121: Atlanta Classic Comics: From Auction to Buy It Now – Jeff Hathaway

Jeff is the owner of Atlanta Classic Comics, an eBay based collectibles store. He started in 2011 in Atlanta, Ga.

Interesting Notes

  • When you are in the Collectible Space, you have opportunities to dabble on Variant Covers, Records, Toys, Glassware, Memorabilia, Autographs and a lot more.
  • Jeff focuses on Comics because it is where he finds his market the strongest.
  • As a kid, he is never into comics. But, his grandfather gave him a hundred comics. And as he moves into life, the comics have somehow hung in there. It became the seed planted for his business.
  • During his teenage years and early adulthood, Jeff started to see the rise of the comic book movie. Comics became more in and hip.
  • Jeff had done some eBay selling before like going to a yard sale and pick a stuff to find a larger market online and double the math.
  • One night, he was on eBay. He saw online that he could pick up lots of comic books for 10 cents per piece. There were people selling comic books in a Grab Bag setting for a dollar to a book. So he did a quick math. He thought that he could sell 20 or 30 Grab Bags a month and pick up a few hundred bucks without doing a whole lot.
  • He started to buy a piece of the collection. He realized that he has stuff that he does not need to put in a Grab Bag because some are more valuable.
  • He moved on and started to learn what things are sold for. He decided to get out of his job where he had to list 40 to 50 things a night.
  • Jeff started his eBay business using the Auction model.
  • After a year or two of knowledge built up by selling things in an auction, Jeff adopted the Buy It Now model.┬áHe now sells things at a price he wanted to sell and wait for the right guy to come along.
  • Right now, he has close to a half a million comic books.
  • The most valuable comic book of all time is sold out of a store in Seattle for $3M or $4M a few years ago. It is the first Superman appearance which is a number 1 action comics.
  • There are exceptions to the notion that the first edition of a comic book is worth something more than the new one. Like the case of the Deadpool which is in and hip now.
  • Deadpool appeared in The New Mutants issue #98. The New Mutants issue #1 might worth $20 or $30, but issue #98 is worth $500,000 to $600,000. Sometimes it is the newer thing that draws people attention.
  • Jeff does not advise to anybody the Auction model because it is not very sustainable.
  • An auction is a good starting point if you have no idea what something is worth. It will also give you a barrier of entry to the customer base. Customers feel that they get a good deal if they get things in the auction.
  • If you maneuver into a Buy It Now model, then you already have a customer base that trusts you. Jeff business rebounded pretty quick when he switched to Buy It Now model. It is much stronger now than it was strictly an auction-based.
  • Comic books have to be sorted first before it can be put into a sale. Jeff sorts comics in different batches. Sometimes, he sells comics by batch. Sometimes, it is sold as a single issue. He spends at least one week in preparation to put comic books on sale.
  • Jeff had employed 6 to 7 people. In the past, eBay has offered free insertion fee and promotions. So, whenever he has a larger scale promotion fee, he will hire an extra person to replace the said fee. The income that he is not spending with eBay, he spends it with providing a job for someone.
  • Today, Jeff is down to 3 people. This is due to the recent changes on eBay and the system he implemented.
  • At the end of every listing, he puts a code that is unique to where he stores the comics. Whenever the item sells on eBay's sold log, the box code is printed on the order sheet. It is like a library card catalog type system.
  • Jeff also has consignees. He gives consignees their own unique code. One of his largest consignees is Adam Davis. Jeff has an AD code that goes with the 50 boxes with items that he is selling for Adam. He checks the codes at the end of each month.
  • It is important to manage the detail of every item.
  • Jeff ships about 250 to 300 orders in a week. He protects the shipments the way he is protecting his own personal stuff. He tells his people that they have to maintain their 99.9% successful delivery rate.
  • Atlanta is a big time transient city. The residents are not from Atlanta. A lot are from the North East. Some are from Chicago and Florida who moves into the Atlanta area.
  • Comics when first came out are more concentrated in the North East. The transients are the ones who bring in the comics to Atlanta.
  • Most Comic Shops are into Magic The Gathering or Pokemon or Yugioh. They are more of a gaming type stores that offers comics as a secondary business. They sell comics that have been published. So, if you visit a Comics Shop, you might find one guy that is willing to buy an older or more of a collectible variety.
  • With the new comics, you spend $2 to $5 whereas Jeff buys stuff for a dollar that he can sell for a thousand.
  • With the new comics, you walk out of the door and it is worth a quarter of what you paid for it. The complete opposite is when you are well versed in picking older stuff. That is why Jeff buys and consigns larger collections.
  • Some of his items are 60 to 70 years old. It is like seeing all the sitcoms put up in the 50's, 60's and 70's.
  • Comics age is a reference to the year that comics are published. Gold Age which is around 40's to 50's is the beginning. It started with the action comics #1 published in 1938, the first appearance of Superman.
  • Next is the Silver Age which refers to the 60's to 70's. Then there is the Bronze Age, around 70's to 80's. Then the Copper Age which is the 80's to 90's. Then the Modern Age from the 90's up to the present day.
  • Comics serve a lot of purpose in the American culture since the late 30's. There was a time when it became the tool to educate kids about the Do's and Don't's. Marvel was even contacted by the US government to tell a story about the drug use and how kids should not do it.
  • Some of the comics issues have value because of the Ad reference to a future book in them.
  • When a new movie comes out, there is a bigger boost in sales especially when the stuff is announced.
  • Jeff mentioned the three types of business model: Auction Model, Buy It Now model, and the Convention model where a seller goes to shows and sells in person.
  • There is also another model which Jeff is more inclined to adopt. This is the model where people have their comics certified by independent grading companies. A lot of times the value grows 100% to 200% once a numerical grade is attached to the book. He considers having more of their stuff graded because he can see a higher return on the book value.
  • He has also grown his consignment business and it has helped his business grow. He wants to seek out those larger collections because he believes it is the quickest way to grow fast.
  • A lot of fun stuff is waiting for you. Check out Jeff's website Atlanta Classic Comics. Follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. They do a lot of weekly sale and give-away. They give a lot of extra discounts for those who followed them on their social media accounts.

Quotes

  • “It does not matter if you don't know what something is worth as long as there is a market out there.”
  • “The market will tell you what the item is worth”.
  • “Sometimes it is the newer thing that draws people attention.”
  • “There is so much time in a day and so much effort you can do.”
  • “You have to be careful if you have to auction things.”
  • “You just learn through experience.”
  • “The only way you can survive and scale is to put a system in place.”

Contact Information

Sponsors