Can we all agree that Marvel Whitmans are not a thing?
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9 minutes ago, shadroch said:

I very much doubt Marvel was selling direct to comic stores in 1973. They were selling to Seuling maybe, although that seems a bit too early.

They were selling to Seuling, who was the Direct market from 1973-1977, before other people pressured him out of his monopoly on it. That's what "Marvel was selling direct to comic stores" was.

Direct market = Sea Gate distribution = Phil Seuling (until 1977) = selling direct to comic stores. They're all the same thing at that point.

13 minutes ago, shadroch said:

Pre-1978, I regularly haunted what would become comic book shops and none of them carried new comics. It just wasn't part of their business model.  People bought new comics off newsstands and back issues at comic shops. I was still buying wholesale from Imperial. I recall talking to a Seagate employee about opening an account but their minimums were way too high and they wanted money upfront for new accounts.

When I interviewed Bud, he said pretty much the same things, but he confined that to his first store that he opened with his friends in San Jose in 1968. By 1972, when he opened Comics & Comix, they started to carry new issues, too...and not just comics; anything the magazine distributor they used at the time (a company called "Gillboys") would send them. They operated as a full newsstand, carrying Time, Life, everything a news vendor would carry.

Over the course of the next two decades, the roles reversed; new comics became the main source of income for stores instead of back issues.

And the fact that Phil demanded money upfront is why he was forced out of the monopoly. Rozanski made a big stink about that, himself.

24 minutes ago, shadroch said:

by using charted trucks and then private planes to get books here from Sparta a day before Comics Unlimited did

Bud had a lot to say about this absolutely fascinating aspect of early Direct market distribution. Yes, distributors were, indeed, chartering freight planes to fly new comics out in the 70s and early 80s! Pretty amazing!

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13 hours ago, Randall Dowling said:
  1. X-men was not a hugely collected and amassed book in the 1970s.  Period.  Full Stop.  There were some who purchased 2-3 copies of each issue but they were incredibly rare.

By X-Men 114 I began pre-ordering 10,000 each month as one could easily pre-see having as many C-B-A-O X books as possible was not within the realm of speculation, rather, a no-brainer investment.
When the rest of the world caught up as we got into the 120s then especially the fever pitch building in the 130s, the 17 cents each the 35 centers cost me contributed heavily to Best of Two Worlds dominating much of the Bay Area comics dealing world by 1980.

All the other dealers, as well as part time speculators, etc all caught up in X Fever brought in their earlier vintage comics to trade for X-Men Byrne issues.

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13 hours ago, Randall Dowling said:
  1. The number of actual comic book stores in the entire United States was maybe a couple dozen at the start of the 70s and the decade ended with maybe a 100.  MAYBE 100.  This curve of growth was definitely parabolic, not linear.  So there wasn’t a huge direct market that you imagine.

By 1980, around 1500 comic or fantasy-related specialty shops operated nationwide, many of them part of multistore chains, up from an estimated 200 or 300 in 1974. Pacific was operating out of a 2200-square-foot office-warehouse on Ronson Road in Kearny Mesa. The company had 500 wholesale accounts and grossed just under a million dollars that year, according to Steve. It soon rented an adjacent 2200-square-foot space as well. (Source)

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13 hours ago, Randall Dowling said:
  1. Due to my family’s idea of a vacation growing up being “let’s see how many cities and states we can visit in 2 weeks”, we visited many of the comic book stores of the time.  NONE OF THESE STORES EVER SOLD THE SQUARE DIAMOND WHITMAN REPRINTS.  I’m sorry, but they didn’t.  I don’t think they were ever sold outside of the 3 packs which also were not sold in those stores.  So this imaginary giant direct market for comics in the 70s did.  not.  exist.  I think it was a different distribution model for toy stores, etc.they tried and didn’t do very well.  So it was abandoned.  A year or two later when they started direct distribution to comic book stores, they used a different price logo for a reason.

Marvel very much did sell direct to comic stores in the 1970s. Look at the diamond books. Those were sold in comic stores. @Moondog took a lot of my money.

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Bob Beerbohm's facebook feed is a font of knowledge:

"Charles Rozanski teminds me when the X title was around 117 and I was getting CBG overnight mail. Saw a prominent ad from Joe Koch with X-men #96 at $1 each. We were getting $10 each by then. So I called up, over the phone bought all 2400 copies - eight unopened cases - wired drafted the bucks - then proceeded to wait.

When the UPS guy showed up a couple weeks later delivering them, he said some thing to the effect of "what is in these boxes?"

I looked back blankly sorta saying, " 'comic books' - this is a comic book store you are in right now."

Being my then 2nd location being our old C&C location of 2512 Telegraph Ave I had moved back into May 1977 on a good weather Saturday in Berkeley we might get like 10,000 people thru 9 AM-midnight.

The UPS guy replied the shipper from New York had been calling up crazy like trying to get the shipment reversed.

I signed for them, knowing full well why. After the UPS guy left, I called Joe up, as he said to me the past week he had been getting offers of upwards of $5 $6 each.

Feeling a bit guilty, but just a bit, I had already made up my mind before calling him to offer a case back. Free.

Back in those pre-internet days one struck quick getting that weekly CBG in paying for overnight USPS.

I always felt Phil never should have tried using his DC sub-distributor DC monopoly as a weapon. Back then I never got direct. Never got the front money it took to pre-pay then.

But I was a sub for three at the same time. Phil for DC (padded with extra stuff to hit $3K), then also New Media as well as Big Rapids < CCD.

But that was OK in retro-hindsight. My bucks were going into building back issue vintage inventory which is where the nuclear reactor building fusion always resided for me.

For a short while there to kill off a 5 month 5% below cost new comics price war with my ex-partners at C&C which was erupting all over the Bay Area as we duked it out on Telegraph Ave, I set up with my Common Ground accounts to get Russ at Glenwood's air freight.

That first month we blew the Charles Abar / Bud Plant / C&C consortium of stores out of the water.

I had calculated the readers would pay full cover plus a couple air freight cents per new comic to get them a couple weeks before the Sparta train showed up in Barstow Calif, then land trucked by Yellow Freight up north on I-5 to Oakland.

Memory jog. All these stories should be on TV :)"

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Charles Rozanski 

A story about X-Men #137: the month before it came, out I had flown to St. Louis, and then driven a little rental car to Sparta. I was there to learn what I could about Phil’s new Seagate warehouse, that he had set up to compete with Russ Ernst’s Glenwood Distributing. Russ became a formidable force in 1980/81 because he was able to reship very quickly from his base in Collinsville, IL, which was only an hour from Sparta. Phil responded by setting up his own operation just ten blocks from the actual Spartan Printing production facility.

Having no other option to gain information, I simply drove up to the new Seagate warehouse, knocked on the door, and introduced myself as a fellow distributor from Colorado. The manager Phil had sent out from New York was our shopping that morning, so the assistant manager (an incredibly friendly local lady) gave me a complete tour of Phil’s operation. In doing so she inadvertently revealed to me a truly critical fatal flaw in Phil’s overall business plan, but that is a story for another day.

On that particular morning, this lady received a call from the Brooklyn headquarters after our tour was over. She hung up the phone looking very pale, and told me that she had been instructed to immediately escort me out of the building. That neither surprised me, nor bothered me, in the least. I had already learned everything that I needed to know.

Having time to kill before my return flight to Colorado, I called up my friend Robert Craig, the plant manager at Spartan Printing who oversaw comic book production, and asked if he had time for lunch. After a delightful meal during which he told me many stories about the insular workings of a little town like Sparta, he took me back to the plant for a private tour of their bundling area. In those primitive early days of the Direct Market we still received our 300-count boxes filled with string-tied bundles. Not surprisingly the string damaged the top and bottom comics pretty badly. Watching the ladies dispassionately string-tie those bundles made it clear to me that we had to stop this practice, immediately.

On our way back to his office, Robert introduced me to Nellie Gerlach, an incredibly nice lady who handled the distribution of comics. She explained that the presses ran at such high speeds that they often overran 10,000+ comics per issue which then needed to be shredded. She told me that if I ever needed any issues of anything, I could check with her directly to check their overrun inventory, and she could then seek a release from the publisher to sell them to me.

Soon thereafter, X-Men #137 was released. From the moment that I unpacked it, I realized that it was going to be a huge hit. We called Marvel to get more copies, and were told it was sold out. I then remembered what Nellie had mentioned about overruns, and called her directly. She put me on hold and walked out of her office into the plant to check inventory on hand. She came back sounding really puzzled, and said that 12,000 copies we still remaining after all shipments. I begged her to sell them to me through Alternate Realities’ account, and she promised to call Marvel New York for permission to do so. The very next week, all 60 cases (200 copies per..,) showed up with our shipment!

The punch line to my story is that during a historic bus ride to the new Pacific Comics warehouse in San Diego (during the 1982 San Diego Comic-Con) I sat next to Phil, and he told me that those #137’s that I purchased from Nellie were not overruns, but rather the entire shipment to his Sparta warehouse. His driver had signed for receiving them, but since no one working at their new warehouse knew anything about comics, no one noticed that they were missing until customers received their mailed packages, and started screaming. By then, however, it was too late as they had all been shipped to Colorado. Had Phil told me this earlier, I would have shipped them back to him. But his pride refused to let him acknowledge that his Sparta warehouse was such a mess.

So, upon that small error did I receive an amazing windfall of 12,000 copies of X-Men #137. Another little story from my wonderful life in comic book retailing.

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1 hour ago, FlyingDonut said:

By X-Men 114 I began pre-ordering 10,000 each month as one could easily pre-see having as many C-B-A-O X books as possible was not within the realm of speculation, rather, a no-brainer investment.
When the rest of the world caught up as we got into the 120s then especially the fever pitch building in the 130s, the 17 cents each the 35 centers cost me contributed heavily to Best of Two Worlds dominating much of the Bay Area comics dealing world by 1980.

All the other dealers, as well as part time speculators, etc all caught up in X Fever brought in their earlier vintage comics to trade for X-Men Byrne issues.

Thanks, Dan. Bob claimed it was #108 at CBCS.

Either way, he's wildly exaggerating, since those numbers would have been 10% of the entire number of copies reported sold throughout the country, as reported in the Statement of Ownership in #120.

Still...I have no doubt that he was buying at this point, after the summer of 1978.

 

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1 hour ago, FlyingDonut said:

So I called up, over the phone bought all 2400 copies - eight unopened cases - wired drafted the bucks - then proceeded to wait.

Beerbohm's facebook is also a font of misinformation. lol

X-Men #96 was *almost certainly* wire/twine bundled. Books weren't being packed in cardboard boxes quite yet in 1975...*maybe* with some exceptions (maybe Phil's books...maybe.)

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Beerbohm and Rozanski are so shameless. It's hard to read through the bombastic self-promotion. They're always the heroes of all their stories.

:facepalm:

1 hour ago, FlyingDonut said:

The UPS guy replied the shipper from New York had been calling up crazy like trying to get the shipment reversed.

While everyone is prone to bad decisions, this is totally out of character with the Joe Koch I have done business with since 1990. If he sold 2400 copies to Beerbohm, and Beerbohm paid for them, I have a *very* hard time believing that Koch would then "desperately try to get the shipment reversed"...thus breaking a deal he had willingly made.

1 hour ago, FlyingDonut said:

he took me back to the plant for a private tour of their bundling area. In those primitive early days of the Direct Market we still received our 300-count boxes filled with string-tied bundles. Not surprisingly the string damaged the top and bottom comics pretty badly. Watching the ladies dispassionately string-tie those bundles made it clear to me that we had to stop this practice, immediately.

And if Chuck's recollections are correct, this would have been in May of 1980...Sparta was still bundling books, which makes the idea of having "cases" of X-Men #96...a five year old book by that point...a bit unrealistic.

1 hour ago, FlyingDonut said:

Back in those pre-internet days one struck quick getting that weekly CBG in paying for overnight USPS.

I would be VERY surprised if The Buyer's Guide (it was not known as "CBG" until '82, '83) was being sent "overnight" through the USPS. 

It was a newspaper, after all. 

s-l1600.jpg

Who knows, maybe this was the issue that Koch advertised his $1 X-Men #96s in...

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3 minutes ago, RockMyAmadeus said:

I would be VERY surprised if The Buyer's Guide (it was not known as "CBG" until '82, '83) was being sent "overnight" through the USPS. 

It was a newspaper, after all. 

s-l1600.jpg

Who knows, maybe this was the issue that Koch advertised his $1 X-Men #96s in...

You could get the Buyer's Guide via FedEx back in those days. It would come to you the day after it was printed, or you gambled on the mail.

Living in the Chicago suburbs, I got it earlier than people on the coasts - because of that I was able to make scores. 

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5 minutes ago, FlyingDonut said:

You could get the Buyer's Guide via FedEx back in those days. It would come to you the day after it was printed, or you gambled on the mail.

Living in the Chicago suburbs, I got it earlier than people on the coasts - because of that I was able to make scores. 

Was it printed by World Color? I'd have to check my copies to see if it says. 

I can't imagine what FedEx overnight would have cost for a single newspaper. Yeesh. Could not have been cheap.

But Bob wasn't getting it via USPS overnight. I'm not even sure they allowed periodicals to be shipped overnight at that point (having just launched it as a regular program in 1977.)

Do you have your back issues? I have to find out if Krause put them on digital.

Edited by RockMyAmadeus
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2 hours ago, FlyingDonut said:

By 1980, around 1500 comic or fantasy-related specialty shops operated nationwide, many of them part of multistore chains, up from an estimated 200 or 300 in 1974. Pacific was operating out of a 2200-square-foot office-warehouse on Ronson Road in Kearny Mesa. The company had 500 wholesale accounts and grossed just under a million dollars that year, according to Steve. It soon rented an adjacent 2200-square-foot space as well. (Source)

In 1980, I doubt more than a third of these stores was selling direct market books. Seagate minimums were too high for most shops and by the time you dealt with distributors and shipping cost, it was easier and more economical to deal with the newsstand distributors. In NY, comic shops were still a year or two away from really taking off. Biggest store on Long Island was actually a book store that devoted maybe a third of the space to comics.

Most comic shops doubled as head shops, or poster shops and didn't depend on new issue sales. I'd looked into one but the revenue wasn't there. It really wasn't until books got to sixty cents that selling new books was profitable enough to attract non fans into the business.

 

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32 minutes ago, RockMyAmadeus said:

Was it printed by World Color? I'd have to check my copies to see if it says. 

I can't imagine what FedEx overnight would have cost for a single newspaper. Yeesh. Could not have been cheap.

But Bob wasn't getting it via USPS overnight. I'm not even sure they allowed periodicals to be shipped overnight at that point (having just launched it as a regular program in 1977.)

Do you have your back issues? I have to find out if Krause put them on digital.

I don't know - it was printed and mailed from someplace in Wisconsin, which is why I got it in the mail faster than the coasts. They were in Iola, Wisconsin, but I don't know where the printing was.

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1 minute ago, FlyingDonut said:

I don't know - it was printed and mailed from someplace in Wisconsin, which is why I got it in the mail faster than the coasts. They were in Iola, Wisconsin, but I don't know where the printing was.

That would have made sense after they were bought by Krause (headquartered in Iola), and Don and Maggie (Thompson) took over as editors, but I'm pretty sure Alan Light was still publishing at that point, and it may not have been printed there....?

Too fuzzy on the details. 

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1 minute ago, RockMyAmadeus said:

That would have made sense after they were bought by Krause (headquartered in Iola), and Don and Maggie (Thompson) took over as editors, but I'm pretty sure Alan Light was still publishing at that point, and it may not have been printed there....?

Too fuzzy on the details. 

Fuzzy yes, but you could do it. This was when I was in high school, so pre-June 1982. Once Krause bought them (first issue 2/11/83) I believe (but am not sure) the FedEx advantage went away.

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10 hours ago, shadroch said:

I very much doubt Marvel was selling direct to comic stores in 1973. They were selling to Seuling maybe, although that seems a bit too early. Pre-1978, I regularly haunted what would become comic book shops and none of them carried new comics. It just wasn't part of their business model.  People bought new comics off newsstands and back issues at comic shops.

Some good history (that I didn't quote) in your post... thanks for sharing.    For my $.02 worth, I can attest that I was buying new comics at a comic shop pre-1978.  The shop owner kept them in pristine little stacks inside a display case, and you had to tell him which issues you wanted to buy.   I bought a bunch of Marvels including Nova #1, Howard the Duck #1, PPTSS #1 (and lots more) in 1976, and more in 1977 including Star Wars #1, from that store in the small town of Troy Ohio.  Wish I could remember the name of the store!   There were also back issues at this shop too, so he was a full service dealer.  Not a single black diamond Marvel was ever plucked by me from that display case in the 1970s.  Unfortunately I have no info regarding the source/distributor of those comics.

BTW, on the topic of number of comic book stores in the US at the end of the 1970s, Troy had at least two comic book stores.  The other comic store in town wasn't one I visited much because it was in the center of town, but I don't recall buying new issues there or if they carried them, just the back issues, bags, and my first Overstreet guide in 1976.

:preach:

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I've been looking for an article I read quite a few years ago, but can't find it. It was something to the effect that Seuling had made what amounted to a side deal with Marvel.  That the non returnable sales started as an experiment, not everyone was in the loop and it was quite awhile before the accounting and book keeping was squared away.

Does any of this sound familiar? The editorial side of Marvel was a mess at the time, I wonder if the business side was much better. 

 

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9 hours ago, FlyingDonut said:

Charles Rozanski 

A story about X-Men #137: the month before it came, out I had flown to St. Louis, and then driven a little rental car to Sparta. I was there to learn what I could about Phil’s new Seagate warehouse, that he had set up to compete with Russ Ernst’s Glenwood Distributing. Russ became a formidable force in 1980/81 because he was able to reship very quickly from his base in Collinsville, IL, which was only an hour from Sparta. Phil responded by setting up his own operation just ten blocks from the actual Spartan Printing production facility.

Having no other option to gain information, I simply drove up to the new Seagate warehouse, knocked on the door, and introduced myself as a fellow distributor from Colorado. The manager Phil had sent out from New York was our shopping that morning, so the assistant manager (an incredibly friendly local lady) gave me a complete tour of Phil’s operation. In doing so she inadvertently revealed to me a truly critical fatal flaw in Phil’s overall business plan, but that is a story for another day.

On that particular morning, this lady received a call from the Brooklyn headquarters after our tour was over. She hung up the phone looking very pale, and told me that she had been instructed to immediately escort me out of the building. That neither surprised me, nor bothered me, in the least. I had already learned everything that I needed to know.

Having time to kill before my return flight to Colorado, I called up my friend Robert Craig, the plant manager at Spartan Printing who oversaw comic book production, and asked if he had time for lunch. After a delightful meal during which he told me many stories about the insular workings of a little town like Sparta, he took me back to the plant for a private tour of their bundling area. In those primitive early days of the Direct Market we still received our 300-count boxes filled with string-tied bundles. Not surprisingly the string damaged the top and bottom comics pretty badly. Watching the ladies dispassionately string-tie those bundles made it clear to me that we had to stop this practice, immediately.

On our way back to his office, Robert introduced me to Nellie Gerlach, an incredibly nice lady who handled the distribution of comics. She explained that the presses ran at such high speeds that they often overran 10,000+ comics per issue which then needed to be shredded. She told me that if I ever needed any issues of anything, I could check with her directly to check their overrun inventory, and she could then seek a release from the publisher to sell them to me.

Soon thereafter, X-Men #137 was released. From the moment that I unpacked it, I realized that it was going to be a huge hit. We called Marvel to get more copies, and were told it was sold out. I then remembered what Nellie had mentioned about overruns, and called her directly. She put me on hold and walked out of her office into the plant to check inventory on hand. She came back sounding really puzzled, and said that 12,000 copies we still remaining after all shipments. I begged her to sell them to me through Alternate Realities’ account, and she promised to call Marvel New York for permission to do so. The very next week, all 60 cases (200 copies per..,) showed up with our shipment!

The punch line to my story is that during a historic bus ride to the new Pacific Comics warehouse in San Diego (during the 1982 San Diego Comic-Con) I sat next to Phil, and he told me that those #137’s that I purchased from Nellie were not overruns, but rather the entire shipment to his Sparta warehouse. His driver had signed for receiving them, but since no one working at their new warehouse knew anything about comics, no one noticed that they were missing until customers received their mailed packages, and started screaming. By then, however, it was too late as they had all been shipped to Colorado. Had Phil told me this earlier, I would have shipped them back to him. But his pride refused to let him acknowledge that his Sparta warehouse was such a mess.

So, upon that small error did I receive an amazing windfall of 12,000 copies of X-Men #137. Another little story from my wonderful life in comic book retailing.

  That's a cool story but I'm not sure how true it is.  Phil was the main distributor to the NY/NJ area and him not delivering that book would have been huge news. It would have been a repeat of the Howard the Duck craze where the books never hit the racks but we're going for 20x cover by the time #3 came out.

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