Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Masterworks and Archives Part II: The Price of Things to Come (in the mail)

 This is part two of a two part blog about Marvel Masterworks, DC Archives and archives from other companies.

In our last episode,  I wrote:

Originally, in the late 1980s Masterworks were $30, quickly going up to $35. DC Archives were $40.  There was no on-line shopping then. With Superman Archives Volume 4, in 1997, DC prices  jumped to $50, skipping over $45 and Marvel soon did the same. I was able to get them on line for about $35.  This started a riff between me and my comic book store which would not match Amazon's, or anyone's price. Sadly, that store is gone as is so many others. But I had a choice, I could pay less and buy more, or buy less and pay more.

Now the Marvels list for $75 for the Golden Age Masterworks and $70 for the Silver Age ones. All DC Archives are now $75 and about $50 on line. Last year, the latest Green Lantern Archive was listed at $60. In 2013, the next Metal Men archive will be $75. This blog will be concerned with only the Omnibuses whose reprints were NOT featured in Masterworks. Originally $100, Omnibuses now list for $125. On line they are now about $75, up from about $65. 

There are three on-lines stores that I found very helpful and I suggest that you compare prices! Note that prices change often and I am giving the prices that were up in Mid-March 2013.

Tales of Wonder aka TOW (great, especially when they are running sales)
CheapGraphicNovels.com aka CGN: Often the very cheapest prices!!!

 Let me demonstrate two examples: Wonder Woman Archives Volume 5 and Volume 7.
Wonder Woman Volume 5:
Amazon.com: $16
Tales of Wonder: $31
Cheapgraphicnovels.com: $20

Wonder Woman Volume 7:
Amazon.com: $36
Tales of Wonder: $37
Cheapgraphicnovels.com: $30

Some archives, such as Wonder Woman, Plastic Man and many of the Marvel Atlas Masterworks  have mostly gone dramatically down in price to $17-$25 during sales at  TOW or CGN. Amazon is a great place to find them used.

Usually used books come up quickly on Amazon, but the speed in which they come up is often an indicator of how good or how popular the book is.  Generally, if the books comes up used quickly it wasn’t very popular and the price will go down dramatically if you hold on.

If you prefer only new books, check the alternative prices on Amazon.  Right now, you can get the Man Thing Omnibus directly from Amazon for $87.50, or through another listed dealer for $70.

However, sometimes the prices of these books go up, probably because their demand is greater than the supply. Take a look a sample list below/ originally they listed for $50-$60, but were available for about $40 at the stores I previously mentioned. I do buy these books both new and used. If they are in great condition, I don’t care if they are used. It is weird, however, that sometimes the used price on Amazon is higher than the new price.

Wonder Woman Archive 6               $200/150 (new price/used price)
Batman Archive 7                             $260/180
Sgt. Rock Archive 3                          $110
JSA All Stars Archive                        $97
Legion of Super-Heroes  Vol. 5        $95/50

Omnibuses were listed at $100 but generally sold on line for about $65-70. Check out the prices now on Amazon and Ebay. 
Fantastic Four Omnibus 1:                  $188
Fantastic Four Omnibus
2:                  $349
Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus           $
Iron Man Omnibus
1                          $800/400
New Teen Titans Omnibus                 
Silver Surfer Omnibus                        
Uncanny X-Men Omnibus:                
X-Men Omnibus                                 
Wolverine Omnibus                            
Howard the Duck Omnibus                
Tomb of Dracula Volume
1                $370/200

There can be a risk involved with waiting, especially with Omnibuses. However, when I bought volumes of Creepy, Eerie and Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery I waited until TOW had a half-price sale. I bought a few at a time to avoid a shipping cost too.

Recently, using Amazon and buying from Powell’s Bookstore I bought the three Herbie Archives for $7.50 each and the Thunda Archives, by Frank Frazetta, which lists for $50, for a meager $10. My on-line friend, Scott e-mailed when I mentioned this and he wrote:“Just this week I got all three Herbies, still in shrinkwrap, for $9 each (marked $9.99 minus 10 percent librarian discount) and thought I got a bargain! Looks like I overpaid! Wouldn't mind finding Nemesis and Magicman at similar prices, even though I've got all the original comics.”

I see today it is listing at $15. Of, course there are shipping costs, usually $3-4, but there is also no sales tax…yet. 

Well, I got them just a little while ago.

Cheap Graphic Novels has a great many Atlas Era Masterworks on sale for $20 or less. These include: Atlas Era Heroes Masterworks Volume  02  and Journey Into Mystery Vol. 1, Jungle Action and Strange Tales. For a while, Tales of Wonder had many of these this on sale too.

I have been very happy with used books bought on Amazon. Many times I have gotten books I normally would not have but they were so cheap! And, often the condition is really as good as new.
I had, in ten years, two problems, both were resolved quickly.  After a couple of weeks, when my Herbie Archives did not arrive from Powell’s, I sent them an email. They immediately responded and sent out a new shipment.

With another dealer, TextbooksRus.com. the Sugar and Spike Archives arrived with big used stickers on the front and back covers. I didn’t like that and they did offer a refund.

I recently bought the Spirit Artist Edition from CGN for $132, with shipping.  It would have been about the same at TOW, sometimes they add a shipping charge to this and sometimes they don’t.  My local store however, after taxes, would have charged $162.

There is a bit of controversy here.  I wrote last time that “This started a riff between me and my comic book store dealer who would not match Amazon's, or anyone's price. Sadly, that store is gone, as is so many others. But I had a choice; I could pay less and buy more, or buy less and pay more.”

In 1995, I had not had a long term relationship with this dealer; I really didn’t think that his survival depended on me, and others, to get hardcover and trade paperbacks from him. But it did. The issue has become, “how much extra money do you want to spend to keep your dealer open?”
By the way, the dealer did get mad at me. I started buying fewer books from him, but not because of pricing alone. I had to order books from him and it took months for him to get, I was getting them in a couple of days on line. I also liked that the books were dropped off at my house and I didn’t have to go pick them up.

Do you pay $50 to buy, the “Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth” at the Manhattan bookstore, or do you buy on line for $30?  Forbidden Planet is a famous Manhattan comic book store. Right next to them is the Strand Bookstore, which sells many of the same books for half price. For example, I bought the Mad Fold In book there for $50. It sells on Amazon for $91 and in the comic book store for $125.

What do you think?
Please feel free to list where you get your books at the best prices.


  1. Try my favorite:

  2. Hey Barry, interesting write-up. My experience is below:

    I hate paying full price for ANYTHING, and I hate special-ordering anything as well. When I first got back into buying collected editions of comics in 2005, I bought two ways: using Border's weekly 30% to 40% off coupon, and going to my local comic store in Fair Lawn, NJ where they provided 10% back loyalty coupons.

    Well, since my buying habits seemed to have driven Borders out of business, and since I now live in Texas rather than New Jersey, my buying habits obviously had to evolve.

    Now, I tend to buy from TalesOfWonder, but I sometimes look for even deeper discounts, so I am known to frequent local comic shops. But something happened to two local Dallas comic shops over the last two years.

    I found one of them, Zeus Comics, when I first moved down here, and picked up three or four Masterworks there during an annual 30% off sale they had there. A while later I returned but found absolutely no new Masterworks on the shelves; when I asked why, they said they couldn't compete with online prices so they'd no longer be bringing any copies into the store.

    Then I found another one, Titan Comics, which happened to have a Wall of Bargains up during my first visit where I found the Simon & Kirby Newsboy Legion hardcover for half-price (among other deals). They also had a very deep stock of trades and hardcovers, so this became my vendor of choice. However, I tended not to buy brand-new releases since he did not provide a discount, so a book that would cost me $34 at TalesOfWonder cost me $54 (plus tax) at the store -- so I just focused on building up on some of the OOP volumes, one every two weeks or so.

    For Christmas of 2011, Titan had a huge month-long sale -- all in-stock Masterworks and Archives for half-price! I bought a few titles I needed, and the sale continued for a few weeks into the new year. But one day when I showed up, not only was the sale over, but there were NO Masterworks or Archives to be found anywhere in the store!! The store owner had decided to sell his existing stock on eBay and no longer carry new releases. Why? "can't compete with online prices" of course.

    But while I was there, I saw the first three Harvey Horror books, long before the PS Publishing thread over at the masterworks board became the behemoth it is now. Holding them in my hands and paging through them, I had to have them, even at $60 a pop; he had imported them in special from the UK on a friend's recommendation. So this series became my primary reason for visiting that shop every few weeks.

    But two weeks ago, I found the PS Publishing Books online for about $30 a volume. Sorry; that is a price difference I cannot ignore.

    So now the only reason for me to visit local comic shops is to check out sales and remainder bins, or in hopes of tracking down an out of print volume. Which is sad, because it means that people will only buy what they already know they want, and what they already know about; there will be very little accidentally stumbling upon something that you had no clue was available. Like how I got back into collected editions buying back in 2005.

    Barnes & Noble seems to have stopped stocking most graphic novels as well. And so the print runs are declining. You have to already know you want something, and then you have to buy it immediately upon its release, if not announcement. Which means that the publishers will continue producing fewer and fewer copies to sell to an ever-dwindling number of cognoscenti.

    Kind of like what has happened with comics themselves.

  3. I've talked to a couple of authors recently who've complained that Amazon undercuts the list price so much even before publication that, after everyone else associated with their books gets paid, the authors get little or no money out of the books even if they sell lots of copies!

  4. Steven and Ghastly,
    There is no great answer here. I should have posted that Marvel and DC now make more from the sales of their books in bookstores and online than they do from the actual sale of comics.

    Bookstores are fading away, with B and N being the last big one.But, as Steve suggests, I can have two books, or even three for the price of one at my closest (no longer local) comic book store. And if comics go more digital, where will these stores be?

    NY used to have monthly comic conns where I got the handovers for at l;east half price. But that is no longer happening.

  5. One difference in the price of old and new DC Archives is the larger page count. They used to be around 240 pages but the new ones run more to 400 and if you buy one for full-price, you just aren't trying. The Captain Comet Archives, msrp $75, is at $42.85 on Amazon with free shipping.
    I'd like to buy these from online comic shops but not only do you get a smaller discount compared to Amazon, you also end up paying for them 4 to 6 months before release instead of not being billed by Amazon until they've shipped it and with their pre-order guarantee you frequently save even more money.

  6. JohnJ,

    I must respectfully disagree with you on one point. While all "first" os a series of DC archives have more pages, the most recent ones are only 250 or so. That is, Wonder Woman, Amazon Princess, which came out last month, is the first of a new series. It is 350 pages. The last Batman (Dark Knight); Sgt Rock 4,Green Lantern 7,Flash Vol. 6 and the last Batman archives are 250 page or less. Batman I think was 225. Please check it out. And don't go by what Amazon promises it will be before it is published.

  7. Ghastly is, as usual, somewhat wrong. That PS Thread...Pete popped in before the first book was even published. Posted a link. It's on the board for anyone who cares to look, go back through the thread. I was a PS subscriber from DAY ONE, which was before they were sold. So for you to have 'SEVERAL' of them before the rest of the board is laughable. Your revisionist history continues I see.

  8. Do ya REALLY want to bring Masterworks boards conflicts over here, Kris? If you look at what I actually WROTE rather than what you READ, you'll see that I said I found these books "before the PS Publishing thread became the behemoth that it is now" -- NOT that I found the books before anyone else on the board. I used those words for a reason -- because that thread didn't used to be titled "PS Publishing", but something like "How come no one is reprinting the old Harvey horror titles?" and the thread existed for a year or two before Pete came along to say he was doing it, at which point the thread title was changed.

    My point is also that even at the point that the publisher came along with an announcement, that was no guarantee that I was going to buy it on the publisher's say-so. I think I chimed in to the thread before Pete came along, then basically ignored it for awhile since I didn't figure there would be any useful news. It took me HOLDING THE BOOKS IN MY HAND and taking note of the quality of the artifact before I was prepared to actually buy them.

    That's really my underlying point -- that many folks need to actually look at an artifact before they decide they want to own it. That means that having all these books only available online becomes a tragedy, because it becomes a case of preaching to the choir. Which means (sing it with me, children) "selling an ever decreasing number of copies to an ever-diminishing customer base".

  9. Steven, in my experience I get the same royalties for a book sale whether the book was bought online at a deep discount or at a con at full price. I know Fantagraphics responded to this question somewhere awhile back and said that they get paid the same amount from Amazon for each book sold as any other distributor. Amazon is just willing to take a smaller profit, no doubt because of their massive volume.

  10. I find the best way to get the PS books is to buy a subscription. They have been very helpful and very nice in taking care of me! And the books are great.

    And I am avoiding your argument!

  11. I've debated doing the subscription thing, Barry, but have held off just in case they introduce a line that I've got no interest in. I'm in for the long haul on ACG, but have no interest in Planet Comics and am a little hesitant to take the Phantom Lady plunge. It'd be nice to see if Pete can get approval from DC to publish some of the other Quality characters like Doll Man.

    And if Marvel is abandoning the Atlas Era Masterworks, and if DC isn't gonna move any further on the Plastic Man Archives -- I'd love to see PS take a shot at it -- but without the collateral material (ads and such), which get very repetitious.

  12. Ghastly,

    I am not sure, but I think you can align you subscription just for the books you like. I've just asked Pete and Nick if they would like to join me in a blog and I would certainly ask them those questions.

    This is just an opinion, but I doubt very much if DC or Marvel would give up copyrighted material such as Plastic Man or the Kirby and Ditko material from the Atlas era.

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