True story time, true believers! Several years ago, while attending the Comic-Con, we had an experience that we think you’ll find interesting or amusing or both. While roaming past the gold and silver age comic book dealers’ booths that used to be positioned at the front wall of the convention center, something caught our eye that made us do a double take. Sitting out on a glass counter was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #14 (you know, the one with Green Goblin‘s first appearance). Beside the fact that this highly sought after and expensive book was just laying out casually before us, what was particularly unusual was that it was in two pieces.What on Earth was an historically important comic book doing sitting in pieces on a counter as if it nonchalantly decided to commit public suicide? Curiosity made us pause and ask the dealer “What gives, Joe?”
Not more than a minute before our passing of his booth, the dealer had rent his book asunder after an unpleasant exchange with an attendee. The issue of contention was that the dealer had the book listed for a price that the prospect felt was out of line with his perseption of its value – which he contended was actually zip. The book was most certainly well-worn; in fact, it was really rather beaten up. Tape everywhere, chipping like crazy, color fading, and so on. The dealer had assigned the book a value at the bottom of the grading scale – Fair, Poor, whatever. But that wasn’t the purportedly egregious error that the prospect was all up in arms about. Rather it was that the dealer had prescribed a value of $50 to the comic. Mind, this was several years ago, so the comic book Guide’d quite a bit less than it does now. So, the prospective customer struck up an argument with the dealer about the true value of the book. The prospect’s position was that the book had no value because it’s condition put it below a acceptable collectible grade. The dealer’s position was that the guide was a useful tool, but ultimately, the individual buyer dictated value. In other words, if the dealer had it listed at $50 and someone wanted to buy it at $50, then the value of the comic book was $50 regardless of any outside influence such as a price guide or industry expert. Of course, since most of comic book collecting is a Ponzi scheme, a typical collector will marry his or her own value of a comic book based on the perceived value by another person, who in turn is basing his or her value on the values of others, and so on. We wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the dozen or so major contributors to the Overstreet (and other) price guides actually set the value in almost all cases because of this phenomenum rather than simply responding to a true market asking price based on value created by the desirability of a particular title/issue/character/etc. coupled with the rarity and quality of the item.
Anyway, the prospective customer continued to insist the book had no value. The dealer reported to us that he wasn’t sure if the prospect was truly intending to establish a position of righteous outrage over the supposed offense of a dealer showcasing an item for sale that he didn’t feel should have been made available for sale. He neglected to acknowledge that no one was obligated to buy (thus making us wonder why the hell it really mattered what the dealer did with his comics – he was either a fool for putting it out or a good businessman because he figured if he sold it, he would be ahead $50), or if the prospect was really interested in becoming a customer by bullying the dealer into a lower price for the book. Regardless, the argument became heated and the dealer told the prospect that if he didn’t think there was any value in the book, then there was no point continuing the discussion. He then tore the book in half to emphasize the valuelessness of the book. That ended the interchange and the prospect disappeared.
And that’s when we showed up. We listened to the story and offered our sycophantic remarks on the merits of the dealer’s positions. We stated that even though the book did not have $50 of value to us, it did indeed hold some value. Just owning a copy of Amazing Spider-man 14 in whatever condition was a pretty cool thing. We said that in our opinion, perhaps if the book was $5 or $10 that would have been a tipping point to make someone purchase the book for that reason. In other words, the book wasn’t valueless from our position. We were actually tempted to make a low-ball offer to the dealer for its purchase, even in its current state. In fact, given the noteriety of the book, we thought it was worth even a bit more since it was one sweet story to share for a laugh or two (“Hey, is that Spider-man 14?!” “Yessir, it is.” “Whoa! Cool. Beat to hell, but cool! It’s ripped in half, though. What crazy nut-**** did that?!” “Well, a dealer at Comic-Con … [insert story here.]” “Dude, that is hilari-ass! And, you got a copy of #14, which is cool no matter what condition.” “I know, right?“).
So, just as we’re mulling the possibilities of owning a copy of Amazing Spider-man #14, the dealer picked up the two pieces and said “Here, have them.” Are you kidding?! Can you believe it?! Well, he was just going to throw the book away out of disgust, but since he had just gotten a sympathetic ear, he felt that a tidy finality to the whole thing would be for someone that appreciated his position ended up with it.
And there you are. We own a copy of Amazing Spider-man #14. And, we think that there’s actually some bonus, non-monetary value that makes it particularly unique given its provenance and it’s current state. Think about it. How many people do you that own a copy of this illustrious book torn in half? Would someone be crazy enough to mimic the condition of our comic book so they too could have a copy of a torn-in-half Amazing Spiderman #14? We think not. To the brave goes the heroic victory!
Update 1/4/2011: Isn’t coincidence fun?! After finishing up this post and sitting down to enjoy a moment with the kids from Big Bang Theory, we got a chuckle as we watched Sheldon and Howard arguing over a comic book that both had interest in acquiring. As they held on to each end of the coveted comic, they asked Leonard to intervene. His suggestions was to cut it in two so each one could have a share. Isn’t that funny? We mean the coincidence about severing comic books, not the Solomonian joke.