Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mick's advice for the TPB-only

Since my temporary abandonment of The Burn, I’ve made good on my declaration of forgetting about the floppies. It hasn’t been as rough a transition as I feared. I avoid any message board or comic news sites discussion about the few series I was collecting before I made the switch, so the temptations have been few and far between. In fact between the trades I’ve been buying and visits to the library, despite the fact that the collection in my long boxes is dwindling rather than growing, I’m probably reading more comics than ever. Whether I’m going to school or work I usually have at least two or three trades in my backpack.

What follows are a few suggestions for those who might want to transition from the floppies to TPB/GN-only, particularly if - like me - a large factor in the decision is cost.

Swapping: For some time now, I’ve been a member of the website Sequential Swap. I’d present more links if I could, but I don’t know of any other sites quite like it. In the words of Swap founder and webmaster Russ Anderson, the site is "an online community connecting people who are much more interested in reading these books than in sticking them in a closet somewhere and forgetting about them."

Basically, you sign up and post a list of trade collections and graphic novels you’re willing to swap. Members’ e-mail addresses are posted along with their lists so they can contact each other about potential trades. In the past, members had to e-mail Russ directly to update their lists, but he’s since added a function that allows members to log on to add and subtract from their lists manually.

The list of available titles is extensive and diverse, and the swappers are from all over. The majority of members are from the US but there are members in Canada, Mexico, Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia.

I haven’t had much experience swapping with members outside the states, but sending packages inside the US is relatively cheap. No one expects your books to get to them the day after the trade is agreed upon (at least, no one I’ve ever traded with has), so you can usually send stuff cheap as long as you send it via media mail. For one of my more recent trades I sent four books to a guy in California (I’m in NY), and it cost less than three bucks shipping it book rate.

The possibility of getting ripped off is always there of course, but since I’ve been a member of the site (at least two years, maybe longer) I’ve only heard of one member stiffing anyone (and after he did, his name and list was taken off the site and the webmaster sent out a warning to all the members).

Even if the only books you’re willing to part with are ones that you’re sure no one else would want, you’d be surprised. I’ve noticed a lot of people at the site make a trade and almost immediately put the books they got from the trade back in circulation. The point being that a lot of members don’t trade just to get their hands on the good stuff, but simply to read stuff they’ve never read before and let go of it once they have. The aforementioned trade I made to the guy in California is a good example. The books I’m getting from him were written by Alan Moore, Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, and Robert Kirkman respectively and he was willing to take - among other things - Spider-Girl and New Thunderbolts for them, two books I was positive wouldn’t be moving out of my list for quite some time.

Another snag is that maybe you just can’t think of many books you want to let go. Fair enough, but if you like the idea of swapping, do a bit of research. Find out if any of your books have issues that were reprinted in larger collections. Millarworld’s Trade paperback list is a great resource towards this end. I put Daredevil: Love and War, The Incredible Hulk: Ground Zero, Thor: The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill, the first two Supreme Power trades, and two of JMS’s Amazing Spider-Man collections on my For Trade list, despite how much I enjoyed all of them because I found out they were all either reprinted - or scheduled to be reprinted - in larger collections. With the announcement of the upcoming Alan Moore DC trade, Batman: The Killing Joke will probably find its way onto my trade list as well (though there is a question of whether or not it’s eligible for the list: see the site’s About section for what is and is not eligible for trade).

If you do sign up for the site, you also sign up for the Swap’s yahoo newsgroup. I would strongly suggest you set it to receive each individual e-mail, particularly if you’re looking to get popular and/or hard-to-find stuff. There isn’t a lot of traffic so you won’t get swamped with messages. Some members post to the group every time they add new books to their For Trade list, and if someone announces adding something like Absolute Watchmen to their list, they’re going to get hit with a whole gaggle of trade offers in a matter of hours.

Selling your floppies: If you’d like to sell your floppies for cash to buy more tpb collections or Gns, there are a lot of options. I would like to stipulate before making this recommendation that the site in question is NOT paying me any money to write this (unfortunately), but I suggest using Lone Star Comics.

Lone Star both sells and buys comics online. They have a few options. You can sell them your whole collection as long as at least one-third of the comics are pre-1980's, you can sell them just your pre-1980's stuff, or you can go through their expansive online want list and select which comics you’ll sell them issue-by-issue. You can read about all the options they have here.

More importantly, with most (if not all) options, you can sell your comics for credit. And they usually offer more credit than they do cash. So you can sell your floppies and as soon as they credit your account (you have to create a username and password before buying or selling), you can use the credit to order a bunch of trade collections and/or Gns.

I would prefer to sell them my whole collection, but I went through it and only a little less than one-fifth of it is pre-1980's. So, I separated my pre-80's from my post-70's, went through their online want list, and so far have only been selling them post-70's stuff. The idea being that eventually my post-70's stuff will shrink and the percentage of pre-80's stuff will grow enough that I can sell the remainder of my collection in one big chunk.

If you do use the want list, make sure you’ve got some time on your hands and go through each and every comic you want to sell. No matter how obscure or how worthless the Overstreet guide says it is, you’ll be surprised when you find that single issue of Fantastic Force or The Ferret on their want list. I don’t know how many unwanted comics, that I couldn’t pay people to take from me on Ebay, managed to find a home at Lone Star. Actually, to be honest, it’s sometimes as frustrating as it is liberating. Liberating, because you’ll find yourself yelling out loud "Some damn fool actually wants all these Crossgen books?" Frustrating, because you’ll also find yourself muttering, "I can’t sell this goddamn Hulk/Thor fight book, but someone actually wants Jungle Action? The ones with THARN?!?!?!"

The first time I did this, a few months ago, I did a little checking just because I was curious whether or not someone might argue I was getting ripped off considering the number of issues I was selling vs. the number of issues reprinted in the books I was buying with the credit. The aforementioned Trade paperback list site helped a lot. I went through the site, saw the entries for the trades I was buying, and counted the issues reprinted in each.

I had sold Lone Star around 150 comics, and the trades I bought reprinted about 110. I was happy with it. Forty issues isn’t a huge discrepancy when you consider how many of the issues I sold were ones I didn’t want, whereas I was relatively sure about the quality of the books I was buying. And hell, if I didn’t like what I got, I could always trade them at Sequential Swap.

The big downside is that it can be a long process. You make them an offer to sell them the books, they have to authorize the trade (this is usually done by the next business day if not sooner). After they authorize, you have to confirm that you’re shipping the comics. You ship the comics (duh). They notify you they’ve received the books. A few days later they notify you they’ve checked to make sure all the issues are there and the grades, and they make you a final offer. Once you accept the offer, once again usually by the next business day they’ll issue the credit (assuming you choose credit instead of cash).

The good news is that you can monitor the whole process online, and if you choose UPS shipping they provide a link to track your shipment right on their site.

I think this could be especially useful for Christmas shopping if you have local friends or family who read comics. My brother’s really the only person I know in my area who reads them, and I’m hoping to get some Sleeper trades from Lone Star to turn him on to the series.

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