Stephen A. Geppi, Sr., the Chairman and CEO of Geppi Family Enterprises, purchased The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide from Bob Overstreet’s Overstreet Publications in 1994, but that was hardly his first experience with comics. At the age of nine, his first job was bundling comics and magazines for a local used magazine dealer and he opted to receive part of his compensation in comics. After starting a family and working as a postal carrier, he rediscovered comics as a young adult. By 1974, he opened his first Geppi’s Comics World store. In 1982, he started Diamond Comic Distributors.
In 1973, when I was still a mailman, walking my route and asking people along the way if they had comics, before I ever opened my first Geppi’s Comic World store, I discovered an ad for The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, which was then its third edition. Its existence confirmed what I had suspected: that comics had real value beyond cover price and in addition to sentiment.
It might have been in a fanzine or The Buyer’s Guide To Comic Fandom (TBG, later CBG), I’m not sure, and in truth the location of that doesn’t matter. But its content mattered a lot.
Before Overstreet, everyone in the hobby would hear about Superman #1 selling for $100 or a handful of other comics selling for what seemed like incredible prices, but when I got the Guide is was like a revelation. There I was, sitting with this book, taking it in, surrounded by comics, some of which I already had duplicates of…
I was now armed and ready to go sell comics!
Fairly early on, I made contact with Bob Overstreet and began to be listed as an advisor in CBPG #6, the one with the Spirit cover by Will Eisner. I can’t even tell you what an honor I thought it was just to talk to Bob Overstreet. He was like the king, and still is in my book.
He was so kind to me, so encouraging, and he embraced my input. He felt that I had a good perspective. I believe that he thought I was honest (just as we all have seen about him through all these years), and that was a big factor for him. Although he had only been producing the Guide a few years at that point, he had already sensed that a lot people would try to inflate prices.
At that time Bob also became a great customer. Over the years I sold him many wonderful comics (when I bought the Guide, I also purchased his collection, so I got many of those comics back), so our relationship developed further.
Eventually he started holding Overstreet Advisor meetings in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Bob would rent a huge chalet that had 11 bedrooms or some such craziness, and everyone in attendance would spend the whole weekend talking comics. The only time we left was one night we would go out to dinner at a restaurant called The Burning Bush. The rest of the time, it was all comics.
I’ve been asked a few times over the years when I first thought “Wouldn’t it be neat to own the Guide?” It was definitely early on, but in truth I think I was plotting to buy his collection before I was actually thinking about buying the Guide. Somewhere along the line, though, I made the assumption that they were a package deal; I thought there was no way that Bob was going to sell his collection and keep the Guide.
It was early on. I just remember that every time I talked to Bob, I felt like I was talking to the number one guy in comics. I think a very good argument can be made that The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is the most significant publication ever produced for the comic book industry.
When I purchased the Guide in 1994 and Bob came to work for me at Gemstone Publishing, I knew that there would be people – even some good friends and longtime customers of mine – who thought I was going to be setting the prices. That was never going to be the case, but I understood that it would take time to prove that to some.
And I believe that time has done just that. My deal with Bob was based on honor. I knew that he took his responsibilities as a sacred trust. He was the guy who was rightly considered the authority on pricing. It just wouldn’t make any sense for me to ever put him in a position where I would call him up and suggest what a price should be.
The growth and stature of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide has in its foundation Bob Overstreet’s credibility. He secured his status by making every Advisor feel the way I did: information and opinions are always welcome, the contributor’s ideas are always heard and considered, and that in the end Bob will go with the evidence at hand in the most judicious way possible.
The best part about this is that it’s not an act. This is who Bob Overstreet has been and who he is. In fact, he has played it so straight, that he never even let a comic book convention pay his way until the San Diego Comic-Con brought him as a special guest to honor him for the Guide’s 40th anniversary in 2010.
He inspires that in the people around him as well. Owning The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is a sacred trust. In at least some sense, it belongs to the whole industry, and I’m just happy to be its custodian.
Steve Geppi is the Chairman of Geppi Family Enterprises, which in addition to Gemstone Publishing includes Diamond Comic Distributors, Alliance Game Distributors, Diamond International Galleries, Hake’s Auctions, and Baltimore Magazine, among other companies.