Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Mary Alice Wilson's Dark Star Books in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett follows up with more on customers bringing collections to the store.
When people bring Dark Star their comics there's always a giddy Christmas morning moment of anticipation, almost always followed by a dull thud of disappointment. I keep saying you never know who or what's going to come through the door of your comic book shop on a day to day basis, but when it comes to this about 70% of the time you can. Most likely it's going to be the exact same clump of Marvel, DC and Image comics from the late 80s to the mid 90s.
An example of the 'you never know' phenomenon; after a good decade of people trying to sell us copies of the Death of Superman comic, I actually got a call from someone actively wanting to buy one. If this keeps up, one day there might actually be a market for titles from the Clone Saga and Onslaught.
Occasionally someone actually will bring us genuine comic book treasures; good to very good condition (miraculously enough, never having been bagged or boarded) copies of such outre 60s and 70s titles as Bugs Bunny; Solar, Man of the Atom; Magnus, Robot Fighter; Twilight Zone; Scary Tales; Fightin' Army; Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; Treasure Chest; etc. These may not sound like 'treasures' to you, and while they might not be worth much according to Overstreet they're indisputably difficult to find -- in any condition.
At the very least sometimes people bring us a great story with their comics, like the biker-looking fellow who brought in a box of ordinary 80s comics and said he received them in lieu of payment from a customer who came up fifty dollars short when it came time to pay for his new tattoo.
Most people handle finding out (contrary to what their local newspapers and Action News Teams have been telling them for decades) that there really isn't treasure in their basements or attics with at least a trace of good grace. But there are those who come in with a special blend of desperation, ignorance and arrogance; like the family who recently paid us a visit.
They (Dad maybe twenty-two with a ZZ Top beard, Mom even less attractive, and an absolutely adorable baby) came in carrying maybe two dozen dog eared 80s Marvel
/Image comics that had never known a bag or board. But he didn't want to sell them to us, oh no, first he wanted us to appraise them, giving him all the prices for all possible conditions (in spite of the fact they were all pretty obviously 'poor' at best), and naturally he wanted us to do it for free.
Happily I wasn't behind the counter when they came in but was close enough to hear most of the conversation between Dad and one of my colleagues. He was consistently sympathetic and patient but Dad became increasingly belligerent and hostile, convinced at every turn we were trying to cheat him. At one point out of sheer pity (from their general state it was pretty obvious they really needed the money) he was offered $10 whereupon he moaned it had cost him more than that in gas to get here.
Looking for a relatively painless exit strategy, my co-worker handed him our copy of the Overstreet price guide and a quiet place to sit so he could look them up himself. It only took him five minutes to realize he couldn't figure out how to use it and very quietly left with his tattered copy of Dreadstar & Company in tow.
Here are a couple more things I dearly would have loved to have told some of our non-customers:
You Don't Have Superman #1. I'm sure you think you do, but there have been so many reprints over the years and...oh, just trust me, you don't. And even if you did, my first thought would be you 'found' it in the house of some collector, not your attic.
You Never Bought A Comic Book For A Nickel. Maybe you bought one off a friend for half price, but no, you don't remember buying comics when they were a nickel. OK, there was Nickel Comics from Fawcett which lasted seven issues in 1940...and it's as likely you have a copy of that as you have one of Superman #1.
I really didn't have a solid ending for this column until last Friday when, ten minutes before closing, a college kid with an enormous takeout container of coffee came in and asked if we had a microwave.
I'll be honest; this was a first for me so was stumped for a second, but finally said,
'We've got one upstairs; why?'
He held out his cup. 'So I can heat this up'.
I contemplated telling him to go to one of the gas station/mini-marts at either end of town, both of which had microwaves and see what kind of response that question would get from them. Then I thought about asking him if he needed a pillow or a donut to go with his coffee.
But I'm a professional. I just smiled and thanked him for coming in.