How do I sell very large and potentially valuable LP and comic collections?
February 1, 2008 11:31 AM   Subscribe

How do I sell very large and potentially valuable LP and comic collections?

We're finally ready to part with most of our childhood/early adulthood collections, so my husband is going to sell his comics and I'm going to sell my LPs.

The comics are mostly Marvel and DC, with scattered indies. The dates are mostly late 70s-late 80s, but some are older. Most are in pretty good condition; some are in excellent condition. There are upwards of 1500 to sell.

The LPs are mostly mid-60s to late-70s, and they're all over the map condition-wise, from near-pristine to barely holding together. Content is mostly pop/rock, with lots of soul and funk thrown in. Decent stuff, honestly, but I know LPs are not as desirable as they once were. There might be 2,000 or more LPs to dispose of.

In both cases, we know there are some valuable items amidst the commonplace, but we want to get rid of all of them, not just the cherry-picked prizes.

We're trying to hit a happy medium between "very expedient but not profitable" and "very profitable but not expedient." In other words, I don't want to sell it all to the first Craigslist reader who can pony up $50 and a van; neither do I want to catalogue and grade everything and put ads in record-collecting or comic-collecting publications.

What will allow us to maximize our profit while minimizing our work?

(We're in NYC, in case that makes any difference to your answer.)
posted by ROTFL to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're going to be disappointed. The market value of old comics has collapsed. I suspect you're going to find that the value of your collection is a lot less than you think it is.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:48 AM on February 1, 2008

It sounds trite to say 'Ebay', but it's really the easiest route.

Write down a list of each LP and a quick Very Good/Good/Worn/Poor condition. Post the list with a few ratings examples ("This is what we called Very Good", "This is what we called "Worn", etc) and run the auction.

There aren't a lot of Big Lot LP buyers - most will be grail hunting. Do not give in to their requests to sell individual pieces, but after the auction is over offer to throw away unwanted ones to save them some shipping charges.
posted by unixrat at 11:49 AM on February 1, 2008

You may feel bad about throwing a lot of records with sentimental value away, but consider keeping some beloved ones and placing them in Album Art Frames. (This model is sold out, but I just wanted to use it as an example.)

You could do that with comics too, I suppose.
posted by unixrat at 11:52 AM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: Well, basically, the more work you put into it, the more money you'll get and you have to decide how much work it's worth putting in. You would get the most revenue from advertising/describing/picturing/selling each one individually. You get the least from selling it all as one package. Note that maximising revenue doesn't necessarily maximize profit after expenses, nor dollars-per-hour on the time you spend on it.

I'd probably sell it in smaller bundles -- a Grateful Dead bundle, a Rolling Stone bundle, a blues bundle etc. How many LPs per bundle depends on how much work you want to put into it. The buyer will want to know something about the condition so maybe it's easier if you group them by condition too, so you don't have to describe the condition individually.

If you're lucky, you might even drive the price up a bit, by getting a collector who's interested in one of the LPs in bundle bidding against someone who's after another one.

I sell LPs and CDs on eBay and I had a box of 100 LPs that weren't worth listing individually (that is, the cost of shipping one LP was more than anyone would pay for that title, even though many were not available on CD). I put the box on eBay with an opening bid of one cent, no reserve, actual shipping cost -- I just wanted them to go to someone who wanted them and I expected that it might well sell for one cent. For the condition, I just promised that they'd be playable with no skips (and visually checked each one to make sure there was no deep scratches) and made clear that I wasn't promising any more than that (e.g. no promises about the condition of the cover). The bidding went up to $405 plus $70 for shipping.
posted by winston at 11:52 AM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: Seconding SCDB's point about the comics. Your best bet is to prune the collection to those that have the most value, and dump the rest to a local comic book store for $50 or whatever. There's a good chance that whatever valuable comics you do have will bring you a *much* better return in 20+ years. And the ones without value are unlikely to increase much at all, unless you pass them on to your children (or even grandchildren). I purged my collection a few years back, keeping only the two titles I have in their entirety plus maybe 50 mint or near-mint books that are currently listed for $10+. That's what I'd recommend for your collection.

Another option would be to follow winston's recommendation for the comics as well. That will work best if you have significant numbers of certain titles, and can list (on eBay or Craigslist) 25 X-Men comics, 30 Batman, &c. That will increase your odds of finding someone to buy the stack to get one or two issues they need (I bought many Marvel Star Wars lots in exactly this manner). Failing that, group by publisher or genre.

If you happen to have high quality copies of books like Incredible Hulk #181 (debut of Wolverine), you might consider having them professionally graded and sealed - I haven't done a lot of investigation into that process, but for certain comics that's the only way to get maximum value on eBay.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 12:18 PM on February 1, 2008

Call around and find a used comics dealer (your local independent store should be able to put you in touch with the right person, if they don't sell used issues themselves); invite him (or her) over to assess your collection and make you an offer. The total dollar amount you get will be less than what they make selling the invididual issues instore or on eBay, but you'll get a fair deal and it will be a lot less work/hassle on your part.
posted by junkbox at 12:18 PM on February 1, 2008

You comic collection is probably worth 0 dollars. Read, get disapointed and then read again. Get depressed.

However, that does not necessarily mean you might not be able to make a dollar or two from you collection. But if you are going to, you need to put in the work to find out what your collection is worth. If you don't want to put effort into selling your collection, ignore everything I'm saying right now and list your comic collection for 50 dollars on craiglists with a statement saying "ALL MUST BE TAKEN. NO CHERRY PICKING ALLOWED."

Most comics from the 80s aren't worth a dime and are considered packing fodder. However, there are exceptions to this rule but you will need to go through your entire collection and pinpoint the valuable ones. If you don't have a current Overstreet Price Guide handy, then go to Comics Price Guide and search for your items there. Do not assume that your comics are in "Mint" condition. By the very fact that you label your collection as "pretty good or excellent condition", that means you are rather unfamiliar with comic book grading. You'll need to learn it pretty quick or else just assume that your "excellent" comics are classified as Very Fine and that your "pretty good" are Fine.

After going through the price guide, ignore any comic that is listed at a value less than 5 dollars. Most comic price guides list all post 1980s comics "value" at their cover price even though said comic is not worth that much. They are just being nice. For every comic you find that is worth more than 5 dollars, list it on ebay. Get an account, post a large scan of it and list the start price at .99. And then see what happens.

This is how you can maximize your return but it does take time and effort. If you don't want to do that, then 50 or 100 bucks sounds like about the best you're going to be able to do.
posted by Stynxno at 12:28 PM on February 1, 2008

I know nothing of comics, but if they're truly worthless find a niece or nephew that would appreciate them.

I gave a gigantic box of 80's baseball and football cards to two of my nephews and I've been a favorite uncle ever since.
posted by unixrat at 1:37 PM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

my husband is going to sell his comics and I'm going to sell my LPs

Only in your dreams. The dumpster's the best bet for your old vinyl (although you could always drop them off at a thrift store); unixrat has the best idea for unloading the comics.

Wondering why people believe money can be made from old record collections. Does anybody, ever? The usual scenario I've witnessed at Amoeba, over and over, is the previously-eager owner of the crate of LPs departing, all hopes dashed, and discarding his crate just outside the door. Then I come along and select a few interesting platters which I play for a short period, before depositing them in my own dumpster.
posted by Rash at 1:59 PM on February 1, 2008

You may want to look into selling at the WFMU Record Fair . You may not want to buy a booth, but I'm sure you could show up with a list of what you have and try to get the interest of one of the dealers.
posted by soy_renfield at 2:06 PM on February 1, 2008

You an always check out the value of your LPs at GEMM; if you have anything that was a limited run, it may be worth money overseas.

You can sell lots on Ebay, or on Craigslist. Shipping is a bitch so use the "local pickup" option.

I have a few rare records that are worth more than $200 apiece; educate yourself thoroughly before you sell them in lots, but only if it's something truly rare, like a sealed copy of Flash Gordon or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (worth $225 as of right now).

Copies of the Xanadu soundtrack and that Boston spaceship record are everywhere; however, you might have something worth a lot of money, so just check first.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:22 PM on February 1, 2008

Rash, there are old records worth money.

I had a record collection that I priced and insured (prior to my divorce) worth an estimated $3740.

Here is a list of several records worth a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars apiece (but good luck finding one of your own).

If you have a copy of Y Kan't Tori Read you're going to be happy.

/avid record lover and collector who got most of em taken by the ex
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:27 PM on February 1, 2008

LPs are still totally in use by DJs. You can use Discogs to list the albums, or see how many of each are up there. Craigslist might also be a good bet to attract DJs. But yes, don't expect a ton of cash, especially for the poor-conditioned ones.
posted by herbaliser at 2:29 PM on February 1, 2008

Seconding that you use the GEMM listings to get an idea of value.

Do a "triage" pass through the collection. Make 3 piles -- 1) records in great shape that aren't common [in general, the more copies sold, the less the value -- i.e. "that Boston spaceship record" comment above] 2) records in VG or worse condition + decent condition commoners 3) beaters.

(Record grading is an art, not a science. Google "Goldmine record grading" so you can interpret the GEMM listings.)

#1s have a look on GEMM -- if you see 50+ listings for a #1, move it to pile #2
#2s bundle for ebay sale
#3s junk.

Since you are in NYC consider making a donation to the ARChive.
posted by omnidrew at 2:59 PM on February 1, 2008

Just to make more clear what I and some others have implied: an LP that sold millions of copies and any LP that's currently available on CD is worthless, unless yours is some sort of sought-after special edition.
posted by winston at 7:20 PM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: For the LPs, the soul and funk is probably your best place to start searching and eBay. There's a good collector's market for 70s soul-funk (less so if "soul and funk" to you means Motown, which is a dime a dozen). Keep in mind when searching GEMM that the prices you're seeing are asking prices for copies that *haven't* yet sold. The copies that are actually selling are almost certainly priced lower. This is the most common mistake folks make when pricing records and comics - they latch onto the highest price they see online and convince themselves that's the bottom range of what their beloved item is worth.

It's not. Those prices are usually the upper stratosphere. You should expect to get something much closer to the ground.

For the comics, start with the earliest titles you have. If your husband knows which issues might have special meaning for collectors, like Banky_Edwards' Hulk/Wolverine example above, he should move on to those. If he doesn't know those things, it's going to be harder to get top dollar for his collection. It takes time, for both LPs and comics, but you can pretty quickly get a sense of what kind of stuff is worth looking up, at least, and then see how much patience you have. To me, the (small but real) chance of finding something worth selling individually makes it worth the effort.

Call around and find a used comics dealer

I work in a used book, comics and music store, so here's how it looks from that angle: pop and rock LPs from the 60s/70s and comics from the 70s/80s are two of our least favorite things to see walking in the door. They're both just so, so, common, and the only way we'd pay any significant cash for a mixed lot is by adding up the few that are going to be worth our time and making the offer based almost totally on those. Especially if some of them are obviously in crappy condition. We understand that folks want the convenience of getting rid of the lot all at once, but expecting us to pay cash for the part of the lot that's unplayable or worthless is pretty unrealistic.

Same goes for the comics; we have half a room of longboxes in the building next door stuffed with worthless comics from the 70s and 80s; you couldn't pay us to take more of those. Any comics dealer who's been in business for more than a few years is probably in the same situation. Again, we'd have one of our comics guys go through and pick out the ones that might be worth our time, make you an offer on those, and encourage you to give the rest away. Also keep in mind that you'll probably be getting from 1/4 to 1/2 of what the store expects to sell it for, depending on how attractive the item is.

Here's hoping you have at least a few true jewels!
posted by mediareport at 11:31 PM on February 1, 2008

i have a friend who buys lp collections. unfortunately not in new york, as he would buy yours. all of them.

based on my conversations with him, i'd recommend the following:

selling on ebay.gemm, etc: will be a lot of work, with a small return. my friend can easily do this because of his volume, you can't, unless you're prepared to spend a year or so.

look in newspapers, craigslist, etc for people who want to buy lp's. invite them over, let them look at your collection, and then make an offer. get two or three offers. do not allow anyone to cherrypick.

for your records, they are worth about $10. each retail, so 2000x10=20k. but then you have to sell each one individually. You will probably be able to sell the whole collection for about 2-4k. good luck.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:53 AM on February 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for your valuable information and your honest assessments. Though, Rash, if no record collections are worth money, then it must follow that no records are worth money. Which leads me to wonder how Amoeba, or GEMM, or any LP seller, stays in business...

Fortunately, I'm not expecting to retire on my vinyl nest egg. Just looking to make a few $ without investing enough time to make it a second career. You've all helped a lot.
posted by ROTFL at 2:51 PM on February 5, 2008

Re the comics: I'm surprised no one touched on this (though I might've missed it) should consider having the more valuable (say more than about $30 in mint condition) comics graded by CGC, but only if they're in perfect shape. That often adds a nice premium that more than makes up for the cost of grading, and also makes them easier to sell on eBay, etc.
posted by edjusted at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2008

Oh, and since you're in NYC, you might be able to get a tax writeoff for donating comics to the Museum of Comic and Comic Art.
posted by edjusted at 1:42 PM on February 18, 2008

« Older Help me have a key made in Chicago   |   I was run over, should I take legal action? If so... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.