Many times professional lives blend in with one's hobby. Attorneys experience this all the time. The following are some ways that a career in law has intersected issues encountered during decades spent in the hobby. These situations remind me that a problem in one field can readily appear in another. Identifying possible areas of concern can help buyers and sellers avoid potential disasters. The following analysis is not legal advice. If any reader is a victim of any the the situations mentioned please contact a local attorney to better assess the situation.

I. Be Weary of Sellers that Are Unknown to You


Trust is important in any transaction. Not knowing the character and background of a seller is a negative element in any transaction. This component is more important than the grade and price of an issue, yet it is also the most ignored variable in most comic book transactions. It is amazing how many people will drop their guard in an attempt to score a perceived good deal.


Attorneys investigate many businesses and individuals. Finding out that vendors have a history of bankruptcies, criminal convictions or numerous lawsuits filed against them is a major red flag when it comes signing a contract. The more one knows about the other side the better you can protect yourself. It is important to check references and then investigate those individuals as well. A recommendation from an unidentifiable source or someone that has an interest with the vendor is not a good advocate as to the integrity of a party.


Many individuals contact attorneys who have been wronged in a transaction. It happens every day. Collectors contact me with issues related to their bad purchases quite frequently. The problem for most is that even if a person has been wronged and wins a lawsuit, that is not the end of it. Victims still have to recover the judgment. An aggrieved party may win a lawsuit for a non-delivered book in one state but another state may not recognize that verdict, thus making collection impossible. In addition, a seller may also avoid or delay paying adding more expenses to collect the judgement. Throwing dollars away to recover dimes does not make sense. Sometimes the only thing one can do is learn a lesson from the bad experience. This can be a pricey lesson for some comic book purchases.


Major purchases should not be made with unknown third parties. Even if one has dealt with the person before still be weary. Criminals have a tendency to take advantage of victims when the time is right. Many a victim states that several initial transactions went through smoothly only for it to fail when stakes were raised. That is not a coincidence. Attorneys see it all the time.

II. Pay Attention to All Steps of the Transaction


A seller and buyer will negotiate with each other in any transaction. Buyers should pay close attention to what is being said during these conversations. The seller's ideology and business acumen will usually reveal itself during this process. The reason is that there are many steps negotiated in a comic book purchase. A failure in any these parts could have dire ramifications. Sellers will show what is important to them and sometimes those things are not in the best interest of the buyer.


Contract negotiations can vary in their nature. Most readers believe means means formal discussions between two parties at a business table. A contract negotiation can also occur by merely ordering food at a restaurant. Sadly a lot of people ignore terms or information during these negotiations that reveals what is important to the other party. This includes how they view their clients. Attorneys realize this. Many contracts negotiated by lawyers focus on more than prices. The manner and time of delivery is sometimes more important than price.


Many sellers disclose how they handle delivery on Facebook. Some point to the savings they achieve by using Media Mail. Sellers state that this thriftiness then can be passed on to the consumer saving them money. These retailers brag about how they have not had any problems for years mailing this way and any buyer's concern should be ignored. Um, and many people speed and do not get ticketed until they get caught. Ignoring outcomes is only possible until they occur, then it is too late. This seller's blind spot should be a warning sign for consumers.

Comic books cannot be shipped by Media Mail per terms of the USPS. Using Media Mail allows items shipped using this service to be opened for inspection. This includes implicit consent to inspection including removing a comic from a CGC case to determine if the item has any ads. In addition, the buyer and seller will be responsible for any cost incurred and impact on the item. This means if the book is subsequently damaged they cannot blame the USPS and must hold the postal service harmless. Is this risk worth the savings?


Avoid sellers who use Media Mail. A few can claim ignorance to the USPS exemption policy, but many more cannot. A seller who wants to save money on the delivery of your item is introducing risk at the worst possible time. Sellers and buyers want to control all aspects of a transaction. The one time they cannot is when using a third party delivery service not party to the sales transaction. Sellers trying to use illegal or unethical means to save money is a bad sign. A great transaction is ruined if the product arrives damaged, if at all. Ask yourself why would a seller risk a reputation that has taken a lifetime to build to save a few dollars in one transaction?

III. Support Local Comic Stores and Attend Conventions


Relationships matter. Corporations do not file lawsuits every single time someone fails to honor a term of a contract. Some have long histories together and this history can be more valuable than money. Many times contract modifications are made because of a relationship that exists between two parties. It is the reason manufacturers will pay more for quality with someone they know rather than accepting the lowest bid from an unknown competitor. Reputations matter.


Many retailers know that having a vendor in close proximity to a business is advantageous to their success. Logistics are filled with the potential for delay. A bridge collapsed a few hours before this article was written that will close the port in Baltimore. The loss of life is tragic. The cost to businesses will also be bad. Products now will be delayed. This will cost entities time, money and opportunities. People must now find other options to handle this disaster.


Many contracts are negotiated with multiple suppliers factored into the process. The reason is if one has issues it is possible to shift the lack of production to another entity quickly. Resource availability is every changing and relying on one supplier to produce products could leave a company or individual vulnerable. Many attorneys draft contracts with contingency clauses to allow flexibility for their clients. The ability to pivot quickly is a way to succeed where others fail.


The comic book market is ever changing. Supporting a local comic book shop can provide advantages at times even if one has to pay a little more than just buying online. During the pandemic many local comic book stores survived on the support they received from loyal customers and have treated them accordingly. Knowing with more certainty that books could be purchased from a local comic book store in return was a benefit to the consumer. The more sources one has to purchase comics the better situated the buyer will be in the market.

Comic conventions also should be visited. This writer will be attending ASTRONOMICON 7 in the near future. The convention allows for face to face interactions with vendors who get to know buyers. Vendors at intimate conventions like this one actually remember buyers. At ASTRONOMICON this writer has observed vendors actually bring additional product only because they know it will be sold to particular attending buyers. Remember a relationship is a two way street. Having a known buyer for product cuts costs. Relationships like this matter. Buyers rather sell to a bird in hand than hoping for a bigger sale in a bidding war between to birds in the bush that may not exist for months, if at all. That is worth more than the price of admission to both the buyers and sellers.

IV. Stop Putting Yourself in Danger


Comic book collectors and sellers are a very trusting lot. They post their valuable collections like badges on honor on Facebook, Youtube, TikTok, and other social media sites for all to see. These individuals might as well be posting pictures of their credit cards on those sites as well. Showing collections worth thousands along with personal information such as their names, home addresses, and other key data is an open invitation to robbers. Comics are not traceable even if they are graded. The case can be discarded and the book sold in its new state for easy cash. Taunting dangerous individuals with an untraceable score is a bad idea.


Many hobbyists say that robberies involving comic books does not happen. Recently two local men from Michigan were arrested for allegedly robbing at knife point a comic book store owner in Pittsburgh a year prior. Criminals realize items in these types of stores have value and are not traceable if sold in open markets or online.

A few years ago a hobbyist went into a store to sell some valuable comic books but decided not to complete the sale. A few days later he was a victim of a robbery that cost him his books, but more importantly his life. One of the people convicted for his murder was the owner of a store. It was alleged the owner tracked down the collector to his home with the information he provided to the owner. After the murder one of the valuable books stolen was later found in his store up for sale.

The store owner could try to argue the book was not the one that was stolen because how could one prove it was the same book? Law enforcement will use DNA testing for a murder, but maybe not for a small collection worth a few thousand dollars. In the murder case, the books may have been untraceable but the statements made by others was what truly convicted the people involved.


Interviewing a criminal reveals they are looking for only two things in committing a crime. The first is an easy source of income. The second is a way not to get caught. The better the score the more risks they are willing to take. It is extremely hard to distinguish one comic book from another even if the book is rare. That allows comics to be liquidated so the book cannot being traced back to a crime scene. Ultimately, criminals do not want to be caught. Tempting someone with untraceable valuable items combined with a small chance of getting caught makes murder an acceptable risk.


Comic books may be valuable but they are not worth a reader's life or that of their loved ones. Books of such value should never be kept at a house where they could invite a robbery attempt. There is a chance for bad results even if protected by a gun because the criminals may actually outgun comic book owners. Bank safe deposit boxes are meant to hold valuables in a secure place, so why not use them for comics?

Posting pictures of a valuable collection on social media should also be avoided at all costs to protect hobbyists. Many pictures are posted that contain geotags that can be used by criminals to pinpoint where valuable items were located. Showing valuable books that criminals can use data contained in pictures to reveal their location is not a good decision.

Finally, buyers and sellers should also be cautious with giving a home mailing address for their transactions. The seller of a book now knows what type of books the buyer owns; their ability to pay for that book; and the buyer's address. The seller has also revealed their inventory's location as well with their return address. This could be a roadmap to disaster. A UPS or Post Office box can provide cover to both of those individuals.


This article was written by someone who has dealt with incidents professionally that can be translated to better protect hobbyists. In court, attorneys listen to just how intelligent many criminals can be applying their craft. This information also can assist in determining how people were chosen as victims. Knowing this information can better help readers protect themselves from making an unnecessary mistake that could put a bullseye on their back.

Experience with court cases also allows for problem sources in transaction to be identified. Many outsiders view comic book sales as not that important. Insiders know otherwise. Books can be expensive. An items condition could make a book very desirable to others. Other items could be so rare that finding an obtainable replacement impossible. Any one area that can go wrong could lead to a disastrous outcome. Using some of the knowledge presented may help readers avoid a bad situation, and that can be more valuable than any comic one could buy.