Uh oh! A title or a series that you wanted to buy is out of print! What now? Here are some alternative ways to complete your collection and avoid scalpers!
Most of us can’t keep up with every release. Some series get delayed and we forget about it, others speed up and make it hard to keep up, and other titles are a low priority. A lot of time, we may have intentions to pick up something, but we just keep putting it on the back burner, causing them to go out-of-print.
When a series goes out-of-print, there seem to only be two options: the title stays dirt cheap (think of those $.01 plus $3.99 listings on Amazon) or becomes a rip-off (individuals volumes of the Mushishi manga are often hundreds of dollars). What do you do now, and how do you prevent yourself from being at the mercy of scalpers in the future?
Keep Up with the News
Most series won’t go into hiatus right away. The company still has their stock, and many stores will also have copies available to pick up or order. If you know ahead of time that something is going out of print, you still have time to not only find a copy but get a deal on it. FUNimation announced it had lost the license to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood at the beginning of February, and it was offered as a Deal of the Day at Amazon in April for $28. If you knew this bit of information, you were likely one of those people who leapt on this offer before it sold out early. If you found out later, you’re looking at $40 to $60 for those sets, and who knows if those prices won’t rise. Buyers who are still paying at or near MSRP for Fruits Basket on eBay probably missed Yen Press revealing the collector’s edition of the series. These people are paying about the same for used copies when a new edition is coming out! Stay in the know to find out when to leap on something and when to hold off.
Understand the Market
You may not always know what will become rare, but we can make predictions. Male-oriented franchises generally outsell girl-oriented ones. Action attracts more attention than pure romance. You are more likely to find Viz Media titles in a big-box store than, say, Seven Seas or Discotek releases. Visual novels are not going to have the print numbers of most RPGs. AAA titles are likely to be released in a repackage (e.g. S.A.V.E. edition, omnibus, Greatest Hits version), but you might want to prioritize niche series over the more popular ones. Plus, many of the re-releases are cheaper and/or come with bonuses, so you end up ahead of early adopters anyhow. Win-win.
Of course, there is still a layer of uncertainty. This is especially true of manga: individual volumes of a series often vary in the amount a company printed. If they have a lot of overstock, the next volume’s run is going to be smaller; if they sold out, then the next run is likely to be bigger. Middle volumes of a series especially tend to fluctuate. A lot of people may stop buying a series but come back for the last volume or two to see how it ends. If a story starts to drag, many people may drop it until it picks up again. Of course, there are instances where the last volume is the rarest (Sand Chronicles Volume 10 comes to mind), but middle volumes tend to be the hardest to predict. Oftentimes, one volume is available third-party for $20, $30, even $100+, but most of the others are only $.01 plus shipping. Twenty-one volume series Please Save My Earth is a good example: Volume 13 is offered from third-party sellers for $110 or more; the previous volume and next one are still available to be ordered from Amazon directly ($9.99), and plus they can be bought new for $4 or less plus shipping from individual sellers.
Identify Warning Signs
While many companies may announce something is going out-of-print, you won’t always have that luxury. Here are some of the signs you that suggest something’s up:
- Long periods of time between releases
- Release format changed (switch to omnibuses, digital-only successors, etc.)
- “Fire sales” where items are suddenly marked way down at major stores
- Titles suddenly going on backorder at multiple stores or being unlisted
If a title isn’t getting good sales, similar print runs are bound to be smaller and chances of a reprint are decreased. Buying it not only shows the company you still want them to continue but also future-proofs you from price hikes from sellers. Fire sales are often used for a company to dump all their excess stock, and if something is heavily discounted, that’s usually a warning the company is not going to keep up with that series or similar titles.
The lack of availability, however, is the biggest red flag. For instance, to complete my collection, I recently ordered Alice in the Country of Hearts: White Rabbit and Some Afternoon Tea Volume 1. When I placed my order at Right Stuf, it was listed as in stock. As I was waiting for my order to ship, the status for the book changed to “Out of Print” on the site. Out of curiosity, I’ve been checking for it on Amazon. Sure enough, it’s recently changed to backorder status on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. If I hadn’t already ordered it, I probably would be soon. I doubt many people suddenly had an urge to clean out all three sites’ stock at the same time.
Do Research and Wait
If something’s rare, don’t just leap on the first eBay auction you see. Look at completed listings. Check smaller stores (both online and brick-and-mortar) to see if they have any new copies left in stock. At the very least, they may offer used ones cheaper than the going rate on Amazon/eBay. I waited for years to pick up Tears of a Lamb after CMX went under; I finally found the whole set for around $25 shipped — a good deal considering some sellers want about that much for a single volume! Use shopping tricks like adding to items to your cart at Amazon or Right Stuf to track pricing, and subscribe to emails for exclusive coupon codes when you find a good deal. Use Bookfinder to compare many stores at once. Keep a list of titles you are interested in, and once every month or so, spend a few minutes checking. See if prices are ticking up or down or if they’ve been restocked. Even if you do end up paying over MSRP for something, try to keep your buying price as low as possible. Don’t get into a bidding war or succumb to an impulse.
Show Support for a Rerelease
There’s not much you can do if a company goes bankrupt or loses the license for a title. However, as long as the publisher/licensor holds the rights, there’s always a chance for a reprint. Buy other volumes in a manga series or other works from the company, raise awareness of a title on your blog, and ask for reprints through social media or company surveys. I was worried my set of La Corda d’Oro would remain incomplete unless I coughed up five times the list price for a used copy of the sixth volume. Well, Viz Media finally granted my wish and did a second printing of La Corda d’Oro Volume 6 about six years later. (I’m hoping they do the same for Sand Chronicles Volume 10.) GameStop-exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii underwent a reprint, thus lowering the price from about $90 to under $40.
With the advent of digital distribution, many games and manga can be picked up for far less than what third-party sellers want for a physical one. Some Of course, for us collectors, it may drive us crazy to have a blank spot or two in a set, but at least digital copies are better than nothing.
Look at Other Regions’ Releases
Just because a license has expired or item has gone out-of-print in one region doesn’t mean there’s no hope. Obviously, for anime and manga, the first option is to turn to the original Japanese releases. Japanese is a tricky language, however, and many people will wonder why they should bother picking up something they can’t understand. However, some releases in other territories do come with English subtitles. I have an official DVD set of Please Save My Earth from Korea that includes the original Viz Media subtitles. Asian versions of games like Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment have English subtitles, and Final Fantasy X-2 received a physical copy release while it was limited to digital-only in North America.
If English is not an option, look into German and French releases. These languages share a lot in common with English, and there are plenty of easy-to-use tools to translate the text if you need help. Again, this is far from ideal from a collector’s point of view, but if your primary goal is to enjoy a complete tale, then importing is a good choice.
Accept You Won’t Catch ‘Em All
Sometimes, you’ll arrive at the party too late. It sucks, but you are bound to miss out on some releases. I missed out on the special edition of Fire Emblem Fates (now easily $200 to $300, MSRP $80) as well as collecting Mushishi. These are priced out of my range, so, unless they undergo another print run, I probably won’t ever own either. I still have other options: I can buy/rent the regular version(s) of Fire Emblem Fates, and my library has Mushishi. I am jealous of those who own these titles, but I’m sure I own items that others are jealous of. Just say no to scalpers.
So, I’ve shared some of my experiences on missed titles and overpriced third-party offerings. What are some of the out-of-print titles you have acquired or wish to? Have you seen any other ridiculous prices on Amazon, eBay, or other sites? Have you ever paid more than MSRP to complete your collection?