Persistence and Determination


Hello my fellow agents. The thought occurred to me that many of you may be wondering  if I am still active in the field. Am I still scouring the shelves of the used book store? Am I locked in battle with those annoying flippers armed with scanning technology? Is it getting harder to find trade paperbacks and hardbacks to keep or flip?

In short, yes, yes, and yes.

I hit the stores at least three times a week. My favorite location is currently inundated with book flippers. I know they’re hustling just trying to make a buck. Still, when they come over to my territory, knowing nothing about the hobby and scan every book on the shelves, I can’t help but take it personally.

Sure, it’s a bit hypocritical. I flip most of what I find and I often use my phone to confirm prices. But, I’ve trained my eyes, honed my intuition, and spent time building my internal library of knowledge. I’ve done the work and I take pride in that.

The guy scanning books beside me yesterday had no idea that the hard to find Taskmaster Unthinkable TPB sold for a premium.


Taskmaster Unthinkable TPB (2011 Marvel)


I watched him  as he moved through each book on the shelf. I hoped that maybe the scanner would get it wrong. Alas, he scanned the book, looked at the screen, and placed it in his shopping cart.

Curses, foiled again.

The funny thing is I’ve seen him take books that I know he’ll only make $5 on at best. He can take all of those he wants. They’re not worth my time.

The scanners miss some books as well. Last month I watched the same guy scan and put back Showcase Presents Haunted Tank priced at $8. I picked it up and sold it that week for $39 plus shipping. So, I take joy in the knowledge that man can still beat machine.


Showcase Presents Haunted Tank Vol. 1


I also enjoyed getting ahead of another guy with a scanner and snatching up a copy of DC vs Marvel TPB. Comic book fans love this collection of Marvel Versus DC #1-4 and Doctor Strangefate #1. I paid $6.50 and sold it for $43 plus shipping.


DC vs. Marvel TPB


I have to admit, it’s getting harder out there. The book flippers seem to multiply weekly and now I hear there’s some guy out there giving away trade secrets on the internet!

Anyway, the thrill of the hunt keeps me motivated, as I’m sure it does you. We love searching the shelves and the long boxes. It is our domain.

Until next week, keep hunting. Never give up. The books are out there waiting to be found.

Trade Secret #14: “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge. Good advice in all areas of life.


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  • Avatar

    ok, what is this comic scanner you have, and why don’t I have it? lol

    • Phil Newton

      I don’t have the book scanners the other flippers do. Sometimes I wish I did have one, lol. If I’m not sure I just search books by typing into my phone.

  • Avatar

    hi, what app is used to scan tpbs? Or do you mean they look up individual tpbs via ebay sold listings?

    • Phil Newton

      They are some kind of hand held scanners that look up prices. There are people that make a living doing “book arbitrage”. I know there are apps that do this as well. I looked into it last year. You have to pay monthly for the databases or something. That’s to deep for me. Like I said, I trust my knowledge and intuition. If I need to ebay/amazon lookup to confirm.

  • Matthew King

    Awesome Write up !!! Thank you.

  • Avatar

    I go to a lot of used book sales and these scanner asshats are indeed multiplying. Many of them have no clue what they are doing, they simply push in, scan barcodes, and wait for the beep to toss it in their basket. And if it’s not what they want, I’ve seen them just toss it aside, literelly damaging the book.
    Can’t stand them. If you want to be in the b6siness at least do some research and show the respect.

    • Avatar

      You can probably make more per hour on average driving Uber than filing through bins of comics to resell online. Point being, people who do not legitimately enjoy comics will be in and out of the game pretty quickly. A scanner without context and knowledge can also be very misleading as most books sell at a very low volume and one oddball sale can inflate a price well above its actual resale value.

      I just happened to be looking up the pricing data on Adventure Comics 352 which has seen raw sales ranging from $99 to $.99 over the past month making a scanner totally useless. More uneducated buyers mean more people making silly purchases that long-term collectors should be able to profit from. As far as I am concerned the more the merrier.

      Damaging books is bs and its on us to call them out or bring this to the attention of the proprietor.

  • Avatar

    I’ve worked for two different Antiquarians. The first was a big chain that used scanners, and much was made of the supposed sales-information that was gathered and shared between stores. What was actually gathered was very low grade info concerning very ordinary books, bought from people with no serious collecting habbits.
    The second was a one-man operation relying on experience foremost. I was surprised that most of the books that made the most profit at the second store did not have an EAN or ISBN, were hard or impossible to find in major databases, and were mostly bought directly from serious collectors.
    There may be no direct connection here, except maybe to (foolishly?) state that true experience will always prevail….

  • Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your insights on the graphic novel side of things. I believe this area of the hobby is somewhat overlooked.

    I was just wondering: if you ever sell on Amazon or at least are using it for price info on a regular basis why are you not using the amazon shopper app which includes a (free) product scanner that identifies a book by either barcode or cover image? I have been practicing graphic novel arbitrage for awhile now (mostly as a way to make my comic collecting hobby pay for itself) and cannot imagine hunting the shelves without it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a ‘scan every book on the shelf’ guy but it is so much easier to scan a book that piques my interest instead of typing in titles like I use to. However I totally agree that knowledge trumps blind scanning in the long run. A scanner probably won’t tell you that Spandex Man vol. 3 might be money after amazon sells off that last copy they have available and the next lowest copy is being offered for $60, lol.

    Also I’m guessing you are going to run into way more of the cult of the scanner zombies at a store with a constant turnover of used tpbs and hcs than you would at a your lcs, at least that is my experience.

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