Is It Hard To Run a Comics Shop?

Someone asked me that on MSN today after I posted up a status message saying I was thinking of starting one,and it got me thinking.

I had a 4- or 5-year run collecting American comic books back in my secondary school days. Eddie, Terence, Raffles (whom I just recently got re-acquainted with just before my big wedding bash) and I would hop down to any one of the few comics shops strewn around the island on any given school day (particularly Thursdays when new shipments would arrive) and spend hours ogling at the pristine comic artwork, very adult storylines and general colourfulness of the X-Men, Batmen, Supermen, Spider-Men, or Whatever-Else-You-Got-Men that covered the shelves of the comic shop. Some of us even had membership cards to almost all the comics shops that were running at the time, and always we felt like we were trading in stock rather than just comics whenever we were holding a fragile copy of our favourite hero’s stories in our hands.

We learnt about polybags, acid free boards, holding the comic book by its spine so it doesn’t crease or roll when you read it; we admired Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, and Todd McFarlane, who were comic book art gods to us, in a time when they were just breaking out. It was a golden age for us, even though the golden age was gone a long time ago for the industry.

Recently the old gang gathered for another beer session, and we talked about getting our collections together to sell on eBay. I offered to do inventory if they were willing to cart their comics over to my place. Though our hearts were in it initially, it was decided that our collections meant more to us than just commodity stock, and the idea was shelved for a better time, but I decided to evaluate my own collection and collected all 250 books from my sister’s old house to bring back to my own home.

It had been 13 years since I last saw these books, and I admit guilt for not taking better care of my stuff. After cataloging everything with a comic book inventory software I found on the web, I found out most of my books had doubled in cover price over the last 15 years. (Okay, hold yor horses there. Most of these books have a cover price of US$1 to US$3, so really, it’s not very much to speak of.) A few of them would even have hit over US$100 in valuation if I had taken care of them properly (though in my teenage years, I would probably have found it hard to afford renting a vacuum chamber with de-humidifiers and other preservation devices for my collection).

It got me thinking though; if I went out and started a comics shop of my own, would I do better than I am doing now? Would I be happier? Would there be a market for one more, where the market is over-saturated with Japanese manga translated in Chinese or English, but only the very streetsmart would know where true-blue DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Image comics are sold? Would it be worth it, since this isn’t America, and there isn’t any place where you could get CGC grading of your comics done?

One day, I might just try and find out. Until then, there is an extremely high likelihood of me picking up where I left off 13 years ago; there goes my son’s child development account fund.

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