Like Taking Candy From a Baby
Obviously, that's a boon if I need said gravy boat pronto. But as the holidays are still months away and a buying recepticle for fowl juices is not a life-or-death situation, I still have the option of trying out the old fashioned way of non-electronic searches and going to said flea markets and antique malls. For many, myself included, the hunt is as fun as the acquisition.
There's also the cost to consider. While that gravy boat may run you $40 on eBay or $60 from a dealer in Prescott, Arizona, there's a chance I could find it for $5 at Al's Antique Alley or at the local Salvation Army.
The same goes for comic books. It took me years to complete my Marvel Daredevil collection, and after I finally got issue #2 (the last piece of the puzzle) after starting to search for the run a decade before, I was elated. In those days, I found the older issues by one of three methods.
One, I could go to local comic shops. This proved to be fruitful in the beginning, but as the issues I searched for were the more rare and expensive ones, the comic shops either didn't have them in stock or, if they were, they were out of my meagre price range. (Beachead Comics, which was in the city next to the one where I grew up, is a good example of that. They always seemed to have nice comics to buy, but they were so overpriced, I found myself often leaving with nothing when they had things in stock that were on my want list.)
My second option was the infrequent comic conventions that found their way into the Lehigh Valley. Unable to make my way to Philadelphia or New York on my own, I would have to wait to see if Jubilee Comic Conventions, who usually held theirs in Maryland, Virginia, and southern New Jersey, would grace the Allentown Holiday Inn ballroom with their twice-yearly presence. There was always plenty of things to buy there -- good prices, too -- but they only had them every six months and, near the end, every year. My passion for collecting couldn't stand the wait.
The last option was the Comic Buyer's Guide, now a monthly magazine, but up until a few years ago a weekly, newspaper for comic book news, reviews, columns, and, best yet, sales. Each Thursday, I'd get my copy in the mail, and before reading any of the editorial content, I'd scour the ads looking for those books to fill in the holes of my collection. If I found something I wanted, I'd quickly call the seller, reserving it if it was still available, and then running off to the post office to get a money order. I subscribed to the CBG for years, only briefly giving it up while I was in college and had no money to buy anything but newer, must-have books.
Between the three of those things, I was able to get a lot of cool old comics, and I was very content in the three-pronged search.
That all changed with eBay. Before, I could go for months without seeing that last issue of Thor I needed to complete my Simonson run. Now, type in the search field, and 5 were right there, many at prices well below a store, convention dealer, or CBG advertizer. For me, a steady super-hero buyer who had little need for high-grade or pedigree copies, it was a godsend, and I think many people felt the same way.
But eBay also changed some things about what people bought and how much prices changed all due, I feel, to the anonymity of Internet shopping.
For a long time -- and this is something I noticed as both a collector and retailer (I worked for comic shops and convention dealers) -- romance comics and super-heroine comics didn't sell. At all. (Except for those rare cases where there was some serious t&a or bondage or Matt Baker/Bill Ward art.) But copies of Wonder Woman sat in the bins. Mary Marvel sales were frigid. And My Romance copies collected dust.
My theory is, men don't want to be seen buying this stuff. A 40-year-old buying Wonder Woman? A 50-year-old perusing the romance comic section? Heaven forbid. But online, behind the comfort of a computer screen and a PO Box, people will buy anything. And sales of romance comics and women super-heroes exploded. What once sat for years unsold where whisked away to the nether regions of New Jersey, California, and South Dakota. If you search the Golden Age Wonder Woman listings on eBay, you'll see books go for closer or above guide.
Online, these books sell great. In store, however, they still sit.
Now this is just a theory, but one that was proven right this past weekend. The wife and I went and visited a friend in Omro, Wisconsin (a destination if I ever there was one), and there went to various antique-y places in search of cool things to buy. In Oshkosk, I stopped in a comic shop, and there found a small stack of romance comics, including an early My Own Romance, two copies of Teen-Age Romances (with Matt Baker cover and art, one of which is pictured above -- scan courtesy of the Grand Comics Database), a Prize Young Romance, and a couple of others. And they were cheap. Dirt cheap. Six comics, under $25. Put those same on eBay, and they're $50.
So what I'm saying is, things have changed because of the Internet and eBay. In many instances, you can get things for a nice discount over regular brick and mortar prices. But in some -- especially those niche things (which I include romance comics) -- you're actually paying a premium.
Have you noticed anything similar?