5/28/20: Greg’s Corner #3- The Buys Continued

The North Georgia Collection:

When I got the call from North Georgia I was skeptical. Even structurally high grade books from the south are known for bad paper, which causes a lower technical grade. But there was something compelling about the gentleman on the other end of the phone. He had a seemingly photographic memory and shared details of when and where he purchased books from nearly 50 years ago! In fact, when I got to meet him, he had notes of every book he ever purchased and from where it was purchased. His father served in the military and so he began by purchasing his books in Germany, later shipping them back to the USA where he continued his collection. Regrettably, he had very sporadic access to the newsstand so he was at the mercy of the back issue market to fill in his runs. When purchasing at the newsstand, he routinely asked to see the copies in the back as what was on the rack was not good enough to his discriminating eye. Simply put, I have never met a more meticulous collector. He initially stored his comics in a trunk in a cool, dry basement but later discovered mylar and acid free boards. He then changed those every 7 years! So it’s no surprise that the books are universally lustrous, literally looking wet in many cases, and have very deep color strike. We sent in only the books he purchased directly from the newsstand to CGC (157 books in all).


An interesting footnote is we probably broke even/maybe made a few dollars on this collection. As great as the books were, CGC was in an incredibly strict period of grading, probably the toughest I’ve ever seen. Also, it’s the only collection I’ve ever gone to see without seeing scans or pics of a few books. He was an older gentleman who did not understand the technology but he was so compelling I had to go. Even though it wasn’t a money maker, I’m still glad I went. Those books were amazing!


The “Is that really a Batman #1?” collection:

We were set up at the Baltimore convention and I needed to hit the restroom. Our booth is right next to CGC who had onsite grading as they normally do in Baltimore. But this was back when you turned your books into the front of the booth, and picked them up later at the back of the booth. As I’m turning the corner I see the back of what looks like a Batman #1. The guy holding it looked to be about 25 years old. So I said, “I’m sorry to be a bother but is that a real Batman #1?” as the book has been reprinted many times over the years.

He casually flips it over,  says, “Yes” and I can see it’s a CGC 4.5 blue label. I inquire “Will it be fore sale”? He responds, “Yes, along with all of the other books from the collection but they are all on consignment.”

This was the beginning of an up and down roller coaster of emotions that lasted 3 months. I immediately offered the guy the standard 10% finders fee that day, not an insubstantial sum of money. This guy had absolutely no sense of urgency. You’d think I offered him a large pepperoni pizza. I was calling, cajoling, e-mailing without trying to be pain. That said, I knew opportunities like this were few and far between. And, that they were fleeting. I said please give me the owners name and phone number. I’ll do the work. Here are my references. You will get paid. No go.  He just kept putting me off and telling me the owner was considering all of his options. Now don’t get me wrong. He was a nice young man but he just didn’t seem to care whether a deal got done or not. And even weirder  still, when I saw the store (that’s where I met the owner), it was a small store, mostly gaming, with little traffic. I’d wager the finder’s fee exceeded his average monthly profit by a handsome sum.

As it turned out I was right to worry about someone poaching the deal. The owner was shopping the books to Heritage Auctions, and several other retailers in the Tidewater, Va area. Then one day out of the blue, I get the complete list and asking price. Even including the finders fee, it was a no brainer. I got in the car the next day and met a nice gentleman whose father had passed away a few months before. They were cleaning out his house when one of the brothers found the comic books and started to throw them away. Someone said, “Hold on, I think comics are worth some money these days.” Truer words were never spoken!



The Brooklyn Collection:

This was easily the most exciting buy ever for our business. It was very early on but I distinctly remember thinking at the time I laid eyes on the books, “This is my once in a lifetime buy.”

The story was that a fellow who was a letterer for Marvel Comics was ready to sell his collection. I got in the van and drove the 4 hours up to Brooklyn, New York. What I saw when i got there absolutely blew me away. All of the books were unbagged and unboarded but looked to be in spectacular condition. He had complete runs of every Marvel title through the mid 1990’s. Fantastic Four #1 and up. Amazing Fantasy #15 (two copies. One graded a 4.0, the other a 7.0). Amazing Spider-Man #1 and up. Avengers #1 and up. X-Men #1 and up. You get the idea. Every single title. Now comes the crazy part.

He had a friend over at DC and they traded file copies. His friend though, eventually provided him with 3-4 copies of every DC issue. So while he only had one copy each of the early stuff, by the early 70’s he was getting multiple copies of every DC title. There were three Green Lantern 76’s, four House of Secrets #92’s, and so on. This was easily the most money I ever spent on a collection and it was very early in the life of the business so I couldn’t really monetize it like I would today. I had to make prearranged monthly payments so I needed money right away. For that reason I couldn’t afford to slab everything as #1) it was costly and #2) it would’ve taken to long to get the books back.

There were several I’d like to have back, but the one that stands out the most was a House Of Secrets #92 that later graded a CGC 9.4. I remember distinctly setting up at a Wizard show in NYC (this was the one on the pier Upper East Side) and I had all of the raw books from that collection in a segregated area. A guy pulls out an Avengers #95. “Greg, what’s wrong with this book”? I tell him nothing, it’s a brand new ultra high grade collection. He buys it for $40. Philadelphia was the very next weekend and I see the same guy approaching the booth. I’m thinking “Dang, what did I miss?” Or even worse, “Was this thing restored?” He then pulls it out of his bag as CGC had onsite grading that weekend. A blue label CGC 9.8. This was repeated many times over the next few years. A Batman #205 graded 9.8. I sold that one for $100, the buyer told me he flipped it for $1100 within a week.

CGC 9.4’s and 9.6’s came out of this collection like candy at a parade. The reason? The letterer enjoyed taking pictures of the ad pages before storing them and never looking at them again. All in all, this is the collection that gave us immediate big league inventory and put us on the map with many prominent collectors. The thrill of flipping through those boxes and seeing one gem mint .12c issue one after another is impossible to describe. My heart rate is amped up just writing about it.