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#HPBQuest 2019

I have a very mixed relationship with Half-Price Books. Many, many books and graphic novels and such that I own come from the chain. But much as I find great stuff at times, they drive me absolutely nuts when it comes to their trying to be too much all at once, instead of just a diversified used-books-and-such store. But that’s a subject for other posts.

This past weekend, I finally took the plunge and took a years-old idea and made a reality of it.

While I’ve been somewhat aware of their being at least 5 Half-Price Books locations in the Columbus, OH area in addition to the two that I’m aware of in the Cleveland, OH area, I don’t think I’ve ever made it to more than 2 stores in a given day: Either both that are still around here, or a couple of the Columbus ones when I’m in the area to visit a friend when she’s in town.

But what if I were to take a day, and simply make it my goal to visit as many of these as I could? No particular visitation, not meeting up with anyone…not the passive “I’m in the area, might as well stop by the nearest HPB location.” But a specific attempt to visit all 5 of the stores.

As I’ve mentally dubbed it after the fact…it became my #HPBQuest. (Something more than “merely” a typical #HPBHaul).

And then after I actually made it to all 5 of the Columbus-area stores…I realized it wouldn’t be a significantly different timespan, so I decided to add the Cleveland ones into the mix on the way back, so made a sixth stop. Unfortunately, though, traffic I’d hit between the 4th and 5th Columbus stores (due to an OSU game) delayed me long enough that I’d have gotten to the 7th store about 5 minutes or less until closing, and I never want to be that guy.

So for good measure, after hitting 6 in one day, I hit that seventh on my way to another engagement the day after, just for good measure. (After all, what if they had something fantastic-awesome-amazing and I missed out solely for not taking a few minutes to stop in?)

Anyway…after such a “quest,” here’s the “haul,” what I have to show for such a random, crazy stunt.


Half-Price Books #1: NorthPointe Plaza, Lewis Center

I’m not sure what I expected to find first, but I wound up getting three books at the first HPB I stopped at.

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I snagged the updated Titan printing of the movie novelizations of Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection; though it turned out that I already had the latter. Oops.

I also grabbed MechWarrior Dark Age: Pandora’s Gambit, adding the first new MechWarrior book to my collection in probably 13-15 years.


Half-Price Books #2: Carriage Place Plaza, Columbus

While a bit underwhelmed at the first store, I found a fair number of MMPBs at the second. And probably my best find of the day in a Highlander complete TV series on VHS set (and just a few days after my Super-Blog Team-Up entry on Highlander and TMNT!)

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I’ve occasionally thought back to some years ago seeing at least a couple of the Highlander seasons at a now-closed HPB in Mentor. Though I have the series on DVD, I’d always liked the way the series was done on VHS with the spines of the tapes all making a single image. There was also something to it for the series being available like that at all, in the late-1990s, when it was rather rare for any tv series to have more than a few episodes or a “Best Of…” selection.

Being the type of person I am, seeing all six of these seasons available grabbed my attention. When I realized that each was the price of a single issue of a modern comic series I knew I was absolutely buying these, if only to HAVE them.

I’ll have to research a bit to see if the DVDs are supposed to have the same content, or if there’s something unique to these VHS that will warrant getting a player to actually try watching some of these!

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Since I’d already pulled them from the shelves, I also got several Dragonlance novels. The Legend of Huma is an old favorite, and in this case a duplicate…but as a favorite, I wanted to get it so I have a copy to perhaps gift to a friend or such!

The Battletech book was part of a hope of finding a number of books in the series, and GI Joe is GI Joe.


Half-Price Books #3: Lane Ave., Upper Arlington

The third HPB was the single largest I think I have ever seen!

Of course, when I first walked in, I thought it was the smallest. But the first room gave way to a hallway which opened into a massive room.

Unfortunately, despite being huge, they really didn’t have much that I was looking for or that I opted to buy, given what I’d already bought and might buy at other stores, with at least 3 more to go at the time.

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While I may wind up kicking myself on it, I opted for a 10-episodes-only He-Man and the Masters of the Universe DVD over a 2-box-set of the entire first season. #1, this was 1/5 the cost of the other and #2, just being practical, I don’t know when I’ll get around to actually watching even these, let alone binging–and sticking with it–an entire season!

I had never seen or known the Warmachine: Prime Rules Digest to exist, so bought it as a curiosity. I’m sure the full-size rules books that I own are VASTLY out of date as it is (ditto for Hordes), but for “only” $2.99 over $20-40, a curiosity was in order, here.


Half-Price Books #4: Shoppes At East Broad, Reynoldsburg

The fourth HPB was significantly less impressive after the size of the third. I did find the 4-issue Icons: Rogue series. I may already have this, but I’m equally likely to be thinking of a friend having bought the series for another friend. And while these ought to be 25-50 cent comics, they’re not something I’ve come across repeatedly or anything, so for $1 apiece, I figured that’s the price (or less) for anything Marvel publishes at present, and certainly worth spending for a full story like this.

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I’m not quite sure what to make of the covers…I’m not used to seeing Rogue illustrated this way, with an almost photorealistic appearance clearly based on the actress from the 2000 X-Men film (hard to believe that was 19 years ago, and this comic series is 18 years old now!)

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I normally am not much of a fan of oversized items, but I recall some hype over Molly Danger back in the day, and figured a collected edition would be over $10 now. And as a hardcover treasury-edition-sized thing for that price, this wasn’t bad.

I also scored the 4th and 5th seasons of Boy Meets World on the clearance shelves…which add nicely to the first 3 seasons I already have!

Finally, I actually found a copy of the live-action Masters of the Universe film that I’ve been keeping an eye out for.


Half-Price Books #5: S. State St. Westerville

By the fifth stop I was definitely getting rather worn down. I’d also hit some major traffic leaving the fourth store and at one point realized I’d wound up circling back completely to the store just trying to get away from the area.

A lot of intersections were coned-off as closed or turn-a-certain-way-ONLY and I ended up just following several roads for awhile (ignoring my phone’s GPS instructions) until I was far enough away to begin following the device again.

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This HPB I consciously remember visiting a couple times previously. Alas, no amazing Further Adventures of the Batman finds this time or such.

I’ve gotten away from omnibus volumes as they’re generally just too large and unwieldy to me. But I opted to get this Brightest Day one, thinking it didn’t seem too thick or heavy, but at 25 issues a decent size–larger than an 18-issue volume, but not a ridiculous 50-60-issue volume.

Snagging The Boys Omnibus vol. 1 for 50% off beat prices I’ve seen looking on Amazon or such…and was in-stock and available in-person in much BETTER CONDITION than anything Amazon would bother to deliver.

I’m pretty sure I have Chew vol. 1 from ages back. Seeing vols. 2-3 on clearance at $3/each (cheaper than a single issue of a modern comic), I snagged them.


Half-Price Books #6: Great Northern Blvd, North Olmsted

Despite “completing” my goal of all 5 Columbus-area HPBs, I decided it wouldn’t add much to my return trip to aim for a more local one to cap off the trip.

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This is one of the HPBs I’m most familiar with, that I probably get to every few weeks/couple months or so.

Having listened to the William Gibson Alien3 audiodrama from Audible and being deep into the Audible audiobook of Alien: Isolation, when I saw The Book of Alien, I was keenly interested.

I also found the best-condition copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets hardcover I’ve seen in years (even the dustjacket in better-than-Amazon-Prime condition!) so snagged that to complete my hardcover set of the series.

The Wonder Woman Anthology was a bit of a curiosity.Seems it was available exclusively through Costco, and contains the first Wonder Woman (New 52?) volume as well as the first volume of the New 52 Justice League and I think the first volume of the Rebirth Justice League. For $10, for such a thick volume, I figured why not?

Finally, saw the Zombies!!! base set (I think that’s what it is) and decided to get it rather than regret passing it up later. I’m looking forward to trying Zombicide with some friends in the near future, but with a new edition of that coming out next year, I’d rather wait. And I believe this game is the one that you can buy a “bag o’ zombies” and just seems a fun novelty to me and possibility for an interesting game, coming off the ending of The Walking Dead this summer and my 70-issue binge of the latter part of the series.


Half-Price Books #7: Golden Gate Plaza, Mayfield Heights

I could have just made it to Mayfield, but it would have been about 5 minutes until closing if I did…hardly time to go in and look around more than a cursory glance at a couple things. I’d wonder what I missed in such a rush-through of the store, plus I hate to be that guy in a retail place rushing in right before closing and holding everyone up.

Especially as visiting the next day would be a brief, convenient deviation from a straight point-A/point-B route to where I was going anyway!

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Alas, nothing of significant interest that I had to see or pick up.

I did find an acceptable-condition-to-me (and almost certainly better-than-AmazonPrime condition) copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Which, as I’d mournfully realized the night before, I was also missing from a complete set of the hardcovers.

For taking the time, I decided to get a “replacement copy” of Aliens Book 1: Earth Hive. My copy has been read several times over, and the spine is quite the worse for wear. This copy has a nice, clean spine that looks a lot better on the shelf with the other novels. I may also eventually “replace” books 2 & 3, but time will tell on those.


The Forgotten Amazon Orders

I also had a couple of Amazon orders arrive over the weekend.

One I’d intentionally had in addition to the HPB stuff, and the other I’d totally forgotten about.

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I think it was only a couple weeks ago I discovered the Alien: Isolation novel would exist (I think it just came out?). In half-assedly putting together an order for it, I came across Alien: Echo, which seems to be a YA novel set in the Alien universe. Definitely an oddity, but being in-brand, it’s something I was very interested in!

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While I feel the series was vastly over-hyped and opted not to get it at the time, I did finally decide to get Batman: White Knight. I also was not thrilled about it being a retroactive addition to DC‘s Black Label branding. But c’est la vie and all that.

I also had looked up–initially to put on a list to look into it more at some later point–the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection hardcover. But for its price and the size of the thing, went ahead and ordered it along with the White Knight volume.

I’m far from being a particular fan of the He-Man/Masters of the Universe stuff. But with a new series recently announced, having watched the Toys That Made Us episode on Netflix semi-recently-ish, and a couple YouTube videos about the toys, and seeing the size of this hardcover at a store, I realized it’s an excellent sort of volume, collecting all the vintage mini-comics and such into one neat volume, rather than one having to hunt down all the individual pieces as rare artifacts with individual vintage toys. They’re just all here, together, in one item, quite fit for the shelf.

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I’m pretty sure that this is essentially an “oversized hardcover” to the minicomics as a regular “oversized hardcover” is to regular comics. It’s a bit larger than digest-sized, but not quite full comic-book dimensions. Still a great volume, and sure to be an excellent resource!


All told, I don’t expect I’ll particularly want to undertake such a “quest” again as this weekend. It was an idea that’s rattled around the back of my head for years, so now having actually done it…that idea and curiosity has been more than satisfied.

It was definitely something to do, got me away from home, and was maybe the first real trip I’ve taken in years, so plenty of positives despite no desire to do it again anytime soon.

That said, it’s primed the idea to me of another similar idea I’ve had with a friend, or visiting a number of comic shops in a single overall trip. Though I’m pretty sure the “Comic Shop Crawl” would need to be a full weekend thing, or started much earlier in the day.

Time will definitely tell, though!

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The Weekend #HPBHaul (Weekend of June 23-25)

Along with getting to see a dear friend for the first time in far, far too long…I got to visit three Half-Price Books locations that are out of my usual range. Perhaps because of not being usual haunts, and the last time I’d been to any of the three had to have been at least two years or so ago, I found some stuff at each that proved enough of an interest to actually purchase.

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At the first one, I found a very good-condition copy of Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman. I’ve listened to the Graphic Audio production of this book and quite enjoyed it. Having the hardback (not just some paperback) is fantastic!

Then, I found a set of all ten of the Double Take volumes. I already had seven of the ten…but I’ll be darned if I could’ve remembered which. But fortunately…I periodically try to get photos of my shelves for just such occasions, and was able to –in that way–"look at my shelves" to see which ones were there, and pick out the three to complete my set!

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At the next location, I found the Superman: New Krypton vol. 3 that completes my set of that series of paperbacks. I still need to track down Last Stand of New Krypton vol. 1 in paperback and then I’ll be all set on that story.

This copy of The Further Adventures of Batman is probably THE best-condition copy I’ve seen yet of the paperback. And for Knight of the Black Rose, I thought this was a good-condition copy compared to others I’ve seen, and opted to snag it to add to my Dragonlance collection (yeah, it’s a Ravenloft book, but the character originates in Dragonlance!)

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At the third/final HPB, I happened across these two Superman sourcebooks. The covers alone make them of interest…as well as their subject matter! There were at least half a dozen other DC supplements in addition to these–after the earlier purchases and other stuff going on, there was no way I could justify getting all of them…especially as they’re for a game I doubt I’ll ever actually play. The two Superman ones are justified for me because they’re Superman!

There were several Owly volumes. I’ve always meant to give the book a shot, but never got around to it. I grabbed the cutest-looking one and we’ll see. I can’t imagine not liking it, though!

And finding the Captain America and the Falcon volume makes me highly glad I held off on buying it before at a higher cost. In its own way, this goes with the Black Panther volumes I already have–collecting the Priest run. Since this series, too, was Priest, it’s been on my radar since getting the last Black Panther volume.

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Then at a Walmart, I came across a display box full of the various Wonder Woman movie Pop figures. For this first time (offhand) since I started seeing the line in stores, I actually found the title character herself!

There was a Walmart-exclusive version with a different body pose and without her sword. I liked the look of this "regular" non-exclusive version better, having the sword and shield.

I haven’t cared for many of the "movie versions" of characters…but Wonder Woman is a definite exception for me! I’m also not a huge fan of mask-less human characters for the Pop range of figures–the faces being accentuated and being so plain and boring tends to be an issue for me. But again…for this one, I made an exception.


I actually stopped in at a fourth HPB location on Sunday–this one the closest to home and my most "usual" one…and found nothing of interest enough to buy. A few things to look at more closely than just walking past…but nothing that jumped out as wanting to buy right now or that I’d miss if I didn’t buy.

While I highly disagree with the "base" $2 price for single-issue comics in HPB stores…the "usual" one is one of the stores I tend to get the most frustrated with in their mixing high-price out-of-print volumes in with the main collection.

At the three others I visited over the weekend, I did not have any cases at all of something catching my eye but then being sticker-shocked. Everything was at least the store’s premise of half-price if not more and so made me a rather happy camper (so to speak).


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Comics’ Pricing and Half-Price Books: Why I Complain So Much

hpb_grousing02I don’t “get” HPB and their pricing on comics. They are a used-books store, firstly. Their very premise is “everything is half-off the publisher’s list price” (printed cover price in most cases). Meaning that reasonable expectation is that you walk in, and everything is half-off. Not “pull a random book that’s appealing and discover it’s full price or 150% cover price or 200% cover price.”

Because they are a generalized books store, and have numerous “sections,” they are not a subject-speciality store. You want historical reference? They have it–but they’re not a “Historical Reference” shop. Books on pets/animals? Section for that, too–but they’re not an “Animals books” shop. Religious texts? Sure, they have a section for those, too–but they’re not a “Religous books” store. Vinyl records–yeah, they have those as well, but they’re not a “Record Store.” CDs, but even Records and CDs, they’re not a “Music Store.” They have DVDs and Blu-Ray, and I’m sure I’ve even seen VHS…yet they’re not a “Movie Store.” So even though they have comics and graphic novels, they are not a “Comic Shop.”

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photo from HPB website, https://www.hpb.com/042

At least a couple of the HPB locations I’ve been to have had a whole separate section for “Rare,” “First Edition,” “Autographed,” and “Out of Print” books. This works well–this section is a “special” section of the store that provides space for the anomalous pricing…these rare, collectable volumes/editions are outside of the store’s broad, general premise of half-off: this section is where you would expect to find that $100+ signed First Edition of a book from 1892 or such. Or the now-long-out-of-print oversized Marvel Hardcover edition of House of M from 2005 or so.

As such, I find that it is quite reasonable of me to be able to expect that if I’m browsing the general “Graphic Novels/Manga” section of the store (not the Rare/Collectable) section–that everything will be at least half-off. If something is damaged, overly common, donated, or whatever factors lead to it–more than half off is a bonus, and quite acceptable…even though it’s the inverse that drives me batty–finding something less than half-off or even with a price at or above cover price. For me, it only goes one-way: cheaper than half-off = good, less than half-off = bad…and I admit that readily.

hpb_grousing01Typically, the vast majority of their graphic novels and such are well-organized, with four primary categories: DC stuff, Marvel Stuff, manga, and non-DC/non-Marvel/non-Manga. Within those, they tend to be roughly alphabetical, and generally the same series is clustered together with numbered volumes in a series mostly in numerical order. My core complaint here is when the higher-priced “collectable” editions are mixed in…when I get excited about the Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told thicker volume being present, it’s a huge turnoff to the store in general to be looking for the $9.99 price thinking it’s a $19.99 volume and finding a sticker indicating that HPB is actually asking $29.99 ($10 above cover price!) because it’s marked as “Out of Print.” If it’s out of print and thus rare and they’re not willing to “let it go” at half-off the cover price…it should not be shelved in with the general stock! I’m not shopping at HPB for rare/out of print stuff, and if it’s not half-off cover price, it is functionally not in stock at all even if the store has a copy present, for my purposes of general browsing.

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photo from HPB website, https://ww.hpb.com/050

Back to my earlier bit about their not being a comic shop: their pricing on single issues. HPB‘s pricing has been erratic and trending toward the ridiculous, and the other day I would escalate it from “ridiculous” to flat-out absurd! Being curious, I checked to see what the single-issue stock was like…and they had a relatively new-looking sign indicating that all comics are $2.00 unless otherwise marked. I do not fault them for setting a “general” price, or a “minimum” price or such, but there are a number of factors that collectively leave me extremely irked essentially “on principle” with that $2 mark. (Among other things, numerous prose books into the mid 1990s were roughly $4 each, so that at the “half price” they would be $2 as vintage items compared to relatively recent comics; let alone 1990s comics that by and large are hardly worth 25 cents apiece). To me, HPB does not “earn” the “legitimacy” with their comics to be asking “top dollar” for them.

I would strongly argue that most single issues of comics from the late 1980s/early 1990s to the early 2000s (if not at this point as recent as 2005 or so) are functionally 25-cent-bin books. Between digital and collected volumes, the single issues hold very little “value,” after their first couple weeks or life of the story they contain. It typically seems to me (and I could be wrong) that in many cases, it’s the long-time comics folks who are adamant about having “the single issues.” I imagine casual fans are happy just to read the stories, and would be content with collected volumes, perhaps moving to single issues if they’re completely caught up from collected volumes to where the only option is the single issues, because the current story has not yet finished for there to BE another collected volume. As such, once the story is in a collected volume, there’s little demand or collectability to the single issues.

hpb_grousing03HPB‘s comics are primarily in open bins to be flipped through. Typically their “priced” issues (the “unless otherwise marked” issues) are at least bagged if not bagged and boarded. So those $2 default-priced issues are the ones that likely were not worth protecting and individually pricing, as well as the ones that are more prone to damage from anyone/everyone “flipping through” the bins, bending covers, ripping/tearing, etc. and damage as sturdy bag/board issues get pushed back in, yanking a cover off, or causing the “loose” issue to be folded under, its bottom folded and the whole thing pulled downward…or tape from the protected issues sticking to a loose cover, etc. Someone simply browsing is more likely to pull a “loose” issue out and flip through it than to attempt to take an issue out from a bag or bag and board (especially if there are signs requesting one not do that).

Aside from being loose and more prone to browsing-damage…these “single issues” are not a curated collection. HPB has some dividers indicating letters of the alphabet, and that’s about the extent of the organization of the issues. The “A” section might start with several issues of Avengers followed by a couple Mighty Avengers and Dark Avengers (“M” section and “D section mixed here with “A”) before getting to an issue of Action Comics Weekly and then some issues of Angel: After the Fall and then an issue of Avengelyne before getting to a bunch of scattered issues of Clone Saga-era Amazing Spider-Man and then 4 out of 5 issues of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows and so on. There might be 50 scattered issues of Amazing Spider-Man, but they range from #372 to #595, and are in no discernable order. There’s no telling if there are even any instances, say, of two consecutively-numbered issues…unless one personally goes through all the bins (not even just this “A” section) to pull the issues and then sort by number.

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photo from HPB website, https://www.hpb.com/092

One might be able to–at a glance–see that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of late silver-age or even bronze-age Superman comics (spanning Superman, Action Comics, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, The New Adventures of Superboy, Supergirl, The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, Adventure Comics Featuring Supergirl, etc). These will be “priced” issues, ranging perhaps $1.75 to $25 or $30 or $35+. And yet… they’re all intermingled, out of order, and so on. Absolutely maddening to even consider seeking one or two specific issues in the mess. And asking even $2/issue let alone the higher collectable prices…but at best you can find most of a given series scattered within a mess of comics whose series titles all begin with the same single letter.

hpb_too_expensive_comics_02At 25 cents or even 50 cents…sure, throw the stuff in loose and let the customer sort it out. You’re not making any significant money of a couple single issues here and there, no need to go to the effort of clear, detailed sorting. I, for one, have no problem with just flipping through several bins of stuff looking for something that is (to me) an unexpected treasure, when I’m “only” out 25 to 50 cents per issue. My effort is made up for by the insignificant price. But once you’re getting to $1 an issue or $2 an issue that’s a much higher, significant bit of money off single issues (and I’ve not seen any HPB location use any “middle-tier” pricing like 75 cents (from the 25 to 50 cents) nor $1.25, $1.50, or $1.75 between $1 and $2!) If I’m paying $1 or $2 per issue, I’m a lot more “serious” about the issues and as such expect the seller (HPB) to take it seriously as well. Have everything in order by series and number within the series. If you think you know enough about comics to know which ones are truly “key” issues worth having a higher price, know as well which version of series go in what order, and which number comes before another number.

Perhaps I overthink it, but…respect the customer. Respect the fact that someone who doesn’t know anything about comics doesn’t care about this particular issue over that particular issue, and thus will have zero interest in laying out $25 when there are sixteen other issues with Superman on the cover for $2 apiece, any one of which works as “a Superman comic for the kiddo.” Meanwhile, anyone who is willing or capable of laying out $25 for a single (not particularly great condition) issue does actually know at least a little bit about comics and that the used-books store is not a comic shop nor is this customer at a convention or other comics specialty location.

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photo from HPB website, https://www.hpb.com/077

Additionally, one should know enough to differentiate between printings (at the height of the Death of Superman, the newsstand edition of Superman #75 went for around $10. Past 2010, the fourth printing of this issue–that probably was never “worth” more than about double cover price (or $2.50) certainly is not a $10 issue. In 2016, one should realize that those ridiculous, astronomical prices of certain issues in the 1990s–be it one of the Deathmate issues or the original Gen13 #1 or whatever–were already inflated and inaccurate, more a sales gimmicky thing of Wizard Magazine than much else. Maybe Gen13 #1 for one month in an issue of Wizard was listed as “$40.00,” but 20+ years later, I don’t know (of) anyone who would pay $10 for the single issue (probably not even that for a collected volume of the first 4 or so issues–the first story)!

hpb_too_expensive_comics_03Finally and perhaps most shocking to me recently…”clearance” comics were seen priced at $1 (they were 25 cents or 50 cents as recently as six months ago)…but $1 by tear-away stickers directly on the covers of the comics themselves. Essentially, the comics were being defaced to mark them as “clearance” items…and at $1 apiece. I could sort of see at 25 cents apiece or 50 cents apiece, marking them physically, indicating they’re not the “$2 unless otherwise marked” comics not otherwise marked. But putting stickers on them that are designed to tear apart and not remove simply or cleanly is flat-out insulting.

If things were priced consistently and clearly I would also have less problem…but all of the above taken into consideration, in short, sometimes it looks to me like it’s just someone at HPB looking at an issue or a graphic novel and thinking “hey, I think that was something I “heard” was valuable…better price that higher to not lose out!”

hpb_grousing04I posted recently about a paperback edition of The Irredeemable Ant-Man that I found, priced as expected at half-off the cover price. And yet, by the same apparent “logic” that seems to “mandate” something like Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told or a hardcover of Avengers Forever be priced at 150-200% above cover price, the Ant-Man book should have been $10-$20, but it wasn’t. Because who gives a darn about The Irreedeemable Ant-Man compared to Batman or The Avengers?

Classic GI Joe TPBs And Half-Price Books Complaining

weekend_august19_gijoe_01Back in 2001, a friend of mine had been talking to me about GI Joe–toys, comics, etc. And then more strikingly, and as has stuck with me for the last 15 years or so–I remember his commenting on the release date of a new comic series: Devil’s Due published their then-new GI Joe comic on September 12th, 2001. One day after 9/11.

Several years later, he and I went to a signing at his local shop with Michael Turner. Along with the an Identity Crisis issue, poster, and something else…I bought the Marvel GI Joe vol. 1 paperback, reprinting the first 10 issues of that original series.

I never did get the rest of that 5-volume series, that had reprinted just under 1/3 of the core/main ongoing series.

Skip ahead a few years to IDW…they got the new license, and apparently the rights to any/all prior-published GI Joe comics (Marvel and Devil’s Due), so they followed the Marvel format and reprinted the classic series in 10-issue volumes. Somewhere along the way, I wound up with the IDW edition of the first volume, and then the second. (I keep that original Marvel one for the sentimental value, but have a definite desire to get the entirety of the run of the classic volumes.) The Classic GI Joe run is all the more appealing to me as I recently discovered that IDW is (wisely and awesomely, I might add!) re-collecting their own GI Joe: A Real American Hero run into subsequently-numbered volumes. The ARAH series had a "zero issue" as a Free Comic Book Day #155 1/2 a number of years ago, and then picked up with the original Marvel numbering at #156 and continues (I believe) to this day, somewhere in the #220s.

[A 15+ YEAR publishing gap, and they STARTED the series–that would have had every right and been completely, entirely legitimately in-bounds to begin with #1–at #156. And it’s done well enough at least to go at least 60 issues now!]

The other day, despite being a lot tighter with my finances lately, I found a number of the IDW Classic GI Joe volumes and snagged them–I know I intend to get them, and when else am I going to find a bunch at the same place/same time for 50% off?

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While they had 5 volumes (3-7) I noticed a nasty tear in the outer spine of the 7th volume that would be glaringly obvious (to me, at least) on the shelf, not reasonably repairable, and certainly not at all worth my time/hassle for the higher price (seems the first 6 volumes were $19.99 before jumping to $24.99 for 7+).

Still, already having the first two, even "only" getting the four volumes at half-off cover (surprisingly, as I honestly do not know if these–or these specific printings–are still considered "in print" or not) made for a fantastic deal, especially balanced against the notion that each volume has 10 issues, and 10 contemporary Marvel comics would be what I paid for 40 issues’ content across these four volumes.

Unfortunately, I discovered a bit of a surprise Sunday night when I went to peel the price stickers off.

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Usually, Half-Price Books has these stickers that–like many bookstores–adhere reliably to the book covers…but unlike cheapo retail/grocery store price tags, the bookstores’ tags are generally of some material/stickiness that can be peeled off easily, simply, and cleanly, leaving no residue, stickiness or other damage/marking behind.

However, under the "new" HPB stickers, I found horrible residue from what seems to be an older HPB sticker. At first glance, I thought maybe (just maybe) I had done a bad peel, ripping it off way faster than necessary. But no, examining what was left behind, it most definitely was not from the sticker that I myself had peeled off.

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The sticker I peeled off is still clean and–aside from "curling," undamaged. The bad-sticker underneath is peeled/torn in such a way that I feel rather justified "assuming" any one of several things:

  • Someone screwed up with sticker stock that was used, and after attempting to peel it off, realized it couldn’t simply be done and so just covered it up with the new sticker
  • Someone screwed up the price, and after ripping off the old sticker simply put a new one over with no regard that as something that could well be in their "collectibles stock," someone might actually care about un-removable bad-sticker residue in buying or not buying the books
  • Someone bought these from HPB sometime ago, gave up attempting to remove the original sticker, so what’s there was just left there, and when it was sold back to HPB, they just put new stickers over the old (again, covering up what can significantly forfeit true VALUE to many people in the CONDITION of a book)

My primary peeve, personally, in this case is that the bad-sticker stuff was COVERED UP. I had no clue of it until after I got the books home–it’s NOT like I peel price stickers off a book AT THE STORE or anything. Buying used, or second-hand, or whatever–I have a much higher tolerance for condition of the book…but it tends to greatly bother me on pricing. If "expected price" is 1/2-off cover price and most stuff is in pretty good condition…when something is noticeably damaged, I’d be inclined to think that justifies a modified-downward price…such as on what they seem to deem as so worthy of being "collectible materials." If it’s so "collectible" and they’re such experts to deal in wildly-varied values of stuff, surely they should also attend to issues like huge patches of shredded/leftover stickers/sticker residue.

That said, while I am highly frustrated at the scraping I had to do to "mostly" remove the residue…I’m still very glad I was able to get these 4 books for half-cover-price each, making them extremely reasonably priced…and bringing me up to about the 1/3 mark for having the entire series of Classic GI Joe.

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Above: including this purchase, my "GI Joe Library."


Along with my specific complaints about the GI Joe volumes…the Half-Price Books location I found them at was one I haven’t been to in about 6 months, so I was quite shocked when I checked their "regular comics" section out of curiosity, given the two locations closer to where I live have the "all are $1 unless marked" and "all are now 25 (50? I can’t remember) cents unless marked."

This one has them as $2 unless marked–and with marked prices generally being at least $2 if not more (with $10, $15, $25 marked, and some color photocopies/printouts put as proxies in the bins with the actual issues held behind the counter for $25+ issues).

The issues that would be $2? Mainly stuff that I would deem–at best–$1 bin fodder at an actual comic shop.

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Meanwhile, checking for some joy in the "clearance" endcap yielded its own shock: clearance comics were all price-stickered as $1.00!

To say that I was appalled would be an understatement…so much so that I tweeted out the above photo with my frustration the other day!

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But getting into all this has led me to what is likely the topic for an entire post on its own.

A Half-Price Books Book…That Was Actually Half Price!

While browsing Half-Price Books, I happened to notice this volume: The Irredeemable Ant-Man–the second volume. This is a 2007 (9 years old!) edition, collecting issues 7-12 (I believe the single-issues ended at 12)…from back in the days when Marvel was playing with the digest-sized format for younger-reader/all-ages titles (such as Runaways, Sentinel, Spider-Girl, and Mary Jane/Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane).

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This a long-out-of-print volume (again, 9 years and Marvel doesn’t seem to keep any given edition of much of anything “in print” for more than a few months!). Cover price on the book was $9.99 at the time. And didn’t we just have an Ant-Man movie out last year?

So here we have an out of print volume from nearly a decade ago, featuring the back-half of a series starring a character that (granted, this is not the same character as what was in the movie) just had a movie…this is surely the sort of rare, collectible volume that Half-Price Books would seem to love to sell as a collectible!

All the more because even if the original series was reprinted, now it would be as an “Epic Collection” or part of some “Omnibus” or a “Premier Edition Hardcover” or something–this is a long out of print rare book in a format not likely to be duplicated even if the material it contains is reprinted.

So really, I am honestly quite curious at how this slipped through at “only” $4.99, or (wait for it) Half. Price.

Really.

Half-Price Books, a place whose purpose is to take used/non-new books and sell them back to the public at half of cover price…and despite age, despite condition, despite status (out of print), despite being related to some huge movie (Marvel Studios), even despite being a Robert Kirkman-written book for Marvel (seems he’s sticking firmly to The Walking Dead and his other creator-owned/run projects as well as being a huge figure at Image and not terribly likely to be expected to produce anything else for Marvel at this point), this edition was price at half its cover price.

Meanwhile, there was an oversized Batman volume by–I believe Paul Dini and Alex Ross–that has a $9.99 cover price, and is Half-Price Books priced $19.99. In rather beat-up, dog-eared condition. Sure, out-of print, but not even masquerading as a good-condition edition, the thing’s been reprinted in a collected volume, and I’ve seen actual comic shops selling the Superman one, at least, and I think the Shazam! one, for $10 (so cover price) even all these years later.

Which ultimately tells me that there is very definitely no consistency to HPB‘s pricing scheme for comics/graphic novels (except as “wannabe collectible dealer”).

If something is looked at first as whether or not it is “in print” and marked up if not; having some media tie-in or not and thus marked up; featuring a popular (say, movie-worthy) character and the number goes up if so… why not something like this?

Then again, in this particular case it’s a Half-Price Books that has junk comics listed as “unless priced otherwise with an HPB sticker, all comics are $1 each.” When any of the comics matching that criteria are barely quarter-bin fodder and many comics have price stickers putting them at “full cover price” or more… And yet I’m reasonably certain that if I were to take any of my comics in to sell, they wouldn’t come anywhere near offering even 25 full cents to me per issue (if “everything” was bound for the generic bin, they’d still be “making” 75 cents an issue giving me only 25)…and they’d be making even more if they price-stickered anything.

Anyway…I bought this volume. I already had vol. 1, and never really expected to get around to snagging vol. 2. But finding it, and it being priced at half-price…it’s worthwhile. All the more having 6 issues’ content in an age where new Marvel #1 issues seem to be flirting with the $4.99-$5.99 price point.

#HPBHaul – May 29th & 30th, 2016

Along with getting to see one of my best friends for the first time since last year, I got to visit a Half-Price Books location far off my beaten path…one that I don’t think I’ve been to in at least a couple years (the last time that I went to it with her).

And this visit was quite a jackpot!

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First off, just walking down the main aisle, I spotted a distinctive Batman logo on the spines of two hardcovers. When I stopped to pay attention, I noticed a third one with no dust jacket. I had no idea what these were, I did not even know they’d existed. Now, I have a couple of mass-market paperbacks, The Further Adventures of the Batman (a friend gave me years ago, featuring the Joker) and I recall two others, The Further Adventures of the Batman vol. 2 (featuring the Penguin) and The Further Adventures of the Batman vol. 3 (featuring Catwoman).

These three hardback editions seem to be still other volumes focusing on a mixture of big-name Batman rogues. And I knew that if I left ’em, I’d totally regret it, so I grabbed all 3 (even the one without a dustjacket…at least I have the volume, and maybe I can find a dust jacket for it later).

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Another excellent score are these Aliens and Predator MMPBs–somehow, I did NOT already have the Berserker one despite all the other Aliens books. And until a couple months ago with discovering the The Rage War "crossover" I’d not paid any attention to past Predator volumes. Finding these three–I believe–leaves me only the DH Press books published back in ~2006 by Dark Horse that are unfortunately extremely rare and absolutely ridiculously priced on the secondary market (I, for one, will NOT pay $230.00 or $90.00 or even $30.00 for a single MMPB!)

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Finally, there’s Manhattan Transfer, a sci-fi book I remember getting and reading from the library at LEAST twice as a kid–I loved the story! And I’d thought of it here and there and occasionally tried looking it up online, but could never even find placeholder references for it. Several weeks ago I was talking about this with a coworker, and it rang some kind of bell with him, and he found it…AND revealed why I’d had zero luck finding it. The book is Manhattan Transfer while I’d been looking for variants on Manhattan Project. Oops.

And the Super-Powers dvd would not normally have interested me, but it was "only" $7…I figure all I have to do is spend 15-20 minutes watching it, and it’ll justify itself in value against two $3.99 comics! Anything more is just bonus on that.

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And then on Monday I went to another HPB where I (finally) bought the GI Joe: Cobra Civil War and GI Joe: Cobra Command volumes. I’d been eyeing them for weeks, and had determined that if I was going to buy either I wanted to buy both…but even at half off, it wasn’t a minor purchase.

Fortunately, both yesterday and today, what I bought was 20% off the posted pricing, which made the already-great buys even better…and I "pulled the trigger" on buying these to avoid "missing out" and truly regretting it later.

Continued Grousing about HPB Comics Pricing

Continue reading

Feeling Grouchy: Half-Price Books and Breaking Their Own Rule

Last weekend, I stopped by a Half-Price Books location I hadn’t been to for awhile, half thinking to find some X-Men comics for convenience rather than digging through a bunch of my boxes.

I was disgusted to see all their single-issue comics in bins marked as $1 or whatever some sticker says if more than $1. Considering these comics are primarily ’90s books people are dumping, and in crappy condition to a large degree (“reading copy” at best), and stuff I find in quarter bins all the time locally.

But I was ESPECIALLY disgusted when I–with interest in possibly blowing my “budget” on it–spotted the oversized hardcover edition of Avengers Forever. I figured it’d be $15-$20 depending on whether it was a $30 or $35-$40 book…and was rather shocked to find it was priced at $30…a mere $5 under cover price (hardly 15% off…a far cry from HALF off)!

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Even more, it has the hand-written note “OUT OF PRINT” like that’s supposed to be enough.

What gets me is that Half-Price Books–to me–is supposed to be just that: HALF-price books. The premise of the store is half-off the printed price on the books. Because they’re USED. And the store is NOT a Barnes & Noble or Borders or Booksamillion or such. They’re a used bookstore, set apart from just any other used bookstore or chain by the idea that the books they sell are half off cover price.

I don’t begrudge them having a separate section in the store for rare or first editions or otherwise COLLECTABLE stuff. Ok, fine, they’re in a specifically-marked SECTION of the store, that doesn’t bother me. But everything in the main/general part of the store–to me–should stick to the rule the name of the store implies.

If they’re gonna be in the “collector” business, then curate the collection, and keep the stuff they consider “collectors’ items” in their OWN section, and everything ACTUALLY half-off in the main/general section.

And while $1 may be MORE than half-off the cover price of MANY of the comics…these bins were 25-cent and 50-cent bins, now bumped up TO the $1 point. And I’d be REALLY curious how many they actually SELL, at that price. Again–I don’t see them as a “collector’s place” kinda store–they’re “supposed to be” neutral. And comics for $1 just because they’re comics? I’m NOT impressed, and will stick with the higher-quality selection and runs in local shops for 25-50 cents.

Of course, while I grouse about the scale tipping to the upper end away from the half-way mark…I have no problem if they choose to offer something for well over half-off.

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I bought the Infinity Gauntlet Aftermath, as it was ALSO a book I’ve been interested in…AND it is priced exactly to a bit better than I would “expect” to find it in good condition at a Half-Price Books.

I can’t think of any comic shop where I’ve seen collected volumes arbitrarily priced higher for being “out of print”–they just sell the thing, in-print or out, and if it’s out of print they simply aren’t able to restock the volume. If it’s in-print, they note the book has sold and restock.

Though where a comic shop will typically have a lot of “back issues” that are “arbitrarily” priced usually at least 25 cents above cover price (what I consider a “storage/convenience markup”) that is generally EXPECTED.

A store dealing in used books and selling itself on the idea that its wares are half-off, one does not EXPECT to find a book nearly full cover price amidst everything that actually is priced at half-off.

Not that my opinion matters or should singly influence a chain…but I’ll continue to vote with my wallet, so to speak. Just as they have the right to price stuff ridiculously like this, I have the right to not buy from them…and to grouse about the matter in public.

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