Subject 12: The Cost of Collecting

Disambiguation

Something you might want to ask yourselves “is this the right hobby for me”? I'm not trying to scare anyone off. It's a serious question new collectors/investors need to ask themselves… At some point anyways. PearsonWolverine

As individuals, our method of collecting is as unique as our personalities. We all have different theories and formulas we use to buy and collect. No one method is more right or correct than the other, just different. We use whichever works best for us. Now sometimes that might be because it’s the way you've always done it or because you just never found a better way. One thing is for sure, to do it correctly it takes time and money.

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Trey has mentioned on the podcast several times, “Wednesday Warriors” really need to factor in the time they spend, gas and running all over town snapping up books. Is flipping books on eBay for 7 to 10 bucks really worth the time and gas you spend, minus online selling fees? He’s right, It's probably not cost effective to drive in circles buying 3 and 4 dollar books to sell for 10 bucks shipped. Investing in comics is way more expensive than many people realizes. There’s a huge additional cost in this hobby beyond the price paid for books. Bags and boards, storage costs, air conditioning bills in the summer. It really starts to add up. If you slab books then send them out to be graded, the cost can really get up there. It’s just things you should start being mindful of when it comes to collecting. In your investing, you need to factor in all those additional costs to understand what your real investment is. Comic collecting can be a very expensive hobby. Which is why many collectors sell on eBay and other online websites. It helps subsidise the habit… I mean hobby.

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For some, selling on eBay is a great way to make extra income. For other’s it’s a way to clear out books you just don’t want taking up space. Something every collector should consider is selling a book on eBay or similar sites, just once. To get a better understanding of the whole process if nothing else. It will give you a new perspective on how much time and effort some sellers put in, or don’t in many cases. We've all got a story of a seller that's comes up short.

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Mistakes are sometimes a good thing. A costly one will teach you more than you realized. Something as simple as under charging for shipping is a great learning experience. Having the post office lose a book you didn’t insure is another fun exercise if you've never experienced it… Not really. Playing the game from both sides of the table, dealing with the same problems, it's actually helped me become a better buyer. More understanding anyways.

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Personally, the art always will be the major draw to comics. It will always outweigh the financial side of things for me. Being an art snob has been pretty instrumental in keeping my personal collection small and manageable. The speculation and investing side, not so much. I’ve got more books than I’d like wasting space. Many of those books will never hit and others are still a long ways off from making any real money. Which is something you might want to consider when investing. How much time/money/space can you sacrifices to your comic investment. That answer is going to be different for everyone.

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Time is money. It’s true. Most people have busy lives. Work, family, whatever, doesn’t matter, your time is at a premium. You should probably start considering what that is worth. It takes a lot of money and risks to invest or flip books and do it right…  And even if you do everything right, it doesn’t mean it will be profitable. Nobody likes to lose, however as your grow older and more seasoned you’ll understand “acceptable losses” and “cost of doing business”. Every transaction has the potential to go from profitable to a full lose, that’s the gamble. IF you’re not interested in losing once in awhile, this isn’t going to be the right hobby for you.

killingjokeYou need to factor in everything to make sure you're really profiting from your investment… If that's your only goal. Stuff like seller fees, paper, printer ink, labels, tape, packaging material, space for storage, long boxes, bags and boards, shipping boxes, sales tax, business licenses, paypal and eBay fees… I’m sure there’s things I’m forgetting which just goes to show you there’s more than just the original cost of the book factor into your investing. It's probably better to just look at it as a loss all the time, an endless sinkhole of money. Which is why it helps if you're a collector first.

If money is your only motivation for comic collecting, you really need to ask yourself, is this really worth it?

With that I leave you. I'll be back in mid September with something new and hopefully worth reading. Till then.

37 comments

  • tiredguy

    Great write up.

    My PC has swelled thanks to my “misses.”

    • tiredguy

      But that being said, as a “Wednesday Warrior” myself I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m not gonna make lots of money doing this as I don’t want to truly dedicate the time and resources to do so (make serious $)

      I’m in it for fun. And if I make a little money here and there all the better.

      • Skot Whitman

        Exactly, you’ve figured out how to balance and keep it enjoyable. As long as it’s fun, that should always be the main goal.

        • Avatar

          Thanks Skot for bringing this topic up. Amazing how synchronicity works.
          Asked myself the question today: Is it still fun? A lot has changed since my days collecting in the early 80’s when I was having fun and buying what liked mainly for the art. Mainly just how big of a business comics and released properties have become, but I try to stick to the art I like and can appreciate good writing and stories as well. So may talented artists and writers today with wide ranging styles.
          Still having fun after all these years. And enjoy when a book I have goes up in value or becomes a key too!

          • Skot Whitman

            Having fun is the key. When comics stop being fun for me, that’s when I walk a way for a bit. I’ve mentioned in past articles that comics can be no different that an abusive relationship or a gambling addiction.

            On the other hand it can be a blast and a great hobby that parents can share with their children. So it’s not all bad LOL

  • johnlbelanger

    Excellent artice!

    Self-evaluating is always a helpful tool, and many of the variables listed above have shifted the way I collect. Instead of 20-30 pull books per month when I started, I am down to 5-7 and use the other funds to save for “unexpected finds” like original art that I randomly find or that PC grail book.

    I would say that setting goals has also helped me pass on impulse comic buys, most of which turn out to be a good decision. With comic collecting being such a vast hobby, it’s easy to spend a bunch of money and not go where you want to go.

    • Skot Whitman

      Exactly, I walking into the comic shop and spent only 14 dollars today, I just wasn’t interested in seeing how much money I could spend. I think goals or budgets are important. I’m just sticking to stuff by artist or books with characters I like, no more changing down first appearance just because it’s a first appearance or might be a big thing. Personally I’m done with that.

  • Avatar

    Great subject. I think all collectors evolve over time. I know my habits have changed greatly in the past 5 years.

  • Avatar

    Great article! I got back into collecting because of the spec aspect several years ago (and my love of the art) so I started buying up all sorts of keys/first appearances/HOT books and spending too much money chasing stuff I didn’t care about. Then one day my wife said “Do you even read any of these books you buy anymore?” Totally changed the game back to buying what I like just in case I end up holding(gettting stuck with) it. I will grab some stuff for the art and some for the spec but can focus a lot more on what I like and it helps me spec in the long run I think.
    Also, too true about being an expensive hobby if you go all in.
    Thanks for the reminder Skot.

    • Skot Whitman

      That’s the way to do it. It should be a about the collecting rather than the flip… at least in my opinion. Making money on books is just a bonus once in awhile. I agree, chasing books down that you really don’t care about seems to be… I don’t know, counterproductive I guess.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Avatar

        Very good insight. I really need to get back to the basics of why I got into this hobby in the first place. And what everyone is saying is so true, you can’t have/buy everything. I’m convinced that if I don’t get a grip on this collecting monster I’m going to go insane!

  • Avatar

    Nice article. I recently got to experience the post loosing a $100 book that wasn’t insured and I’m not fully convinced that the buyer wasn’t lying. What a fun time!

    • Skot Whitman

      I always ship books that are expensive through Priority Mail here in the states. It’s automatically insured for up to $100 dollars.

      • Avatar

        I totally agree! That’s what I do every time. Today, like always I packed up my graded book in a flat rate priority box and the only thing different I did was add another fifty dollars insurance to the shipment. Doing this somehow cancelled out the already included tracking number which left me in the situation I’m in several posts down.
        The USPS really messed me up this time!

      • Scott Robertson

        Priority is insured for 50 bucks… 100 cost an extra few bucks…but always insure your package, flat rate priority w 500 bucks insurance is only 18 bucks.. what’s 5 bucks to protect a book

  • Avatar

    Thanks for the article I look forward to reading your stuff every week . Being a “Wednesday warrior” definetly has its ups and downs I try to spec on stuff I do not mind to get stuck with.I do it more to get the PC books I want than extra income though.

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    I can relate to losing money on the Bay. A couple weeks ago I bought the Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 comic from SDCC on Ebay. The transaction was going well until I got home from work and found a comic mailer in 3 separate pieces(comic was nowhere to be seen) wrapped in USPS plastic bags with a pre-typed statement “Sorry for the inconvenience but the USPS damaged your package. Please understand that these things happen..”
    I was wrong to assume that the seller would be responsible for the lost comic I bought or that Ebay’s Money Back Guarantee would cover the lost comic as well(That’s an imaginary “guarantee” so don’t believe it), and as usual the seller did not get insurance from USPS. On Ebay, the seller is the person who is asked if he wants to include insurance on the package, not the buyer, but don’t be fooled..if you just bought a costly comic , you better ask the seller to add insurance to the package. This was a painful lesson that as a seller you should always include insurance on high priced comics you are selling AND as a buyer you should work with the seller to get him to include insurance on high priced comics you are buying cause it is not a question of if the USPS will eventually damage or lose your comic..it is WHEN they will do it. Don’t make the costly mistake I made and get that insurance slapped on the comic. Is there anyone out there that had a similar situation on the Bay but got their money back even though the USPS admitted they lost the comic?

    • Avatar

      I also have had similar experiences like yours. I never really realized how important the buyers/sellers feedback score(eBay) really was. It can be the difference between a great transaction or a nightmare!

    • Skot Whitman

      IT’s a tough spot for sellers. You either price the shipping to include the insurance or have two shipping options for the buyers to choose from, one insured and one without. Although whenever i’ve done that, the buyers always just choose the cheaper option so I quit offering it. The problem ultimately is neither party wants to pay extra for the insurance until it’s too late.

      Personally, I only ship high dollar books via Priority Mail. PM comes with $100 insurance automatically for flat rate legal size envelope and medium boxes. If the item is more, I just buy the extra insurance, it’s not worth the hassle. The post office will make mistakes, they are only human.Springing for the insurance has really saved my ass more than once.

  • Avatar

    Overall a very truthful and straight forward article. I love collecting, but not always the selling (to sustain my passion) aspect of the hobby. I like that there was no “sugar coating” and that when done for the wrong reasons, there can be a negative aspect of collecting/investing/speculating/selling comic books. Well done!
    Your fellow collector/sometimes seller,
    PW.

  • Avatar

    Has anyone ever forgotten to buy/send a tracking number to your buyer? I know this may sound like a rookie mistake but I just did it today. So I’m waiting for my buyer to send me the classic e-mail: “Please send tracking number”. Next: “have you sent my comic to me yet”. The next day: “still haven’t received my book yet”.
    The whole time this dance goes on the buyer has the comic in his hands looking at it. Then he’ll ask for a refund. No shocker there! Another lesson learned even for a veteran seller.
    It definitely keeps me humble.

  • Avatar

    Needed: honest, conscientious sellers who truly care about the buyers. And, equally honest buyers who are not always looking to take advantage of the sellers oversight/mistake.
    Only in a perfect world I guess.

  • Avatar

    Who did that X-Force cover?

  • DrunkWooky

    I began collecting in October of 2014 after a hiatus since I was a kid. When I was a kid, my mum had such a hard time handling our family’s finances that it eventually led to my dad leaving her. To say she mismanaged a household budget of $200,000.00 a year that my dad was bringing it is astronomical. We were supposedly upper-middle class, but my mum stopped letting me get my one weekly comic. I remember it vividly because I had Star Wars Dark Empire Issues 1-3, and 5 for 19 years. It sucked having no money and no ability to keep up on my favorite property–Star Wars.

    The reason I began collecting again in October 2014 was that I quit drinking alcohol. After quitting drinking, reading comics was an inexpensive (compared to the price of alcohol) way to keep my mind of having a drunk. I began selling off the issues I had bought because of a cool cover and was disappointed in the content of. It ballooned into chasing the hot key of the week, pre-ordering hot online store exclusives and re-selling for 2,3 4 times the price, etc. etc (we all know the story).

    I’m almost 2 years sober now, but my wife pointed out to me that I spend a lot of time (and money) shipping stuff to anonymous ebay buyers in the evenings. It became clear to me that I replaced one addiction with another. Between the time when that young boy wasn’t allowed to finish the 6-issue mini that started his love affair with Star Wars and October of 2014, I became an attorney. For once in my life I had what people would call “disposable income,” and g*d damn it I was gonna dispose of it! The last two years my comic collection ballooned from 20-30 Star Wars comics to over 2,000 issues ranging from obscurities like Rafer’s A&A bootleg ashcan, to silver age keys like Avengers 57 (First Appearance of Vision), to Star Wars #1 (1977), to modern variants like Star Wars #1 (2015) Ross Sketch variant. I was reselling variants I picked up at my LCS for profit. But, it also wasn’t entirely clear, although there was a lot of cash flowing in from my Paypal account, how much that ACTUALLY outweighed the impact on my time, gas, bank account, and marital happiness once it went from reselling what I happened to pick up at my LCS once a week to chasing down variants, keys, online exclusives just about every day of the week in one form or another.

    I’ve been on a “Wednesday One” regimen ever since–well two. That’s right, people. I buy two comics every Wednesday. With Marvel’s current Star Wars publication schedule, there is usually a SW book on there. That leaves one coveted spot in my Wednesday for the rest of the publishing world to fight over.

    The thing is: I’ve actually become more critical of what deserves my time, money, and mental real estate. Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer!? Boom, you’re in buddy! JEff Lemire’s Bloodshot Reborn!? Boom, you’re out! I may miss out on a hot new modern key this way, but week after week, I have to imagine that I’m saving money overall.

    Is this to say everybody should do what I do? No. Not everybody has a narcissistic mother with horrible money-management skills and an alcohol addiction. I’m just saying that the buy-sell, message board argument, Aspen-comics-upping-the-print-run-on-your-preordered-exclusive headache is a real issue if you let it get out of hand.

    That’s my two cents. I really appreciated this article. It felt good to read something that normalized the way I was feeling about comics as a whole in my life.

    Next week is a con and I’m looking forward to getting some books signed and slabbed! Also looking forward to see what books make my personal “Wednesday One” cut in the next year or so.

    Happy ending to the story: I have every issue of Dark Empire, Dark Empire II, and Empire’s End, Gold edition, platinum edition, first prints and hard covers of each (except Empire’s End). Not bad for a young boy who couldn’t afford to complete that one mini-series he loved so much.

    • Skot Whitman

      Wow, that an amazing story, thank you for sharing it. You’re right about replacing one addiction with another, at least comics don’t destroy your internal organs like alcohol.. I guess.

      Man, I’m still blown away with your story, I guess truth really is stranger than fiction.

      Again, thanks for commenting and sharing.

      • DrunkWooky

        Here’s the thing, though. None of us are special little snowflakes. We all have problems and we are all smart enough to figure out how to work around them. We all share a common love of the comic book medium, but we shouldn’t let that be yet another problem to add to our list.

        It should always remain something fun and pure that gives momentary relief from those problems.

        • merlin

          Thanks wookie. Your reply was the cherry on the bottom of one of the best articles I’ve read among too many great ones. I change addictions faster than hairstyles, and while my comic addiction is always in the queue yours seems like a healthy method of honoring it, without letting it take over.

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