Random Reflections: The Smell of Disappointment

Apparently, one million comics is not quite as many as you think it would be – at least not if you’re in my shoes and you’re sifting through the million to try and find about 30 very specific issues.

A few weeks back my wife received an e-mail about an upcoming “warehouse sale” of comics and paraphernalia – before you ask, I’m guessing they got her e-mail after she probably purchased something for me as a gift back in the day and she had to give her information as part of the transaction. As time has gone on, I’ve found myself avoiding these mega comic-book shows because for one, they usually charge some kind of exorbitant entry fee to cover the cost of their featured guest stars (usually artists and writers I don’t know or follow unless they’ve done Spider-Man), and I’m not in the business of paying for the privilege to shop. Second, the comics on sale at these things are usually overpriced, and once someone finds out I’m looking for a specific issue, I get into these one-sided tug-of-wars with the dealers who think I’m trying to be shrewd when in reality I have no interest in paying $100 for something that has a book value of $25. With all that said, I was very interested in this “warehouse sale” because for one, it wasn’t a “show” it was exactly as it was described – an old warehouse full of boxes of stuff. Secondly admission was free, and third, the warehouse was right in my Brooklyn neighborhood, so I would have been foolish not to at least stop by.

The problem was, because of how the stars were aligning – a warehouse of comics in my own backyard and it doesn’t cost a thing to look? – I was probably getting my hopes too high about finding something I needed to complete my  Amazing Spider-Man collection. And in the process of getting my hopes crushed, the proprietor said some things to me that made me cringe.

Before I go any further, let me say the warehouse sale was a lot of fun. There were a ton of comics for a buck a pop, and some graphic novels and trade paperback anthologies for $6. The staff were friendly. There were free donuts and iced tea. I will go back the next time they do one of these sheerly for these benefits.

But I also went into this thing with a list and some specific demands, and while I wasn’t expected to be treated like a high-roller at a craps table in Vegas, I was hoping that maybe the specificity of my collection and the great lengths I’ve gone over my lifetime to get as close as I am now, would generate a little respect and interest. After waiting around for about a half hour, browsing the “common people” goods, I was able to work my way into the “back room” where all of the old (expensive) stuff was kept. The guy who was running the sale tried to temper my enthusiasm before we got back there – “they’re low grade copies.” As I’ve said before, I can live with that. Then, we got into the room, I was competing for elbow room with a guy who wanted some old Fantastic Fours. The proprietor reached into a box and grabbed a handful of Spidey’s that A) contained a large number of issues I already had and B) were in deplorable condition. Covers falling off, everything. I look up and say, “that’s it?” When he said yes, I asked if I could leave my information and could maybe someone put something aside at a future sale. He showed me to a book where I could do that.

Then came the cringe – he said to me “you know, those are hard to find and lots of people want them.” I’m sure this is just my own sensitivities talking, but I’ve heard this before – usually at those “shows” I talked down about earlier – and I’ve always took it as a bit of a shaming device by the proprietor. In other words, because I have such a specific collection, I shouldn’t be surprised when I strike out like this – maybe if I was a more open-minded collector, I wouldn’t be set-up for disappointment. There’s obviously a lot of truth to that, but I would also think a warehouse sale with a million comics might have at least an issue or two that I was looking for. Also, I’ve been collecting these comics for nearly 20 years – you don’t think I’m aware of the difficulties in finding them? I know the mountain I’m climbing. I know what the odds are – but hey, why don’t we work together and make this work because the fact remains I can go on to eBay this very second and find each and every single issue of ASM in existence. So yeah … they’re out there.

But like I said, I’ll be back, primarily for the $6 paperbacks which are a great way to read old comics that you don’t want to invest in the originals. Plus, again, outside of the cringe-worthy comment, which I’m sure was meant more as friendly banter, the folks running this thing were great. I just wished more people would understand what I was going for here and that I would never attend these things expecting to get issue #3 in the dollar box.

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