This interview series is with a former local comic book shop owner John Jelley. I met John through one of the many Facebook comic groups. And since he's accomplished a dream/bucket list goal that many of us have had as collectors I thought it would be awesome to learn more about him and hear about his story.
What got you into comics?
- I have dsylexia, a reall cool teacher showed me some comics and told me about the connection between visualization and reading in kids with dsylexia, it helps to remember words through comic books.
Favorite childhood memory about comics?
- I was a kid and my big brother & I would spend every summer at our grandparents farm. Every year when we would come back she had kept all our toys and comics from years past. We would spend hours going through all the stuff from yeara past, and I was always drawn back to the comics.
What got you into selling comics?
- I just had such a love for comics, I knew I could not draw them or write them so having a store was my dream. So when I left the U.S. Army I decided to open a store in Sierra Vista, AZ. It was late in the summer of 1992 as I was getting ready to start looking for a place to open a store and heard from a friend in the industry that something big was coming DC Comics in October. So we contacted Diamond comics got things rolling and prepared for the Death of Superman. It was a huge gamble but we took the last $7000 I had and bought 10 cases of the black bagged Death of Superman comic book. It was a all or nothing shot, the morning of Oct 31st came and we had advertised all month that we had the Black Bagged edition and would have them on sale that morning. I was nervous as to how well it would do. I had bills due the next day and $25 left in my bank account. We had our little store (250 sq ft) all set up cases of new books and my own collection. That morning as I came to the store hoping some customers would already be there to get some books. We got the shock of our lives, their was a line of over 150 people waiting for the store to open. We sold every copy of the Death of Superman that week, 3500 copies. And needless to say the business stayed around and grew to 3000 sq ft before we sold the store in 2016.
Biggest mistake you made when you started selling?
- Thinking that everyone liked the comics that I liked. My first order I ordered 2 copies of X-Men and 10 copies of Sandman. Sandman is a much better written book than X-Men but was not nearly as popular. I had to change my way of thinking fast.
What’s your favorite character or title to collect?
- Silver Surfer has a special place in my heart. It was the 1st comic book I ever read.
Next big thing for your personal collection? Your grail?
- Grails are about personal goals. I have bought and sold all my grails, and bought them all again. My personal collection is always growing and shrinking.
Most unique or favorite thing in your collection?
- Signed copy of ASM #1 signed by Stan Lee (at SDCC 1988), Jack Kirby (Dec 12 1992, in Tucson, AZ), and John Romita Sr. (at SDCC 1994) that was a pain in the but to get all three signatures.
Raw or Graded? Why?
- Raw when you grade a book it ia no longer a book it becomes a basically a piece of art that can never be fully enjoyed again. Now don't get me wrong I have graded books, but those are for the purposes of preservation and to halt the aging process.
Best find or score?
- I bought a trunk full of comics at an estate sale for $100 in 1984 with about 1000 comic books in it. Mostly $1-5 books from the 1960, but in a paper bag in the bottom of the trunk was the aforementioned ASM #1 along with several other #1s from that year.
- Collectors, buy what you like, don't listen to the hype or get talked into things you don't collect for speculation purposes, you will most likely be disappointed. Anyone wanting to open a shop three rules I had to learn the hard way. 1. You can always reorder, you can never (or rarely) return. 2. You are no longer a collector you are now a businessperson, and your bills, customers, distributors, everyone else comes first, and expect to work 80-100 hours a week your first 5 years, and you will learn to be a carpender, plumber, electrition, ect. 3. Just because you know a lot about comics, you are not the all knowing comic book guy from the Simpsons. Learn to be humble, greet every customer as they are paying for your next meal, (they might be), keep your store family friendly, in most cases if the wife or girlfriend dose not like your store they will not let their other half shop there.
Thanks to John for your time and for the great interview. As always if you have any recommendations of people to interview or any topics to cover, leave a comment!