This past weekend I decided to archive some of my 20,000 comic books so that my wife would continue to allow me to live in the house…or actually live PERIOD! This process involved identifying books that I could pack away because they are a) from discontinued series or b) crap. I segregated the books from the active population of books, put them in new comic boxes which I then shrink wrapped and stacked neatly on a pallet in the corner of my basement. Said stack reaching nearly to the ceiling. This left me with six boxes of ‘active” comics that I would need for filing purposes as new issues were released. Nice and organized.
However, as any hard core collector will tell you, when you undertake this sort of activity you also spend a lot of time “rummaging” . So I spent as much time flipping through my collection as I did actually ding any work. During my rummaging rampage I came across a copy of the Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide from 1990-1991 (#20) . I began to flip through the book and here are some of the prices of key books as they were some 20 years ago:
Superman 1 $ 26,000.00
Batman 1 $ 14,500.00
Detective 27 $ 32,500.00
Amazing Spiderman 1 $ 2,750.00
Fantastic Four 1 $ 2,650.00
Archie 1 $ 2,000.00
Action 1 $ 32,500.00
Action 252 $ 360.00
X-Men 1 $ 990.00
TOS (1st Iron Man) 39 $ 875.00
Then just for kicks I reached across and grabbed a copy of the 39th edition from roughly 20 years later (We are now on Edition #41 but #39 was closer to a flat 20 years, though not exact). Here is what I found.
Superman 1 $ 440,000.00
Batman 1 $ 215,000.00
Detective 27 $ 1,500,000.00
Amazing Spiderman 1 $ 44,000.00
Fantastic Four 1 $ 52,000.00
Archie 1 $ 38,000.00
Action 1 $ 2,160,000.00
Action 252 $ 4,500.00
X-Men 1 $ 22,000.00
TOS (1st Iron Man) 39 $ 15,000.00
Bear in mind that the more current prices on Action #1 and Detective #27 reflect recent auctions. Again not EXACT numbers but pretty close.
Now check out the percentage jumps over 20 years:
Superman 1 $ 26,000.00 $ 440,000.00 1692%
Batman 1 $ 14,500.00 $ 215,000.00 1483%
Detective 27 $ 32,500.00 $ 1,500,000.00 4615%
Amazing Spiderman 1 $ 2,750.00 $ 44,000.00 1600%
Fantastic Four 1 $ 2,650.00 $ 52,000.00 1962%
Archie 1 $ 2,000.00 $ 38,000.00 1900%
Action 1 $ 32,500.00 $ 2,160,000.00 6646%
Action 252 $ 360.00 $ 4,500.00 1250%
X-Men 1 $ 990.00 $ 22,000.00 2222%
TOS (1st Iron Man) 39 $ 875.00 $ 15,000.00 1714%
Every one of these books jumped over ONE THOUSAND PERCENT in two decades. HUGE!
Does this mean that your beloved books will jump in value a thousand fold over the next 20 years? A thousand times NOT LIKELY! These were KEY books in iconic titles. In many cases these books were UNDER priced in 1990.
So what happened?
In short, the internet happened. With the proliferation of online auction sites (not just Ebay) dedicated to our hobby, these books became more available to a wider audience of prospective buyers. These auctions naturally created competition for key books and hence the price jumps. In fact the more recent prices in the tables above have actually gone UP over the past couple of years. In the case of books like Action #1 and Detective #27, every time they come to auction the values spike up even higher. And they are not the only books to see this trend. Recent auctions of Tales Of Suspense #39, Archie Comics #1 and the rest of the list have ALL seen multiples of guide value at auction.
So what else happened?
CGC happened. With the advent of professional grading services that have created an “impartial” grading system, high grade examples of these books IN CGC SLABS have resulted in huge price increases over similar grade “raw” unslabbed books.
What does this mean to the collector who wants to engage in long term investment?
You need money to MAKE money. You have a very good shot at making money over time provided you have the large amount of cash needed to actually BUY a copy of Amazing Spiderman in decent grade. Unfortunately not many of us has 40K to pony up for an old Spidey comic.
You COULD speculate on a book or books that you believe will increase over time. This has the advantage of being cheaper. But speculation is highly…speculative and you are more likely to see your comics DROP in value over time. In fact MOST comics either stay “flat” or decrease in value.
Still want to invest. Well I warned you! BUT if you must your best chance to make money is by watching and recognizing trends. Knowledge is very definitely power. Scour the auction sites and watch which books are gaining in value but still in your range. (Bronze Age books are currently enjoying a nice bump along with continued growth in Silver Age. Golden Age is SO expensive that a lot of those books are flattening out). Keep track of your own investment in terms of dollars and the SECOND you see a flattening or downward trend it is time to sell. You probably won’t realize PEAK profits but you should at least get out breaking even or even making a little.
REMEMBER you do NOT have the inside information that hard core dealers do so you are going to be a lot more reactive than they are.
Do SELL books you want to dump when that character is being featured in an upcoming or hit motion picture. The prices peak nicely as the film gets closer to release.
Do not BUY that character currently being featured in a hit movie. The price WILL drop again. (See WATCHMAN.)
Also stay away from any long term investment in MODERN AGE books. If you must speculate in them, SELL FAST. The values WILL drop quickly after a spike. Don’t believe me/ try selling that New 52 Sketch variant of Justice League #1 that was going for $250 a few months ago and see what your return is.
Speculating CAN be fun and even a little profitable. I do it myself! But I treat it kind of like a trip to Atlantic City or buying a scratch off. I never gamble with money I can’t afford to lose. So if I DO lose on a comic investment I still had fun playing the game.
Of course I have more fun…rummaging through my comics.