Back Issues coming back – big time

Published On March 30, 2010 | By Kenny | Comics

Over the years the Forbidden Planet Int stores have lost, as have many others, their back issues. A couple of our stores still carry little sections but for the most part they’re gone. It all seemed so obvious, when they faded away, that their time had come as something you could profitably display and sell at retail. Floor space was expensive and suddenly we had so much other stuff to fill it. Whereas when we started the back issues were one of the few constant parts of the store – we even used to order 10% over on many titles for stocks – now there was so much stuff that needed more and more permanent space – not least the huge increase of Graphic novels and comics collections. No-one wanted to sell us their comics at realistic prices – it got to the stage most people were wanting 80% of Overstreet, and it got even madder with the advent of Wizard and their hyperinflation of ‘hot’ books. Everyone just took them home and started selling them on the internet. eBay was king. So we stopped buying collection and we stopped selling all bar the comics that have come off the new shelves. I didn’t really think about it much at the time, and I was buying back issues myself of Ebay pretty quickly.

Well forward 5 years and something has changed. Maybe it’s a product of the recession but for the last 8 or 9 months people have been asking us more and more for back issues. When we ask why, the overwhelming reason seems to be that if you only want to buy one or two comics, once you add postage, buying from eBay is actually in many cases more expensive than it used to be in store. Oh, and you get to see them, feel them, open them and check them in a way you can’t online, and whilst I’ve only ever experienced it once lots of folks talk of less than satisfactory dealings being a recurrent theme.

So we did a small experiment, buying a few decent silver and bronze age comics in and the results have been kinda amazing. Sales have been good and it seems the cheaper it is will do most folks – so lots of VG condition and even below are going great – the compulsion for absolute top quality or slabbed books restricted to, it seems, a wealthy few. So now we are taking a big plunge in our store in Birmingham, (see back of envelope sketch below) – Nostalgia & Comics – and installing a whole upper floor of back issue browsers that should hold close to 30,000 comics and mags – which we think will be close to the biggest walk in selection in the country. As one of the guys in the store says – “like a comic mart every day”.

It goes to show that you just have to try and keep evolving and never forgot about things which might still have an unexpected future in them. I’m excited too – I can go fill some holes in my own collection. Our intention is to sell everything at about 20% below Overstreet and try and build a vibrant buy/sell/trade custom again.

I’ll take some photos when it’s done. It should open May 1st, Free Comic Book Day; the crew at Nostalgia & Comics can be followed via their Twitter feed here and a FaceBook group.

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3 Responses to Back Issues coming back – big time

  1. PJ says:

    That’s really interesting, kind of flies in the face of the idea of people downloading CBR/CBZ back issues (unless people are doing both or your customers aren’t bothering with bittorrent!) and I wonder what it says overall (if anything) about the future of digital comics.

    -pj

  2. JoshL09 says:

    The closest FPI to me is Manchester and they have no back issues, they don’t even have Deadpool 18 (of the current run)

  3. Kenny says:

    Josh – they will have had Deadpool 18 – you sound like you just missed it before it sold out. You should ask about a standing order next time you are in – there are lots of advantages. They do have some back issues downstairs I think. If the Birmingham experiment works they may have more in the future.

    PJ – i’m not sure it says anything about digital comics that old vinyl says about digital music. The market for the physical product will shrink but there will be a hard core even more devoted than before i suspect. or who knows digital may not fully take with a visual audience the way it has with an aural one. I suspect a lot of bit-torrentors actually never buy a comic at the beginning – perhaps it eventually tempts some of them to want hard copy. I personally doubt that many comics shops survive long term that are purely comics shops – but we’ll find out sooner than later i’m guessing