Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Endgame Will Be Televised

Turning trash into treasure is one about turning an opportunity into a racket?

Long ago in a previous post, I had mentioned buying the first issue of Spider-Woman (late 70's series) for two bucks at a church show. This was in 1998, almost a decade before Jessica Drew got her big comeback when Brain Michael Bendis became writer of The Avengers. Suddenly, the price of the first issue shot up in value (though not as high as her 1st appearance in an issue of Marvel Spotlight). I recall Midtown Comics in NYC was selling the first issue for $60.00 at one point. In other shops, it earned its place on the "Please ask an employee" wall - where the prices are as high as their place on the wall. I was happy to own a gold nugget, even happier to get an autograph from Carmine Infantino - although, depending on who you're talking to, this actually lowers the value of the book. But we're not talking about money, are we?

 Oh, yes I am. Two months ago, I saw a rerun of Pawn Queens, a reality show, set in a pawn shop run by Minda Grabiec, Nikki Ruehl, Tom Brunzelle and Greg Holloway. The episode I saw featured a woman who had a collection of Spider-Woman comics and brought in the 1st issue to see if they were interested in  buying it from her. Minda (who looks a bit like Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched) wanted the book because she thought it would be a great prop to display in the store. Tom seemed reluctant, arguing that the book's value depended a lot on if the character appeared in a hit movie, since she was created so that Marvel could own the name "Spider-Woman". Nikki (who wasn't there, I'm just sticking her in because she reminds me of Sarah Michelle Gellar...with big boobs ) was busy elsewhere. Tom - and this is the part that got my radar antenna going - offered the collector ten dollars for it.

What do you think happened? Did she refuse? Did she say that Megan Fox signed on to play the role? Did she dust-off an old issue of Wizard from within her handbag from Jessie's comeback year?

Nah, she took the ten. And returned to the store to offer the second, third and fourth issues of the book for undisclosed amounts (possibly less).

Maybe Spider-Woman is a bad example, since I'm seeing issues offered for as low as a buck-fifty in shops lately. How about Amazing Fantasy #15? Spider-Man's grand entrance. Or the first issue of The Hulk by Stan and Jack? That was featured in an episode of FOX'S Buried Treasure.

The show is hosted by Leigh and Leslie Keno - middle-aged twins who resemble a wizened Zack and Cody, they're regulars on PBS'  Antiques Roadshow recieved humanitarian awards form President George W. Bush. ( didn't hear it from me, but gossip on the flea market circuit is VERY interesting...They Have Every Yard And Rallying Even Crying Right Out Of Kitchen Sinks). Their show, Buried Treasure, aired this past summer.

Anyway, the episode I saw showcased a collector who had those two comic books and an original animation cel from the Fleischer Brothers Superman cartoons.  And of course, the drama was that he was engaged and his girlfriend thought this hobby was silly -  not silly enough to not see the money in what he owned, but silly enough to feign ignorance as to the value and sit through the drama of whether or not they were being lowballed by offers made and if they could do better. It turned out the copies he had were not perfect - the Amazing Fantasy issue had some writing on the cover, the Hulk comic had some folds and bends along the spine (awww...look how they got their handy magnifying glass - no wonder fans and collectors complain so much when they buy a new comic and the employee ringing it up handles it like a throw pillow), but the item that had them drooling was the Superman cel. I think he kept that and let the dealers faces stay red. He did let go of the Amazing Fantasy comic, but kept the Hulk.

I enjoy seeing these collector endgames play out on the telly - it would be neat if they did a reality show set in a comic shop, where we'll see the owner buy out a guy's collection at ten cents an issue and watch employees go through the revolving door. Hopefully it will be a shop where the boss owns the building - the shops that last longer than three years usually do. Unless he finds he can make more money setting up a Starbucks or a Family Dollar - and that's the cliffhanger for the season finale! ;)

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