Since the advent of the internet, the buying habits of comic collectors have changed drastically. While local comic shops (LCS) are still relatively plentiful in the States, they have become a rare commodity in the UK outside of the major cities. This can be attributed in part (possibly a large part) to the rise of internet selling, the amount of online stores available at the click of a button is vast, and while inventory and prices will vary from store to store, the options available to us at our fingertips is vast. With much lower overheads compared to running a bricks and mortar store, the LCS slowly disappeared from our high streets with barely a whimper.
Then we, the collectors, were handed the opportunity to sell our wares via the internet. Not least through eBay. It’s very rare these days to not be able to find a copy of that particular book you’re looking for, whether it be located in the UK, Europe, the US or elsewhere. eBay has opened up many avenues for both buyers and sellers alike; online stores integrate their inventory to their eBay stores and for the most part rely on an established customer base or by word of mouth. But for the smaller seller it’s a completely different ball game which we are about to look at.
For a collector or part time dealer it is hard to compete against the masses of other sellers out there vying to win peoples’ custom. There are many ways to give yourself the edge as a seller and improve your chances of fellow collectors plumping to buy your wares over anybody else’s. The main points to consider are;
• Information offered
• Honesty & integrity
• Packing & shipping
We’ll take a look at each of these points in depth now.
When compiling your eBay listing it is vital to consider just how much information you provide. People want to know as much about the book/s they are buying as possible to feel confident when they decide whether to hand their money over to you or not. There are hundreds of listings out there that simply state something to the effect of ‘Nice comic book’ or ‘Batman comic, excellent condition’. This rarely cuts it, if ever, and providing little or no information to your prospective buyers will only turn them away quicker than you would imagine.
People generally know about the book/s they are looking for, but it is always helpful to list at least some minimal information about the particular issue you’re selling such as writer and artist, storyline, whether it is a key issue with a first appearance etc. Is it a first printing you’re selling or a variant? All of this information is readily available over the internet and can be found in minutes, and doing this sort of legwork shows prospective customers that you’re at least putting the effort in to let them know what they are buying, and the first steps towards a confident buyer are made.
If you are selling CGC graded comic books (slabs), another tip would be to offer census information in your listing. This lets buyers know how common or rare the book is in grade, and with the census being a free tool it doesn’t take long to find out the information you’re after.
The photos that you offer up can also be critical in a sale. I’ve lost count of the amount of auctions or BINs I’ve looked at just to skip them without a second thought as all that was offered was a small low resolution photo of the book being offered. For the serious buyers out there low grade scans just will not cut it, they want to see the book in as much detail as possible to help them make an informed decision and as a rule of thumb never buy more expensive books when all they’re offered is a poor photo. My advice is to scan your books in (both front and rear covers) and upload them to an image hosting site; you can then link your scans into your listing using the HTML side of the Listing Editor. You can use Photobucket or Imageshack, but my recommended hosting site would be The Comic Hub, it doesn’t resize your scans like Photobucket can do and is 100% dedicated to comics.
Personally I use the HTML code that presents a clickable thumbnail of the book’s covers. Clicking on the smaller image opens up a new window with the full size scan displayed for buyers to see in high detail. This code can easily be obtained through a Google search.
Scanning slabs can prove pretty fruitless if you don’t own a legal sized scanner, so in these cases I take a hi-resolution photo using a DSLR camera. If you’re using a camera with a flash, always take the photo from an angle as taking it ‘head on’ will result in glare from the flash reflecting off the plastic casing. Again, upload your photo and link it in the same way as the scanned raw books.
It is always best to use scans of the book you are actually selling, a lot of sellers use stock photos which in some cases are not a good representation of the book being sold.
All of this engages buyers for the simple fact that, although they may already know this information, it breeds confidence as they now know that you know what you’re selling. And as silly as it sounds it works.
Grading comic books has played a major role in the market for years. As grading has evolved into the ten-point scale used today, so have the prices books have realised. Market analysis is shrewder and more in depth than ever before with many guides being available; Overstreet Price Guide (annually published book) and Comics Price Guide (online website) being just two examples of raw comic price guides, and GP Analysis which tracks completed sales of CGC graded books through a number of venues. With this much information available to hand these days it’s important to grade your books as accurately as you possibly can when selling books of any real value, as grade will always determine sale price. Overgrading can result in unhappy customers and returns, and possibly a lost customer for life, and undergrading, whilst maybe keeping customers very happy, can eat into your realised sales prices.
Whilst grading will always be considered to be subjective, there are industry accepted standards out there to use as a base point. CGC are the recognised leading third party grading company, and Overstreet also publishes a grading guide which is currently on its third edition. The OSGG can be picked up for under £20, but CGC’s grading standards remain a closely guarded secret, and the only way to furnish yourself with their standards is to submit books to be graded or by buy graded books and crack them out to see what flaws they allow in each grade increment.
There is also a free online grading guide currently being worked on and written by the Comic Book Collecting Association which will be available to everybody in the near future.
So there are a plethora of ways to learn about grading, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to assign a grade to a book when selling. Let’s look at two of the common examples which appear on eBay in abundance; a comic being described as in ‘Good condition’. On the ten point grading scale with 10 (Gem Mint – GM) being the highest possible grade, a Good book (GD) is a lowly 2.0. It is in considerably bad condition, and while the nomenclature assigned to this grade may be a misnomer, it can definitely be taken the wrong way when somebody describes a book as ‘Good’. For obvious reasons this can turn away potential buyers.
The flipside to this, which also happens with alarming regularity, is people listing books as ‘Near Mint’ or ‘NM’ when in reality the books are more ‘Very Fine’ or even just ‘Fine’. Without trying to sound condescending, in more experienced collecting circles the ‘eBay Near Mint’ is infamous when referring to overgrading on eBay.
Having said this, some people aren’t looking to sell comics on a regular basis and won’t be concerned with assigning grades to books if they just have one or two to move or never intend on selling again. But to those who do plan on selling more often than not, grading accurately can quickly build up your customer base and breed confidence amongst your buyers.
As a helping hand, there is an ‘At-a-glance’ grading guide featured on The Comic Hub.
Honesty & Integrity:
Alongside grading, this can really be the determining factor when building up a customer base. There are many less than scrupulous sellers in the comic book market across the world, and the lengths some people go to just to make that extra buck is really quite astounding. Restoration within the hobby is commonplace and on the most part accepted. Older books that have been handled with less than the utmost care often fall into bad states of disrepair, and if we’re looking at Golden Age or Silver Age books, especially keys, it makes sense to have the book restored to as close to its previous state as possible. This is not frowned upon by the collecting community whatsoever, but these restoration techniques have been utilised by some sellers to make books appear higher in grade than they actually are, and in turn the books are sold without disclosing the relevant information. A book that hasn’t been restored will always fetch a premium over a book that has undergone restoration work, and in the case of books being sold as unrestored when they actually are is basically scamming.
It is always best to offer up any relevant information about a book when listing it for sale; does the book have any pages missing? Is the cover or internal wraps loose at the staples? Is there any tape or glue on the book? Is there any writing on the book? While defects like these can genuinely be overlooked, it is always best practice to list pertinent facts like this if you know about them. Instantly customers feel confident buying from you if they can see you’re not trying to cover anything up or at least omit details that are to the detriment of the book in question.
It is also a good idea to offer a returns policy under any circumstance. Some sellers may not agree, but if a buyer isn’t happy with a purchase for whatever reason I always offer a full refund upon return of the books in the same condition they were sent in. This applies to graded books too.
All in all, your number one priority is the customer. Keep them happy by offering a first class service and they will return.
Packing & shipping:
So your listing has attracted a buyer and they’ve pulled the trigger. It’s now down to you to make sure that the book(s) that has been purchased arrives in exactly the same condition as you sold it. Packing is crucial and should not be skimped upon. I’ve bought so many comics that have been shipped in just a paper envelope, and of course they arrive folded, torn and creased so badly that they are no longer in collectible condition.
The Comic Book Collecting Association offer an in depth packing guide which should ensure that none of your packages arrive damaged if the guidelines are followed. I have a link to the guide in all of my eBay listings if you like to see it.
Remember, people are trusting you enough to spend their money with you; it is your responsibility to ensure they get exactly what they pay for. Take pride in your packaging and it’s yet another step towards adding yet another return customer to your list.
And finally, a quick look at shipping charges. A lot of buyers are also sellers, and in turn know how much it costs to ship a comic book, or multiple comic books, using a certain service. Overcharging on shipping can negatively affect your sales in two ways; people simply won’t buy your items as they know they will be paying too much for shipping, and secondly if somebody does buy from you and you drastically overcharge on shipping it’s safe to say they won’t be coming back.
I honestly hope this guide helps some of you who are looking at selling comic books on a regular basis, and if it does help to boost your sales then it was well worth writing.
If you would like links to any of the resources mentioned above please do not hesitate to contact me. I am unable to insert links into this guide but am always more than happy to share them.