Final Weekly Tabloid Edition of
As most of you are probably already aware, this is the final weekly tabloid edition of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. That being the case, I feel very much as though my column this week is as much of an obituary for an old friend, as it is the dawning of a new era. I feel that way, at least in part, because I was here right at the beginning of the tabloid era. When Alan Light decided to put out his weekly comics newspaper THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE early in the 1970's, I was already an established back issue comics dealer. I was still in high school, but starting in 1970, I was advertising regularly in G.B. Love's wonderful ROCKET'S BLAST (semi) monthly magazine. Because of that distinction, Alan put me on the list to receive a complimentary issue #1 of THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. I still own that copy, and it is one of my most cherished personal possessions.
My first reaction upon seeing THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1 was that the comics world was about to change forever. Prior to Alan putting out his weekly newspaper, communications within the comics world were tenuous, at best. While the incredibly amateurish old ditto-master fanzines of the 1960's had pretty much faded away by the early 1970's, the remaining publications were typically only published sporadically. ROCKET'S BLAST was the best adzine of the bunch, but it could sometimes be delayed, and the advertising deadlines were several weeks ahead of scheduled publication. That meant that dealers seeking to turn over a collection that they had just purchased often had to wait 8-10 weeks for their ad to run. In the meantime, they either had to set aside that inventory, or take the risk of selling it before their RBCC ad even was printed. I can recall being quite upset several times when I called certain dealers the day that my issue of ROCKET'S BLAST arrived, only to be told that most of the books I wanted to buy from them were already gone...
When THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1 arrived in our family mailbox, at first I thought that we had received an extra copy of our subscription to COIN WORLD. While Alan never mentioned to me that COIN WORLD was his original inspiration, the two publications had much in common. Having already been a reader of COIN WORLD for several years, I was well aware that it acted as a binder for the entire coin collecting community. Not only could you obtain weekly price updates of your coins in the comprehensive listings in the back of that tabloid, but you could learn quite a bit about coins from the articles and editorials in the front.
The immediate impact of THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE was to provide a reliable weekly marketplace for back issue comics and other collectibles. While Bob Overstreet's price guide had already been in publication for several years by that point time, it could often be very difficult for owners of comics that Bob declared to be valuable to sell them. In those seminal days of the Direct Market there were very few (under 100) comics shops in the world, and only a few annual comics conventions. Until Alan Light began this pioneering publication, the back issue comics market was crippled by inefficiency. Once that began to change, it became a much more viable proposition to sink a large sum into a collection of rare old comics, because you now had a quick and easy way to reach potential buyers. In many regards, it was that improvement in market efficiency that led me to make the decision to drop my full-ride ROTC scholarship to the University of Colorado, and instead devote the rest of my life to selling comics.
While Alan's original concept did wonders for the back issue comics market during the 1970's, it was still far from the quality publication that we have today. When Chet Krause bought Alan's little newspaper, and installed Don and Maggie Thompson as editors, yet another wonderful era began. While advertising was still the heart of the renamed COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, the editorial content of the publication vastly improved. So much so that this newspaper became the #1 source of information about the comics world for tens of thousands of fans. I strongly believe that much of the incredible growth that the entire comics market (both collectible and new) saw during the 1980's was directly attributable to the positive dynamic created within the weekly pages of COMICS BUYER' S GUIDE. This publication has been the glue that held the entire comics world together for over three decades.
So why did this all have to end? Personally, I really wish it didn't. The harsh reality, however, is that the Internet now provides everything that comics fans used to seek from COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. You can sell your comics faster online, chat about your favorite comics endlessly, and read about upcoming comics in creator forums all night. In many regards, COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE in its present form is a comfortable antique that really no longer serves any effective purpose for the new generation. That being the case, a steadily eroding readership base was almost inevitable. In the publications business, that's the kiss of death.
Blessedly, COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE is not going completely away. As much as I mourn the passing of a wonderful weekly institution, I admire and respect Krause's bold move to turn COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE into a monthly newsstand magazine. In this new format, I believe that the COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE editorial team has the opportunity to provide effective summaries of not only upcoming new comics news, but also emerging trends in online back issue comics sales. While the monthly format means that I will no longer be able to write long continued tales of my experiences during my 34 years in the Direct Market, I will still be able to provide you with monthly observations about the state of the comics world. Suffice it to say, not all of my columns will be just about the current pricing of back issues.
To be continued in a brave new world...
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