I have been buying and selling stuff since grade school. Pens, paper, bubble gum cards, trinkets—I always had a knack of knowing price, scarcity and demand of "stuff." I did well in my college days. In fact I went a year without working and paid for one year of expenses at Bradley with this talent. So it was a natural progression for me to open my own store, Acme Comics, in 1991. Though not a huge superhero comic book aficionado, which is the bread and butter of comic shops, I learned the craft and soon became the only comic store to thrive in Peoria area since 1996.
I started with mainly just comic books and a few action figures but as the comic market shrank in the 90's I learned to diversify product to keep the doors open. Since I already had knowledge of toys, music, sports cards, books and general pop culture items it was an easy and fun transition.
The early 2000's we got into vintage video game systems which we still do quite well today, especially the Nintendo brand. Once again I learned a new collectible that I didn't have much expertise, but I learned. With a knowledgable staff we have been able to make this a major part of the store.
Dealing with so many types of collectibles for over the decades there are some items that just don't have any value. Customers vow their goods they want to sell me are worth "hundreds of dollars" and I point to my boxes of fifty cent comics and dollar cd's to prove them otherwise. Disgruntled and discouraged, we are told we don't know what stuff is worth, they will sell on the internet for more (though many of them don't even own a computer). You know the guy just found this stuff in a condemned house last week so he knows more than Randy and I, who have combined knowledge of nearly 100 years, so I guess we don't know what's going on.
To save everyone time, gas and frustration here is our top ten list of things that my store or any other collectible store really doesn't want.
10. Pokemon cards
I feel this was the last "collectible fad" that started kind of underground and grew into something huge in a year. Due to the internet nothing is underground. Fads are quickly absorbed and become corporate entities and spit out in sometimes less than a month. Almost daily someone calls if we buy Pokemon game cards. The answer is always the same: "Not since 1999." They were huge, I sold tons of them, made good money but the ship has sailed. Acme even made the cover of the Journal Star with my manager, Randy Witte, clutching a Pikachu toy. Great publicity, helped me a ton. We still don't buy Pokemon cards.
9. Non-rock albums and 78's
When customers have records to sell our mantra is: "Rock, blues and jazz only. Mainly post 1967 classic rock, no swing or big band jazz, classical, vocalists, show tunes." Of course, having said that, here come the Guy Lombardo 78's, Patti Page 45's, Sound of Music soundtracks. I think when you were going through the racks in the 50's and 60's buying Mitch Miller and Perry Como, you could have just as easily purchased now valuable Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent records. Nope. Keep that South Pacific soundtrack in gem mint shape, let your kid destroy your Elvis picture sleeve 45's. We don’t want them.
8. JFK assassination and Apollo 11 newspapers
Everyone, and I do mean everyone, who was alive at the time remembers where they were when these two events occurred. Also nearly everyone saved newspapers, Life and Look magazines and various tribute magazines. These items aren't really worthless, just tough to sell because so many were archived. I think they're interesting and I have copies from my childhood but they are not worth tons of cash. Probably the Dallas first edition of JFK is probably a little more valuable and any extraterrestrial publications of man on the moon are hard to find. Just keep them, it is our history we lived through or a thoughtful grandparent saved them for you to inherit. More scarce are Apollo 13 clippings and Kennedy elected President.
7. Playboy magazines
At one time vintage Playboy magazines were a pretty collectible item. The internet killed that market. Celebrity issues like Madonna, Drew Barrymore or Cindy Crawford, would sell for $20, now good luck getting a buck. At one time in the 70's Playboy's print run was nearly 7 million, so they are not scarce. And like JFK and man on the moon, no red blooded male would ever throw away their Playboy collection. Today a Playboy subscription will give you access to all back issues from #1 issue in 1953 to present. If you are "doing research" for a particular "article" it will be there. If you like "pitchers of naked ladies" a quick Google image search will quell your craving. Early 50's issues are still desirable, around $10-20 each, and issue one with Marilyn Monroe centerfold still fetches around $1000. After 1968 there are just way too many.
6. Nascar and die cast cars
This was once a hot collectible but unfortunately when Dale Earnhardt died in 2001 so did the market. A lot of the various cars, trucks and assorted vehicles were big money items, now worth a fraction of original sale price.
5. Baby toys and carnival plush animals
When people see we buy toys, we mean action figure like Star Wars, He-Man, Transformers etc. Not one eyed bootleg Bart Simpson plush toys from your local carnival or overly gnawed teething toys and baby toys. Yuck!
4. Most any "collectible" advertised on TV or in Parade magazine
Hamilton Collection has been selling collectible plates of Star Trek, Beatles, John Wayne you name it, they've done it. All at about 60 bucks each, sadly the real second-hand selling price is about 10 dollars. I buy them but not for much. Same goes for "limited" items like Harry Potter chess sets, Wizard of Oz busts or commemorative US military beer steins. If it states "limited" or "collectible" most likely there were an overabundance produced and not much potential investment return.
3. 80's and 90's Comic Books
I know you're asking "You own a comic store and you don't want comics?" Well, not those comics. Pre-1970 superhero are the most desirable, especially 60's Marvel comics—Spiderman, Avengers, X-Men, etc. Comic shops began popping up in the 70's and by the early 90's about every strip mall had a store. This also meant lots more comics being printed. Lots more. Like print runs that were once 30,000 now stood at 3 million. Way too many. But price guide prices kept going up on brand new comics and the public kept buying them. Until summer of 1993. About 75% of "investors" left the market and most comic shops closed. I am the lone survivor of 9 existing stores in Peoria area. Thus 20 years later customers will try to sell once high dollar comics to me and are astonished when I don't even want them.
2. 80's and 90's baseball cards and Michael Jordan anything
Baseball cards and comic books follow about the same pattern—a collectible originally produced for kids, hobby over taken by adults, over production in the 80's and 90's, investment go sour. Sports collectibles have the one wild card comics don't—the superhero can get busted for drugs, get a career ending injury, be accused of murdering his ex-wife, and bet on dog fights. Once any of those occur good luck selling any more card, jerseys or collectibles of that former star. One of the classic 80's baseball card stories is of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken's brother, Billy. Since he was the lesser talent in the Ripken family, he thought he could pull a little prank on the card company.
Well of course this caused a public outrage and what's better for a collectible market than a banned product? The card eventually climbed to $100 and stayed there a few years. It now sells for around $5 and I think it's worth every penny.
1. BEANIE BABIES!
The all-time boom and bust collectible in recent years. Over priced $300 Cabbage Patch dolls and Tickle Me Elmo's have nothing on Beanie Babies—entire stores existed just because of Beanies. Hallmark stores, baseball card shops, flea market dealers, stay at home Mom's kept the cash flow circulating in the peak years in the mid to late 90's. When new $5 toys were introduced, they were instantly $25 on the secondary market. Using the magical word "commemorative" the Princess Diana Beanie soared to nearly $200 with no end in sight. First run editions were commonly sold in the upper hundreds of dollars, Benny the Bull leading the way. Tag protectors, plastic cases, trading cards boomed. Then it just died. No one real reason. I figure customers questioned how many plush kittens and puppies did they need? Today they are commonly sold for a dollar or less, even the Diana. Groups of a hundred different sell for about 50 bucks on ebay.
The rule of thumb we tell our customers is buy collectibles for enjoyment. Don't buy to invest. You will usually lose money. The couple of comics you may earn money from just covers the cost of your other 100 bad buys you had. If this was such a great investment Donald Trump would own a chain of collectible stores. If you do happen to buy something unknowingly that becomes expensive, unless you have a strong emotional attachment to it, SELL IT! You most likely be able to buy it again a few years down the road for a fraction of the current over inflated price. As the past stories have proven, the price will come down.
Most of all have FUN with this stuff, after all most of this is originally intended for kids and we all know they don't care about money. Especially their parents!
218 W Glen Avenue
Today’s post was brought to you by No Wake Zone. Check them and all the other fine businesses helping to support this blog over at the MBIP Bucket List Page. Your Daily Random Linkage awaits you at the bottom of the that page as well!