When it comes to buying and selling comic books, there are a ton of different ways and venues you can use. You can buy and sell locally through a local comic shop or on websites with local dealings like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can turn to online marketplaces like eBay or sites like our own to buy or sell anything from individual books to whole collections.
One place that is often overlooked – and maybe with good reason – is the local pawn shops. The question is, do pawn shops even deal in comics? If so, are they a good option? Let's find out.
How Do Pawn Shops Work?
For those of you who aren't familiar, let's give a brief rundown of how pawn shops even work. Many people have never had to deal with them, or treat them like they would a thrift store, but pawn shops actually have a specific way of operating unlike most other businesses. Public perception is often shaped by popular culture in movies or in shows like Pawn Stars, which are only barely related to how most pawn shops actually work.
Pawn shops do two things: they buy and sell merchandise, and they lend out money. It's this second function that separates them from something like a flea market or thrift store.
The idea is that you can "pawn" an item by bringing it to a pawnbroker and giving it to them as collateral for a small loan amounting to the value of the item. When you repay the loan (plus interest), you get the item back.
If you can't pay back the loan, well, the pawnbroker has your item and can sell it to make themselves whole. You're absolved of the debt but lose the item.
This is why pawn shops are so often the center of dramatized "pawned the valuable family heirloom" plots in media, after all. Desperation, particularly amongst people who don't have the credit or the time to get a personal loan from a bank, leads to desperate circumstances.
Image source: Google Images
Of course, pawn shops aren't limited to loaning out money. If you just want to sell an item for cash and don't want to deal with things like online sales, shipping, or other hassles, a pawn shop will often happily buy it from you. You might not get the best deal, but you get the deal now, and that's sometimes more important.
When you walk into a pawn shop, you may see all manner of items, from guitars to jewelry to comics to a whole host of vintage items, newer items, electronics, and practically everything under the sun. Pawn brokers need to be broadly aware of the price and value of all manner of items, so they can effectively do business.
This is also why not all pawn shops deal in comics, but more on that in a moment.
Anyone walking into a pawn shop can buy any item on display with a price on it. These are items the pawnbroker has either bought to re-sell or has taken ownership of when a loan is unpaid.
Do Pawn Shops Deal in Comics?
Some do, and some don't.
Pawn shops live and die on their ability to turn a profit. When they loan out money, that profit either comes from the interest on the loan or from selling the collateral for more than the base value of the loan. That's why you only get what a pawn broker will offer you for an item in a loan: they need to know the value of the item so that they can set the loan value beneath that item value and have room for their profit if the loan defaults.
And, of course, their buying and selling of items comes down to any sort of commerce: buy low, sell high. How low they offer to buy an item for depends on how much they think they can get away with and how regulated they are by the state. Some states with thin regulations end up with shady pawn shops willing to offer under 5% of the value of an item in the loan to prey on desperate people, while others are more regulated and/or scrupulous.
Image source: Google Images
The point of all this is that a pawn shop owner needs to know the values – or how to look up the values – of the items they accept as collateral or that they buy and sell. If they don't know what an item is worth, they can't offer an appropriate loan or buy it for an appropriate price.
Some pawnbrokers are fine with ignoring certain categories of items entirely because they don't specialize in them. Some will keep a handful of experts on tap to call if an item they don't know about, but recognize as potentially valuable, comes into the shop. (The Pawn Stars meme of "let me call my guy, he's an expert on X" is an example of this, writ large.) Others, of course, are knowledgeable about something like comics and are confident in making their own decisions.
To find out whether or not your local pawn shop deals in comics, there's nothing for it but to go in and ask. Some might advertise on their storefronts that they do. Others might have a display off to one side of the comics they've picked up. Still others just won't have anything, and you'll need to ask directly whether or not they're interested.
Is a Pawn Shop a Good Place to Sell Comics?
Often, the answer is no.
There are two reasons for this. The first is simply that you're gambling that the pawn shop even knows or cares about comics. Some may have a base price they'll buy comics for – usually in the dollar bin category – and won't really care what you claim the value of a comic is. They'll buy your $5 comics for $1… but they'll also buy your $500 comics for $1.
The other reason is that pawn shops pretty much always offer some small fraction of the value of an item as the pawn offer or a purchase offer. While the rates will vary from shop to shop, you can expect at most 60% of the value of an item, and much more often closer to 25% - 40% of the value of the item as the offer.
Remember, too, that the people coming into a pawn shop looking to buy items aren't looking to pay retail prices either. A pawn shop is generally unlikely to be selling their items at full retail value because the items are only worthwhile to them if they sell. They want to move their inventory, not display it as it collects dust. If they're planning to sell an item at 70% of its retail value, they certainly aren't going to be buying it for 65%, right?
Image source: Google Images
Note: If you're interested in selling comics to a pawn shop, like when you're pressed for time and don't have the option of checking out a local comic shop or selling online, the best thing you can do is shop around. Take your books or collection to multiple local pawn shops and get offers, and only accept the best one.
Moreover, pawnbrokers are much more likely to be willing to negotiate than online buyers, LCS purchasers, or individual collectors. If you have a backup offer, they know you can always walk away and are more willing to deal fairly and make the sale than not.
If you have a comics collection and you want to sell it, there are a ton of options available to you that are way better than a pawn shop. Check out our resources:
- Should you sell your comics individually or in bulk?
- How to sell your comics in bulk.
- How to avoid being scammed when dealing in comics.
You can also click the big "sell your comics" link at the top of the page and send us a message. There's no pressure and no obligation; we'll appraise your collection, offer you ideas on what you can do with it, and make an offer to buy it if it's something we're interested in. We'd love to hear from you!
Is a Pawn Shop a Good Place to Buy Comics?
For the same reasons that a pawn shop is not a great place to sell comics, it can be a good place to buy comics.
Items in a pawn shop are priced to move, again, because they aren't worth anything to the shop when they're just sitting on the shelves. That means they're generally going to be priced somewhere under the retail price of the comics. If you know what you're looking at and you're interested in buying, you can get some fantastic deals from a pawn shop.
The caveats here are many.
- You have to know that the pawn shop deals in comic books in the first place.
- The pawn shop has to know enough about comics to price them appropriately.
- You have to be able to evaluate the condition of a comic at a glance, to know whether or not it's overpriced.
Familiarity with comics is a must. Comics have so many variants, reprints, and assorted valuable-looking cash grabs that aren't actually worth all that much that it can be hard to tell if they actually are valuable or not. Likewise, many valuable key issues are unassuming, and a comic in bad condition can still be very valuable if it's the right issue.
Image source: Google Images
One of the biggest downsides to trying to shop for comics from a pawn shop is that a lot of modern pawn shops, especially the ones that are more established, supplement their in-person sales with online sales. They might have a website where they sell their more high-value items, or they may just take them all to eBay.
Many pawn shops that do purchase comics will then turn around and research them and sell them for much closer to retail online. They have enough inventory and throughput in their in-store items that they don't need to worry as much about cash flow, and they can take the time to sell more valuable collectibles through a venue they know they can get better prices from.
Unfortunately for comic deal-hunters, that means pawn shops that buy comics might not sell them for deals since they can sell them for fair market value online instead.
Are There Better Ways to Buy and Sell Comic Books?
While pawn shops can be a good place to find deals on comics from pawnbrokers who aren't really sure what they have or haven't updated prices on comics that have spiked recently, the chances of finding those deals are pretty slim. You have to find a pawn shop that buys comics in the first place, sells those comics locally instead of online, doesn't keep on top of prices, and has what you want and recognize as a good deal. That's a pretty big hurdle!
Similarly, selling comics to a pawn shop is almost always going to be a bad deal unless you're desperately in need of money right now. If you're even researching it online by reading a blog post like this, chances are you have more leeway and can take the time to sell for a better price elsewhere.
As for how and where to do that, you can drop us a line. We buy comics, and while we mostly deal with key issues and graded comics, we're open to entertaining anything you want to ask us about. If we won't buy it, we'll advise you on what you can do to sell it instead.
Similarly, if you want to buy anything from us, just check out our inventory! We've always got a new set of comics coming down the pipe, and there's always something interesting in the new arrivals pile. We also sell high end comics for collectors and enthusiasts.
We look forward to hearing from you! Even if we don't make a deal, we love chatting with fellow comic fans. Drop us a line!