September 27, 2009

How to Run an Online Comic Shop


So you’re a comic fan and probably have even found your own favorite sites to get your comics from. Like me, some of you may wonder about running or opening your own online comic book store. I have been running my own store for over a year now, so I thought I’d provide some tips and advice to offer someone who is considering starting their own online store.

There are a variety of places to get back issue comics from: neatstuff is a good place to purchase large collections, there is always that behemoth of consumerism, Ebay,and I’ve even had some luck on craigslist. You can try your LCS, flea markets, or even garage sales. You will want to make sure your store has an extensive collection of comics available to your customers and these marketplaces provide for a means to get back stock. Each one of these sources have their own pros and cons. Neatstuff has an excellent selection of collections available, but you should expect to pay quite a bit since these collections are large and worth it. Ebay you can find large collections for cheaper than Neatstuff, but you might not get what you expect, and you usually have to spend hours searching for what you want. Craigslist and garage sales take a lot more work to find what you are looking for, and often you will have to haggle the seller down to a more reasonable price. One thing to consider before opening your store is the more comics you have available to your customers the more sales you will make. You should also consider which comics are hot at the moment; upcoming movies tend to spark an interest in the comics they are based on. While Golden Age and Silver Age comics are more valuable, they tend to sell slower than a comic made in the last 10 years. You might also consider the fact that most collectors are trying to re-live some part of their childhood, so comics that are 15-20 years old are usually in a higher demand than comics from the 40’s-50’s. Of course, this is not always the case as there are some Golden Age books that will always be in high demand.

Once you have your inventory of back issues you may consider adding new releases to your store which, unless you have a Diamond account, is really hard to do while at the same time staying competitive with your pricing. To get a Diamond account you have to meet certain criteria before they will accept you as a customer, such as maintaining a minimum purchase of $500 a month from them. This can make it difficult to make a profit when you are just starting out. If that isn’t a problem for you, swing to their website to check out the rest of their criteria. There are other sources available that don’t have monthly minimums allowing you to only spend what you are comfortable with, such as heroescorner whom I personally go through and have nothing but great things to say about. There is also mailordercomics,who have been around awhile and I’ve only heard good things about, dcbservice which seems to be a pretty good site regardless of its recent premiere. While these other sources do offer huge discounts on orders, it is still difficult to remain competitive with your pricing (but not impossible). You don’t have to have new releases to run an online store though, and it’s cheaper to just focus on back issues!

Where to sell is the next thing to figure out, and there are multiple options available out there. Not every option will work for each person, and you will need to figure out which one will work best for your needs. Ebay, AmazonAtomicAve , ComicCollectorLive, and ComicsPriceGuide allow you to list comics to sell for a nominal fee. Each site’s fees vary and you will have to find one that works for you. These sites have a pre-existing customer base and usually do some sort of advertising to draw people to the site. You could also host your own site and do it all yourself, but that requires a lot more time and money to pull off as well as some web page design skills.

Once you decide where to set up shop, you will need to make sure you grade your inventory as accurately as possible. I would suggest that you grade your inventory a half a grade to a grade lower, so a VF comic you would grade as FN+ or even FN. The reason for this is simple; the grading criteria for each individual varies as some people grade harsher than others. It is better to have a customer receive a comic in a condition better than expected, than to have them upset about an over-graded comic.

There are a few other things to consider like shipping costs. You can’t overcharge on shipping as customers won’t stand for it and will shop elsewhere. There is also advertising to consider; people won’t know about your store unless you tell them. Most search engine sites have advertising available at really reasonable rates. I am going to stress again how important grading your inventory is! If you have no idea how to grade a comic you can buy a copy of Overstreet’s price guide, or you can use this guide. This is merely a guide and it can still be difficult to accurately pin down a comic’s grade. Be sure to look at every page of the book! This guide to grading comes from Pat Mcauslin who owns and operates Comics Castle is another great source to use.

I would also like to point out that you probably will not get rich doing this, but you might be able to support your comic addiction with it like I do. This isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great deal of fun. I have met some great people from my adventure into the world of online business.

Scott Andrews



  1. Scott, this is a great article. People will appreciate you pointing them in the right direction on where to go to begin selling online!

    While I agree that accurate grading is incredibly important to a store’s online integrity, I wouldn’t go so far as to under-grade an entire grade lower on a book. I think VF to FN for the sake of ‘being safe’ is a bit extreme- you don’t want to rip yourself off! A half grade is more understandable, but even then it can be a bit much at times. My personal method is to NOT give the comic the benefit of the doubt and leave it at that. Meaning, if it sort of looks FN but there are some questionable dings and creases that would puts its integrity in check, I’ll grade it at VG/FN so as to not over-grade it, but still not under appreciate the book and drop it to GD.

  2. billy

    Great info! This is something I would love to do someday.

  3. john is an online comic book shop as well that seems pretty legit

  4. Jeremy

    No they don’t! There’s no product. However, is definitely legit.

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