online at home before I go. Get to the table early so you don’t have to wait in line, or lug your books around all day. If you can’t print out a form, make it easy and type up a page listing the comic, company, issue number, issue date, and approximate value.

Loose ends

A paper pad or note pad and a pen will help you when it comes to jotting down a list of items, handing out/receiving email and web addresses, and getting autographs and sketches.

Lastly, a convention is FUN. Strike up conversations with people who are promoting their books. SUPPORT INDEPENDENT ARTISTS. If you want to go in costume, go ahead, but be warned you may end up on a blog like this. I’ll see you in Pittsburgh next week, and I just might be wearing a Jackowick limited edition Iron-On T-shirt.

Or my Doctor Who scarf.

Or my Black Lantern Shirt.

Or my Watchmen/Autobot log shirt.

Or my “MAGNETO WAS RIGHT” shirt.  Wait and see.

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