This morning I got up early to drive to Nashville for the Nashville Comic Expo. Both of the friends that I asked to go with me earlier in the week ended up backing out (for totally legitimate reasons), but I really wanted to go since I haven't been to a large scale comic convention in a while and I haven't gotten out of town in a while. Even though it is about three hours one way to Nashville, I decided to go for it. I am a grown adult, and capable of going places by myself.
After I spent a half hour choosing an outfit.
And no, it wasn't a choice of which costume to wear.
My goal for this convention wasn't to see any of the guests, or to participate in the speed dating (what?), or even the "spoken nerd" poetry slam (again, what?). My only goal was to see vendors, which meant that I needed to be ready to haggle. This also meant that I had to plan my outfit carefully, and not wear anything comic-related. This might seem counter-productive, since the goal of a comic fandom expo is to celebrate being a fan, but revealing yourself as a fan of something in particular can also put you at a disadvantage when it comes time to haggle. If I'm wearing a Legion of Superheroes t-shirt (I have four; doesn't everybody?) the message I am sending to the other attendees is "Long Live the Legion", but the message I am sending to a dealer is "Weak spot! I will probably buy your Legion crap anyway unless I already own it, so by all means please don't bother giving me a real deal". I also didn't want to wear anything university-affiliated, since Nashville is Vandy territory, so most of the reason it took so long to find a shirt was that almost all of my t-shirts reference comics or work.
Other people clearly took longer to choose an outfit:
(cute, but none of those outfits are in canon)
and I love that the last guy is dressed as a Dr. Fate action figure, rather than as Dr. Fate.
(I say that because, in the comics, the helmet and all of the other non-blue pieces are always colored the same, a shiny golden yellow or yellowish gold. While the "Super Powers" Dr. Fate maintained this color scheme, casting the helmet in yellow plastic and painting the rest of the yellow parts to match, most other Dr. Fate figures have given the helmet a metallic look while leaving the other pieces flat yellow.)
I didn't so much love this:
as I find the Bronies movement a little odd but also because I found it offputting to see so many parents let a random adult who is completely unknown to them hug their children just because said adult is dressed as a stuffed animal. This isn't a mall Santa or anything. It's some guy who bought, created, or rented a My Little Pony costume and now has his hands on your child, and under that mask he could be anybody. Shouldn't that bother a parent? Then again, I saw a mom dressed as female Freddy Krueger and her two kids wearing t-shirts that said "Freddy's Victim", which, given the history between Freddy and his child victims, sends the message that she's dressing up as someone who molested her own kids. Maybe parents aren't nearly as weirded out by things as I think they should be, or maybe I've already established that I spent way too much time thinking about the message that outfits send and couldn't get my mind out of that rut.
No, actually, I think the Bronies hugging children is creepy and I'm not apologizing.
Anyway, my first interaction in the vendor area:
did not go well. I was walking past a table, looking at the titles written on the long boxes, when the vendor yelled at me.
"Hey! Don't just look at the boxes! You have to look at the wall, first, where the good stuff is. Then if you see stuff on the wall you like, you know that there's probably something in the boxes you like."
"That makes sense," I said neutrally, even though I was thinking, "Or you could properly label your boxes, and I would know if there's something in them I might like, but hey. You started talking to me. I'll talk back and see what happens."
"Is there anything in particular that you're looking for?"
"Why yes, actually. Do you have any copies of 'Superman's Girlfriend: Lois Lane'?"
"Yeah! Come over here!"
He had seven issues, and they were all priced between $40 and $65 an issue.
"How firm are you on these prices?"
"Well, these are what the priceguides list as."
Not only is that not an answer to the question that I asked, but that also reveals the problem with issues of "Lois Lane". Issues before #100, and especially before #50, tend to be priced high in the guides because they are older and rarer, and it just seems like they should be valuable because they are comics from the 1960's starring iconic characters. However, the pool of collectors out there who will actually buy an issue of Lois Lane is rather small, and with almost 140 issues to track down many of us are not willing to pay those kinds of prices. Since there are so few of us and we are so stingy, comic sellers who are not willing to move on the price of the issues are going to end up sitting on them. If you're not willing to lower your $65 tag to something manageable, you and Lois are going to grow old together, something that probably happens in an issue of "Superman's Girlfriend: Lois Lane".
"So you're asking $65 for this issue, and not willing to move on the price at all?"
"That's a very important issue."
Mister, I already own that issue, and I didn't pay anywhere close to that for it. I don't carry a priceguide around with me, so my only way of evaluating your prices is by benchmarking against something I already own, and that leads me to believe that I should not shop with you.
"Well, I'll think about it."
"Don't think too long! Someone will snap these right up!"
The next table was much more promising, with a number of signs saying "Silver Age Comics 50% Off Marked Price". I decided to give him a try.
"All of the comics in these boxes are half off?"
"As a starting point. I don't want to take any of them home."
"Maybe I can help. Do you have any Lois Lanes in there?"
He grinned, and reached under the table.
"I have a whole box of them. You're looking for them?"
"I am, but that guy over there just tried to sell me some for sixty-five dollars EACH."
Laughter from the vendor. "Wow. Well, look through, and see what you're interested in."
"You don't want to take any of these home, right? I have a proposal."
"I have fifty dollars. Why don't I start pulling issues, and when you feel like I've hit fifty dollars worth, let's see what we think."
See? A vendor was willing to work with me, and we both walked away happy:
That's not even all of the haul. After some dickering back and forth, I ended up with 24 issues, but I couldn't get him to put the one where Lois runs for Senator on an anti-Superman platform (issue #62) back into the pile without losing too many of the cheaper ones after #100, so I had to let it go.
It was a good day, though, but I was saddened to realize on leaving that I'd only stayed an hour. At $20 for entry and $10 for parking, that's fifty cents a minute without even considering the six hours of driving time and the tank of gas. I don't know if I would call the trip a failure, because my God, that pile of Lois Lanes, but it feels like I should have stayed longer or gotten more out of it. I didn't find any of the figures I wanted, and that's actually what I was hoping to get.
Surprisingly, though, the Lois Lanes weren't the only fantastic bargain of the day. Since I left Nashville close to lunchtime to start heading back, it was pretty early in the afternoon when I got close to Crossville, and I decided to stop at the flea market there, which I've never been to.
I was pleasantly surprised, as it looks more like the outdoor flea markets I remember from when I was little:
although at the back it had a lot of empty (and apparently abandoned) booths:
I wasn't expecting much, and was really mostly looking for a drink and maybe a snack for the last part of my drive, but then this happened:
I never told you that I have a small collection of vintage Pyrex, have I? I don't buy every piece I see, as I think some of the patterns are fugly (looking at you, Forest Fancies), but I'm ok with that pattern, Golden Hearts. It was only produced on one dish, and for less than a year (late 1958 and early 1959), and the only other time I've seen one it was in the antique store down the street, where they have it priced at $55.
And then this happened:
"Sir, this tag says 'Lid - $5'. How much do you want for the bowl, too?"
"That tag means that the bowl comes with the lid. The pair is five dollars."
"I think that's a fair price."
"I'LL TAKE IT."
I don't know which purchase I am more excited about, but damn, I had an exciting day.