Comic Store In Your Future: The Age Of Speculation

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa, writes Comic Store In Your Future weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here. And it's time to write about change.

Sales have been hot here in store. Calls for products we do not even carry, such as sports cards, keep coming in daily. I have been looking into them. Part of the hold-up? My lack of sports card knowledge. The next most asked about product? Pokémon! My goodness, over the ten years we have been open, this product seems to go from hot to cold to back to hot, like an endless cycle. The next upcoming Pokémon product is Shining Fates. The Shining Fates Elite training box, at times, clears $100 online for pre-sell for something that has a suggested retail price of half that amount. MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) may not mean much to people anymore. People often see the MSRP and think it means they should get it for less and get upset when it goes for more. This is the same thought process of many people, including some Magic players. We avoid pre-orders for this due to the simple fact we do not know how many we will be getting of the new Pokémon set.

A Comic Store In Your Future the Age of Speculation
Pokemon Shining Fates PR image

Comic sales are all over the place. Immortal Hulk #43 blew out of here due to one page being possibly anti-Semitic. The page will be changed when printed again, such as in trade collections, and has already changed for digital. This, of course, leads to people wanting it, just like when X-Men Gold #1 came out in 2017. The artist for X-Men Gold #1 was fired by Marvel, while the artist for Immortal Hulk claims he simply did a misspelling and did not know about Jewish stereotypes.

Amazing Spider-Man #55 has the famous web image of Spider-Man, which is red hot. That issue is now going to have a third printing. Marvel's Star Wars High Republic #1 is in demand; even the second printing of the issue currently clears $10. [Rich adds – now going to a fourth printing.] Future State: Teen Titans #2 is the hot new comic for the week.

So, what is going on? There is no one reason, rather multiple reasons. Some people have extra money to spend thanks to the stimulus money. The collector's mentality; as Mark Twain once said, "in order to make a man or boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain." Group mentality is if everyone else wants it, then I also want it. Money, capitalism is the American way. Why not buy something and resell it for double the price or more? Years ago, before opening Rodman Comics, I used to hunt down action figures. I would drive all over central Iowa hunting figures. Why? Because I enjoyed it. I also got a lot more exercise by walking more. Kay-Bee Toys, Toys R Us, and malls were popular destinations back in the day. Now my extra walking is limited to when I walk my dog. With the virus, I limit myself to going out, say, to Wal Mart or Target only when I need something. Another reason for the increase in speculation? The virus. Peoples' regular routines have been changed. More kids at home may lead to parents doing more with their kids. Sports cards, Pokémon and comics, are hobbies they can share.

My challenge as a store owner is to keep up-to-date on what is red hot and will most likely blow out the door. Oddly enough, I somehow managed to skip ordering Doctor Aphra #7. It, of course, became in demand because it has a first appearance. Diamond did not have any extra copies, so I bought up what I needed for our regular customers and took a loss on them. This means I had to buy them for the above-cover price but sold them at cover price. It was my mistake. I ordered issues #6 and #8 of Doctor Aphra but not #7. Unfortunately, I did not notice until it came out. I have not had that happen since X-Men Blue #3. If I have anyone decide they do not want Doctor Aphra #7, then I will sell it online. If I fail to know about a hot new comic, then I very well could be short for regular customers who do not want a pull service. These customers want to come in, see the comics and pick up what they want. This was my favorite way of buying comics when I was a reader/collector. There was a time I regretted having a pull box after years of not having one. I decided to start one but months later lost my job and had to cancel it. We have a lot of regulars who prefer not to have a pull box. Regular customers are the ones who come in repeatedly. Customers that have a habit of shopping with us, which is what we try for, repeat customers. The customers getting the current storyline of, say, Batman will get each issue and are steady customers and steady sales for us. Speculators are often more out of the blue, chasing hard to get new comics. As I had told the story before, years ago, when the mask variants for the New 52 Batman #13 and Batgirl mask issue came out, we sold out quickly. I wasn't at the store; my employee was, and he was happy we sold a ton of them. The problem was we had two people come in and buy up almost all of our copies of the two issues. We did not have enough for our walk-in regulars. A lesson learned. Now, if we know something is most likely going to be bought up due to it going for a high price online, we try various things, such as a sign saying "one per customer." We also keep some behind the counter at times in case some of our regulars do not make it in. We are all for getting comics in the hands of people who are reading comics and regular collectors.

People who are speculating or flipping comics are not doing anything wrong. To make money is why most people work. My concern is how more and more comic companies are marketing towards speculators and less and less towards people reading comics. Having a ton of different covers with more and more companies having higher ordering thresholds is by no means trying to increase readership. If only it was so easy, order two hundred of a certain title to get the one in two hundred cover and still be able to sell two hundred copies of said title. Covers, at times, are the sole reason some people buy comics. Last year I was puzzled by people coming in wanting a second printing of a comic when we still had the first printing available for cover price. It was interesting they did not want the first printing, just the second. It took me a while to adjust to this. Entertaining people, getting people to want to read a comic, in my humble opinion, is the best way to grow sales in comics. Publishers have those hard-to-get variant covers for collectors and speculators. Also, please do not forget about the faithful people buying comics just wanting to be entertained or the potential new person who wants to try out a new comic book to read.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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