Geeks love shopping. I’m not talking about girl geeks, I’m talking about the vast majority of the geeks I’ve seen. It may not be the shuffle across the vast expanses of shopping centers in search of the one sweater that matches your eyes, but geeks love to buy things. There are so many collectors. Whatever we can get our hands on that has our favorite character we will buy if we have the money, and sometimes if we don’t have the money.
The proof of this is the huge supply of stuff that no one thought to have, but now exists. I’m pretty sure most Spider-Man fans would scoff at snow globes until they saw this one. I can’t speak for everyone because I’m sure in the Venn diagram of “people who like Spider-Man” and “people who like snow globes” there is some overlap. Still, someone thought there would be enough interest that it would be worth making on a large scale. I don’t particularly like either Spider-Man or snow globes, but if it was a few dollars in a shop, I’d buy it for the sake of having it. I have the sneaking suspicion it isn’t just me who does this, either. I could go on forever about buying stuff online and that whole sector of geek culture and even just modern culture, but I’m going to talk about the actual hunt of geek things in stores. While I love a good online market place, there isn’t anything quite as exciting as finding a few geeky thing for super cheap in a store.
I’d like to touch on something quickly. I think many people find their geeky treasures at garage sales. I’ve never had much luck at this. Maybe it’s the neighborhood or the kids are too young, but the best things I’ve found at garage sales were old records, some old books, and a paper cutter to help me with my art making. Anyway, enough of that. If I ever manage to score some long-lost geek Holy Grail at a garage sale I’ll put some more stock in it, otherwise it’s moot.
Also very quick, the photos have a yellow cast because my lights are really warm and even my white balance couldn’t cope. They might look like hipster-chic to some, but I’m just tired and wanted to get a few quick shots to illustrate my point. Now, where were we?
Store shopping is not for everyone. I get that, but I’ve found that it’s the only way to find great things. I could shop online till my keyboard shorts out, but I really don’t think I’d do as well as in stores. It’s really about patience and sharp eyes. I like to play Pokemon and while I’m not obsessed with it or feel compelled to own a whole bunch of merch, I did pick up a 3 pack of figurines when I saw it was $3.20 on clearance from $12. They are sturdy toys and make nice bookcase fillers. I like having little toys sitting around, I find them charming.
I also picked up a Doctor Who TARDIS that was meant to hold trading cards, but I use to store small things and jewelry. After discounts it was $2.50 and I also got a magazine, cards, and a Matt Smith mask that kind of freaks me out. The catch is that the magazine always has something with it and the next issue was supposed to have the lid. If anyone has a spare top let me know and I’ll be happy to trade a knit golden snitch or a tribble or something. Even without the top it’s still pretty cool and worth the $2.50.
Earlier I mentioned that I pick up records at garage sales. They are mostly okay, but my favorite geeky records have been found in resale shops. I have a Star Trek read-along record with the stupidest stories and has the worst impressions of the characters I’ve ever hears, but it’s great. Also, I have a number of Doctor Who records, including two picture records and one The Timelords/KLF record with this masterpiece on it.
I don’t spend more than $5 for a record or less than $0.50, typically. So when I come across a record on dinosaurs I don’t think twice about picking it up.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m also very frugal. I don’t spend a lot and try to get the most from my money. Why spend a dollar on ebay for a silly record when shipping can be anywhere from $3 to $10? I’d much rather take the luck of the draw and get something silly and wonderful for a dollar or two a few months later. I owe my stack of Monty Python records to that patience.
While we are talking about the luck of the draw, bookstores have been very kind to me over the past few months. And more than bookstores, but thrift stores that have book sections. Actually, those have been the kindest to me. After this long post I’m sure you’re not surprised when I tell you that the first thing I gravitate to in thrift stores is the book and media section. I venture into the clothes half the time, mostly for sweaters to rip apart and use for yarn, but I always look at the books. This has paid off so well I can’t even begin to describe my happiness. I feel like the queen of geeky shopping.
My first big book score was picking up 10 D&D books for $16. Not $16 a piece, $16 total. They are all clean and are all core books that I can actually use. I know about the pull away from D&D in the table-top gaming community, but I’m excited. I’ll get use out of them and if I find Pathfinder books or the like I’ll probably pick them up, too. I’m pretty equal opportunity.
As you may have guessed with my frequent mentions of Doctor Who, I’m a big ol’ fan. I have a huge collection of the kid’s story books that were published in the ’80s. I find that they are overpriced half of the time and have slowed down my collecting since the average price went from $2 to $5. That may not sound like much, but for a book a little over a hundred pages, that’s silly. I could get a full novel for the same price at the same store for that money or two novels from the clearance section. But when they were inexpensive I amassed quite the collection. I also found my way to owning a framed Tom Baker picture. A really swell person I befriended shares a love of Old Who and saved it for himself and once we realized we shared a fandom he let me have it. Such a nice guy.
So, this has all been kind of small potatoes. Except for the fact that I spent less on D&D books used than I would have on one new, there hasn’t been anything too crazy. That’s because I’m saving the best for last. I like Douglas Adams a lot. I think he is very clever and has a great sense of humor. I’m sad to say that I didn’t really know who he was until after he passed, but I can still enjoy his work and that’s what’s important. I’m also quite keen on Neil Gaiman. At a particular trip to a thrift store I happened to pick up a copy of Anansi Boys. It’s pretty beaten up and has a sticker on the front, but for $3 it’s a book I haven’t read and have been meaning to, so I look at it. A few pages in I see a bit of red. It’s a signed copy and the sticker on the front is there to tell me that it’s a signed copy. It’s clearly been loved and I plan on reading it, but it’s a signed copy nonetheless and I’m pretty happy. My collection of signed Neil Gaiman books is now up to 3.
This would be a perfectly acceptable highlight for a number of nerds. It gets better. I stumble across Mostly Harmless . The fifth book in the Hitchhikers trilogy. I have all the books as much later reprints so anytime I see an old hardcover I check to see if it’s a first edition. I like having first editions. I open the book to the front to check the copyright but I land on the title page first. I’m saddened to see some kid has scribbled in the front and that probably means that the rest is ruined. Seeing as this is a happy story some of you may have already figured out what this scrawl actually was. The rest of the pages were neat and well taken care of. I checked the copyright page and it’s a first edition and a first print, which makes me very happy. And then it hits me, it wasn’t some dumb kid. I flipped the page and recognize the D and the A. It’s a signed first edition, first print for $3! I couldn’t care less that it’s just Mostly Harmless. My geeky shopping gods were truly smiling down on me. It is not printed, the ink is clearly different, and it matches up to his known signatures. Plus, I don’t know too many people who would fake it. I’ll get it properly checked out in the future to be 100% sure instead of just 99%. That’s something that I know couldn’t be picked up on the internet for $3.
And then I found these guys for a buck a piece. A nice little extra after what I believe to be a huge find.
So that’s what I’ve been up to for the longest time in between finding work and responsibilities. I buy geeky crap at really low prices. For all of you internet-only buyers, look at the cool stuff that you’re missing out on. And maybe I’ll do another mega post when I buy more geeky things. Maybe I’ll do an internet version. Anyone else just have the best luck buying things?