Establishing Back Issue Pricing Trends

Given that, in many ways, that this is a new beginning for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, I would like to start my column this month by welcoming all the new readers who are finding this wonderful publication for the first time. If you haven't already made the connection for yourself, let me state for the record that I believe that this magazine is the primary printed news source for much of the core of serious comics fandom. While other comics publications have as their primary focus reporting on the latest comics controversy, or satisfying adolescent desires for news about which comics are "hot" at any given moment, COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE provides avid comics fans of all ages with news and information about a broad spectrum of comics, both past and present.

I was hired just over two years ago to write this column. The somewhat cryptic name of my column was selected because, through my ownership of www.milehighcomics.com, I control the largest commercial comics database. With over 300,000 unique visitors a month visiting our website searching for back issue comics, I have a unique ability to derive a great deal of quantified back issue sales information. This information I had at my fingertips was particularly important to the management team here at COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, because they have been making steady progress over the past decade toward becoming a very reliable source for current pricing trends in back issue comics. The price guide that you will find included with this magazine is but one result of their many years of concentrated effort.

Oddly enough, I was not hired because I agreed with the pricing trends results derived by the team at COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE. Quite the opposite is true. It was because I was rather vociferous in my criticisms of what I perceived as "lowball" results from the CBG team that I was offered the opportunity to rebut their pricing conclusions. In what was originally intended to be but a brief tenure as a CBG writer, I was allowed a forum in which to provide my own opinions about the direction of pricing of selected back issue comics.

With the back issue comics market now equal to, or perhaps even larger, than the new comics market, establishing correct pricing is a critical endeavor. While I have been providing information to the OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE since 1972, I am painfully aware of the limitations of a book produced annually. By the time an annual book comes back from the printer, many new trends may already have evolved which obviate some of the listed prices. A monthly publication is a far better alternative, but I have yet to find one that completely satisfies me. Ironically, I don't know if the prices in this magazine reflect our experiences at Mile High Comics, as I am not allowed to review them ahead of publication. Given past trends on the part of the CBG staff, however, I would expect that the prices listed will reflect a lower overall spectrum of prices than we regularly achieve at Mile High Comics.

Early on in writing this column I came to the realization that there are no absolute right or wrong positions when it comes to establishing back issue pricing trends. What each pricing team establishes is a subjective spectrum based upon not only the current available supply of any given comic book within in the marketplace, but also the level of effort a buyer is willing to expend in searching out back issue comics they are seeking for their collections. The perspective taken by the CBG pricing team is that back issue comics buyers will be very patient, and diligently seek out the issue they want at flea markets, comics conventions, antique malls, garage sales, and through online auctions. For many comics fans that perspective is absolutely correct. For an equally large number of comics fans, however, time is a valuable commodity. As a result, they are willing to pay a premium for the convenience of one-stop shopping at a website, or through a private local dealer, who sometimes charges a higher price for their comics, but who also saves their clients an enormous amount of time. Clearly, both pricing perspectives are valid representations of the current marketplace.

With that thought in mind, my advice to you is to very much consider the back issue prices listed in this magazine as simply a guide to your purchasing efforts. Without a doubt, you will find some comics readily available at the prices listed. Other comics, however, will be much more difficult to find at these prices. Don't be surprised, when you do ultimately find them, if the prices asked for selected popular issues are significantly higher than listed in this magazine. That's the nature of supply and demand within an open marketplace. Any dealer can ask any price they wish for an item they own, and you always have the option to walk away if you think you can find a better deal elsewhere within a reasonable timeframe. Bear in mind, however, that many new comics are now quite scarce immediately after they go off of sale due to tiny original print runs. These days, if you pass on a book at a given price, it may be some time before you even see another copy available for sale.

Now that I've covered the original primary purpose of this column, I want to take a moment to explain the dramatically broader perspective I've taken in my writing. Having started my career as a comics retailer in 1969, I now have several decades of experiences to draw upon. During the past two years I have written many long, serialized weekly accounts of my perspectives on events from comics history. Based on the feedback I've received through e-mail and at conventions, those stories have been very popular with quite a few comics fans and professionals. That is not to say, however, that I've pleased everyone. Far from it, in fact. I have always been outspoken in my opinions, and I have never been particularly concerned about the fallout of publicizing my views and perspectives. That willingness to be brutally honest became even more enhanced at the end of last summer, when I became ill with a severe case of West Nile virus. As a direct consequence of contracting this life-threatening illness, during this past year I've made a real effort to try to be even more candid and outspoken about issues that I feel are critical to the future of the comics world. In stating my opinions so frankly however, I have also publicly criticized a number of policies and actions initiated by some of the most powerful leaders of the comics world. Suffice it to say, they, and their acolytes, have not been pleased with me...

In the end, however, my writing agenda all comes down to a fervent desire to help the world of comics survive and prosper. As I stated in my very first column, my desire in writing this column is not to please everyone. I am quite aware that I sometimes take positions that diverge widely from popularly held opinions. No matter what I write, however, my intention is to always be entertaining, and to provide you with food for thought about the future of the world of comics. I have been blessed to have lived and worked in comics fandom for the past 35 years. It has been an absolutely wonderful experience that I would wish upon you, and your children. Given the current continuing trend of declining print runs of many new comics, however, it is very clear to me that the extended future of the entire world of comics is in some measure of peril. We certainly are not yet at the critical stage, but ignoring the fact that cover prices keep creeping up, and that print runs keep declining, is to my mind foolish. We need to think about how to reverse these downward trends, and how to introduce yet another generation of readers to the joys of graphic storytelling. I firmly believe that many of the comics being published today are the best comics that have ever been created. Discovering innovative ways to expose those comics to new readers is my greatest quest. That is why I view this revised monthly newsstand edition of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE as a wonderful opportunity to bring an entirely new spectrum of comics fans into our community who previously had not even been aware that comics fandom existed. If you are new to this publication, please accept my warmest welcome. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to share with you my experiences, and all of my excitement about comics, in my future columns.

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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