If you think of Spider-man when you hear about Forest Hills, Queens, New York, then you are going to love the unique finds at Royal Collectibles!
This novelty shop is found right in the heart of Spider-man’s hometown! Royal Collectibles was established in 1992 and is committed to providing the collector with personal service, fun events, and interesting merchandise. As their name indicates, this store features a wide variety of collectibles, toys, games, vintage trading cards, and sports memorabilia. Additionally, expect to encounter a variety of comics (Silver-age to modern) and graphic novels.
Forest Hills Today caught up with Royal Collectibles manager, Laura Lazauskas who gave the low-down on this high-interest shop:
1. We read that Royal Collectibles is a family-owned, continuously operating business in Forest Hills for over 20 years. Could you please tell our readers how Royal Collectibles got started?
Royal Collectibles started as a father & son business back in the 90s. In the beginning, they were selling comics as street vendors in the city until they decided to open an actual shop. After some time, the father retired and sold his half of the business to a long-time customer and family friend. They’re not technically related, but may as well be brothers! Over the years we’ve had siblings and spouses of both families helping out at the shop!
2. Why did the founders start a business in Forest Hills and what distinguishes Forest Hills from other neighborhoods?
I can’t speak to the original reason why they chose Forest Hills, but I would imagine having grown up nearby in Middle Village, Forest Hills must have seemed to them like a great place to start a business. It’s a beautiful neighborhood with clean, quiet streets… a nice place to raise a family. However, you’ve still got the hustle and bustle of Metropolitan Avenue that brings new people in all the time. Plus – Forest Hills is the hometown of Spider-Man himself! Peter Parker is said to have lived on Ingram Street in the original comics from the 1960s. I like to think that’s a big part of the reason!
3. To a complete novice in comics, we have no idea what a “pull list” and “slab a comic” means. Could you please educate us on these two words: PULL LIST and SLAB A COMIC?
A pull list is basically a subscription list for comic books. It is a list of comic books that a customer collects. They would give this list to their local shop, and as the comics from their list are released every week, the shop holds the comics for the customer to pick up at their convenience. Not all shops offer a pull list service, but we do. We offer 10% off cover price for customers who have pull lists with us. It helps us to know what comics to order and stock for our store and it helps the customers keep their collections intact and current, no need to worry about missing an issue because it sold out right off the shelf!
“Slabbing a comic” refers to having a comic book’s condition professionally graded. CGC is the most well-known company that does this. Grading is used for buying and selling highly collectible comics. A third party (CGC) has a team of professionals that examine the condition of a comic, give it a grade out of 10, then seal it in a tamper-proof case. Some people do it to preserve their comic books as well. Grading a comic is a guarantee that the book is in the condition that it is purported to be in.
Having a comic book graded or slabbed greatly influences the value. For example, the first appearance of the character Deadpool is in the issue New Mutants #98 from 1991. These issues are typically bought and sold unslabbed or ungraded in the range of $100 to $400 depending on the condition. But if you have a really high-grade copy, the price goes up. A CGC 9.6 of the same issue will sell for $450 or more, and a CGC 9.8 will sell for $700-800! So, for really high value books, it could mean the difference of thousands of dollars since the desirability for the best condition copy will influence the price.
4. These days many millennials and even baby boomers are shopping online. How does Royal Collectibles compete with giants like Amazon and others in the online shopping platform?
We can’t deny that online shopping for comics and collectibles has definitely affected the business, but we try to look more to the positive side of it. Many people are going to shop for the cheapest way to get comics (digital or printed) online, and we understand that, but we also find a lot of people still like to shop in an old-fashioned brick and mortar comic shop. There’s something about comics… having them in your hands and flipping through them… that people will always prefer. Plus, I think a big part of our success is customer service – your computer is never going to recommend a great storyline it read years ago that it thinks you might like (or maybe it will? Who knows!). The comic hobby can be tough to navigate for new readers, and hopefully, that’s where stores like ours come in, offering quality customer service to help guide people in all areas of the hobby. And if online venues are getting more comics into the general public’s hands (or ipads), then I feel like it will benefit stores like ours in the long run as hopefully, they will find their way into our shop one day.
5. How has the neighborhood changed in the last ten years?
I feel like the neighborhood has stayed mostly the same over the years. However, one of the biggest changes was the school that opened across the street from our store. We’ve seen lots of new faces (and new traffic jams, haha) as a result. Still an amazing place to live and work!
6. Royal Collectibles often has celebrities drop by or have invited special guests to autograph and meet customers. Could you please name a few celebrities that were here?
Certainly, a few years back we had David Mazouz at our shop who plays Bruce Wayne on Fox’s Gotham TV series. Last year John Barrowman (from Arrow and Doctor Who) stopped by for a fun visit taking some fans on a shopping spree. We’ve had lots of famous wrestlers including Bret Hart, the Hardy Boys, Jake “The Snake”, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Mickie James, and more. We’ve had several comic creators at our store including the legendary Neal Adams as well as lots of other talented creators like Khary Randolph, Cory Smith, Robbi Rodriguez, Rebekah Isaacs, and more.
7. What is the hottest item to collect now?
I’d have to go with Funko Pops; they seem to be taking over our store! If you haven’t heard of them, they are little vinyl figurines styled in all your favorite characters produced by the company, Funko. People can’t seem to get enough of them! They make one for almost all your favorite characters from TV, movies, comics, history, music, everything!
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Note: Be sure to stop by and visit Royal Collectibles on Small Business Saturday, November 25th. Expect to find sales throughout the entire store!