I was going to title this column “Selling your collection”, but after some thought I felt it best to use the imperative that you see above. For, ultimately, that is my advice to any comic book collector. Sell your collection.
The funny thing about collections is that eventually they simply become too big to be properly enjoyed. Currently my entire collection is one half box of floppies and 2 shelves of trades. That’s it. If I want to get more then something has to go.
It wasn’t always that way; I used to have 18 long boxes of comics and 3 whole bookshelves of trades. I had them. I carted them from house to house when I moved, but I didn’t read them. And no matter what anyone tells you reading comic books is still the primary reason for their existence.
I knew that I wasn’t enjoying my collection but I was still apprehensive about letting it go, so I decided to perform a little test. Whenever I read a comic book or trade paperback I would put a post-it note with the date in the front over. Over a two year period (I told you I didn’t take selling my collection lightly) I tracked my reading in this way. And what I found was that I didn’t even scratch the surface of reading what was in my collection.
And so I sold the vast majority of my books. I only kept my complete run of Amazing Spider-Man. And eventually I sold that as well. I took all the money that I made and paid down my student loans. It was a freeing experience, both cathartic and rewarding, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
There isn’t enough time in the world to re-read everything you own. And if you aren’t enjoying it why do you have it? If you have a small collection you can re-read and re-enjoy continually, but a larger collection is prohibitive for such scholarly pursuits.
Maybe some of you have a collector’s mentality. Okay, I’m fine with that, but then sell your 20 boxes and buy 1 great copy of AF #15, Batman #1, FF#12, or whatever. Collect the best that is out there and let the rest go. Bring your boxes to your local comic shop; they will find a good home for them. However, don’t expect to get guide for your collection.
A small point but an important one: comic book stores need to make money. So if you own a comic book that is worth $100 in the guide what should a store give you for it? $100? They have just lost money. They have overhead costs such as staffing, electricity, etc. and it is not guaranteed that they will sell your book.
For good mid-range stuff you should be looking at taking about 50% of guide. If a store can turn it around within a reasonable timeframe they will be okay with taking 50 points. But if your collection is mostly books that guide for $3 or less, you should be happy to get 5 to 25 cents per book. Finally, if you have great stuff that is high grade you can probably get away with getting 70-80% of guide. If a store knows it can turn a book around fast and make a couple of grand in profit it won’t mind giving the higher price.
If you feel that your collection deserves the guide price then you are better off trying to sell it yourself by putting it up on eBay or listing on craigslist. However, time is money my friends. And if you have top quality books you may wish to have an auction website list them for you, but they will still take a cut.
I understand that I have a smaller collection than most so I thought I would get a second opinion. Our Editor-in-chief Scott recently sold his collection and I asked him a couple of questions about the experience:
1. Why did you sell your collection?
It was taking up a lot of space (30 long and 6 short comic boxes) and my family is trying to cut down on possessions. I collected the comics but never went back to them, instead reading reprint collections with updated colours and production values.
2. What preparation did you do before selling your collection?
I had a list of all my comics that included what I paid for them so I went through and totaled what I paid for my books that were worth something (anything over $50). This gave me a target to shoot for. Only about 300 of my books, mostly silver age, were worth anything substantial.
3. What do you feel is a reasonable return (50% of guide, etc.)?
I was hoping to get 50% of current value for the good books and more than $0.25 each for the moderns; unfortunately 99.9% of everything printed after 1980 is worth nothing.
4. How did you feel after the collection was gone?
Fine, and a little bit liberated; I didn’t rush into the sale and took my time with the store that bought my collection. We did some negotiation and I feel the deal was solid.
Scott’s answers highlight a lot of the advice that I give to collectors before they sell: do your research and have an idea of what you are willing to take. His first answer is the overarching practical reason why I recommend people sell their collections: they just take up too much room.
If you are keeping your collection to give to your kids or you feel that owning comic books is a good investment I would still recommend selling the majority and investing in good key pieces. CBD’s own Walt Durajlija often recommends that prospective investors buy key books in the best possible grade they can afford. Sage advice indeed.
Faithful readers, you don’t need longboxes of ShadowHawk #1. You don’t even need longboxes of every Hulk book. You just can’t enjoy them all. Head to your local comic shop and let them go. You will not regret it one bit. Plus everyone is going digital anyway, right?