Monday, September 15, 2014

NYCC:  Ones to Watch

Superfan David D asked me to make a list of books to hunt for in the bargain bins at New York Comic Con, so that's what I'm going to do.  It won't be a comprehensive list because that would constitute 1,000 pages, and it's difficult to know what any particular convention is going to sport for inventory.  Even vendors you've seen before can spin on a dime if the same old same old hasn't been working for them.

That's not to say that you can't make predictions and plan ahead, though.  I know that when I go to a convention of any size, I'm going to run into a swath of Hellblazer overstock and piles of Chronicles of Conan.  I can make money on several books from both series, so it pays to have your game sharp before you ever step onto the floor.

Obviously you can't know everything, but I would say it behooves one to get familiar with old reliables like Batman and Nightwing before you go.  What's selling right now?  These situations are fluid.  I really like Batman: Scarecrow Tales, but I was shocked to find out how little it's trading for at the moment.  I've sold copies of that book for $60-$80, but as I type this I think it's tough to drag $30 out of it in the best condition.

It pays to have this at the top of your head before you ever start flipping through the long boxes.  Study the big earners and pay close attention to condition breaks.  Some books only make sense to buy in nice shape. Yes, your smartphone has all the answers, and most conventions offer some form of complimentary wi-fi access.  There are a couple problems with relying on that, though.

Problem number one is that there are going to be 90 million other people with smartphones in the venue, and it's difficult to squeeze out a good signal most of the time.  Problem number two is that most vendors don't want to see you staring at your Amazon app counting up how much profit you're going to make on their measly little $5 trade, likely a loss for them.

So you'll have to decide what kind of relationship you want to have the vendors.  I generally don't check the phone while I'm digging, because it's bad form.  I'm careful now about purchasing multiples as well.  When you bring four copies of a book to the dealer, you are announcing to the dealer that you know their stock better than they do, and that you're going to profit at their expense.

I'm not saying I never buy multiple copies any more.  I do.  What I generally do is pick the nicest copy of the clump, and if I decide I need more, I'll come back later.  Sometimes there are multiple folks taking cash at a booth, so I can buy the same books twice and nobody is the wiser.  Most people do not remember what an individual customer purchased the day before, so I can buy my multiples the day after without rancor.  You run the risk of another book scout snapping them up on you, of course.  Some people reading this may think it silly to even sweat this stuff, but there's an old saying in poker:

"Pigs make money, but hogs get slaughtered."

If you get too aggressive and open with your profiteering, a vendor can simply shut off the spigot on you.  They can reassess their entire stock, cherry-pick it, and leave nothing but chaff behind.  I did this 2 years ago at C2E2.  A guy had long boxes full of gold, and I started grabbing 4 copies of certain titles.  Now he's suddenly interested in his stock.

The guy looks at my pile and says "These are out of print, aren't they?"

Then he starts rummaging through his stock and cherry-picking the good books out of the chaff.  That sucked. If that's how he felt about it, why didn't his lazy ass figure out what he was carrying to begin with?  I don't know, but that's life.

Anywho, this is a tiny list of items that I find likely to be available for cover or much, much less at the New York Comic Con.

Farscape Vol 1: The Beginning of the End of the Beginning
ISBN:  9781608866212
SRP:    $9.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $40/$50

This is my favorite book in the world right now because it is dirt cheap and easy to sell.  Full retail is only $10, and I've been getting 4-5X that with ease.  At the Baltimore Con I found multiple copies at $5 or less.

It's possible that I'm actually selling these a little short.  I'm sort of artificially down at the $40-$50 level, and after that it jumps toward $100.  My thing is, when I get a book for $5 and I can sell it for $40, I'm not going to let it lay around for six months hoping to gouge out $80.  I'm going to sell it for $40 quickly and plow that into other earners.

This is the perfect storm of culty goodness.  It's a well-loved series, and the comics are co-written by series creator Rockne O'Bannon.   Certain brick-and-mortar shops may not have a Farscape audience, so they try and blow these out. Merry Christmas!  I don't know how Boom! is going to handle the license, but unless they go back to press soon, I think many of these Farscape books are going to be worth watching.

Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green
ISBN:  9781401215071
SRP:  $12.99
Amazon min for used/new:  $36/$46

Geoff Johns lifted the whole Green Lantern franchise out of obscurity on sheer force of will. Alannis Morrissette would call that irony, but it's not.  It's poetic, not ironic.  None of the Johns Green Lantern books have ever earned me a nickel, because DC prints enough to sate the demand.

Not so with some of the satellite titles.  There is money to be made with some of the Green Lantern Corps books, essential to the hard corps fans but not printed in great numbers since it's perceived as an ancillary title.

I love Dark Side of Green because it's only $13 even at full retail.  Many vendors fire their remaining GLC stock into the 1/2 price bins.  I really like Dark Side at the $6.50 price point, because I know I'm going to sell it for 6-8X that, and it won't take 48 hours to flip it.  If you see this book for cover or less, it's an insta-buy.  GLC: Recharge is nice, too, but not as nice.

Hellblazer: The Laughing Magician
ISBN:  1401218539
SRP:    $14.99
Amazon min in used/new:   $30/$95

Hellblazer has been quite the money machine for me in my career as a book scout.  Batman is # 1 with a bullet, but other than the Dark Knight I think I've sold more Constantine tomes than anything else.  With the NBC series launching you might think that now might be the best time ever for Hellblazer trades in the secondary market, but you'd be wrong.

What's happened is that the NBC series has prompted DC to go back to press on new editions of the Hellblazer series, and that has helped to keep prices stable and sane.  The people that are interested in the character are getting their hands on the books.. Honestly, that's a good thing for the long-term health of the industry, so I applaud that.  I can't be a disgusting pig of profit if nobody reads these things, so bravo to DC for recognizing that Constantine needs to be largely available.

Not every book has received a new edition yet, though.  Top of the heap right now is the Laughing Magician.  In my experience, it's very easy to find dealers who don't know what they're sitting on blowing these out for $5 a book or half price.  If the book is nice shape, Laughing Magician is very easy to flip for $60.  So if you find one for $5, (I snagged one for $4 at Baltimore) you'll be the one laughing - all the way to the damn bank.

UPDATE:  Sold that $4 copy for $59.99 on 9/14

Nightwing: The Great Leap
ISBN:  1401221718
SRP:    $19.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $90/$130

Nightwing is a beast in the secondary market.  His fan base is dedicated and willing to spend.  I don't have enough data to prove the case, but in my anecdotal experience this is another property driven by interest from women.  I see a LOT of female names on the invoice when I sell Nightwing material.  I don't think they're all buying them as birthday gifts for their boyfriend.  Chicks dig the 'Wing.

There are a ton of earners starring Mr. Grayson, and many vendors know about the older ones.  You are unlikely to find a copy of Rough Justice, Hunt for Oracle, or Year One laying around the bargain bins.  (If you do, buy all means employ an insta-buy strategy)

I'm amazed at how many profitable Nightwing trades are left in the 50% boxes, though.  The strongest play of the newer generation is Great Leap, from 2009.  Prices are in serious nose-bleed territory.  Sometimes things sit in the nose-bleeds and don't actually sell.  You can sell a copy of this book for $80.  Easy.

It's a good thing, too, because full retail is $20.  That's pretty steep. If you can rescue one from that $5 box, that's quite a bonanza.  You should also keep an eye out Lost Year and Renegade.  I promise you, somebody is going to have all of these available for way under retail at NYCC.  

Deadpool Corps Vol 1:  Pool-Pocalypse Now
ISBN:  0785148256
SRP:  $16.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $95/$100

The big money in the secondary market is always on the niche satellite, never on the big shiny object.  Deadpool is an institution now, the Wolverine of the new millenium.  Most of the Deadpool proper trades don't do a bloody thing on the secondary market, because Marvel prints enough to books to soak up the extraordinary demand.

The Deadpool saturation has all these little spin-offs lurking about now, and many of them do not have print runs able to support the demand.  So you have this Deadpool Corps volume trading for close to triple-digit prices.  It's hard to make par ($100) in the trade market, but this might be a place to do it.

You should also have your eyes open for Deadpool Corps Prelude, Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth Vol 1 Head Trip, and Deadpool Team-up Vol 3: BFFs. I didn't find any of these at Baltimore, and was a little surprised.  I bet that somebody hits big on these at NYCC.

Amalgam Age of Comics: Marvel Collection
ISBN:  078510240X
SRP:  $12.95
Amazon min in used/new:  $65/$90

The Amalgam books are hard to find now, partly because they're relatively old. (for the TPB game, 20 years is actually quite old) Another reason is that Amalgam was a hybrid experiment crossing DC and Marvel characters, and those two companies simply do not get along like that any more. I can't imagine a world in which the Amalgam material ever gets reprinted, and for that reason I get very excited when I see these trades.

Sure, the actual comics are mostly terrible.  Mostly.  But they were also fun, a unique stamp on a bygone era, and there is a niche crowd committed enough to the material to pay good money for these.

The good news is that when you do tend to stumble on an Amalgam trade, the vendor likely has no clue about its real value and has dumped it in the $5 box.  They've been staring at it for 20 years and just can't take it another day.  Scoop them up and say thank you!

When I find these in nice shape, I get them graded and stow them away.  Stuff that will never see print again smells like retirement money to me.  But I'm kind of crazy.  Your move is probably to buy them for $5 and flip them for $60.  Also be on the lookout for the Return to the Amalgam Age Marvel, and the Amalgam Age DC Comics collection. I tripped over a couple of these at Baltimore, and I'm betting there will be a couple laying about in New York as well.

Wolverine Legends Vol 5: Snikt!
ISBN:  0785112391
SRP:  13.99
Amazon min in used/new:  $20/$55

Irish Mike McLarty would probably hunt me down if I didn't include this little gem. The catalyst here is the Tsutomo Nihei work.  The style feels a little too manga for the mainstream American audience to really grab hold of it, but a rapid subset really, really wants that.  This is the cauldron from which booms are made of.

I've actually seen this book trading for much higher than it is now.  I've sold this for as much as $80, usually I get about $60 for it.  I never have to pay much to get it, either.  Full retail is $14, but when you do see it, it's generally being sold by somebody who can't find a buyer in their local market and thinks it's garbage.  I got one at Baltimore out of a $5 box.  I'm going to get $50 for it, I promise you.

UPDATE:  I did.  Sold my Snikt! for $49.99 on 9/28

Gargoyles:  Bad Guys
ISBN:  1593621930
SRP:  17.95
Amazon min in used/new:  $145/$221

Something is going on with the Gargoyles property, and I don't know what.  The old Marvel material is spiking a bit, and crazy/bizarre things are happening with the Slave Labor Graphics trades.  I'm sure part of the equation is just the microscopic print runs.  Gargoyles have not been a huge property in years, and Slave Labor just can't be printing even 1,000 of these, can they?

A piece of me hesitates to put this on here, because I've never actually sold one.  Hell, I've never seen one! UPDATE:  I've since found 2 copies.  Sold the first for $99.99 on Oct 1. But I did see a copy of Gargoyles Vol 1: Clan Building close for $250 a few weeks ago on eBay.  I can't seem to sell one of those for even $100, but still - something must have happened that kickstarted this price movement.  Usually these things happen on the heels of a movie announcement, but I haven't heard anything - have you?

The bottom line is that if I saw a copy of this book, I would pop on it instantly even at full retail.  There might be $200 hiding in there!  Kids books tend to get dumped into bargain blowout bins, as well.  If you find one of these at 50% off, there's really no risk at all.  Same holds true for Gargoyles: Clan Building.  I don't know what the market really thinks of that book, but I'll certainly pay $5-$10 to find out.  UPDATE:  I've now sold two copies of Clan Building Vol 1 for $79.99, on 9/20 and 9/23.

There's quite a bit of profit in the kids bins, if you know where to look.  You know those Teen Titans Go! digests you always see lying around the comic shop collecting dust for $6.99 retail?  Well, Volume 1: Truth, Justice, Pizza! is a $40-$60 book in nice condition, and Volume 4: Ready for Action is a $30-$40 book as well.  I can make money on all kinds of Darkwing Duck trades, and the Darkwing Duck/Duck Tales book Dangerous Currency wins me $60-$80 all day long.  If you see these at NYCC, they are likely sitting lonely in a $5 box.

So.  Not a comprehensive list by any means, but these are few of the juicier opportunities from a variety of publishers.  Happy Hunting!


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