October 19, 2018
When it’s slow and collections are not coming through the door, I spend more time checking out the auction circuit. I know I could be adding more competitors by revealing my favorite sites and auction houses, but, hey, let’s spread the wealth!
It’s over 90 miles away, and a live auction only, so mentioning Caplan’s Auction in Savage Mill, Maryland isn’t much of a risk. But if you have the time, every first Wednesday of the month, they have a book, paper, and ephemera sale. It starts at 6:30 in the evening and only lasts a few hours. The auctioneer keeps it moving – bid or get off the pot! I’ve participated several times as a bidder when they advertise comics and have run into some serious buyers. This past month, I decided to be a consignor. Due to storage issues, they request that if you want to drop off items for these specialized sales, that you do so on the Monday immediately before the Wednesday sale. Battling rush hour traffic through Baltimore and the tunnel, I still got there before they opened for the day, unloaded 21 boxes of comics and made it back in time to open our shop at noon.
As an aside, this was in addition to stopping off at another retailer’s store to get his opinion of sending in issues to CGC. He is well-known, an Overstreet adviser, and sends many, many comics into CGC for slabbing. Wait, I know what some of you are thinking…is this Paul, an old-schooler, who is basically “anti-slabbing”, thinking about third party grading? Yes, I do believe it has merits when buying and selling, especially online, and…I wasn’t doing it for myself. The shop is selling a few significant modern age comics for a member. He had 5 beautiful copies of this one highly sought-after issue and we wanted another opinion. This expert suggested that we slab 4 of them, as they should command at least a 9.6, probably a 9.8 grade. The last one had a minor flaw so we sold it as a “raw” copy. However, he suggested that we NOT send all 4 in at the same time because the graders might almost feel obliged to NOT assign a 9.8 to all. He even remarked that he was going to re-submit a 9.6 graded comic just back that he thought should have been higher. Remember, grading is very subjective, just an opinion.
Back to Caplan’s. I had to, just had to, go back on Wednesday to see how my comics were going to do, and as usual, they sold off the boxes and boxes of books first. Each box, and there were over 300 of them, had a label affixed to it with its own identifying lot number and room to write the number of the successful bidder. A couple of these boxes caught my eye–two had dozens of older children’s Little Golden Books and one had some interesting children’s records, including a bunch of very old Disney pieces with nice graphics on the sleeves. I copied down the lot numbers on the small notebook I brought with me and checked out the other items for sale. In another room, there were many boxes of record albums – mostly classic rock (and I copied down two of those numbers, even though I don’t own a turntable), boxes of old stock certificates, cigar labels, old foreign movie stills, a box of 23 pulps (I copied that one down, also), 4 boxes of 50s movie magazines, a box of black and white ‘nudie’ pics, and, of course, my 21 boxes of comics.
At 6:30, they started in the area closest to the door and starting selling the boxes of books. Which tables were included was noted and the high bidder had choice of one or as many boxes as wanted at that price. The very first high bid was $125 and the buyer grabbed the lone box of 45s. I don’t know what he saw in it as they were without the picture sleeves and crammed in there. Anyway, he just wanted that box and bidding opened up again. The price dropped to about $45 and the buyer took one. This continued until no seemed to want to pony up even 5 dollars for a box. The auctioneer then offered all of the remaining unsold boxes in that area for one money. On to the next section, which happened to include the three boxes that caught my interest. Not wanting to invest too much into these, I waited until the prices dropped to a comfortable level. They announce which numbers are sold and unfortunately, I had to scratch off the numbers of the two boxes with the golden books. No biggie, though, I was only going to buy them if they went REAL cheap. For fifteen bucks, I scored the box of records (did I mention that there was a Spider-Man and Batman album in there?). After they finished selling off all of the boxes in this area and went on to the next, I found the box with the number I asked for. Trouble is, I copied down the wrong number! It was a box of children’s hardcovers!! Perhaps, one or more of my granddaughters will read them.
Finally into the big room, with some boxes of books bringing in well over $100 per, but remainders bringing less than a buck, they came to a section that had one box of albums. The high bidder paid $325 plus a 15% buyer’s premium for it! Obviously from a different consignor, for it wasn’t included with the 13 boxes of albums yet to be sold in another section of the room. I have no idea of what was in there as I kind of ignored most of this area. When all of the boxes of books were done, they went to shelves of books and then those 13 boxes/crates of albums.
When the auctioneer started, he asked around $50 a box, but with no takers he was down to $10 before a hand was raised. Now asking $15, it was crickets in the room, and he said, “sold”. And the bidder took them all! Again, this guy doesn’t mess around and chided those sitting on their hands.
It was comic book time! Most of the boxes I brought were stuff that I had sitting around for some time, including minor sets and runs and sale items. However, I did build two boxes with some decent issues–lower grade Silver Age DCs, Golden Age non-superhero issues, but I also seeded it with some better issues that had been stale in the shop. I had a beat up copy of Justice League #2 in the showcase for quite some time. In the box it went. I had many copies of the 2nd through 4th issues of the Wolverine mini-series. Several found their way into a box. With all 21 boxes up for grabs, the high bidder only took one, but he paid $1,380 (including the buyer’s premium) for it! The second box to go brought in $350, before the BP. The last of the 21 sold for $40. I got my check, after their 25% commission, 6 days later. I’ll be doing it again.
Hunt Auctions. Usually noted for offering sports cards and memorabilia, Hunt Auctions, which also sponsors the 3 day Philly Sports Card Show, that features dozens of pro-athlete signing sessions, happened to come across a comic book accumulation of over 250,000 issues. A shop in Virginia closed in the 90s and the comics had been sitting for years before the family decided to unload them. Hunt Auctions was contacted and they will be selling off segments over the coming months. They included about 100 lots in their late September catalog which included such lots as ASM 300, New Mutants 98, FF 52, groups of JIM 88 – 125, Strange Tales 111 – 150, 33 copies of Wolverine #1, even about 8 lots all having approximately 2,500 comics from the 80s and 90s each. Unlike eBay, you can not get “sniped”. Bids had been accepted for over two weeks up to the 10:00 PM ending time on 28th with a 20 minute “slow close”. So, if no one bids on a lot before 10:20, it was “sold”. However, if someone placed a bid at, say, 10:14, that lot won’t end until at least 10:34. This would go on until no bids are placed for at least 20 minutes. The next auction ends on Halloween, 10/31 at 10:00 PM. There is another FF 52 in this group, another NM 98, an Avengers 4, an ASM 129 (already at $1,100 with lots of time to go), more smaller groups and mega lots. Plus, if you win, they are located in a warehouse just up Rt 100 – no need to pay shipping! I’m currently high bidder on several of my “watched lots”. I’m not telling you which ones.
Bunch Auctions. Located on RT. 202, just south of RT. 1, they typically have sales on Tuesdays. I’ve picked up some decent comics, Big Little Books, coins, as well as other interesting stuff over the years. There are times when they have a theme or a hoity-toity sale featuring expensive jewelry and antiques only, and sometimes, online only. They have a REALLY unusual theme currently going on – calling it an Odditorium sale. O-kay, over 100 bird cages is strange, but how about the collection of a mortician? Yes, embalming tools, vintage caskets, 7 real human skulls and other bones (listed as for use in medical schools and illegal to own in certain states), and an Egyptian mummified cat. Get the idea? Weird! I ain’t bidding on any of these, so don’t feel obligated to back off on my account. Sale is the 23rd!
K D Smith Auctions. Located in the Merchants Mall in Allentown, PA. they hold a bid-board auction that ends every last Saturday of the month. Like a silent auction in the beginning, you write down your bid on a card associated with each of the roughly 5,000 items offered. Like the slow close auction, all bidding stops that Saturday morning. Then, for those present (no phone, no online bidders), they open up one section at a time for last minute bidding. This stays open until roughly 30 seconds goes by with no one making a bid and then they close that section and go on to another. In about 3 hours, it’s over. If present, you can hang around, pay, and take your winnings home. Otherwise, call a day or two later and see if your left bids held up and then run back there and claim. By the way, the mall itself is interesting as it is basically a collector’s paradise. Almost every shop in the mall sells collectibles. They also hold conventions and flea markets.
Upcoming shows: With Baltimore, New York, and the Essington show recently completed, you definitely want to put the second Sunday in January on you calendar–the next First State Comic Con.