History Of Comics Retailing

By | Friday, June 29, 2007 1 comment
A little while back, I began chatting with Cold Cut president and general manager Tim Stroup. Mostly about comic fandom. But we got to talking about retailing as well, and he shared with me some notes he had from an interview he conducted with Dick Swan. Swan, for those who don't know, was one of the first guys to open a dedicated comic book shop back in the day. The notes are incomplete and Tim still has plans on using them, so I can't share too much here but I noted that I still learned quite a bit from those incomplete notes; the history of comic retailing was probably my weakest area of knowledge about the industry. I had assumed that I simply hadn't spent much of my time reading about it, but Tim noted that it's everybody's weakest area because almost nothing has been written about it.

So it was with great excitement that I saw a few other blogs point to Lee Hester's recent posting of his own shop's history. If you haven't taken note of this already, do so now because it's one of the few accounts detailing a relatively early comic shop. Insightful though it is, however, it's only one shop and one that didn't open until the 1980s.

Doing a little more digging, I found, though, that Paul Howley of That's Entertainment provides an extensive history of his shop as well. (Although the first four installments are his own personal history with comics.) You can also read some histories of Mile High, Lone Star and Flying Colors online but they're short in length and on details.

Of ancillary interest might be The Argosy Price Guide - the first price guide for comic books, originally published by The Argosy Book Store in 1965. Bill Schelly has reproductions available for sale. Similarly, Chuck Rozanski has a copy of his 1977 Mile High Catalog available online.

Robert Beerbohm, who was one of the earliest retailers himself, has been researching a book on the history of comic retailing for several years but, as far as I know, has nothing planned for the foreseeable future. I certainly don't want to take any light away from his work, which I'm sure will be exhaustive, but I'd like to see anyone else who might have some insights about their early comic retailing experiences to share them with those of us who might be interested.
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Lee Hester said...

Thanks for your nice comments on my history. I almost didn't write it because it's so hard to remember all the details. I knew I was leaving so much stuff out, or had simply forgotten it, that I was tempted to abandon the project.

I recently discovered Paul Howley's history as well. So far I have read half of it. His memory for details is amazing. I don't know how I would begin to piece together such a concise and detailed report on my own operation. I can scarcely remember my daughter’s birthdays let alone what happened on any given day 20+ years ago!