10th Jun2021

eBuying Comics: Week 59

by Ian Wells

This week I have very fortunately been given access to the Golden Age level membership for zapkapowcomics.com which I reviewed in Week 55. Also I have a brief interview with Steve of Zapkapow Comics as well. First I have to make an amendment to the last review. I now know how to add/remove single issues and variants if you have done a mass add! I have to confess some days I’m good with technical stuff, other days not so good. In all honesty it was staring me in the face and its embarrassing how I missed it really! Anyway it can be done, I have done it and smarter people than me will figure it out, so I won’t trip myself up trying to explain it in a lot of words. Before I put the newer features under the microscope here is a reminder of what The Golden Age membership offers to its subscribers.

Golden Age – (£18.08 which is a one time payment for life use)

  • Full access to the price guide
  • Create and save lists of haves/wants
  • Links to eBay sales
  • Full collection management
  • Visual data of collection
  • Mobile Access
  • Access to live price guide feature, real time online prices
  • Smartphone look up accessibility
  • Change price guide currency to mathc your country
  • Download have list as an Excel spreadsheet
  • Printable pull list for LCS
  • Ability to add price you actually paid and notes section
  • New issues automatically go from pull list to have list

It’s the little details that this level of membership offers that makes it worth the little extra. These little details give it  a personal touch. Like adding the price you actually paid for an issue and adding any notes you have about the comic. Issues automatically going from pull lists to have lists may not seem like much but it is a time saver. The option for downloading have lists on to spreadsheets, while not being an obvious attribute to everyone is very handy option. I can say as well I use Open Office over Microsoft Excel and it is adaptable with that. You can also print versions of your haves and want lists into a handy bite size page with all the key information. Ranging from how may issues in each series, the highest priced series on your list, publisher breakdown and the most valuable single issue on your lists. Printing your have lists out quarterly for each year would be a fun little record of your collection to have and keep track of through the years.

One feature I didn’t shed much if any light on in my last review was the blog section. There are lots of good reads here as well as the typical ‘Top 10’ style entries. The good thing about having content like this attached to a price guide website is then being able to go and see what the issues are worth. Without doubt the standout feature of the Golden Age level is the Smartphone look up. So even though they have moved away from the app format if you log into your account on a smartphone the ‘Look up’ option pops right up at the bottom of the screen. Once you get your comics in a good light with no glare there are four markers on the screen to line the corners of your cover with. Snap it and click and seconds later it comes back with the right issue. I don’t know what the technology is behind recognising a cover but it works every time. Unlike that app I reviewed last year, where I scanned the same barcode 3 times and got 3 different comics! The advantage of scanning the cover over the barcode is you can scan direct market comics. One thing the site doesn’t do is differentiate between newstand and direct editions. But that is something you can add in your notes.

The last feature I wanted to take a look at is the option to change the currency of the site to match which country you are in. Firstly you can change it an infinite amount of times. So if you are travelling around the world buying comics, at the flick of a switch you can see if you are getting a good deal. Back in January (Week 49) I revisited my ‘Character Spotlight’ issues of the last two years one final time. I got my prices for them from comicspriceguide.com which is all in US $ and I convert them in £’s using the first result on Google for conversion. This is something I will probably do a deeper dive on in the future and I will use both sites from time to time now to get comparisons. But I wanted to take a quick look at a few of those issues to see how far off Google is for currency converting. The most expensive issue I looked at in January was DC Showcase #6 at £18,157 for a 9.8; Zapkapow currently have the same grade issue at half of that. I doubt this issue has dropped that much in this time, which is why I will look into this deeper at some point. My hunch is that the first result on Google is way off the mark, perhaps my lazy skills have been outed! Making 2 years worth of spotlights obsolete!

Originally I gave Zapkapow Comics a 4-star rating. If you can justify the price of the Golden Age membership then it is a 5-Star (5/5). Yes if you just want a comprehensive list of all the comics you own, in one place complete with pictures then cheapest membership is for you. But if you a serious collector/trader Zapkapow is a tool you need to be using. A really great website, easy to use, huge catalogue of comics and run by good comics people.
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Hi Steve, what is the history behind Zapkapow Comics?

We were the first comic book price guide app in the iOS app store back in July 2009 (we never get credit for that, but it’s true!). It was a very different app then, and iOS development eventually became too cumbersome, slow and expensive to make the kind of upgrades and additions to the app we wanted, so we redesigned Zap-Kapow and moved to a browser-based format in 2016. This also opened us up for usage on desktop and other operating systems like Android and Windows. A whole new world!

When you started out what were your ambitions?

Like I said, we were the first. We basically filled a need that we wanted ourselves, the ability to put our collection into a format we could take with us to cons, LCS and flea markets so we could value our collection and see what we had and didn’t out and about. We loved the old Wizard Price guide, and kept waiting for someone to jump in and create even a mini-price guide for comics on the iPhone. No one did, so we made it ourselves. Now there’s lots of mobile apps that fill this need, but in 2009 we were the first on iOS.

What made you decide to switch from an app to a website? Will you ever go back to the app format?

It’s unlikely we’ll go back to iOS or create an app for Android. The financial part of it is not where we need it to be to offer a quality product at a fair price to our users. That’s why you see so many subscription services out there, the monthly costs vs. the income (divided between you and the platform) makes it tough to run native apps for us at least. We actually tried a Kickstarter campaign at one point early on to see what the interest in expanding to Android was and the support just wasn’t there. Why build, fund, and maintain for multiple platforms when browsers are already everywhere (even on Xboxes, Playstations, and Teslas now!) and can use the same base code? It was a no brainer for us. We’ve grown much faster as an app since the move to a browser. Originally, even Steve Jobs originally thought developers didn’t need to create native apps for iPhones. He kinda infamously said “just use the built-in browser” and so eventually we did. There’s nothing we can’t do in the browser that we’d want to do in a native app. We even use smartphones’ cameras to look-up covers (with the Golden Age plan) in the mobile browser. It’s fantastic.

I find the subject of pricing, valuating and grading comics fascinating, but in all honesty I don’t know much about the ins and outs of it. Could you explain the key points of what goes into producing and maintaining a price guide?

As you can probably imagine it’s a lot to maintain. We love comics, so don’t want to make it sound like we’re moaning on about it, but we have to enter newly released issues (and their millions of variants, looking at you Vampirella and Red Sonja) every month, additions and missing series that come in from our users (they’re really great at letting us know when we need to make an addition or have a hole somewhere!), and then adjust pricing for the existing database. The monthly releases come in via a feed of sorts, but we manually check every issue to make sure we have the right cover and not pre-release art. Same with the pricing updates, they come from a lot of online sources and often also require manual attention. When we get a free window of time, we’ll make app updates and add new features. Really an ongoing, 24/7 process.

What does the future hold for Zapkapow Comics?

We actually keep a Future Feature List that users make recommendations to all the time. Sometimes it’s something already in the pipeline, or something we’ve tried but didn’t work like we wanted, but we reply to every email that comes in and appreciate the input. A real-time pricing tab for the price guide has been on and off and on and off over the past couple of years. We’ll get it at some point! That’s a big one. Other than that, the list currently has additional sorting options for users’ collections, new “info widgets” that summarize rolled up data about their collections, a better way to incorporate graded comics and signatures other than the Notes area in the Golden Age Plan, price changes over a period of time for an issue, and the ability to share your comic collection stats with friends and others on social media. We generally are able to make 1-2 big updates per year.

Thanks Steve for your time.

Zapkapow Comics are on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I would like to thank Steve for his time in answering my questions. Check out zapkapowcomics.com for a full tutorial on the site.

 

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