Frazer Brown writes for Bleeding Cool;
“Walking Dead is hot right now, I’ll flip some issue ones and make a killing”
So spoke I, to my patient Fiancée Cassie, and an epic journey began that would take me from my apartment in the UK to the foyer of CGC in the USA…
This is a step-by-step account of my journey to ‘slab’ 3 Copies of The Walking Dead issue 1 and turn a ‘quick’ profit. I write it as it may be of interest to those of you considering doing the same with your own collection of hot moderns or classic keys…
First off, The Journey was anything but quick (6 months in total) and took me from Richmond, London via The Lake District, The North, NYC, Washington D.C, The Carribean and CGC HQ in Sarasota, Florida! Finally ending my journey as a guest at the “Walking Dead: Dead Inside” Media event at Universal Studios.
Admittedly there were exterior factors that contributed to the complexity of the endeavour, but the process of submission is pretty much the same for everyone. I just have a habit of turning simple things into a living nightmare.
APRIL 2012 – AN IDEA FORMS IN MY HOBBIT MIND.
My Fiancée and I hatched a plan to see the world in the year before we got married. I had offers to work on Film and Theatre projects along our route, so it seemed like the perfect time to take the plunge.
I decided to shift some of my 5000 strong comic collection to top up our travel funds, eBay seemed like the best bet, as I had done a similar thing in 2003 to fund my time at Film School.
I sorted the wheat from the chaff, kept back the “key” issues. I’ve had plenty of experience self grading and selling (with the one exception. the sale of New Mutants 98 for £2.00 back in 2005-whoops).
Alas, in my opinion eBay is now a former shadow of itself, it’s a buyer’s paradise, but a difficult place for sellers. I was selling in bulk sets, and out of the 50 sets I sold, I had problems with 30 of them. People claiming they hadn’t arrived when they had been sent recorded delivery, some People claiming the comics were not as described (my favourite was ten comics sold for 99p listed as “pen marks on cover”, the buyer lodged a complaint because of “pen marks on the cover”. Due to the automated process on eBay where the seller is treated as suspicous, I lost some comics and the money earned). I quickly decided to shelve these plans and invest in some key issues as a buyer to “flip” and sell on for profit.
After close inspection of the listings photographs, I picked up 3 Walking Dead issue 1’s described as NM. The first (£425.00) arrived beautifully packaged, and looked for all intents and purposes to be a possible 9.9 on the CGC scale (PAYDAY!). The 2nd (£495) turned up in an open envelope (no board, no bag – I kid you not) but luckily seemed to be in great condition, The 3rd (£325.00) was very late and was sent with 1 single stamp (no recorded delivery – no ‘signed for’) this copy was a little more worse for wear, but as expected from the listing description. I also picked up some other moderns that were picking up steam at the time (Thief of Thieves, saga etc).
Now, how do I get these things ‘slabbed’?
MAY 2012 – The Journey Begins (Badly)
I found a comic shop/warehouse (that will remain –libel free- and nameless) up north that offered a CGC express service, it was advertised as taking only one month. This was perfect. We were visiting friends in the Lake District so we could drop them off en route; we decided we would do this on the way back down from our trip to Keswick.
I called ahead the day of the drop off to double check that it was still okay to turn up, I was told rather gruffly that I would have to be quick as the owner was going home, and they were closing an hour earlier. We got there by the skin of our teeth. The alarm bells rang straight away. This is a place that buys in comic collections; the way that the silver age comics (an Uncanny X-men issue 1) were strewn around the place didn’t bode well. My comics were placed in the window in direct sunlight “till Monday”, I protested and they were moved. I dropped off a cheque to cover the CGC service and asked for a receipt. I was told I would be given one on Monday via e-mail. I reluctantly left.
MAY 2012 (That Monday Morn)
A quick phone call to ask if they have been received and to request a receipt of the copies in their care, I’m told, “not to fuss” and that the comics will be taken care of. I’m also told that I should correspond via e-mail for reciepts. I write the same day and ask again for a receipt, acknowledgement of the issues left and some info about time-frames etc, I deliberately add some issues that aren’t in their care to test they are paying attention.
TWO DAYS LATER
Nothing back. I phone again. The boss is out. I e-mail and demand a receipt and an answer to my questions. Politely.
ONE DAY LATER
I’m told via e-mail that the company doesn’t issue receipts, and that all the issues on my list have been logged (including the ones I made up). After some research online I see that this company has a long history of upsetting customers and that the owner has a bad reputation on the market scene.
I write back and say “this isn’t good enough”. I demand a return date for the comics from CGC as I paid for the EXPRESS service.
TWO DAYS LATER
I’m told the express service is no longer offered (even though I’ve paid for it) and that it will take three months at least for the books to come back to me. I decide to abandon this route, and tell the shop to ready them for pickup. They tell me they are ready to be sent to CGC and they’ll have to unpack them.
MAY 2012 – The Return to the Northern wilds
Me and Rob (my reluctant chauffer for the day) make the 11Hour round trip (£120 on petrol) to pick the issues up. I receive a message at 1pm to tell me they won’t be ready for pickup after all. I ignore this and turn up anyway. The issues haven’t left the package I put them in, so amongst many fictions, was the one about them being packaged and ready to send to CGC.
I inspect the issues and see that my 9.9 has a slight crease in the top. I took photos before I handed them over so I will check when I get home if it was there before. I swear it was perfect before
Oops, I’ve deleted the Photographs so can’t prove my suspicions and we have to pack.
JUNE – LEAVING ON A JET PLANE
We leave the UK, I’ve decided to take them with me as NYC is our first stop and there are plenty of shops that offer the CGC service as listed on the CGC website. Security stops me at Heathrow and questions me about my package (double boarded comics taped together) they look very confused when I explain the CGC process to them.
JUNE – NYC
I e-mail all the dealers/shops on the CGC website (listed as people you can submit through), 50% respond, most have closed, some perplexed as to why they are even on the CGC website in the first place. A few offer to buy my Walking Deads as is (highest offer $300 each from a very famous shop in Manhattan). I decide to turn down the low offer and I have to leave the comics uninsured in my apartment everyday, as my work schedule is crazy.
I have to go to Washington DC for a meeting so the comics come with me.
AUGUST – Back to NYC
Made my US TV debut as an audience member (the one who high fived the host) on the Jimmy Fallon show at NBC (Liv Tyler was the guest – for completists).
We are heading to St Lucia in a few days, I decide to bite the bullet and join CGC myself, so I can send them directly.
They need an address to send them back to, as I’m travelling across the states, I have a problem; If I send them to a friends house, I may not necessarily be coming back that way, so I need to have them sent somewhere ahead of my current state, we are subletting through Air BnB so I need to time it perfectly.
Research online suggests that CGC very rarely stick to the timeframe stated for appraisal so I call ahead to explain my situation. I speak to a Lovely guy at CGC called Andrew who talks me through the process, he says I HAVE to give a US address for them to be accepted.
If I send them now, they will arrive in Florida the same time I am there. It’s not my apartment however so If I miss them, somebody else benefits from their arrival. I decide to go ahead. FED EX needs an American address for insurance purposes, a friend steps up and they are gone. ($500 payment to CGC for 13 comics + Delivery)
AUGUST – St Lucia
After a day in a volcano covered in mud, I receive an e-mail from Andrew to say the comics have arrived at CGC and everything is on course. There will be two packages sent to me upon completion, the first is going to be the “moderns” (Thief of Thieves, saga etc), and the 2nd will be the WD issues. Andrew will oversee them so they arrive in the correct time frame. Nice Guy.
SEPTEMBER – Florida
Two weeks of theme parks ahead of us, I relax knowing the issues will arrive whilst I’m here, I’ve asked Andrew to let me know the day they are sent so I can wait for the courier.
I receive an e-mail from a Lady at CGC to say the first batch has gone out via standard post (recorded) I check the internet and read that this could take up to ten days, we leave in 4, and I won’t know which day they arrive as there is no way of tracking the package. I’m perplexed as to why they couldn’t be sent via courier. I send a message to Andrew and vent a little (a bit of an overreaction as they have bent over backwards for me). I get an “out of office” reply, I panic, and I send a few more messages. I get a very patient reply from Andrew eventually saying they will probably arrive in a couple of days.
We decide to stay in for a few days and wait for the USPS postal van (if I miss it, I’ve missed the comics).
TWO DAYS LATER
I catch the USPS Van coming down the road, which it turns out is fortuitous as they would have locked it in a safe box at the complex and I don’t have a key. Result 3 x Thief of Thieves 1,2,3 and few other hot moderns in a mix of 9.2-9.8 (mostly 9.8).
LATER THAT DAY- DISASTER!!!!!
The Walking Dead comics are going to be late (posted next week) as they haven’t been graded yet (five days overdue for the express service). Andrew asks if I would like to have them forwarded on somewhere else, we decide to stay in our accommodation and pick them up in person to speed the process. It turns out CGC is only in Sarasota (a two hour drive from Orlando) we finish our theme park trips and look into our transport options.
No Public Transport to Sarasota, a Taxi will cost $600 return (BTW NEVER use Taxi’s in Orlando – total rip off). We could hire a car but at this point it will start to make the comics worthless even with the ‘profit’. After a night of Spritzers, we walk in to the local tourist office to chat about our options, where we meet the lovely Travis. He works in the tourist office, he needs to drive to Sarasota to pick some of his stuff up from his old apartment., He says we are more than welcome to join him. Thank god we walked in here half-cut. And thank the stars Travis is such a nice guy.
CGC HQ – THE EYE OF SARASOTA
I have to make an appointment 24hrs in advance with CGC for security purposes. The drive is straightforward, when the three of us arrive at the unassuming building that is CGC; I resist the urge to kiss the ground. Security lets us through the gate to a secure room (which acts as the foyer); I’m promptly asked to stop taking photographs of the interior (hence none here). Andrew comes to meet me, there they are, 6 months and countless pounds later, three Walking Dead issue 1s Graded 9.8, 9.8, and 8.5!! (The 8.5 perplexes me, the 9.8 is a pleasant surprise) could the 9.8 have been a 9.9? “Don’t be greedy!” I’m told by my wiser other half.
Now any idea where I can sell the bloody things?
Frazer Brown is a Producer, Writer, Director and Comic Collector (he’s rethinking the latter) you can follow him on Twitter, and sometimes buy comics from him on eBay.