Selling Your Comics at Conventions

Last week, I gave an general overview on selling your comics, and touched on the subject of selling them online. While selling online is certainly viable (entire books have been written on the subject), there are also drawbacks. For example, comics under $5 in the Guide are not worth selling individually. Most online sellers put low priced comics from a given genre, or title, together in batches, and sell them as lots. That works, but generally results in a price which is far below Guide. Even higher price comics usually sell online for some measure under Guide. That's because A) everyone builds in a "fudge factor" for overgrading by the seller, and B) eBay is a wholesale market. Once you understand those two factors, I think you get a better idea of why I think selling online is not necessarily the best way to go when selling your comics.

If you're not selling online, then what to do? The question I always ask fans who are seeking advice from me about how to sell their collections is "how much hassle are you willing to undertake?" If you just want to get your comics sold for minimum of effort, take them to a dealer. You'll get a very small percentage of Guide, but you'll sell them all at once, and have absolutely no grief. Pretty much every fan I talk with, however, hates this idea (at least initially...). Their whole goal is to put as much of the actual Guide price in their pockets as possible. OK, that's well and good. But don't forget that the margin that dealers build into their offers on collections is designed to help pay for the transactional costs of selling the books to another collector. Aside from handling and storage costs, a back issue comics dealer has to anticipate that he, or she, may have to keep some books inventory for many years before a retail buyer can be found. Tying up working capital for that long a period only makes sense if the gross margin on the ultimate sale is quite high. That's why dealers usually have to bid low for collections of mixed comics.

To avoid selling to a dealer at dramatically below Guide, you have to be willing to take on some of the costs and hassle that the dealer would absorb. This is true online, in private sales, or at conventions. The advantage you have, however, is that the working capital you have invested was spent long ago. Unless you have some pressing need, you have the luxury of waiting. That's your ace in the hole. As long as you're willing to be patient, you can maximize your rate of return.

The method I prefer when selling a collection is to go to a comics convention, and sell them directly to other fans. This cuts out the middle man, and puts all the cash right into your pocket. There are some important criteria to understand, however, before embarking on this route. First, are you good at doing math in your head? Conventions are full of hustlers and sharpies. Everyone is looking for the best deal they can get. As a result (if you're lucky), you will be inundated with offers for stacks of books. Most of those offers will be for less than your asking price, so you have to be able to quickly calculate as to whether to accept an offer. If you get flustered, and can't say "no" to a bad offer, you may quickly get stripped of all your best books.

Another issue is one-on-one marketing ability. Comics conventions are a great example of full-contact capitalism. Once you rent a dealer's table, you're entering the trading pits. For many of us, this is a great rush, but that's because we're emotionally prepared for wheeling and dealing. We're not shy, we don't get offended by a low offers, and we know how to say "no" when a deal isn't in our best interests. We're also articulate, and have the ability to to express the benefits of purchasing our books to potential buyers. This is the essence of being a hustler. If you don't feel comfortable in this role, but you have the patience (and writing ability) to generate great descriptions, then sell online. Everyone has to find the path that best suits their individual personality.

If, after considering the above, you decide you still want to sell at a convention, be sure and prepare in advance. I highly recommend going to the show you've chosen before you ever sell there. You should focus on discovering what's selling well at that particular show. Every part of the country is different, with completely different demand. That's why most professional convention dealers travel from coast-to-coast. What sells well in New York, might be completely dead in LA. By traveling to different regions, the pros maximize their potential audiences for their entire back issue inventory.

My assumption is that most of you don't want to travel too far, and that you can, at most, only sell at a couple of shows. That's fine, because if you play your cards right, you can still do quite well. Next week, I'll detail specifics of how to set up at a comics convention. If you've got the personality for the work, it can be great fun!

Please send your e-mails to chuck@milehighcomics.com, and your letters to:

Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221



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