This past weekend I toured a couple of comic shops. One was my local favourite (Blue Beetle), the other was a comic shop in downtown T.O. I thought I would just check things out. See what was in stock. Get a feel for what was selling. See what was already sold out. The comic shop in Toronto was already sold out of Action Comics #1. But I did hear something at one of the comic shops: there was a limit to the amount of #1s a customer was allowed to buy. This wasn’t shocking, I don’t mind limits, it allows everyone to get a copy. But the limit was because too many copies were showing up on eBay for inflated prices. When I heard this my jaw dropped. This statement shocked me. My first thought is “What do you mean I can’t sell this?”
Growing up watching television and movies in the 80’s taught me one thing, this is a free market society. We have the right to do what we need to do to make a living. Sometimes that even means exploiting people. Now wait… before you get angry at that statement, it is true. The whole idea of commerce is the exploitation of another person. If you knew how much something cost from the wholesaler or the manufacturer it would make you sick to see how much you pay at retail. For me personally, I don’t sleep well at night if I think I’ve taken someone in a deal. I have sold many items to friends and on eBay, and I rarely make any profit on anything I sell. It just doesn’t sit well with me. So there you go, there’s my personal stance on it. But if someone buys a copy of Action Comics #1 at their local comic shop, goes home and puts it on eBay for $10 (essentially tripling their money), I don’t see an issue with this.
I don’t have a problem with someone tripling their money on eBay for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t have a gun to your head when you are making a purchase on eBay. If you are in an auction, you can set your upper limit so you won’t pay more than you want. If it is a “buy it now” item, you know the cost right up front.
Second, some people live in really remote regions. They may not even have a comic shop within 200 kilometers of their house. If you look at it that way, $10 for Action Comics #1 is pretty cheap when you consider location, travel and availability. Also no matter how much advertising is done, no matter how much recognition a store has, some people like to buy online. The individual may just feel more comfortable buying an expensive comic from eBay.
Third, the seller has the right to sell anything for any price. If someone wants to sell Action Comics #1 for $10, you can. If someone wants to sell a “Free Comic Book Day” comic for $10 (even though they got it for free) they can as well. It’s commerce and it makes the world go round.
I’ve been trying to think of reasons why the comic book shop would be upset about this. Is the retailer upset because somebody is getting “hosed”? Is the retailer upset because they could’ve sold the same comic to that eBay customer for regular price? For an inflated price? There is nothing preventing a comic shop from opening their own eBay account and selling comics at whatever the going price is.
The only problem I see coming would be a few years down the road. The “customer” who bought this theoretical $10 Action Comic #1 will have a surprise if they try to sell it. I can see them going into a comic shop thinking it will be worth $50, $60 or more, and will get a shock when the comic may be worth the $10 they spent (or maybe less). I know comic shops see it all the time now with Spawn #1 or McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1. Some day any of the DC new #1’s could be on that list too.