5 Things to be Aware of When Buying Back Issues

Posted by inferiorego (22850 posts) - - Show Bio

As comic book collectors, back issues are a big deal. Sometimes we're just missing an issue or two from our favorite series, or we want to check out an old series that has yet to come out in trade. Most likely, every single one of us has bought something from the back issue section of a comic book store at least once. If you love comics, you love back issues. However, not all comic book stores are the same.  

Not all retailers are slime-balls. There are a plethora of great stores around the world that want to give the shopper the best bang for their buck, but like any business, there will be some shady dealers out there trying to pull a fast one on unsuspecting comic lovers. However, occasionally, you may bump into that one store that doesn't have the love for comics the same way the shopper does, so they may either be oblivious to their products or they don't care about the customer. You've heard the term "buyer beware" before, and it's true. Ultimately, it has to be you with more knowledge than the retailer on whether or not the purchase you're about to make is a wise one.  There are quite a few things you need to look out for, as a consumer, in order to make that judgment. We've narrowed this list down to 5 things to look out for: a guide to collecting back issues.
 
== TEASER ==
 

Retailer won't let you take the comic out of the bag

You need to see the comic in order to buy it. Obviously, don't walk into the store and just start opening back issues left and right, employees hate that. If you find an issue or two you are interested in buying, go up to the counter and ask the employee if either they can open the issue for you, or if you can open in yourself. You need to know what's inside the book, and the condition said book is in. If, for some odd reason, the retailer won't let you look through the issue, then why are you doing business with them? You need to know what you're buying, and think about it: 95% of those books were owned by someone before you. Do you trust them? Do you trust that they kept their comics in good condition? If the retailer won't let you know, then you shouldn't shop there. It doesn't matter if you open the book and look through it, or the employee does it in front of you. You have a right to know what you're buying.
 

Damage to the comic

Once you have that bag open, you should go through the pages and check for a few things: tears, stains/water damage, sun damage, and missing pages. If you're collecting with the intent of resale in the future, these will be the most important to you. Finding an older book, Silver and Golden ages to be more specific, that is in pristine condition is like finding a needle in a haystack. You are going to find a decent amount of sun damage and yellowing of the pages because that's just what happens with comic books. There's no way around it. Be prepared and know that the older the comic is the more natural damage you're going to find. Aside from that, if you're a casual reader, then just make sure that all the pages are there and you can read them clearly because that's all you really want, the story.

Writing/Stamp somewhere on or in the issue

You will find this every so often when hitting up the back issues, and 90% of the time it's an older retailer's fault. Check these 5 places: Cover, inside cover, page one, inside back, and the back of the comic. For some weird reason, some retailers, during the 80s and 90s, would stamp or sticker their comics or back issues with the name and address of their store. This is the most annoying thing you will ever find on a comic. The comic's condition is lessened because some idiot thought it would bring more people into their store. If you find one of these stamps or stickers, and that store still exists, boycott them. Exception: Free Comic Book Day comics, since many comic publishers make a space for stores to do that. But if you look around though the back issues, you'll be able to find a few. Also look to see if a kid wrote their name on the book. You'll find this a lot actually. And lastly, this is another retailer fault, look at the price, especially if it is a silver or bronze age book. Many retailers, during that golden 80s period, would cross out the price of the comic, so the customer wouldn't get confused.
 

Price/Condition checking

Checking out to see the damage on the book is quite important, especially if you're a casual reader or hardcore collector. There's one major thing you need to do before buying that book: Make sure that if there is damage, it's minor and that the price the retailer is asking also reflects the amount of damage on the book. Don't pay $10 for a beat up copy of Fantastic Four 292, put it back and search somewhere else. In fact, if you're paying more than $4 for that issue, ask how the retailer prices their comics because that is outrageous. You may not be a comic grader by any means, but you can tell when a comic is in decent condition. Check prices out on ebay, if you can, or check Amazon's prices. Compare prices before you buy. If you see Fantastic Four 292 going for $2.50 online, expect to pay between $2-$5 for the issue. Remember, just because it's cheaper online doesn't mean it will be as cheap at the store. They have to make profit too. And with shipping, that $2.50 comic online (which you have no clue what the condition is), will come out to $6 in a mystery condition. You need a base price for the comic online, and compare that to the comic in the store, and in addition, know what condition the comic is in the store and compare that to the price.
 

Print number

You need to know what print number you're buying before you buy it. Now-a-days, it's easy to figure out. For both Marvel and DC, either go to the very first or very last page and look at the bottom. There will be some fine print down there that will tell you if it is a reprint. If you see no mention of printing, then chances are you have a first print. With older books, you may have to search a little more, but just look for an area with fine print on the bottom, and your answer will be there. There are sleazy dealers out there that will try and pass off a reprint as a first printing. At a local comic show, I saw two horribly despicable things: A 4th printing of The Killing Joke being played off as a 1st printing and sold at that price. I also saw a reprint of a Origin of Captain America book being sold as the real deal. You could easily tell without touching it that it was a fake because the cover was bright and vibrant with color. This was also the same guy selling the Killing Joke book for a killing. Call these guys out. A reputable store will know the difference between the prints and adjust the price accordingly.
 
Most importantly, if you're going to do this, do it right. Don't forget the short or long boxes and bags and boards.Whether you're into the good old plastic sleeves and cardboard backing, or the Mylar cases, take care of your books. They might not be worth the paper they're printed on in 30 years, but you may want to read them again or pass them on to your kids. Take care of your comics and take care of your money. Know what you're buying.
 
~Mat "InferiorEgo" Elfring is a comedian, teacher, comic book writer, and comic store employee whose store takes care of its back issues and its customers.~
Staff
#1 Posted by Lady Tlieso (10198 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article!

#2 Posted by inferiorego (22850 posts) - - Show Bio
@Lady Tlieso:  thanks for enjoying my novel
Staff
#3 Edited by Jim Halpert (58 posts) - - Show Bio

Nothing is worse than opening a back-issue comic and finding chewing gum or some sticky substance stuck way inside one of the pages.  Happened to me twice, both on some 90's Batman comics, at 2 different stores. 
 
I haven't been buying back issues since though, since I just subscribe to Marvel's Digital Subscription or just wait for trade paperbacks for DC books.

#4 Edited by Caligula (12417 posts) - - Show Bio
@Lady Tlieso said:

" Great article! "

seconded, even though i already do this anyway, i found the  Brave and Bold #67  Batman/Flash crossover, but it was badly damaged and the woman was wanting 30 bucks for it, but i talked her into 4 because of the condition
#5 Posted by hrdwrkngXsoldier (228 posts) - - Show Bio

I love back issues at my LCS he Comic Evolution actually sells back issues by the pound.
#6 Posted by jdeluca2 (45 posts) - - Show Bio

I hate when shops don't care to inspect their books, and just sell them at cover price anyway, like they're brand new. My favorite shop sells their back issues for a buck!!! while other places never mark them down. It hurts my wallet too much!

#7 Posted by harleyquinnhawkgirl (336 posts) - - Show Bio

This was an awesome article. I will definitely follow this the next time I go back issue shopping.
#8 Posted by Omega Ray Jay (7667 posts) - - Show Bio

Yeah good stuff, I spent about an hour and a half in this book shop on saturday with a load of back issues, some in bad condition but you can't really argue for 50p each the ones i got were ok plus a whole colossus mini series for £5 that seems to be relativly good  

#9 Posted by Theodore (3445 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article. Mynew LCS has a bunch of 1 dollar comics outside in boxes, next time I go I'm definitely checking them!

#10 Edited by MisterDK (199 posts) - - Show Bio

I remember hearing on one of Kevin Smith's SModcasts the he was speaking to a couple of writers/inker/pencilers/artists/something-or-others (their names escape me) and they said that people who bag and board comics were their least favourite kind of reader. They prefered the guy who had it rolled up in his back pocket and had it dog-eared and torn. 
 
I thought this was a really strange stance for them to take.

#11 Posted by bingoknows (2 posts) - - Show Bio

Good tips!

#12 Posted by inferiorego (22850 posts) - - Show Bio
@MisterDK said:
" I remember hearing on one of Kevin Smith's SModcasts the he was speaking to a couple of writers/inker/pencilers/artists/something-or-others (their names escape me) and they said that people who bag and board comics were their least favourite kind of reader. They prefered the guy who had it rolled up in his back pocket and had it dog-eared and torn.   I thought this was a really strange stance for them to take. "
I used to be like that, until I realized that I can't read them after a while because my books were all torn up
Staff
#13 Posted by MisterDK (199 posts) - - Show Bio
@inferiorego: Just remembered it was David Lapham (Stray Bullets) and Mike Allred (Madman) who had said it since they were both in Mallrats.
 
I can see their point but I think someone has to keep them in bags so they can be read in the future or else they'd be now classic comics left today.
 
I guess in some way digital comics will help in the preservation.
#14 Posted by CellphoneGirl (18853 posts) - - Show Bio

Awesome Tips ^_^

#15 Posted by Shatterstar (4539 posts) - - Show Bio

Solid tips. 
 
If your LCS guy kisses the polybag with a tear in his eye as he's ringing it up, you can be sure you got yourself a quality back issue.

Moderator
#16 Posted by Decept-O (7275 posts) - - Show Bio

So many things I can add, but I've also seen price tags with tape plastered right on the cover of back issues.
#17 Posted by inferiorego (22850 posts) - - Show Bio
@Decept-O: ugh i hate that.
Staff
#18 Posted by WW-Fan (2738 posts) - - Show Bio

that was great :D
#19 Posted by goldenkey (2927 posts) - - Show Bio
@MisterDK said:
"I remember hearing on one of Kevin Smith's SModcasts the he was speaking to a couple of writers/inker/pencilers/artists/something-or-others (their names escape me) and they said that people who bag and board comics were their least favourite kind of reader. They prefered the guy who had it rolled up in his back pocket and had it dog-eared and torn.   I thought this was a really strange stance for them to take. "

That's why I buy trades.  I realized I was never going to sell any of my comics, (until X-Men #1 by claremont and Leee is worth a million) I was just gonna give to my nephew (I don't have a kid) so I buy trades a lot.  I don't have to bag them, and I can put them on a shelf.  Plus they take a beating a lot better and they stay better with the other issues for that story. 
#20 Posted by MisterDK (199 posts) - - Show Bio
@goldenkey: 
Yeah I have mostly trades but that comes from living in Scotland in a town with no comic store so I had to get what I could from Waterstones/Amazon.
#21 Posted by Nyogtha (353 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article, the store I go to inspects their books regularly, from people picking them out of the boxes and putting them back.

#22 Posted by carnivalofsins00 (938 posts) - - Show Bio

where can i find long boxes? i need to put them somewhere, my shelfs are running out. =/

#23 Posted by KRYPTON (1891 posts) - - Show Bio

Great Info

#24 Posted by The Jeff (290 posts) - - Show Bio

very helpful. Thanks Comic Vine!

#25 Posted by jamdown (294 posts) - - Show Bio

do these tips work with trade issues and what would be the priceing for trade comics in later years
#26 Posted by inferiorego (22850 posts) - - Show Bio
@jamdown: I wouldn't worry about pricing trades right now. They may be worth something in a couple decades from now, but right now, they're worth about the same price you originally paid for them.
@carnivalofsins00 said:
" where can i find long boxes? i need to put them somewhere, my shelfs are running out. =/ "

Your local comic book store should have them, if not, check out amazon.
Staff
#27 Posted by jugglinggeese (2 posts) - - Show Bio

Very helpful.  Thank you.

#28 Posted by War Killer (20125 posts) - - Show Bio

Thank you for the tips, Mat! :D

#29 Posted by the_fallen11 (636 posts) - - Show Bio

This was very helpful thank you.

#30 Posted by greenenvy (634 posts) - - Show Bio

Ha ha I am known to open the bagging anyway even if I get into trouble. I always been doing that  ever since I set foot in the comic shop so I rip open the tape and look and don't give a damn because I need to make sure its not boring. Especially if its a sexy comic, I usually rip the tape but not always and I still put it back the best I can. No matter what I am opening the back issue so beware comic owners. 

#31 Posted by Aspenite (892 posts) - - Show Bio

I love spending hours to go through back issues. You can find this and that. And my LCS cares about them. It´s always a pleasure!

#32 Posted by jakob187 (998 posts) - - Show Bio

GREAT write-up!!!  Personally, I never go through the back issues because there's not really anything in there that I want to buy.  However, as my journey in comic books continues, I may eventually get to that point. 
 
Then again...I DO need to back and grab some of the Knightfall stuff from Batman...
#33 Posted by daveydavey (359 posts) - - Show Bio
@greenenvy said:
"Ha ha I am known to open the bagging anyway even if I get into trouble. I always been doing that  ever since I set foot in the comic shop so I rip open the tape and look and don't give a damn because I need to make sure its not boring. Especially if its a sexy comic, I usually rip the tape but not always and I still put it back the best I can. No matter what I am opening the back issue so beware comic owners.  "

I be likin comic to
#34 Posted by tonis (6202 posts) - - Show Bio

excellent article ie. 
I'm still buying almost exclusively back issues, with the exception of a few new books you guys have been turning me on to. It really can be a crap shoot hunting through the boxes and every one of your tips is extremely relevant. I can't tell you how many books from the 70's I've found some kids name and address filling out a mail in form or even worse - it's cut out. 
 
No matter how much a rush I might be in, I make it a habit to not just judge on the cover for most pre 80's books.

#35 Posted by Queso6p4 (1436 posts) - - Show Bio

Nice tips!

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