Are we seeing the end of the Back Issue Market?

Is it just me or is the back issue market disappearing these days?

I don’t know if it’s just the location where I live or if it’s a common thing all over but over the past 10 years I have noticed a decline in the amount of back issues that I can find. There are some runs that I want to finish like Books of Magic, Sandman Mystery Theatre and Preacher but where ever I go I find that there are either the same issues from the middle of the run or nothing at all.

Even with titles like The Darkness which I am missing issues from I’m only finding a few different ones in stores but other than that I’m having to go to eBay or to online stores to find the issues I’m after.

Now in my local area (which I can expand to a 45 minute drive) I only have 3 stores around me. My normal LCS (where I have my pull list) only has about 10 short boxes of back issues and most of them are more recent compared to what I’m looking for. As for the other 2 one of them is the same as my LCS as they do most of their business on Trades and Current issues.

The third store is a bit of an enigma. They are the generic Comic Book Guy store which has 2 levels to it. The back issues on the first floor are all stacked in piles, no order to them at all apart from being in vague publisher categories. Also if you go up stairs, and it’s open as it hasn’t been the last 2 times I have been in there, the first thing you notice is the stairs creak to the point you don’t want to put too much weight on them in case you fall through. And as up stairs are more of the newer issues but yet again they have them stacked up in piles with a vague order to them.

It was always fun when I had a group of friends with me and we would make a day of going through all of the comic stores but I don’t even want to go to the third store anymore as it’s too much of a hunt to try to find what I’m looking for. Also most of the workers there aren’t very helpful either so it’s not worth my while asking for help.

That being said, I’m finding it harder and harder to get the books I want in stores.

So what about Conventions I hear you say? Well as I’m unable to travel the country to go to Conventions I only get the chance to go to one Convention each year. Also as it’s not a convention in the way that most of the US conventions have with a top of about 15 000 people going through and you can really see everything within the first day.

Most of the stalls at the convention that I go to also are from stores so they only have current issues or they just have the same issues year in and year out that no one is buying.

So where does that leave me then?

You have places like My Comic Shop and Mile High Comics which always seem to have the issues I am after but the big issue I have with that is since I’m in Australia it can get costly to order from these online services so I end up having to make bigger orders to make it worth my while.

Also there is eBay which as everyone knows it’s not about the individual person selling anymore and if you do search for anything you will find that all you find these days is online stores yet again. And again the shipping comes into play.

I have purchased single issues from creators or other people I know over the world and had somewhere between $3 and $5 for shipping but a lot of these eBay stores don’t even check what the shipping actually is and I’ve had some want from $10 – $15 for shipping which is ridiculous.

So where does that leave the back issue market?

Is it a dying market as a lot of the older issues are now coming out in collected editions?

Apart from the few valuable books (first appearance issues etc) are we finding that as stores order less we won’t be finding the issues that we’re chasing?

For myself I’m going to keep looking for the issues I need and I’ll be waiting for stores online to have sales so I can at least save enough to pay for the shipping.

What are your thoughts?

Leave comments and let’s see where we think this is going.

6 Responses to “Are we seeing the end of the Back Issue Market?”

  1. Jason Wright says:

    I’m fairly lucky in that the LCS I go to has a relatively healthy back-issue section. In fact, they just opened up a section of 50-cent books. They don’t necessarily have that one issue I’m looking for, but living in the US, services like and mile-high are more feasible.

  2. xutraa says:

    I’ve found it’s a bit of a supply and demand thing. Here in Melbourne where I have the choice of 3 shops in the CBD, I’d say the back issue stacks are pretty damn good. In Comics R Us (where my pull list is) there’s a fairly large table set up, probably about 5 x 2 m which has boxes and boxes of anal-retentively catalogues back issues. My friend Moose has spent what I assume is squillions on Iron Man back issues there. The other shops (Minotaur and Classic Comics) have pretty good stashes as well. Classic is a much smaller shop, but they have a dedicated area of drawers full of backs. Minotaur tend to be the kind of place you order in your back issues, and they usually charges ridonkulous prices too.

    Honestly, I think the almost automatic publication of trades is killing the demand for more recent titles. The last 15 years has seen more of a trend towards waiting for trades. I know the comics that have really hit me (DMZ, Fables, Transmet, Planetary, Preacher, etc) have been the ones I’ve read in trade form. Maybe it’s the condensing of the story – no waiting for the next month (or in Ellis’s case, fucking YEARS) for the story to continue. It takes some of the fun out of it, maybe, but it’s far more convenient, and to be honest, it’s easier for me to look after my trades than it is for me to futz around with single issues. :p


  3. Alan says:

    I think shops are cutting overheads by ordering less in the first run. Sign of the times, I guess.

  4. Lord Shaper says:

    I know the price of comics and due to the economy it could be affecting what people have in the stores. But I also think that the way stores are trying to get more shelf space for trades, which are such a strong format at the moment compared to say the mid 90’s where they were few and far between unless they were an OGN, means that we will have to loose something within the store.

    So if people are going to be still getting their monthly issues and also there is more people coming in to get Trades the thing that I can see from a business POV would be back issues.

    Now I do get some things in Trade. The current Star Wars series’ from Dark Horse for Example. But I can’t mix and match… I’d say it’s my OCD but I need to get it all in one format. Hence why I now own a full run of Hellblazer and I sold off the few trades I had.

    The only thing I can see happening is there might be a few back issue stores pop up which specialize in them but other than that it’s going to be harder to find!

    Xutraa, Did you start any of the ones you quoted (DMZ, Fables, Transmet, Planetary, Preacher, etc) in single issues or did you discover them after they had came out?

  5. xutraa says:

    every single on of them I discovered in trade format – either through recommendations or borrowing from friends.

    And I totally get the OCD, you should see me demanding my favoured covers when there are alts (Anna Mercury especially). And looking at my shelves full of issues it quite nice, really. But when i want to test drive a series, if there’s a trade, I’ll go for *shrugs*

    I’d love it if there was a dedicated back issue shop somewhere, especially here in Aus. They’d probably make a squillion from mail order!

  6. Craig says:

    I’ve thought about this before and for me it’s probably down to a number of factors:

    1) it isn’t as much fun as picking through boxes I know but more and more of us enjoy the convenience of browsing a catalogue online, selecting what we want and buying;
    2) given the reduction in the ‘in person’ back issue market the shop owner possibly can’t justify setting aside shelf/floor space prefering instead to use the space for new items …

    meaning we become less dependent on the shops and more dependant on the online route!

    The speed and certainty with which collected editions are published must be hurting sales of the monthly issues – more and more I find myself passing on a monthly mini-series title knowing that within months of the final issue being published I’ll be able to pick up the trade where I’ll probably get a better read for less financial outlay – but maybe that’s a different argument!

    Of the two nearest comic shops to me (South West England) neither stocks back issues and in the past when I’ve asked they’ve told me to look on line.