Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guide or Bibe?

I want to start by saying that I LOVE the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. It has been in publication since 1970 and has become an indispensible tool for any comic collector. Every year I buy both the hard cover and soft cover versions and when the BIG spiral bound guide comes out I get that one too! The Overstreet guide is THE ultimate reference tool. It lists nearly every mainstream comic published in, well….forever!

Though the Overstreet Guide largely passes on Underground comics it does have excellent sections covering Big Little Books, Promotional, Victorian and Platinum Age books. The book provides an overview of the previous year’s market as well as very well researched articles and an ongoing “Hall of Fame” section.

As a catalogue and living history, the Overstreet Guide is second to none!

But if you are looking for a 100% accurate reflection of comic book VALUES, I urge you to take another look at the title. Overstreet publishes a GUIDE to prices, not (as many collectors and dealers refer to it) a BIBLE. In fact, as time goes on and the vintage comic trade lives more and more in the online world the values used in the Price Guide are becoming a LESS accurate reflection of what is going on in the market place.

There are several reasons for this.

The Online market has changed forever, the way we do business on many levels. For one thing it is far more immediate than brick and mortar storefront sales. There are literally thousands of options for collectors online today, as opposed to the days when you had one or two comic shops and maybe a yearly convention to choose from. The increased options for buyers has resulted in resellers paying a lot more attention to supply and demand. In other words, they have SALES. I purchase back issues from many sources and every single one of the has a “Make An Offer” option. I have never been turned down when I have been within 25% of the asking price. (Always take a shot at the make an offer option!)

This has made the prices on comics much more volatile and subject to bigger peaks and valleys than in the past. Check out the auctions on Ebay for example and you will see what I mean. The impact of online sales is particularly true of comics that have been recently published.

For instance, the excellent Saga #1 is less than a year old. I have watched it go at auction/resale for prices ranging between $75 and $300 over the LAST MONTH ALONE! This will not be reflected in a Guide that only publishes on an annual basis. By the time they publish volume #43 the actual resale value of Saga #1 will likely be nowhere near what it is today. In other words, the Guide does not show price TRENDING.

Most books in the Guide are OVER priced. My guess would be that about 80% fall into this category. The books simply do not fetch the prices that are reflected in the Guide. SOME books ( 10%?) are actually UNDER priced. This is particularly true of golden Age Archie Comics. Try to buy a copy of Archie #50 at “Guide”,if you can even find one, and see how much luck you have.
CGC has had a huge impact on the values in the Overstreet Guide as well. “Slabbed” books in high grades typically go for many multiples of “guide”. This premium is not reflected in Overstreet. Nor is the very large number of CGC books that actually sell for LESS than Guide value due to being “locked” into a mid to low grade number. I suspect that future issues of the guide will actually incorporate a CGC category but that is just a guess on my part.

Variant covers of new comics are extremely volatile in terms of resale, going from cover price to hundreds of dollars and then right back down to cover price again. An annual guide simply cannot properly reflect the “true” value of these books.
Finally, one should never forget that the prices reflected in the guide are RESALE values. Meaning the price you might expect if you are selling to another collector. Many times a collector sells to a DEALER who cannot turn a profit by paying resale prices for his stock. Typically a dealer can only pay on average about 25-40% depending on demand for your books. This is also not, and should not, be reflected in the Comic Book Price Guide.

In point of fact the people at Overstreet are diligent about pointing out that the book is NOT a price bible, merely a guide. That tag has been applied by collectors and dealers.

By all means, ENJOY and USE the Overstreet Price Guide! I do and will continue to buy at least ONE copy every year. Just be careful about thinking of it as a “bible”.

That’s 30!