Do you remember your first day in a new school, or job? Do you remember those butterflies you got when you walked into that pre-existing environment where everyone else (but you...) seemed to know the rules and hierarchies? Well, if you follow my advice from last week's column, and plan to set up to sell your comics at your first comics convention, then you're going to encounter a similar situation. Comics conventions are very social interactions, and successful sellers need to quickly learn the rules of engagement.
To feel most comfortable at your first show, be sure and visit the show before trying to sell there. Last week, I recommended that you watch carefully to see what fans are eagerly buying. That's very important, because the first thing that will happen to you (usually while you're desperately trying to get all your material hauled to your booth/table) is that the other dealers will casually swarm around you to see if you have a clue about what you're doing. Their goal in checking you out is to see if they can loot all the fast-selling material from your inventory before the show even begins. If you let them buy all your good material wholesale, then they've improved their inventory, while simultaneously eliminating a low-priced competitor.
Clearly, the only way to avoid this problem is to research the current values of your old comics. Aside from going to conventions, you can go to online auctions sites, and do some searches under "completed auctions." Don't be discouraged by the low closing prices you will sometimes see online, however, as many sales at conventions (or fixed-price sites) are at double, or even triple, auction prices. That results from the fact that most fans like holding a book in their hands before purchasing it, or have an absolute guarantee of condition. At a convention, this anxiety doesn't exist, so purchasers are usually willing to pay close to Guide, or sometimes even above.
Once you've decided how much to price your comics, be sure and prepare your inventory for the show. Bagging your comics in clean bags, with clearly marked prices is critical. Also, be sure and put your comics in order. Make life easy for your buyers! Also, bear in mind that as a rookie seller, everyone views you as fresh meat. The other dealers will try and strip you, and the shoplifters and sharpies will try and pull every scam in the book to rip you off. Prepare well, and you can mitigate many of these problems, but understand that you're an unknown, so everyone is going to test you.
The trick to doing well at the convention is to work with the system. Know how big your space is going to be, and plan your display to fit the space. Then arrange to be at the show the minute the room opens for dealers, so you have as much time as possible to set up. If other dealers want to buy from you, that's great! Just make sure that if they're taking only premium material, that you minimize any further discount that you give to them. If, on the other hand, they're willing to take all kinds of items, then work hard to make a deal. Never forget, you're getting a per-piece price, which is vastly better than selling your collection in bulk. Depending on the size of the sale, and the type of material selected, dealers expect to get 20%-50% below Guide. Knowing how far down to go is the real key, and that's why I recommend research, research, and more research!
The final consideration at a convention is to know how much you want to sell. My recommendation for achieving highest results is to go into a given convention planning to sell 10%-20% of the comics you bring. Make arrangements to stash the rest of your books for at least six months, and then go to yet another show. Each show you go to you'll learn a little more, and reach a new audience. In this manner you will gradually liquidate your stock, rather than selling it in bulk. With luck, some of your books may even rise in value between shows!
My final comment on selling your comics at a comics convention is to always take into account your selling costs. Even if you put no value on your time of researching, preparing, and selling at the show, you still have travel expenses and the cost of your booth. At the end of Sunday, will you be better off than if you just bulked out your collection to a dealer? Never forget that comics dealers work hard for their money. You may get retail prices selling at a show, but you'll also experience all the hassles and costs. Unless you enjoy the work, selling in bulk to a dealer may be a far more viable option...
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your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221