I’m cheap. I’ve admitted this more times than it should be healthy to do so. Being cheap isn’t a fatal character flaw especially if you have a comic book habit. I’ve accepted my tightfisted nature and accepted that I am a comic book miser ala Scrooge. But what about the rest of you? This week I’m taking a look at how you can discover the inner-cheapo inside of you. Yes, you too can be thrifty in the face of inflated comic shop prices and dubious e-Bay reserves. Come on in, it won’t cost you anything.
Let’s face it; collecting comics can be expensive as any other addiction out there on the market. I sometimes think being addicted to heavy drugs is easier than a comic book addiction. Afterall, heroin is heroin as opposed to tracking down that issue of Uncanny X-Men you’ve been looking for. With our addiction, it has to be specific. No random issue will do. Some collectors will immediately jump at the chance to pick up an issue. I’m much to frugal to be impulsive. There are some great ways to find issues and stories that you have been dying to get without breaking the bank at first sight.
Here are some strategies that I suggest you take in starting the bargain hunting search.
Know Your Price Limit
The first thing that you have to establish is your spending limits with buying comic books. Establishing a maximum price you are willing to pay for an issue or set of issues is important. As a general rule, I tend to not pay over cover price for any modern comic. If an issue is from the early 80s or 1970s, I may bend that rule a bit, but typically I will not pay over cover price. Why? It has been my experience that most books that haunt the back issue bins are there for a reason; the demand isn’t as great as the supply. Current issues seem to be in more demand in most shops than tracking down that issue of Alpha Flight you want. Most shops tend to offer special prices on some back issues too, like 25%-50% off ticketed items in the backissue boxes. While there can be a little flex room for spending, the important part of setting your spending limits is to actually follow them. If you won’t pay anything that is double the cover price of a book, then don’t. Stick to your guns.
Know Your Condition Limit
Of course, setting a price you are willing to play too low can also impact the condition of the book you are able to buy. Me? I don’t care so much about the condition of a book. I’ve bought books that have looked like some frat boy waking up on a Sunday morning behind a dumpster, having pissed and shit himself, wearing only a bra, lipstick, a mullet Whig, and an adult diaper. You? Well, you might be more finicky when it comes to the condition of the books in your collection. Knowing that you will only buy issues that are at least Fine/Very Fine condition is a good thing to know because that can help determine your price limits.
Buy in Bulk
Sam’s, BJ’s, Costco and other like-minded retailers try to tell you that buying in bulk can be good. It’s definitely true for comics as well. Sometimes, comic book shops will sell sets of certain comics. The price discrepancy can vary from shop to shop, but these sets are generally priced fairly. Generally. I don’t buy these sets at shops so much because they typically sell them for a bit more than cover price. A local shop does run a special “buy two, get one free” on these sets that I partake of a few times a year, but usually these items tend to be out of my price range. I have found that e-Bay is the site to go to find better buys on bulk issue sets. I don’t do it often, but e-Bay auctions can have some fairly lean prices on certain sets. As with anything on e-Bay, it just depends on how much the seller rapes you on shipping charges. A few years ago, I bought the entire American Flagg! Run for around $20 through three different lots. That price included shipping too. Score.
Search Bargain Bins at Your Own Risk
Comic shop bargain bins also typically have bulk deals, but I have found those to be more of a hassle due to the fact they aren’t often alphabetized. Ugh. I hate that fact due to my own lazy nature. Many fans derive joy from sifting through these bargain bins, but I generally can’t be bothered with that much effort. This isn’t to say that bargains can’t be found there. Indeed, they can be. A couple of years ago I did find Dark Knight Returns 1-4 in a $1 bin. That is more of an outlier than anything else, but bargains can be found. I just don’t have time to rummage through fifteen boxes of 1990s shit to find one or two issues. I have better things to do with my time. Much better things to do with my time. I can’t really give you an example of that now, but trust me, I’m sure I do have better things to do.
Go for the Trade
If you aren’t necessarily on the hunt for individual issues as much as you are for reading the stories, trades are the best way to go. They offer you the best bang for your buck. Not only have many publishers upped production on their TPB collections, most now offer bargain priced black and white or digest sized reprints for a fairly reasonable price. Some shops even place those on sale. Just this past weekend, I visited a shop in Anderson, SC that was having a Marvel Essentials sale, with each volume clocking in at $10 each. Amazon and e-Bay often have great TPB prices, especially in Amazon’s used section. You can often buy used trades for well below half of the cover price. In fact, I buy most of my trades used now due to the cost. Like Sir Mix-A-Lot, when someone else wants to toss it, I pull quick to retrieve it.
Follow these steps and you will be on the road to cheapness. Being frugal about comic collecting is all about patience and setting limits. With great savings come great responsibilities.
Next time, I make the case against big event books. You won’t want to miss that, especially if you’re hopelessly addicted to whatever slop the Big Two are slinging our way in terms of events these days. What goes around comes around.
See you then!