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Comic Book "Flipping"

cbcs cgc comic comic book comic con flipping graded pgx slabbing

As we are one day away from attending the local comic book convention, Rose City Comic Con... once again the monster topic known as comic book "flipping" has reared its gruesome head.

For those readers who are unaware I will first start with: what is 'flipping'?

Well, in the comic book world, the term 'flipping' refers to when a comic book fan buys a copy of a popular comic book, takes the book to a comic book convention where the artists of the book will be appearing, they have the artists sign the comic book in the presence of a grading company's witness, then they pay for the comic book to be graded by comic book grading company (like CGC, CBCS, or PGX), the grading company grades and encapsulates the book (this action is also known as 'slabbing'), they use a Yellow or Gold Label to indicate the signature's authenticity, and then fan sells the book on eBay for a profit.

Why is this bad?

Well, that part is really unclear. On social media you will sometimes see some comic book writers and artists make blanket statements like "flippers ruin the comic book industry" or "flippers only want my autograph.. so I don't make any money on sketches since I can't sell them" or other statement suggesting that 'flippers' are riding their coattails and somehow taking money out of the artists' pockets. However, no one ever gives a concrete answer on how they are 'ruining the industry'. They merely make blanket statements like "they are not true comic book fans". So, in this article I am going to explain how these ideas are completely false. 

Let's start with, who are these 'flippers'?

The assumption is that they are fans who are making hundreds and thousands of dollars per comic book. The reality is that they are a lot of different people. They are sometimes fans looking to make some money to fund their comic book collecting habit (or convention going habit), they are also collectors adding and then thinning out their collections, they are comic book stores selling comic books, and sometimes they are third party companies that specialize in selling signed and graded books.

This assumption suggests that the only 'true' comic book fan is the person who gets his/her own personal comic book signed, and then puts the comic book back into their short box, to be read over and over and over again ad infinitum.

To which I argue that is a very bigoted view. In the same sense as GamerGate. There are many different types of comic book fans in the world today. There are comic book fans who do not collect comics but love the movies/TV shows. There are comic book fans that only collect raw comic books. There are comic book fans that only collect slabbed comics. There are some that collect both. There are some comic book fans that only read DC/Marvel/Image/Dark Horse comics. There are comic book fans that read all publishers and genres (including independent publishers). There are some comic book fans that love to play the video games. There are some comic book fans that only dress up in comic book outfits; cosplayers. Just look at all that variety of comic book fandom in all of its glorious diversity!

So, to even use the term "true comic book fan" is a narrow-minded dogmatic action on behalf of the speaker. 

Now, let's discuss the business side of comic book flipping.

Since some comic book artists view the selling of slabbed comics as the action of a non "true comic book fan". In the artist's bigoted view they take on this sort of self-righteous crusade by... charging fee's for autographs! This is an attempt to discourage this unclean,"un-true comic book fan" like activity known as... slabbing your books (dun dun dun).

Here is why that crusade falls flat on its face:

1. Sometimes fans have books graded because they want to keep the graded book, not sell them. In fact, you can buy special mounts to hang them on your wall.

2. Fans already paid that artist... When we bought their book. If we didn't buy their books they wouldn't have a job.

3. At a book store signing have you ever seen an author charge for signing his/her own book? Does Stephen King charge a signing fee? Do you think Stephen King cares if you re-sell his signed book on eBay? Of course not! How about baseball cards? do baseball players charge to sign a baseball card? Of course not! So why should fans expect to pay for an autograph on a comic book?

4. Most modern comic book writers and artists who are part of this crusade didn't even create the characters they are writing/drawing. These are someone-else's creations. The writers/artists don't own the rights to the characters. The publishers do. By charging to sign/draw on a book that someone else owns the rights to... aren't they riding the coattails of someone-else's hard work? (Hey that sounds familiar) Thus making their "flipping argument" hypocritical.

5. When I purchase inventory (comics) from the distributor (Diamond) and sell it... Isn't that "flipping"?

6. When the publisher (DC, Marvel, etc) sells books to the distributor (Diamond) isn't that "flipping"?

7. When publisher pays a writer and artists to write/draw a book that the publisher then sells, isn't that "flipping"?

8. Years from now if you, the customer, sell a comic book in a garage sale, isn't that "flipping"?

9. When an artist or writer show up at a convention and that convention sells more tickets because of their presence... That convention makes profit on someone else... Isn't that "flipping"?

10. Some of us who so-called "flip" comic books... do so because we own a comic book store and slabbed books are one of the products we sell. Now, if the cost to obtain a good goes up (by artists charging for autographs) I have to increase the price of the goods to my customers. If the price of a good is too high it takes longer to sell.. therefore increasing my inventory costs. Thus I have to increase the sale price of other goods. Which means the cost to the customer for all products go up. At a certain price point the customer will stop buying the goods. Without customers and without sales the comic book store will no longer be profitable. Once it is no longer profitable the store will close. Fewer stores means the publisher will sell fewer books. Fewer book sales means fewer books to write and draw. Which ultimately means fewer jobs for writers and artists.

"Flipping" is ACTUALLY done everyday by businesses all over the world... But it's real name is called "Selling Goods". It happens every time a newspaper is sold, a couch, a car, etc. These things are manufactured at cost that is below the sale cost (gasp!)... The item is then sold for more than it cost to manufacture... that is called "Making a Profit". It's this thing that businesses (including comic book stores) have to do it in order to stay in business.

Artists need to wise up... Or else they are going to charge themselves right out of job. 

"Flipping" is a term coined to put a name on some imaginary arbitrary monster -> fans selling books at a profit... when the artist feels that they (the artists) are the only ones who should profit. They think the "flipping" monster is taking money out of their pockets. They are simply wrong. Here is how they can benefit from not charging for autographs:

1. Selling and reselling books keeps the book in circulation and keeps the artist relevant.

2. Signing for free builds rapport with your fans. 

3. Going to conventions and signing books is a form of marketing for yourself and your work.

This artists' Crusade against the "Flipping Monster" will ultimately end up with the artist cutting off their nose to spite their face... Making them the actual Monster.

-Jeremy



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