Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Is The Shine Coming off the Gemstone?

There is a small publisher called Gemstone that has, for years, published Disney comics and the Overstreet price guide. This publishing company is owned by Steve Geppi, the owner of Diamond Comics Distribution and Geppi Entertainment Museum. Rumors have been out there for a couple of years now that the museum was hemorrhaging money and that Geppi had sold a home and a number of pieces of his collection to stop that bleeding.

The viability of Gemstone has recently become even more questionable lately. Found on the Gemstone website:


"In the past few days, there have been a number of rumors circulating about Gemstone Publishing. As has been the case with many businesses across a wide array of industries, there has been a reduction in staff at Gemstone, and this included the departure of many valued employees. This, however, is not the end of Gemstone Publishing," said Steve Geppi, President of Gemstone.

"Our flagship title, The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, remains a vital tool for comic book collectors throughout North America and around the world and it continues to be a highly profitable item for the retailers who carry it. I look forward to making announcements regarding new developments for the Guide's 40th anniversary next year," Geppi said.

"At this time, no final decision has been made regarding The EC Archives or our comic books featuring Disney's standard characters, but it seems certain that both lines will continue in some form," he said. "We all anticipate resolving the issues facing us and moving forward, and I will be happy to announce the specifics once things have been finalized."

A couple of years ago Gemstone temporarily halted publishing the Disney comics. And just couple of weeks ago it was announced on CBR's Lying in the Gutters that Gemstone would no longer be publishing Disney comics. If you look in the newest issue of Previews you will see that there are no Disney comics solicited by that publisher. In the future the Disney titles will be published by the newer publisher who has proven to be a real up-and-commer, BOOM! Studios.

If you attended Free Comic Book Day at your local comic book shop last month you might have noticed that Gemstone's comic, a Disney title, was not there. It was cancelled shortly after orders were submitted earlier this year.

The publisher also had, as many companies have, to lay off staff a few months back, as reported by The Beat:

An email to Publisher Russ Cochran got the following response:

We have unfortunately been forced by circumstances to close the West Plains, Missouri office of Gemstone Publishing. This included laying off five staffers here. I personally have worked with these people for over thirty years, so this was a very difficult decision, one that was painful for all involved. Going forward, I am still a part of Gemstone and we will be moving The EC Archives project to our York, Pennsylvania office. We fully expect to be able to get EC books and the Disney titles back on track, I look forward to continuing my association with the great EC material for years to come.

Disney Worldwide Comcs reported in February that Gemstone was being sued for unpaid bills by it's broker:
Creditors Trade Association is suing Gemstone, Diamond and owner Steve Geppi for $373,000 on behalf of Global Interprint, which is the print broker for many of Gemstone’s deluxe editions such as the EC Archives. Gemstone owes the large sum for printing bills that were run up between December 2007 and September 2008.

Going back to the end of last year, The Maryland Daily Record reported that the Geppi Entertainment Museum was 19 months behind on their rent, owing in excess of $700,000 to the Maryland Stadium Authority (leave it to a government agency to let tenants go that long without paying rent - I know we couldn't do that at the comic book store). While the museum is a separate company, the financial difficulties here do highlight the overall issues with cash flow for Geppi's holdings.

Many companies have been hurting financially these days, Gemstone is not alone. Of course these developments leave retailers wondering if next year's Overstreet Price Guide will be available. Execs at Gemstone insist it will, but if things go from bad to worse I would bet that could all change. Will copies of the recent guide be available? They are for now, but will that continue?

As long as someone takes over Gemstone's licenses, like BOOM! Studios has with Disney, it really isn't a big impact on the comic book industry. Retailers will still be able to provide the material for our customers. But of course it's sad to see a long-time publisher become weak in the knees. Maybe Geppi needs to contact the government - why wouldn't taxpayers want to own a comic book publisher? We already own an automobile manufacturing company and several banks, after all.

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