Near the end of 2004 comic book grading was becoming a huge thing to collectors in the comic book industry. People were having their high end Key Issues graded and some others were just having their favorite covers "slabbed" to keep them in great shape. This process has become a standard today for serious collectors looking to invest in comic books. With it being such a new thing in 2004, I decided to get a business account with CGC so that Chimp's could offer this service to our customers. We still offer this as a service today, but there is sometimes a wait list to get your books sent out. For some of us, it can be a rush sending in our books to see what kind of grade we will get.
With the huge success that Brian Michael Bendis was having on his Ultimate Spider-man run, he was starting to become a huge rising star in the industry. Marvel teamed him up with superstar artist David Finch for an Avengers relaunch. In December 2004, New Avengers started and the title would bring in a few heroes who had not been official Avengers in the past. Luke Cage, Spider-man and Wolverine joined the team which gave a good dynamic to the storytelling and gave them more of a street level feel than the typical cataclysmic world problems that seemed to be the trope of the past. Now, Avengers was never a huge seller for us, but this book changed all of that. Demand was high for this book as Marvel had taken one of their top writers and gave the book a top artist. Comics had a lot of rising talent at this time and the books that had proven themselves or needed the attention big names would bring started to get the talent they deserved. Instead of having to choose great art or a good story like you did a lot in the past, this was a time that top talent on both ends would work together to bring about some great books.
Now, we had started to try having video game tournaments for the first time. We had the extra space to try something like this and thought it would be a lot of fun. We had tried a Tekken Tag Tournament one on the PS2 in the past but only 1 person showed up. So I played him for fun and didn't win a single match. This time, we were going for the big guns in gaming. We were going for Madden and Halo.
January 8, 2005 marked our second attempt at a video game tournament. We had 4 CRT TVs (because that's what existed at the time) and 4 XBOX systems all hooked up through ethernet so that we could have 4 players playing each other at the same time. The TVs were set up so that any other players could not see your screen. This was all set up the night before so that when I got to the store on Saturday, I would just have to turn them all on and be ready to go. Little did I know what was on the horizon. Saturday morning I woke up to about 6 inches of snow in a winter that had barely snowed at all. I trekked the snow covered roads and made it to the store. Unfortunately only 1 player also made the trek through the snow. I was expecting about 16 people from talking with players, but that didn't happen. By 2 in the afternoon, most of the snow had melted away and people started to show up to see about the tournament. At this point we couldn't really do the tournament as some of these players were here just to watch. I decided to not waste the set up and let anyone who came in play Halo until about 1 hour before closing.
I set up for the Madden 2005 tournament and had it ready for play at open on January 22, 2005. Yet again, I woke up to snow. This time we had an overnight blizzard. More snow than the last tournament and a longer trek on worse roads. Now keep in mind that it hadn't snowed much at all during the weeks in between the 2 of these tournaments so waking up to snow again was definitely going to affect turnout. I made it to the store and this time, no players showed up. Again we were expecting a decent turnout but the snow made it fall flat. The entire day was slow business wise as the snow wasn't melting away like last time. After a few more weeks had passed and the snow eventually melted away I noticed that we hadn't really gotten any more snow. I took this as a sign and stopped trying to do video game tournaments at the time.
During April, 2005 my mother and I liked the idea of the comic walls so much that we embarked on doing the same thing with Magic cards on the half wall that was built during the expansion to separate the table top space. This was a very long process over many Saturday nights. Here is a pic of what it currently looks like. A couple of cards have fallen off over the years but most are still there. The center of it is the 5 land cards matching the order of the color wheel on the backs of all Magic cards. Now amazingly we had to try multiple different adhesives to get these cards to stick. We were very surprised to find that the ONE thing that worked for us was Rubber Cement (a little tip for anyone else who decides to do this).
The previous year's Free Comic Book Day felt like a success, but I knew we could do better. I knew we could use this event to help the community. It was time to try something different. On May 7, 2005 we held our first Free Comic Book Day that we tried doing a food drive with. We had an article for this event with the local Newspaper (Times Union) for the first time and have done so every year since. The way we decided to do the food drive is the same way we do it today. You can get 2 FREE comics just for walking in (no doubles). If you want more than 2, we ask for a non-perishable food donation for each additional comic. Enough time has passed now that the records of how many food donations we received the first year is no longer available. If memory serves me right, the first few years tended to fluctuate between 150-300 and it has grown steadily every year since. That year the FREE comics were: Archie, Simpsons, Star Wars, Batman Strikes, G.I. Joe, Uncle Scrooge, Impact University, and Marvel Adventures.
During the summer of 2005, I got wind of a comic store in Niles, MI that wanted to sell it's inventory off. Now that I had more space I looked into it. It was around 400 long boxes and the price was comparable per book with what I paid for Chimp's when I became the owner. To me it was a fair asking price so I set up his asking price and a meeting to go peruse the collection. As I had to close for a day to do it and he was also closing, I had set it up with a loan from the bank in the form of a cashier's check and was on my way. I had asked friends in town to be ready for a call and to meet up at the store with a U-Haul truck and head on up if the deal looked like it was going to go through. A friend and I drove up and started digging through all of the boxes. Some were buried under other product as this store was doing everything from toys, NES systems, Atari, magazines, electronics, models and more. We had to move stuff from on top of long boxes and do a lot of digging to get an idea of the range of books. Some of the books dated back to the 1950s and there was a decent chunk of silver age Marvel books. This range of books would fill in our back issues immensely as we didn't have much Silver Age before this. I negotiated with the seller and got him to include a chunk of toys, statues, NES and Atari stuff. We agreed on a price and as we started moving everything into one area to make loading it up easier, the group from Warsaw was on there way up to meet us. We loaded it all in the U-Haul and about 3 other vehicles and brought it back to Warsaw. This collection would take me years to catalog and get processed as I still had the day job at the time. I started selling off the bigger books first to cover the cost of the loan and that is when we started doing the $1 comic book bins to clear some books fast.