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Unearthing Comics at Flea Markets

One of the cool things about collecting pretty much anything is the rare occasion where you unearth something cool at a flea market. Don MacPherson recently did a review about an issue of Green Lantern he found at a flea market.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually found anything really cool, comic book-wise, at a flea market. The best I have ever done was at an antique store that had a pile of comic books really cheap (some good stuff, too).

How about you folks? Share with me the coolest comic book purchase you’ve made at a flea market, yard sale, etc!

46 Comments

In an antique store in Providence, RI last year, I found a box of old comics (almost all of them in reasonably good condition) being sold for a dollar each. I picked up Howard the Duck issues 15 through 18, and 20 through 23. All Steve Gerber classics, including the “deadline” prose issue, the Dr. Bong story, the Soof parody of Moral Majority crusades, and the Star Wars send-up. (Unfortunately, #19, with the cover homage to Amazing Spider-Man #50, wasn’t in the box).

I also picked up the Chris Claremont/John Byrne issue of Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man and Red Sonja (and a one-panel cameo from “Clark Kent”), a good Peter David/Sal Buscema issue of Spectacular Spider-Man (the last part of the Sin Eater storyline), and an issue of American Flagg (written, but not penciled, by Howard Chaykin).

The surprise comics find of my life (so far), it was.

Annoyed Grunt

July 24, 2007 at 8:55 am

I got an almost complete collection of Crisis on Infinite Earths from a used book store for $.50 each. I’ve picked up other good stuff from there including $5 TPB’s but Crisis was the best find.

I have two great finds, one of my one and one that I merely benefitted from. My own find was a nearly complete run of Suicide Squad in an antiques shop here in Baltimore going for $1 a pop. The second find was actually my mother-in-law’s. She’s very active in church activities out in Arizona, and particularly she runs the church rummage sale. She went out to a parishoner’s house to pick up some records for the rummage sale, and as she was walking into the house she saw two boxes (for computer paper) filled with Silver Age goodness that the owner was just throwing out. Mom-in-law picked them up, all free mind you, and sent them off to me. Tons of Marvel Team-Up AND DC Comics Presents, along with plenty of Batman, Superman, GL, Flash, and plenty of other DC books. Ohhhh, what a beautiful day that was. Interestingly, I think I also got that Marvel Team-Up with Spiderman and Red Sonja that James got. It was the one where Sonja’s spirit posesses MJ, right? Museum fights, etc? Good stuff.

Action Comics #1. Right next to a Star-whats?-veus violin and a bunch of upside down airplane stamps.

Two years ago, I purchased Avengers #1 (THE Avengers #1!) for $.25 at a yard sale in Monson, MA, along with a bunch of Jimmy Olsens and a few Supermans from the ’60’s. The Avengers is in what one would probably call “Good” condition, at best, but it was intact.

My greatest flea market find is Kool-Aid Man #1.

Yeah, I got nothin’.

I got the last issue of the original AQUAMAN run at a flea market.

At the time I didn’t even know what it was; it just looked cool because there was a giant slime monster on the cover.

Five words:
Full run of Watchmen

I can beat that, I got DOOM FORCE #1 for a quarter last weekend at a flea market.

The first comic I ever bought was GI Joe #90, purchased from a K-Mart spinner rack because I was really into the toys. Road Pig was on the cover! After that, I’m not sure if the fleamarket comics came first or if I’d already made my first nervous venture into the dungeon-esque comic shop down the street (Yes, a lot of them still scare kids away … but not me!). Either way, I was trying to get more comics but didn’t know which ones were good so I just bought anything I could find that was cheap. At the fleamarket, I nabbed a short-box of comics for about $5.00. Most of the comics were crap, but I remember being especially taken with the “Pacific Overlords” story arc of Avengers West Coast. My only experience with Marvel heroes was the first trading card set, so I wasn’t expecting such a weird grouping. I loved it, though, and kept buying comics at the fleamarket for years. Incidentally, my first comic-shop-bought comic was Quasar #22.

Stakkalee –

Yep, that’s the one! Claremont later reused Kulan Gath (the villain of that Marvel-Team Up issue) for a two-part Uncanny X-Men story.

Anonymous –

One cool thing about that “Pacific Overlords” storyline in Avengers West Coast, is that the Overlords were created by Dr. Demonicus, a mad scientist type who first appeared in Marvel’s Godzilla book from the 70’s.

That’s four words, Necro.

Dan (other Dan)

July 24, 2007 at 11:05 am

I buy most of my comics from flea markets. There are a couple in the area in which comic shop owners have booths. They’ll have last week’s comics for sale for about $1, and tons of backstock. Whenever a Comics You Should Own post goes up, I’ll head over to the flea market. One particular booth seems to be the remnants of a comic shop owner from the 80s. I’ve gotten a lot of big runs from him or her: Morrison’s Animal Man, Simonson’s Thor, Usagi Yojimbo, Grant/Breyfogle Detective Comics, Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants, Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, Peter David’s Hulk–tons of stuff. I can spend hours going through them and have almost as much fun as reading them.

It makes me really wary of price guides that I can go to the store down the block and pick up some of the best comics of the past 20 years for a dollar or less. It also makes me think about print runs–these comics had about 10 times as many copies distributed as today. I don’t think the same sort of opportunity to pick up today’s comics will be around 20 years from now.

I got Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu No. 91 at a Flea Market for a dollar a couple of years ago.

It was really, really awesome; it had a visual metaphor parallel narrative that was just terrific. If you don’t have that one, I strongly recommend picking it up.

I got Gotham By Gaslight for a $1 at a Salvation Army thrift store. It was not ony my first Elseworld and my frist Mignola, but it was one of the comics that got me back into reading comics.

Stephane Savoie

July 24, 2007 at 11:16 am

The Shadow GN by Michael Kaluta. Misc other things, but that’s the one that stands out.

SanctumSanctorumComix

July 24, 2007 at 11:24 am

Hulk # 181
(yup. 1st appearance of Wolverine)

Got it for 50 cents (or maybe it was cover price… I’m not sure) at a street fair (back in the early 1980’s).

I still have it and it’s in collectible condition.

That was the BEST find I’ve had to date.

~P~
P-TOR

I’ve had some luck in “out of the way” comic finds. In 1984, when I was quite a bit younger, I found a stash of Claremont/Byrne X-Men in an antique mall in Arkansas. Bought the whole stash, about 30 comics, at 5 for a buck. They were in cherry condition, too. Sweet find.

Also found a nice set of late-run Lee/Kirby FF in 1995 for about three bucks each at a little flea market in Oklahoma City.

A large portion of my comics came from flea markets, antique stores, and the like. I adore them.

Hulk 180 is the first appearance of Wolverine.

I was lucky enough to get a shoebox full of classic Superman, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Supergirl, and LoSH comics from a friend’s grandma’s yard sale. The stuff’s a little worse for the wear, but the comics are fun.

For the last few years of my time in college, there was a comic shop at the local flea market that I’d visit every 2-3 weeks. Newer books were typically priced (although at a discount), but older back issues could be bought for about 20 cents apiece. Discounted slightly more if you were a repeat customer.

In my first year or so of going there, I managed to assemble complete or near-complete runs of Giffen’s JL and JLE series, Hawkworld, Icon, Static, Hardware, Blood Syndicate, American Flagg, Mike Grell’s Green Arrow, Jon Sable: Freelance, The Ray, The Question, Jim Owsley’s stint on Power Man & Iron Fist, and, IIRC, Peter David’s Aquaman. All at 15-20 cents a pop.

I also bought most of my Suicide Squad run from a used bookstore at about 25 cents per issue.

I’ve bought most of my collection from back issue bins. Nothing for more than a buck.

But I’ve pretty much tapped out everything I’ve been able to find in my area.

So whenever I go to a new town on vacation, work, whatever, I call all the comic shops I can find to see if they’ve got any bargain bins.

I found this one place is Kissimmee, Florida that had a room with more than a hundred longboxes. Lots of good stuff. Unfortunately, I was limited by weight to thirty pounds or I’d have not been as selective as I was. I got a nearly complete set of Starman (vol.1), a large run of the first issues of the previous volume of Green Lantern, Lots of Morrisson Animal Man goodness, and a whole bunch of other stuff I can’t recall right now. The place let me fill a short box for $35.

But the best book I’ve ever gotten was Flash (vol.1) #151, featuring the third appearance of the Shade, and a two Flashes team up. I found a posting on craigslist for a guy selling his comics, and when I got in touch with him, it turned out he’s the father of a friend of mine. After going through his collection, he gave me the book for free. In Near Mint condition.
I’m not taking it out of the bag-ever.

Every month at Fairfax High School, there’s a large Flea Market that covers the parking lot and some of the grounds of the school. I went in just see what kind of garbage these people had. There was some guy that had a box of comics and trades, so I went through it.
As a huge Gene Colan fan, I found a NM condition copy of Stewart the Rat, done by Gerber and Colan. He was selling the book for 2 dollars, so I snagged it. Best part of it was, signed by Gerber and Colan!

When I was a teenager, I found the first part of “The Judas Contract” at a flea market. It was only a couple of years old at the time, but it was an issue I was missing. When I got it home, I realized its previous owner has used a sharpie to cover up all the naughty words, like “hell” and “damn.”

It was still worth the 25 cents, though.

Doug Atkinson

July 24, 2007 at 4:00 pm

At the Antiquarian Book Fair at the Detroit Public Library (this is a serious event with lots of dealers of old books, mind) I got two Tales of Suspense issues for a dollar each–the first appearance of the Porcupine and the first Giant-Man. (I also got the Supergirl issue with the only major Ambush Bug appearance I was missing from the same dealer–it was sort of an eclectic lot.)

SanctumSanctorumComix

July 24, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Yes, yes, Sleestak… as a long time reader/collector/quasi-historian/fountain of comic book knowledge, I know Hulk # 180 is the first “actual” appearance, but it’s only a cameo.

As far as price guide “value” goes, it’s not as much, nor as “official” a first appearance as # 181.

And, before you go on about it, I read your post about the mysterious disparity between the pricing of # 180 and # 181 when you first posted it last year.
(And just popped over to re-check, to make sure I didn’t imagine that was your rant. lol)

The reason for the disparity?
Could be some of the reasons you listed… OR it could just be that # 180 only shows him in one or two panels, and the real intro is in the next issue.

I will, however, agree 100% with you about the false value of diamonds.

That was why when the time came for me to present my wife (then girlfriend) with an engagement ring, I went for stones that are TRULY precious and had a custom made ring with emeralds on it (sure it had smaller diamonds as accents, but they weren’t the main focus).

Unlike diamonds, emeralds are very soft and fragile stones (and hopefully, unlike diamonds, aren’t mined by slaves or 10cent a day laborers).

~P~
P-TOR

SanctumSanctorumComix

July 24, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Oh, wait.

You hate the term “cameo” for appearances like that, don’t you?

OK… he had a speaking role for one panel.

NOT a true cameo, but not really an appearance either.

Let’s split the difference and call it an “appearo” (thus coining a new term that comic collectors can use).

:-)

~P~
P-TOR

The term for that is “walk-on,” actually.

In a general secondhand sales magazine, I managed to get ASM 121 & 122 for $5. Couldn’t beleive my luck!

Dan (other Dan)

July 24, 2007 at 6:32 pm

I got back in town today and was inspired by this post to go to the flea market. My acquisitions (about $26 worth): 15 Gotham Centrals, 6 post Starlin Cap. Marvels, 6 Black Widows with Sienkiewicz art, and a couple issues of Hard Time, Sweatshop by Peter Bagge, the Exterminators, Global Frequency, Flinch (Vertigo horror anthology), and an issue each of Scalped, Greyshirt, Face, an Englehart/Colan Dr. Strange, and a Justice League Adventures by Giffen and Dean Haspiel. I’m not trying to brag; I just want to encourage any blog readers to check out your local resale shop–they’re real treasure troves! I grew up in quarter bins. I was a lot better versed in comics 10 years old than I was in what was just released. For a long time, they were the only way I followed comics.

The larger of two local flea markets has two booths that deal in comics and collectibles (old records, toys and magazines usually) one of which has been there for well over a decade and from whom I’ve probably gotten the majority of my collection. A pretty sizable run of Adventure Comics (featuring either Legion or Supergirl), Mister Miracle, and an issue of Shazam autographed by the guy who played Billy Batson from the old movie serial are probably among my favorite finds.

Master of Soup

July 24, 2007 at 11:16 pm

i found a copy of action comics no. 1 in a used magazine store…i grabbed it paid my 50 cents and walked out. it turned out to be a reprint for an anniversary or something, the thing looked very real to a 13 yr old until i got to the car and opened it. very cool though well worth two caribou (canadian metal!!)

Back in the mid 70’s I would go to the flea market every week to buy comics from a guy called Red.

He had boxes of silver age comics and would sell them based on a two year old price guide, and always at the ‘Good’ price. Most actually were VG to Fine.

The stuff I was able to snag over time was awesome. ASM #9, Avengers #16, TTA #36, Marvel Tales #1, an almost complete run of Legion issues of Adventure Comics, FF# 48 and lots more.

The sad part is that I couldn’t afford to buy all of the comics :)

I found an issue of Green Lantern Corps Quarterly at a flea market in the early 90’s for a quarter.

Not really valuable, but it did get me really interested in Green Lantern for several years. I got the whole run of that series (until it ended with Jordan murdering the corps).

I’ve been searching flea markets and antique shops (the only places that sold used comics) since the 1970s, so my list of finds would make you cry.

The one that really comes to mind was the intro of the original Blue Beetle from 1939 in the bottom of a trunk of linens with a bunch of turn-of-the-century dime novels, at the legendary White Cloud (Kansas) Flea Market, for a quarter.

There was also an incredible stand at the Losantiville flea market in Cincinnati OH. I wish I knew the vendors name; he was the type who would see me thumbing through a bunch of Superman issues and say, “I have some nice Spirit sections and Timelys if you’re interested.” I think my love of comic book history can be directly attributed to him and to the Steranko Histories.

Aaron Kashtan

July 25, 2007 at 5:40 pm

James, which antique store in Providence did you go to? Was it the one on Wickenden Street? I went to that store a few times to look for comics, but there was rarely anything good, or if there was, it was overpriced.

I’ve gotten a few good comics at antique stores, but I’ve observed that such places tend to charge way too much for back issues.

Aaron –

What, and give away my secret? :)

It was a store on Thayer St. I don’t remember the name, but it was near Tealuxe, and the store had a left-wing/political activist vibe to it (posters on the store front, etc.) Antique store probably isn’t the best description – it was more of a vintage store, though the prices for most of their wares weren’t low, either.

Not quite the topic, but long ago in about 1980 my friend Jeff had been helpful doing yard work and shovelling snow and stuff for an old couple next door to him. He was just that kind of guy, nice, right?
Anyway, they got him to clean out the basement, and while he was down there he noted a box full of old comics and magazines. The old lady said, “oh, do you like funny books? You can just take those, now, they’ve cluttered up this place for years.” So he took the box home and called me (he didn’t collect comics, just sort of experienced them vicariously through my collection).
He talked to me on the phone as he opened the box and looked through it. There were about seventy comics, all from the 1940s. There were early Batmans and Supermans, some Marvel Mystery books including a Sub-Mariner/Human Torch fight, a Captain Marvel issue “proudly presenting Mary Marvel,” all sorts of mind-blowing stuff.
He lived about three hours away, and said he’d bring the box over the next day. I would figure out their worth and arrange to sell them, and he would let me pick out a third of them to keep. He was just that kind of guy, nice, right?
So the next day when he drove up and came to the door not carrying a box, my heart sank. I knew what he was going to say before he said it. “Aw, you know, there was probably a lot of money in that box, and they’re old people, on a pension, you know? So I thought about it and I took it back, told them they should get their family to sell it for them. They’re going to talk to their grandson about it. But look, they gave me ten bucks!”
He was just that kind of guy, nice, right?

Nice, nice, nice, dammit, dammit, dammit.

Does anybody know of any good flea markets in the Western Mass/Northen CT area?

Welcome and well done! – I\’m not exactly sure what this has to do with Antique book old rare sale (that\’s what I was searching on MSN when I saw a link here), but I\’m glad I got a chance to read your blog. Thanks!!

thecapedcrusader

December 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I know this thread is from a while back, but a friend and I are going to try to sell some of our comics at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market this Sunday and we weren’t sure what to do about pricing. Most of our stuff will be from the last 5-10 years, most in NM, just books we bought, read, and don’t want any more.

We were talking about selling at cover price (figuring guide wouldn’t be much more), or just a dollar per book. After reading these comments, it seems many of you picked up books for a buck apiece. Does that seem like a reasonable price point if you were to come across NM books from the last five years at a flea market?

Personally, I’ve never picked up books at a flea market, but I visited a friend at Indiana University about 13 years ago, and found a store with a back room full of comics for 25 cents apiece. I picked up a nice run of ASM there. There was also a store in Syracuse, NY that had someone’s collection selling for 100 books for ten cents. Picked up a lot of great stuff including multiple copies of Secret Wars #8 in NM condition. Sold two copies the next week and paid for my purchase entirely!

Just stumbled upon this great old article.

Recently been scouring all the local flea markets and antique shops to complete My ASM collection.

Found ASM #41 (1st Rhino) it was bagged and boarded but pretty banged up still probably poor 1-1.5 but all the pages were complete, still on the staples – for $5!

You just never know what you can find which is the exciting part!

Superman Vol. 2 #4 i found in a antique store and was the coolest one i found. sure it was not rare or anything but the story was pretty interesting.

Bought a box from a flea market in White Cloud, KS earlier this year for $20…had a Nova #1 in excellent condition bagged and boarded, plus several higher end Batman, Superman, Iron Man, and X-Men comics. Made my money back on the Nova and never looked back. My Wife and I are completely hooked on it now.

Picked up werewolf by night 1 swamp thing 1 (1972) spiderman 238, and xfactor 1-11 all for 45$

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