Since we started this blog, many people have asked for advice on selling their comic books. Often, someone ends up with a big box of comics and no idea what they are worth. Or, they have an idea about what they hope the comics are worth, but no experience selling comic books on eBay. This post will serve as your introduction to the basics of selling comic books on eBay. We will discuss estimating value, packaging comics as collections vs. single issues, some simple shipping options, tips for making a great listing, and some alternatives to the traditional auction-style listing.
ESTIMATING VALUE – What are my comics worth?
Most 80s and 90s comics have a very low resale value right now. Many books considered collectible at that time have slipped into near worthlessness now. That’s the bad news.
Of course, not all comic books have become worthless from a resale perspective. But how do you know what you have? You may or may not know the difference between a nearly worthless stack of comics and the handful of them that have serious resale value.
If you know what you have, and you have a realistic sense of its current market value, then your job is pretty easy. If you don’t, you could waste your time trying to sell worthless stuff. Or, worse, you could let some valuable things go for nothing.
Let’s use Wolverine as an example. The Miller/Claremont limited series from 1982, in first printings especially, can still fetch a worthy sum on the market. Anything more recent than the first 25 issues of the Larry Hama series, however, probably languishes in bargain bins across the USA now. The number of people dumping their comic books in a hurry since the recession began several years ago makes estimating value even more confusing. Retailers often price Wolverine #100, with its awesome hologram cover, in the neighborhood of $10, but we found a copy for 50 cents in a used bookstore a few years ago.
If you don’t have that kind of detailed knowledge of your big box of comics, you can easily look up reasonably current retail prices at MyComicShop.com. Their search function is pretty friendly. It helps to search for both the title and the issue number. If you searched for “Wolverine,” for example, you would get a ton of titles to sort through. If you searched for “Wolverine #100” instead, you get a short list of results and can easily identify yours by the cover.
Now, that gives you an idea of how major retailers price books currently. But remember, the attractiveness of eBay relies on people looking for deals. You should set your expectations for a price on eBay as lower than what a giant online retailer or local comic store would ask.
You can use eBay to see details on listings that have recently sold. Yes, looking at current sales tells you what people think (or wish) their comics are worth. Sold listings, however, give you a more realistic idea of current resale value. For example, you can see search results for “Wolverine #100” are quite confusing, even when limited to the category ‘collectibles’ and subcategory ‘comics.’ But, in the left sidebar, near the bottom, there is a check box to see only SOLD listings. Check that box and you can see how the book is really performing on eBay.
SELLING SETS vs. SINGLE ISSUES
If you have a “run” of a title – a big batch of sequential issues – then packaging it as a set is probably your best bet. You can try selling individual issues if they are especially valuable, but for the most part, we sell complete or nearly complete runs. Or, we sell a set of thematically-related stuff: a grab bag of 20-cent horror and sci-fi Marvel titles, for example.
In fact, eBay’s comic books category has a sub-category designed specifically for selling runs and sets to other collectors: the “Full Runs and Sets” category. (This is a little different from their sub-category “Collections,” which is intended to sell ALL your comics at once, as opposed to the first 50 issues of one title as a set.) You can try and sell single issues if you want, but consider how many listing fees you have to pay to do that. It adds up. Plus, if you are selling a book worth a dollar, why would a collector pay two to six dollars to get it shipped to them? It makes very little sense.
This brings us to the next point: When you put runs or sets together, think about how you will ship them.
SIMPLE SHIPPING OPTIONS
Most runs we’ve sold fit into a Medium Flat Rate Box #1 for USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate. There are TWO sizes of Medium Flat Rate boxes provided by USPS. You want #1, which has a depth of nearly 6 inches and can hold around 60 bagged/boarded issues. Cost to ship through eBay is $11.30
Smaller runs or sets we put in Padded Flat Rate Envelopes, although we always reinforce them with extra cardboard to keep the books from bending or getting their corners crushed from impacts in shipping. Cost to ship a Padded Flat Rate Envelope is $5.70.
On eBay, we also use the Global Shipping Program to pick up some international sales. This means you ship to a distribution center in the USA that ships to your buyer’s country. (We’re assuming you are in the USA – a narrow assumption given our global readership, but it’s what we know best from experience.) You only pay to ship it to the distribution center instead of paying overseas rates. Is it worth the time to do this? Definitely. We have sold both comic books and art internationally quite a few times. Have a look at eBay’s Getting Started page for Global Shipping Program.
You can often find a shipping rate that is cheaper than the Flat Rates we prefer. But, then you have to go buy packaging, weigh things, calculate costs, etc. We usually found that after we paid for boxes and envelopes, our shipping costs weren’t significantly less than if we had just used the free packaging from USPS for Priority Flat Rate. Plus, Priority Mail gets to your buyer in 2-3 days, and they love getting stuff fast. Happy buyer = positive feedback = increased confidence for future buyers = more sales.
But what about using the USPS Media Mail option to get a super cheap shipping rate? Good question. Media Mail is intended for books, CDs, and DVDs that do not contain advertising. Guess what? Comic books usually have ads in them. Technically, they do not qualify for Media Mail. Can you get away with using Media Mail? Well, people have cheated the system by doing it anyway. But, you run the risk of getting your shipment returned to you if USPS decides to inspect it. Everyone from Amazon to our local UPS store has warned us this might happen. So, we do not ever use Media Mail for shipments that do not really qualify for it. Do so at your own risk.
TIPS FOR MAKING GREAT LISTINGS
If you are not an avid comic book collector, you may not understand what matters to people who are. Collectors want to know EXACTLY what you have and what condition it is in. You may not care about a wrinkled corner, but a collector will. You may not care if you have X-men #5 or #11, but a collector will. Do these three things and your chance of a sale will increase:
1. You can upload up to 12 pictures, so upload 12 pics for every listing. Photograph the set, key single issues, anything with a defect, and a few interior pages to show their condition.
2. If there are any defects, state what they are in the listing. You don’t want anyone thinking you tried to pull a fast one on them. (Rolled or creased spines, bent corners, off-center staples, whatever.)
3. List every single issue in the set in your listing. BE SPECIFIC.
Please see our comments section for more details about the fine art of grading comics and describing their condition.
TO AUCTION OR NOT TO AUCTION
We prefer listing things as Fixed Price, not Auctions, and checking the box that allows buyers to send their ‘best offer.’ (Yes, this is a negotiation process, and no you are not committing to accepting best offers. In fact, you can make a counter-offer, or accept, or decline offers.) This way, we don’t lose our shirt or give books away if an Auction only gets a 99 cent bid before it closes. You can always drop the price of a Fixed Price listing if it isn’t selling, or accept the best offer you get. We always make these Fixed Price listings for the duration “Good Until Cancelled” – not seven days or 30 days, but forever.
You should consider what eBay charges for “insertion fees” when using this method. A typical listing fee is 30 cents. Even though your listing is “Good Until Cancelled,” eBay still cycles it through a 30-day period and then “relists” it at the end. Unless you listed under one of their periodic promotions for free listings, you can get hit with insertion fees every 30 days on a lot. 30 cents is not much on a single $50 listing, for example, but can add up fast if you have a hundred single-issue lots that won’t earn you more than a dollar or two to begin with.
ANY OTHER QUESTIONS?
As you might have guessed from looking around this blog, we love discussing comic books. If you have any questions for us, please comment or contact us. If you have some tips and tricks of your own on eBay, we’d love to hear from you!