Remember when your comic collection was worth money? Remember when you would buy a comic, thinking that you were reading an amazing story, but that some day your comic book might actually be worth money? I spent the weekend reviewing a box of comics I had picked up over the last 3 years or so, and found that, with only a few minor exceptions, none of them were valued higher than their respective cover prices. Now, I don’t read comics to make money, I do enjoy reading them… but it does seem like this change in how things are… is relevant somehow. Between comic publishers coming out with 2-10 variant covers of different rarities and trade paperback sales cutting into potential print runs, I think the state of the comics industry can definitely be tied to these two issues, at lease in some respects. Maybe I’m wrong, but I really miss the days of taking a chance on a comic, thinking that I might be one of the lucky ones who got in early on a book that would take off. Maybe the publishers are playing it safer these days so they’ve removed the risk… who knows? What do you guys think?
I feel your pain, JR3. Remember the Elseworlds Giant, published by DC Comics in 1999? It has an interesting little history, that book. I remember discovering a dealer in the UK who was willing to part with two mint condition copies for $200 each. One copy went straight into my private collection, and the other copy went to a pal of mine in North Carolina. Thirteen years later, it’s still basically worth the same amount. Gee whiz!
It reminds me of network TV lately… why bother taking a chance on a #1 if it’s going to be worth the same amount (or less) that you paid for it 5 years down the line… why bother watching a new TV show and getting invested if they’re only going to cancel it mid-season and leave you unfulfilled? I feel like there’s a definite parallel. Again, I’m not saying we should buy comics for their $ value… comics isn’t all about investing… but when it WAS partially about investing, the industry was definitely doing better, I think.
I did this over 20 years ago. I have a pretty good collection and hoped that I would sell it off for a profit of any kind. 2 major things prevent this. 1. Some kind of unknown Comic Book Rating System prevents selling any comic that does not have mystery this rating that you get from ?. I may be a little old, but where, who rates a Comic Book’s Condition? 2: There are no comic book store around anymore. I have a pretty good copy of Iron Man #1. Number one, for crying out loud. Any of the Comic Book stores I knew of, went out of business, and any new ones, looked at me as if I was selling an Edsel. That’s my rant. Carry on…
Old Luddy Gordy:
For the big-wigs in the comic industry it is obviously about making the big bucks RIGHT NOW. Even the shops play king of the capitalist hill. I remember going into some shops with a large clientele 10 am on Wednesday mornings, and being able to thumb through a pile of Hellboys and BPRDs for the scattered Mignola variants. It’s truly cherry-picking at it’s finest when both covers are the same price. God forbid you come a few days later (or release day at a sleazeball shop) variants are already bagged, boarded and on the wall (though they might as well be on the roof because they’re MARKED-UP THROUGH THE CEILING). I’m sorry, I understand the principle, but the cover price usually still reads $2.99 under the mylar. Seeing a handwritten sticker right next to it with $30.00 is a kick in the teeth. Especially since a lot of them go down in price shortly after. Boy do you feel robbed afterwards. In my opinion, it’s the same as gas stations who charge way over standard just because they know they can…and think we’re idiots. Well, we kind of are, I guess. I’ve been known to get something on eBay right when it drops in the eventuality that it might sell out. My last regret like that was buying the Dark Knight Movie Master’s Joker Thug figurine with the “variant” sad mask for $60 bucks because it was proclaimed “rare”. A few weeks after, Toys R Us couldn’t give them away for $12. Ok, I’m starting to veer off the topic of actual comics. I don’t buy them for value, I buy them for the pleasure of the hobby (although, with vintage or key issues I will usually make sure it is VF or above…you know…just in case). It’s really the thrill of the hunt when it comes to things like that. Outbidding someone just to replace a ratty issue with something shinier. Plus, who doesn’t want to believe they are sitting on a nest-egg? I’ve even had some friends who haven’t read since they were kids bring me a shoebox or milk crate of late 80′s/early 90′s comics (no bags or boards) to be appraised; all bright eyed thinking they’re about to cash in. I always feel bad breaking their hearts. “Look on the bright side…you can always use them to wrap beer mugs when you’re packing for a move!”. I will still occasionally spend more on a creator I love, but sometimes pricier titles can just bring you heartache somehow(still not over the reluctant decision to have Neal Adams sign my BATMAN #232, only to have him accidentally rip the title off with Scotch tape). To sign or not to sign: that is the question. No, I have resolved to keep my hopes low from now on, and just collect to follow the stories. Us weekly buyer’s can barely afford that in this economy as it is. Don’t get me wrong, I still baby my comics, but I don’t freak out as much anymore (letting them roam free on my shelf a little longer before being cryo’d). I’ll just wait for the paper form of the industry to die down within the next decade before I start thinking my long boxes are Fort Knox!
The Zen Turtle:
I think I miss those days more than I could have ever imagined while living through them. Being able to pick up an issue and wonder what it’s price might be worth 10-20-30 years from then. Owning comics from the 60′s and 70′s in the 90′s were what gave me these ideas of course. The last comic I can think of which dramatically increased in price right after buying it was NYX #3 which I was ecstatic to own after it premiered X-23 and became worth nearly $100. Aside from that though, no comic in the last 10 years will ever be worth anything, it seems. The reasons stem from the 90′s bubble when everyone and their mothers were buying Spawn and Spider-man, nothing from that era will ever be worth more than a quarter. The decades that followed are trying to climb their way out of that perdicament, and surely there will be a few key issues from the early 2000′s that in 40 years time are worth a couple hundred dollars, but nothing like the Golden Age. Hack/Slash #1 will never be as iconic as The Avengers #1.
Ahh, but Hack/Slash #1 will always have a place on my reading pile, as opposed to, you know, The Avengers #1.
J-Man: Admittedly I’ve never had much of a collection. Even back when I was a kid, I was sporadic with a purchase. At one point I owned numerous issues with no specific connection: the one where Falcon dismantles a sentinel, another where Conan battles a brood of disgusting parasitic beings in defense of an innocent newborn which turns out to be half human/ half squid, yet another featuring a team-up with Spiderman and (seriously) the Human Fly, and a bizarre non-sequitur pile of Hulk, Batman, TMNT, Machine Man and Shogun Warriors. Fast forward to the contemporary and things haven’t changed much. Many issues of Lobo, Deadpool, Hulk, Spidey, X-men, Batman and Green Lantern represent my inventory, but they’re far from mint condition. If they were, i would use tweezers to turn the pages (Simpsons reference, anyone?) Instead, I keep them in a big pile haphazardly arranged non-alphabetically. That way on my way to bed or the bathroom I close my eyes and pluck whatever hits my fingers first. It’s like a comic pot-luck dinner. I hope for something great, and yet whatever I get is appreciated. So in essence, whatever catches my eye gets my buck, and hopefully something will strike gold at some point. I have a pretty good reprint of TMNT #1 and the Batman issue where he gets his back broken, plus a Spidey featuring Carnage’s first appearance, but that’s about it. My likelihood of making good buck is pretty much nil. Then again, a very good friend of mine collected Star Wars action figures and playsets for many years, preserving them in their original packages after one or two play sessions. This was never an option for me, so my collection faced the harsh brutality of my imagination. I was impartial though… stormtroopers, rebels, Jabba and even Yoda were forever scarred with pavement scratches and hunks of dirt from my Mom’s garden. This was backyard war, and with war comes casualties. About fifteen years later, my friend was stuck for money and decided to cash in his bounty. The total was about 300.00. There is no way to determine what something will be worth. In my opinion, it’s all about the memories.
Old Luddy Gordy:
Wanna hear something funny? After all that has been going on in the industry–especially after all my complaints and disillusionment on the issue–I still purchased every last first issue in the New52niverse for that exact childlike sentiment: this is a big moment and is going to be worth something one day. What an idjit! Me! The guy that feels every Crisis and major crossover is just the publisher’s version of “wagging the dog”; a pointless war waged on the front-lines of our wallets to stimulate their own personal economy! The recent issue of The Goon lampooned the issue very well (you need to pick it up to see what I mean). Oddly enough, I now do sort of the opposite: I buy vintage comics that have already gained whatever modicum of worth or interest they will for a good while (until a movie comes out that pulls story from a key issue, momentarily boosting the price for hungry comic shop owners). It’s time to get back to basics. The only stable (or climbing) worth is in the wonder of great story which time only proves to make better through our mind’s fermentation process called nostalgia. This is especially true since the bar has only lowered as the years pass. Like a relationship, cherish your comics without expecting anything else in return and you can’t be let down.
The limited variants are there for the shops to entice customers, but most stores simply mark them up ahead of time, like you said Luddy. It’s a shame, the speculators ruined comics the same way they trounced toys. All kinds of kids stuff being hoarded by Simpsons-style Comic Book Guys who imagine it is all worth far more than the reality of it. I do read for fun, but it was nice when I could occasionally cash in on a random purchase. Those days are gone.
I blame CGC and the whole concept of grading. It seems not even long ago, that collectors could make up their own minds as to the difference between MT, EX, G, F, and P, with a “-” or “+” for further clarification. Now, some buyers won’t even consider something that’s not CGC graded. Who are these so-called experts and what earned them their expertise anyway? I defy anyone to show me the difference between a 9.7 and a 9.8, yet the difference in value could be substantial. Furthermore, the difference between a CGC graded 9.8 and simply a “near mint condition” bagged and boarded out of someone’s collection is not even in the same ballpark, even if the condition is essentially the same. Remind me why someone might want to pay twice as much for a book that is permanently sealed in a plastic coffin?
Twice as much? Try nearly 5-10 times as much in many cases. A $10 book can be worth $300 if it’s graded at a 9.8. Also, what’s the difference between a 9.8 and a 10.0? How many 10.0 books exist? How many times have they inspected a book, I wonder, only to have the inspection itself reduce it from a 10 to a 9.9? It definitely feels like a racket. Good call, Doctor. CGC = bad.
I totally get how frustrating this whole “monetary worth” thing can be for some folks. I’ve taken careful steps to keep my collection bagged-and-boarded, and away from harmful extremes in temperature/humidity. Maybe in another 20 to 30 years, I’ll hit paydirt. Who knows?