We Make Zines

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Is there a market for selling old zines as collectors items like comics?

I probably have a few hundred zines from the 90's. I have all pathetic life (at least I think I do, there was always one mysterious issue that never appeared). FF5, Rollerderby, Ben is Dead, Crank, Even Tank Girls Get The Blues, and on and on. I had a favorite one, can't remember the name right now, I just had issue #2, it was like 200 pages and all about this guy who was squatting in Florida at the time and all his travels. I always wanted to find the first one.

I've been hanging on to many of them in case someone ever became a famous writer, etc. :D I might consider auctioning on e-Bay if there is enough of a market for them.

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ciaraxyerra said:
additionally, i can't believe we are STILL having this tired old argument about re-selling zines. let's just accept the fact that some people are assholes who think that because they spent a buck or two on a zine, they have this moral higher ground they are claiming so they can hypothetically sell it off (even though it's a ZINE... *yawn* let's move on.

Probably not a great way to get people to move on, by saying we have to accept something most people won't agree with. This pretty much calls all zine distros assholes. Zines have always been bought, sold, gave away and traded for, there are no rules for distro (or zining in general, that's one of the awesome things about independent publishing, you can chart your own path). I think most people are comfortable with the idea of buying and selling zines through zine distros, DIY record distros, small bookstores/record stores, at record swaps, at zine conventions, at anarchist book fairs, and through more crafty-oriented commerce sites like Etsy. But what if you are a zine collector/fanatic looking to buy old zines that are no longer in print? What if you have the whole run of Cometbus except one issue and wnat to complete your set? Where do you turn? Could we create some sort of DIY zine trading and selling site so people wouldn't turn to Ebay?
It saddens me deeply that there is so little love of Mammon in the zine community.
let's just accept the fact that some people are assholes who think that because they spent a buck or two on a zine, they have this moral higher ground

Wow. Pretty harsh for someone who doesn't want to talk about it. Then again, you also offered several more arguments than I'd expect from someone who's tired of seeing the topic discussed.

i know that people who think they're going to finance their kid's college education selling zines on ebay are in for a rude awakening

Well, that's true. But, really, who thinks that?
This whole controversy speaks to the extreme "diversity" of the "zine community". Zines---reading, writing, creating, donating, distributing them, etc.---for better or worse, have a CONTEXT, and it seems to be very hard to discuss them in isolation without opening up all sorts of sticky and contentious moral and philosophical cans of worms. I've been hesitant to open up anymore, hoping they'll all crawl back in, but I just can't resist fanning the flames a little more with some comments.

CIARA: I'm sure running a zine library is a huge job, and I'm grateful to those who do, but I don't see why a mailing list compiled from envelopes or the zines themselves can't be maintained, and once a year or so, a short e-mail or form postcard can't be sent to donors, just to let them know what's going on. Quimby's, a distro, not a library, sends me occasional e-mails. I would think this should be a standard practice of zine libraries.

To me an "asshole" might be somebody who does or says rude or insensitive things like putting down people of other races, with Down's syndrome, etc., etc. Applying it to people who auction off zines seems to be stretching the meaning of the word a bit. How do I know what financial situation such a person may be in? They may be having trouble paying the rent, buying food or getting medical or dental care. To some extent, I suspect ones attitude about "making a killing in the vintage zine market" is a function of class. I think the lower and working classes may tend to be more okay with it than the middle and upperclasses. In Victorian and post-Victorian England for example, the upperclasses often looked on money as "filthy lucre" and any concern with it at all as base and disgusting. If somebody got a good price out of my zine and it eased their financial burdens a little I'd be both flattered and glad for their good fortune. I don't see that as being as "asshole".

I lose money on zines BIGTIME. I don't know how many I send to prisoners, but I'm not complaining, because I get a lot of satisfaction from giving them something to make their time in the gulag a little more bearable. I underprice my zines often, because I don't want somebody to have to pay more than $3 for a copy. I trade freely, and have donated to libraries many times.

I'm not trying to make a martyr out of myself with all this, because as most of us zinesters know, there are huge INTANGILBE benefits of networking, feedback and intercommunication, not to mention zines, videos, mix-tapes, tips, etc., etc. But though I come from a cultural-class background that valued "the art of the deal" and thus things like making a coup now and then on E-Bay, I enjoy giving as well. It's more complicated than just crass, greedy speculation in the "vintage zine market".

As a Theravada Buddhist and libertarian, my attitudes toward profit, entrepeneurism, give-and-take, co-opartives, donating, etc. are complex and I reflect on them all the time. But I just don't see any great sin in somebody making a lot of money as long as there's no force or fraud involved, and I'm happy for their good fortune if they do.

I would like to publicly thank Dan, Rick and James for their articulate, level-headed, and civil comments. I'm glad I didn't reply soon because you three have done the job for me. Luckily most of us understand that shouting down other people's opinions is not the best way to discuss things.
I've already stated my point of view on the subject so I won't repeat myself here. I only want to add that I've learned a lot from people with different opinions from mine. This is, I believe, the true value of these forums.
James, I don't think compiling a mailing list of donors for zine libraries is a bad idea. But in defense of zine libraries (and I speak of experience with the IPRC zine library), most of them are severely understaffed and something like that takes a back seat to the nuts-and-bolts of cataloging zines. I'm sure if the volunteer power was there, and somehow cataloging was caught up, someone could compile a mailing list. But when there may be several THOUSAND zines that still need to be "processed"? (first determining whether or not a particular zine is needed or is not a duplicate, etc, before even getting to the cataloging step) At that point, where would one start? Most of the envelopes that these zines may have come in have been recycled a long time ago, and that doesn't even get into the random unattributed zines people drop off in our donation boxes.

Quimby's is a store that consigns zines, so people who do business with them provide contact info in their consignment contracts. This allows them to have a more comprehensive mailing list. Comparing them with a zine library is apples to oranges.
dan10things, are you high or something? yes, i was calling zine distros assholes. yup, that is what i think. i hate zine distros, people who run them are jerks. that is why i myself have run one for the last six years. hello, there is a world of difference between running a zine distro & selling zines that you have essentially contracted to sell directly with the zinester, versus buying a zine from someone & trying to unload it on ebay five years later (or five hours later, but that's not really what people are talking about when they ask about "collectible zines").

james makes the point that these arguments do little but a) display the wide variety of opinions that exist on this incredibly contentious issue, & b) fan the flames of discord between the camps who disagree. i have my opinions & i know a shitload of people who post here agree with me. i am also aware that a tremendous number of people here disagree with me. as unbelievably obnoxious as i find the people who disagree with me (& i'm sure the feeling is mutual), i guess the we make zines sit has at least been good for casting these disagreements into a harsh enough light that i am now able to see that no level of rational & polite argument will ever change the minds of the people who really fail to see things from my perspective. so i just quit trying. i quit both trying to change their minds, & i have up on being polite. i think those people are assholes, & i'm just glad i write the kinds of zines that they are unlikely to want to buy. at least there seems to be a preferred-content divide along with an ethics-of-re-selling divide (& in fact, i'm sure one feeds the other).

though james, i will say that you theories about class are probably off the mark to some degree. not to mention, irrelevant. i am poor, i'm from a poor background, i have not only struggled to pay bills but actually been homeless before, & i don't think you will see that many homeless people selling old issue of "pathetic life" on ebay in order to finance the transition back into having a home. you know? i think you're kind of grasping at straws on that one.

& like shawn said, quimby's is not a distro. they are an actual store, with actual paid employees & an actual system of command for the items they sell, which includes acquiring contact information from the zinesters whose items they sell. compare this methodology with papercut (where i previously volunteered): a library that is dependent on donations, many of which are anonymous, which functions completely on volunteer labor. they have an e-mail list that they sign people up for when they have an apparent e-mail address at the ready (typically they collect addresses off sign-up sheets in the actual library or at tabling events). you can sit there & say, "is it so hard to just e-mail someone & let them know what's going on?" well, that totally depends on the level of infrastructure you have supporting your project, & how technologically proficient that infrastructure is. in some cases, no, it's no problem at all. in fact, you might get more e-mail than you would prefer. in other cases, yes, it's a nearly insurmountable problem. papercut didn't even have a computer in the libary until maybe a year ago. to enter e-mail addresses to their list, a volunteer had to hand-write a list of e-mail addresses or collect them from other handwritten lists & enter them on their own computers, at home/school/work, on their own time, without access to the donations the library had received. you don't know the restrictions under which an organization struggles. something simple & straightforward for you might be really difficult for someone else.
ciaraxyerra said:
& i'm just glad i write the kinds of zines that they are unlikely to want to buy. at least there seems to be a preferred-content divide along with an ethics-of-re-selling divide (& in fact, i'm sure one feeds the other.

Out of curiosity, what exactly is this divide? What kind of zines do zine sellers prefer vs. non zine sellers? And if you can reply without calling people who disagree with you assholes that'd be swell.
Rick Bradford said:
[Though I don't think there's a moral right to expect anybody else to respect those feelings unless they're made clear at the point it's sold]

I'm not sure where any "moral right" could be expected when the transaction also includes the word "sold". It's a pretty odd thing to ask an interested party to pay money for an object and then make demands of them on top of their payment. I think it's shaky even when the item in question was gifted -- but when money has changed hands?

Well, there's no *legal* right. But to my mind, if someone sells you something, and it's also clear (say, it's printed on the cover, for example) that because of their politics or for whatever reason they would not want you to sell it on at a profit at a later date - if you enter into a transaction on an understanding with the other party, then yes they have a moral right to expect you to uphold that understanding. Now, like I say, it's not something I agree with and I wouldn't do it - I personally think it's entirely counterproductive. But it doesn't change that if you enter an agreement you should stick by it. If it's not made clear then I don't think there's any moral right at all, but that's a different situation.
ciaraxyerra said:
dan10things, are you high or something?

Actually I find your moral outrage over a handful of zinesters selling or tracking down out of print issues on Ebay quite sobering. I know you're all about the drama, but hijacking a thread asking a perfectly reasonable question just to throw down a bunch of long rants and insults is a bit ridiculous, even for you. I don't get the emotional tirades over something that just isn't a big issue facing the zine world and isn't effecting you personally. Even zine libraries are known to track down long out of print issues on Ebay to fill in collections.
ah, dan, i do always appreciate the way you manage to willfully obfuscate a reasonable point & be condescending simultaneously. it's such a unique & special gift. i forgot that you are an omnipotent wizard who knows how all zine libraries throughout the world "fill in" their collections & that you have some kind of higher authority about how this issue does not personally affect me. you know, because i totally don't do zines that pop up on ebay on a regular basis or anything. seriously, STOP TALKING, dude. it's embarrassing to watch.

eric, to answer your question: it seems like a lot of folks who make semi-political personal zines (the kinds of zines i make, & the kinds of zines i tend to specialize in distributing through paper trail) tend to skew against re-selling zines. & a lot of people who lean more toward humor zines, the comix wing of zines, punky d.i.y./music zines, etc, have much less of an issue with the re-selling, or are even supportive of re-selling. i've written extensively in other threads on this subject (too many to count) that i think this kind of content/ethics divide can be traced back to why we are making/reading zines in the first place. our buddy dan10things is very fond of the argument, "when i make a zine, i want as many people to read it as possible! that's why i give copies away & leave them at record stores, etc etc! years later, if someone has my zine & wants to sell it & then can find a buyer who is excited to read it, that's great! why would i ever criticize a system in which more people are reading my zines?" well, that's great for him & for others who feel that way about their zines. the disconnect comes from the fact that not everyone makes zines in order to be as widely read as possible. many people make zines as a form of semi-direct communication with a specific audience, & they prefer to have more control over their distribution channels. these are the kinds of people who probably won't drop a big stack of zines for people to take free at their local coffeeshop. i think there is room in the zine world for both ideologies & both ways of doing things.

the frustration for me comes from people making insulting blanket assertions such as, "if you don't want people to read your zine (as widely as possible), why are you even bothering to make it?" "if the content of your zine is that personal, maybe you should get a diary." if someone has written an intense zine about, say, being molested by their stepfather, i think it stands to reason that they might feel extremely disempowered by someone ordering that zine from them & then saying, "i paid you & now i own it & i can do whatever i want with it & you don't have a leg to stand on." it would be GREAT is everyone could lay down their metaphorical arms over this issue & embrace a diversity of tactics when it comes to distribution & getting rid of unwanted zines, & if those tactics were based in common sense & respect. it's INCREDIBLY disrespectful to tell a zinester who writes intense personal zines that they should give up their zining & get a diary. i would argue that it's disrespectful to tell zinesters to expect to have their zines re-sold at a profit whenever possible unless they specifically specify that this not happen, & furthermore, that readers are free to ignore their stated wishes. this is the shit that flies around over this topic CONSTANTLY, & yet i'm the one being taken to task for calling that kind of behavior exactly what it is: the behavior of assholes.

there is no universal right & universal wrong on the topic of "re-selling zines: good or bad?" but the manner in which the pro-selling side steamrolls over arguments against re-selling (especially when it comes to intense personal zines) is disrespectful, fucked up, asshole behavior (& surprise, surprise, almost exclusively the domain of dudes). there are a LOT of people who post here who think re-selling is patently wrong, but they are so consistently shouted down by a vocal commitee of dudley fucks telling them to go buy diaries that they've mostly given up the argument.

if you can't tell, i am counseling some kind of mutual tolerance & mutual respect here. if there is a buyer somewhere for old issues of "cometbus" or "pathetic life," there's probably a seller willing to take advantage, & no argument is going to stop them. but i draw the line at saying that it's okay to re-sell ANY zine, under ANY circumstances. i draw the line at basically imposing a free-market economy on the world of zines.

to me, zine economy has always been kind of like a gift economy. let's say, just for argument's sake, that your sister has a small yacht. she offers to sell it to you for a fraction of its worth, because she knows you want it. you buy the yacht. a few years later, you have your eye on a bigger & better yacht. you sell the yacht you bought from your sister & use the money to put a down payment on the new yacht. your sister has no legal recourse, of course. the yacht was your property & you had every legal right to sell it. but it was imbued with something that money can't buy: the goodwill in which your sister gave you a deal, because she loves you & wanted to help you have something you wanted. & you threw that goodwill away for money to buy something you wanted more than your sister's goodwill. it's an issue of hurt feelings then, & bonds of trust that aren't the same anymore. & yeah, the yacht example is ridiculous. substitute whatever you want: a breadmaker, a print gocco, an issue of "cometbus" #7. it's this sense of trust & giving that holds the zine economy together, which can't be quantified on the open market, & that's what we risk when we say that zines become the property of readers once money changes hands & as such, they can be re-sold to the highest bidder. if you're okay with that, that's your own call. i personally am not okay with that.
I support what Ciara has posted 110%.

I just put out a zine that was the hardest thing for me to write, ever. It is about the death of my infant nephew. If i EVER saw someone trying to sell it for a profit... I would literally be sick. I didn't write it to reach as many people as possible, I wrote it to reach those who have an interest in reading a highly personal story about dealing with a horrible time in my life... and hopefully make some friends and allies, and just be a sort of support for others who may have gone through something similar.

Should i just go get a diary because i shouldn't tell the world how it was for me to go through something tragic? Is it okay for someone else to make a profit off of something so sad?

I think i get Ciara because i am into the same type of zine that she sells at her distro. I am not into the music/punk zines like i was when i was trying to discover the most hippest underground punk rock band of all time when i was 14. I've never been into comics, so i can't speak for that market.

You'll be hard pressed to find a woman perzine/political perzine writer who thinks it's okay to sell her work for a profit. Trust me.


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