Am I Missing Something?

Lately, we’ve been selling a lot of raw incomplete comic books through our eBay auctions. Over the past two weeks, we sold copies of Amazing Spider-Man #2 and #3 both missing ad pages and both around the 3.0 Qualified grade. The Spidey #2 went for $1125 USD with the Spidey #3 sold for $1005 USD. Last night we even sold a very very incomplete copy of All American Comics #20 featuring an early Green Lantern appearance, the first 6 pages of the Green Lantern Story was missing along with most of the rest of the book yet it still sold for $113.50 USD.

We obviously plan on putting more incomplete raw books up through our weekly internationalcollectiblesexchange eBay auctions because we like the results we’ve been getting.

I’ve been around a while and have had the luxury of having many many copies of books like Amazing Spider-Man #3 go through my hands so my knee-jerk reaction to the growing value of incomplete books was one of disdain. My friend Mike helped turn me around on these things with his philosophy of “everything left is original and if it is an ad page that does not affect the story it doesn’t really matter that much, besides not many people can afford complete ones these days”. The last part stuck with me, he was right, not many people can afford complete ones.

So what used to be relegated to the realms of the big key books like Action #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, Detective Comics #27 etc. has moved on to books like Amazing Spider-Man #2, projecting a line into the future I see books almost worthless now as incomplete being worth money, these are the current penny stocks. I remember about 10 years ago I found multiple incomplete copies of Avengers #10, what the heck was I to do with them? I threw them in the $5 bin and they sold over time. I should have kept them!

Collecting incomplete books is not for everyone, I know a lot of comic collectors and these people are usually obsessive, incomplete is a big hurdle to cross for obsessive types but those who can have opened up a new collecting strain for themselves with a new ability to reach books once thought unreachable.

I see incompletes being more attractive to investors, dealers and flippers. It’s a growth area well established and with an upward trend. The disconnect here and thus the “opportunity” that presents itself is that old-time collectors selling their stuff will usually think their incompletes are worthless and let them go for nothing. The gentleman that owned the Spidey #2 and #3 is tickled pink at his results but looking forward I’m starting to think he may have sold them cheap!

Speaking of Boba Fett, last night on our eBay auction we sold a nice raw copy of Star Wars #42, featuring the first Boba Fett appearance in comics, the grade was a nice tight 7.5 and it sold for $291 USD or about $100 less than for a graded CGC 7.5. I like this buy, you get a quality book without the cost of grading added in, this approach is not for everyone but for collectors of raw books it was a smart buy, advantage buyer.

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1601

23 Comments

  1. Hey Walt
    As a collector of Canadian Golden Age books, I have had to settle for incomplete copies on more than one occasion because there are simply so few copies of these books available. I have kept those purchases to a minimum though. My copy of Better Comics #2, for instance, has a page missing that actually affects the story, but, the cover is flat and unblemished, and presents very well indeed. It was either this or nothing. I also have a nice copy of FF #5 with the first appearance of Doctor Doom which I bought from Harry Kremer of Now and Then fame. It has one page missing which doesn’t affect the story, but, because of the missing page alone, Harry sold it to me for ten bucks! Ten bucks for a classic Silver Age book that I have treasured ever since (probably more so since Harry passed away) as a memento of a great friendship and a wonderful guy! So, you see, these books are not just attractive to “investors, dealers and flippers” by any means. I also have only a very few “qualified” slabbed books which I got for next to nothing, just to demonstrate to people how idiotic the term is. How in the hell can a book with notes like “16th, 17th, 23rd and last page missing, Affects story, Incomplete” garner a grade of 8.5?! By the way, it is a Green Hornet Comics #23 with an almost flawless cover, but seriously, an 8.5 with all those problems?! So, I guess I am of two minds regarding incomplete books, but, when you love the FF as much as I do, any copy of #5 is better than none!

    cheers, mel

  2. I guess like Mel says, if all you can get is incomplete, you settle for it. As I am not a completist (ha ha) I would avoid from a collecting perspective. I would rather have a relatively low-grade copy than an incomplete high-grade copy, so unless it were an FF #5 for $10, I would probably move on. Collecting is purely emotional so to each his own.

    I just sold an incomplete book that I though was worthless (nowhere near $1000 of course), so I have observed the interest as well. I was thinking maybe people were trying to create married copies, but for scarce books this is a high investment/low return game. Otherwise I would steer clear of the incomplete books, except in the case of scarce keys for cheap, too idiosyncratic to make it worth your while. (From an individual perspective of course – as a dealer with room and capital for inventory, I think you are right that watching this space and keeping some inventory back is probably a good idea.)

    In your photo of the missing page, I see an ad for receiving stamps on approval. Every time I am reminded of stamp collecting my blood runs cold. There but for the grace of God…

  3. Comic Book Cover Collectors should not care if the book is complete especially if they are going to display the comic.
    I was told Cover Collectors do not care if the comic is Restored since it looks better on display.
    I have had Color Touch Resto Removed but covers reglossed cannot be corrected back to the original condition. But they sure look great!

  4. You guys know I like to read the books, or more often, at least be able examine the artwork and unusual stories and characters, not to mention the cool housse ads for other issues. Most of the incomplete and/or coverless books I buy have never been reprinted in an Archive. These days, that would include most pre-hero DC titles, such as pre-Batman Detective, early New Adventure and More Fun. Even the hero titles like Adventure before #100 and More Fun before #100 have only one or two characters collected in reprints, in this case the Spectre and Doctor Fate and the Kirby work. And I admit, I’ll read the reprints on occasion but I really like the original, with all the back up stores, the house ads, etc. And I am no fan at all of reading comics posted online, it just holds no appeal, though for information gathering I know it has a purpose.

    Also never collected would be just about any Centaur, Comic Magazine Company, Ultem, or early Chesler title, not to mention early Fox and MLJ hero books. And as Mel says, this would include most Canadian Whites, so I’m in his camp on those also. Incomplete is better than never having the book.

    Just two days ago I made an offer on a More Fun #59 coverless on MyComicShop. I keep trying to score these early numbers on the Heritage sunday nite auctions and MCS Prime auctions, but my over-guide bids still turn out to be WAY low.

    For instance, not a week ago I bid $990 (with premium) on a More Fun #76, CGC FN-. Overstreet Guide is $810, so almost 25% over guide. Ha! It went for $2040 with premium, more than 2 times guide. I love these books, but I’m not in the market for $1000 and $2000 books when there is so much out there for me to collect for far, far less. Even being looser these days with what I spend, $500 and up makes me think long and hard about most books.

    I just bought a unslabbed Circus: The Comics Riot #1 from a dealer for just over $1000, but ok, that’s a truely rare puppy (1938 “scarce,” early Eisner, Bob Kane, etc) and I can flip my old copy with binder holes and one page torn out, and get some of my money back.

    So back to the coverless More Fun #59, with great early Spectre and Radio Squad by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily, Dr. Fate by Hal Sherman, etc. It was listed at $500 from a MCS consignor. I made 3 offers, and on the 3rd I got it for $330. I still feel like I overpaid, but damn it,, now I will have a copy that I can go through (it’s not encapsulated) and enjoy, at 40% of Good in the Guide. But at 15% the cost of a complete LATER issue in auction. If I am lucky, I can make a good color copy of a cover from somewhere, like Wenker, the big DC collector did on many of his early books (some of which I now happily own).

    So there is my story.

  5. I’ve bought a couple ( or so) golden age books with centerfolds missing. Its the only way I could have afforded them and they do look good when displayed with other issues. At the time I think on any of them I paid no more then $30 and complete they would have gone for ten times that much.

  6. Walt, when you sell a consignment piece on ebay, does the seller send you the book in advance or is the seller responsible to ship the comic to the buyer?

  7. Walt, I can see collecting incomplete books, But I cant see paying big (good ) money for them. As we hurtle towards unknown financial times, I think its a mistake. I think this is a reflection of a crazy comic market, over due for a correction.

  8. Most of you seen to not mind incomplete under the right circumstances and for the purpose of collecting only. I think it helps if you know you are paying some money for an incomplete book that the market will be receptive to if you ever had to sell it.

    Klaus, we have to have books in hand, assures proper packaging and quick shipping, sometimes people win multiple auctions so combining for shipping would be an issue if we did not have them.

    Bud’s Comic Riot example is a good one, upgrading from an incomplete to a complete is a bit easier now that the market is willing to give more and more for the incomplete copy.

  9. If you are buying an encapsulated book and keeping it that way, how important is have a centerfold or a page out? You can show it off to friends, the cover may look great, and evidence of a problem is hidden away if you don’t look hard at the label…. I can see investors driving prices up on such books. I wonder if it’s not already happening on? Same thing could apply to brittle books. As long as it stays in the slab, it’s protected from further deterioration. Or now days, you can send it to Tracy Heft and he’ll take out the brittleness with his leaf casting and other restoration methods. Amazing.

    Before you guys jump all over me, I draw the line on brittle. I only very, very rarely will go in for a book with even a hint of being brittle, but I’ll bend the rule a little if it’s a truely rare book and the brittle aspect is isolated to a corner or something. I’ll try and replace anything brittle in my collection, however.

    Years ago I got a lot of low grade Harvey issues from Steve Geppi—for free, as a tip or thanks after I sold my distribution business to him in 1988—and I’ve slowly replaced those. It was a full long box, maybe 300 books, Harvey file copies of theirs and other companie’s books. And, just a few really nice issues too, such as Stuntman, one of my favorite titles.

    Back then, in ‘88, I didn’t have much money and I was happy to get things in ANY condition and I knew they’d be cheap when I pulled them out. Steve left them them in a corner of his office for more than a year, waiting for him to price them… and never did. Some also were nice but had binder holes, all were from the Harvey warehouse he’d bought. He finally just sent them to me (he had worried me when he started telling me how nice binder holed copies were if you disregard the hole, when I was still there at his place). That was a nice touch after we did a multi-hundred thousand dollar deal for my distributorship, which jumped him to becoming the largest comics distributor at the time.He’d been 2nd to Capital up to that time, and I was third.

    Hey, maybe he STILL owes me, you think, after becoming the last man standing in comics distribution, at least until Marvel and DC got weird recently and set out on their own. Just kidding….

  10. Walt, another question; do you allow for reserve auctions? If I were to submit a book worth about 300 dollars, hoping to get 200 for it and the bids only get up to 75, would the book be sold at 75, or not, due to the reserve of 200 not being met?

  11. Hey Bud
    Here’s a cautionary tale about brittle books. I have owned a bookbinding press for decades now and find it very useful for doing a bit of light pressing. I love to play with beat up old copies for practice. A while back, a local dealer used to save such beaters for me, and one day gave me a copy of Wonderworld Comics with quite brittle, brown pages. I took it home and put it in my press and began to turn the crank when, suddenly, there was a sort of PHFFT! noise and a billion tiny bits of brittle paper exploded out of the sides of the press all over my kitchen. I should have listened to the Three Stooges when they warned, “Don’t try this at home.” I only press the most fresh and supple books now! Lesson learned.

  12. Hey Mel- if you are a true fan, you will piece that Wonderworld together again. Sounds like a fun jigsaw puzzle ! Send pictures when you’re done.

    I’ve ranted about incomplete books before & will spare you another rant ! Incomplete books are a waste of time & a waste of money. I encourage all of you to waste your money on this questionable stuff, so that when a COMPLETE copy of that Wonderworld comic comes along, you will not be able to buy it as you will be broke, having wasted all your money buying fragments of comics and I can bid for it AND win it unchallenged !!!

    There is an incomplete Argosy pulp from October 1912 [ first Tarzan ] at Heritage right now. Some chump ripped it from a bound volume & expects to become rich from it’s sale- this is a crime ! – what else was in that bound volume ??? It is just a cover plus the Tarzan story- everything else is missing. Bidding is already at $4000 USD & the auction is nowhere near over ! Why would you want this thing?- it is just a clump of pages ripped out of a book! Why would you reward some fool for destroying what could have been a very important bound collection ??? If this market for bits & pieces of books continues, expect many more books, bound or raw, to be destroyed. Look at the old magazine market & all the vermin who routinely destroy historic mags & sell their contents [ usually advertising ] piecemeal !!! It is probably too late to save the old magazine market, too much historic material has been destroyed…but YOU can help prevent a similar fate from befalling comics by NOT BUYING FRAGMENTS !!! Leave our books complete & do not pay good money for incomplete cadavers. Do not enable this market !!! You have the power in your wallets- keep ’em closed !

    If comics are becoming too expensive to collect, buying fragments of comics is not an answer. You can still read comics online or in cheaper reprint volumes & do not need to waste your time & money chasing down cadavers. I have several interests & have pursued some heavily over the last decade as the comic book market has become toxic. I have never been an investor & collect solely for my own entertainment & education, There are many paper collectibles out there [ including stamps, Chris ] that provide a huge bang for my buck that comics can no longer match ! How many collectors will be leaving comic book collecting in the next few years ??? Which fields will benefit from the influx of new collectors ??? Time will tell.

    Hey, if you want a cheap read & can no longer buy incomplete comics cheaply, you should look into vintage paperbacks ! That market is in a slump right now & many classic pieces can be obtained for pocket money ! Lots of great stories & LOTS of great cover art & most can be had for a few bucks each. Collectors are already looking at the amazing cover art on many paperbacks & asking that key question- ‘What would this paperback cover be worth IF it had been applied to a comic book?” . How long are paperbacks going to remain cheap ??? Pulps went nuts some time ago, can paperbacks be far behind ??? Get your cheap reading material NOW before it is too late. However, if you miss the boat, it is not game over for you- you can always collect stamps ! Hoo-Hah !

  13. Klaus- I will give you $75.00 for your $300.00 book right now [ as long as it is complete & unrestored ]. Send it to Walt & I will pick it up at the store. Thx

  14. Hey Walt !- I may have a potentially incomplete Star Wars #42 to sell you. Please indicate how much you are willing to pay & which pages you would like for me to remove. Thx.

    I’m not seeing too many incomplete modern comics offered for sale lately. This must be discouraging for collectors of incomplete comics ! I am willing, for the right price of course, to rip out the centrefolds of all of my Alpha Flight comics & offer them for sale to the collecting community. I am looking for at least the Overstreet NM price for every book. Any takers ??? Let me know.

    I can also offer these loose centrefolds for sale at $10.00 each once they have been removed. I can also autograph each centrefold for $5.00 more, making them undeniably unique !!!

    For the connoisseur, I can remove specific pages that you do not like from any Alpha Flight issue still in my collection. I am offering you a custom service here folks. I will need at least triple NM Overstreet guide per issue for this service [ to cover costs of labour & mental duress ]. All shipping costs are at the buyer’s expense.

    This is a time sensitive offer and may have already expired. Aww nuts !!

  15. I know I’ve told this one before… but sometime back there was a back cover to Amazing Fantasy 15… no indication on it it really came from that book… that someone was starting a bid at $1000.00… wonder what sucker took that plunge?

  16. Live Frog, thanks for the fun read.
    Again, collecting partial books isn’t the problem. But paying big dollars for the same,is insanity. This is going the way of Multiple covers, price variants, reboots of series that again sell 200,000 copies of # 1’s to 30,000 buyers.

    I want to turn my back on comics stories that gorge themselves on Cosmic do or die drama every story line or mini series. Lets return to sequential story telling, big and small, the emphasis anything but Cosmic event of the decade,. (but in reality “of the week”)

    The Comic industry is “Richie Riching ” it self to death (see 1970’s Harvey’s marketing for context)

    Those runs of Marvel two in one, Spectacular Spiderman, Marvel team up ,and such, are looking better and better by the decade.

    The way this market is going Walt, your delightful 1$ and 5 $ bins will be 10$ and 50$ bins. Until we CGC them and make them 100$ and 500$ books. God forbid we read comics anymore. But gosh darn, those covers look nice displayed in their PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol ,impact and stain resistant plastic called SAN (Styrene-Acrylonitrile).

    Ill display them with my graded baseball and hockey cards ;D

  17. Walt: something tells me LIVE FROG broke into your liquor cabinet again.

    Dave: I saw a book in a comics shop that had 14 covers on it, all stapled together. What a mess. The shop keep said it was worthless and not for sale but a curiosity item, as it could easily be duplicated by anyone buying 14 copies, opening the staples and putting all the covers on one book. I would hope that they would do a cleaner job at it because the book on display was pretty mangled by the printing press saddle stitcher. It must been gotten jammed.

    LF: your autograph mention brought to mind a dilemma I’ve always wondered about. You see people selling autographed stuff with a certificate of authenticity. If a forger was going to fake an autograph, why wouldn’t they simply sign the COA as well, and say, ‘hey, see, the autograph is authentic because it’s the same as the signature on the COA.’

    Paperbacks, with their stiff cardboard covers, lose their new look very quickly. I don’t know anyone who collects stamps.

  18. Hey Live Frog
    Years ago, when I managed a used book store, the owner routinely gave partial or torn Life magazines to a guy who came in regularly to pick up her “junk.” I told her on more than one occasion that he was probably reselling individual pages at a profit (they were after all free) at some local flea market or antique store. She just scoffed and told me I was being paranoid. Then I discovered his stall at an antiques market in Cambridge, and, sure enough, there were car ads, cigarette ads, Coke ads at a premium and just about any random page you can imagine (lots of Bob Peak and Mark English for the collectors of favourite illustrators), priced anywhere from ten to twenty bucks a piece (Coca Cola Christmas ads being a particular favourite). I don’t think the boss really got it until a customer came in looking for a particular issue of National Geographic with an ad for his vintage car when it was new (which, of course, he tore out and framed). And we had tons of people looking for the issue of National Geographic mentioned in The Bridges of Madison County (lousy book by the way). These folks often didn’t believe me when I told them that there was no such article in that issue, although there was a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on the cover. I can’t imagine how many perfect copies of these magazines were destroyed by some goof who just wanted that one special page, and thought that justified ruining a perfectly good collectable. i was in St. Jacobs in another antique store which sold individual pages, a number of which I thought looked eerily familiar. Turns out that the guy had torn apart a fine copy of Berlin (now Kitchener) Celebration of Cityhood 1912 which had taken me decades to find a decent copy of for my collection. I almost gagged on the spot, and walked out in a funk. There’s just no telling what depravities people will stoop to.

  19. Mel: I think every city has those page-ripper flea market sellers. Office folks, especially, like those pages, when they’re framed, as they look like specialty prints to hang on their walls. They probably figure that it gives their office a more elite look. They will pay good money for what they like, and the sellers will keep tearing pages as long as they can turn a tidy profit.

    I knew a comic collector like that years ago. He would go through comics he was gettng rid of and tear out ad pages that featured ads for upcoming comics he collected. He would trim the ads before placing them in the bag with the comic. He would then take his mangled comics to a local corner store – these were the days before comics shops – and trade them for other comics. After seeing this, I got into the habit of always checking every used comic I bought for completeness.

  20. Yeah, Live Frog might be the one missing something? – Hey, remember that Doors song Peace Frog? Good tune!

    No reserves on our auctions, it sells for what is sells for, sometimes some lame esoteric Golden Age books go up with me expecting $100 plus dollars, they end up selling for $27!

    I heard licking stamps was bad for your health…

  21. Hey Guys- Thanks for all the great replies- this is what makes CBD fun !

    Walt- yep, I am missing something- i am missing the point of collecting incomplete comics ! To me, they will always be train wrecks, ’nuff said !
    There are collectors & dealers out there over thinking things -” Hey, it’s incomplete- but what’s left behind is original !’- it’s still worth money !”. Ok, so go buy it- then come to my house & I will sell you
    a car with three wheels. Woop !

    Mel- I used to work in a used book store where the owner would carve up 100 year old mags routinely & sell off the parts for a profit. He would explain to me that he was preserving the best parts of the mag & the un-sellable stuff was just crap, not worth preserving. This guy was unrepentant & is still doing this as we speak. It drove me nuts, as so many fine articles, inner illustrations and even covers would go into the trash ! I did not work for this guy for too long- I got a better offer elsewhere & moved along.

    Klaus- COA’s for any item need to be looked at closely. A COA from a recognized expert or body of experts can be taken seriously, but a generic COA provided to you by some guy trying to sell you something on ebay is probably crap. Always do your research before plunking down your dough.

    Finally, I have lots of incomplete stamps that I am willing to sell, including some that are stained or folded. Let me know if you are interested. Many of these are unique & all come with COA’s

    Yes Walt, you should NEVER lick your stamps ! An old stamp with original gum on the back is worth far more than the same stamp with no gum ! Think multiples on stamps from the nineteenth century !!

  22. Gerald: I think the few crumbs from an Action Comics #1 take the cake. Didn’t it sell for something like $10,000.00?

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