Vincent Bartilucci File this one under "Hey, Young Adults! Comics!"
It's February, 1987 and I'm 20 years old. Valentine's Day is fast approaching and, for the first time in my short life, I'll actually have a girlfriend on the 14th!
I've got two tickets for me and my gal to see Peter Murphy at the Ritz in New York City on Cupid's big day. It's the first solo tour for the former front man of Bauhaus and I'm completely psyched for the show.
New York City. One of the founding fathers of Goth. A pretty girl on my arm. Oh, yeah, I'm freakin' cool.
I'm also flat broke.
I'm not sure why I'm broke. I'm working a full-time job and going to college at night. School is cheap. So is rent. I'm not paying a mortgage or supporting a drug habit. I am, however, addicted to both comic books and vinyl. Oh, get your minds out of the gutter. I mean vinyl as in record albums. I'm buying lots of comics and lots of records. I suppose that's why I'm broke. Oh, and I bought the concert tickets.
So, my gal and I are going to see Peter Murphy in the city on Valentine's Day and I've got no money for train tickets, no money for cab fare, no money for dinner before the show, and God forbid she wants a t-shirt! But I'm not entirely without resources. I've got comic books.
Comic books can sell for some hefty prices, right? I've known that fact for years. Heck, I've even got an Overstreet Guide or two. But I don't buy comics as investments. Nah, I read them and then I save them to read again. Every comic I buy becomes part of my collection. I've never sold any comics. I've never so much as traded a comic away. Sure, I've lost some comics along the way. Kids lose all sorts of things. But if a dozen of my comics went MIA, that'd be a lot. The figure is probably closer to single digits. I've got almost every comic I've ever bought or was ever given to me. I don't want to sell any.
Reluctantly, I pull out a selection of comics that I figure are hot sellers--some copies of The Uncanny X-Men circa The Dark Phoenix Saga, a couple of issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, and DC Comics Presents #26, the one with the free preview of The New Teen Titans. I figure this last one alone will net me $40-$50, easy. It's also really hard to part with. The X-Men are duplicate copies from when I had my subscription and the Spider-Man issues are nothing special. I'd rather not sell any of them but that DC Comics Presents? Wow. I love that series. And that's a great issue even without the New Teen Titans preview. Oh, well, you gotta do what you gotta do. But where to sell them?
About 20 minutes from my house is a fairly large used book and magazine store. They have about a quarter of their considerable floor space devoted to back issues of comics. Strung across the ceiling are clotheslines and attached to the clotheslines with clothespins are a few comics and copies of Sports Illustrated. These prized items are in thick plastic bags with corrugated cardboard cut up from old boxes used as backing boards. They all sport ridiculous price tags. The vast majority of back issues, however, are packed into several large wooden tables that appear as if they were actually built for just this job.
I very rarely buy any comics here; only when I'm really desperate for a missing back issue. For one thing, most of the lesser priced comics are stuck in plastic bags the thickness and consistency of the bags supermarkets supply in their produce aisles. I swear they are slick and sticky at the same time. How is that even possible? And nine times out of ten the books reek of marijuana. Once, I purchased a copy of Saga of the Swamp-Thing there and it gave me a contact high. I'm not even kidding. Also, there is a back room partitioned off from the rest of the store by an old drab curtain behind which, I presume, is a selection of more "adult" items. The whole store has a really creepy vibe. So, like I said, only when I'm desperate.
I take a deep breath, enter the store, and approach the counter. It's one of those massive store counters that you have to climb up a flight of stairs to sit behind. At the counter is a bored looking man in his 60's. I ask if he's buying comics today. He asks what I've got to sell as he climbs down from his perch. I hand him the small stack of comics, my precious DCCP on top. He looks through them and, without referring to a price guide or even consulting some handwritten store policy, he makes me an offer.
Happy Meal, anyone?
Seriously, I'm stunned by how little he's willing to give me for these primo titles. It's The Uncanny X-Men! It's The Amazing Spider-Man! It's the issue of DC Comics Presents with the first @#$%ing appearance of The New Teen Titans, a comic book that I don't even want to sell but that I included in the offer because I "knew" it'd net me a goodly sum!
The bored man must see the look of confusion on my face because he launches into a mini-economics lesson. Sure, he could pay me a decent amount for the comics and then mark 'em way up. And they might all sell tomorrow. Or they might sit in his store for ages gathering dust. His "decent amount" could be tied up in stock that won't move. Because this second scenario is a very real possibility, he can only pay me what one might find in the cushions of an average-sized sofa.
I politely decline the offer and walk out with my comics. I'm no richer but a little wiser.
February the 13th, I hit my dad up for $40.00. He loans me $80. I'll have money for our train tickets and a cab to and from the Ritz. I'll even have money for a concert t-shirt and dinner. If we just hit a diner after the show, that is.
At the show, she declines a t-shirt. I buy one for myself.
A few years later I do go ahead and sell some comics under much the same circumstances--girlfriend(different girl this time), big event(our one year anniversary), and a profound lack of funds(again, no clue why). Oh, what a man will do for love. The comics I sell aren't the same ones I offered up previously, though. The first Punisher mini-series and a few other "hot" items net me $100. Much less than they're worth. But, hey, I've got a date.