Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Investing in Comics Part 2

When it comes to finding comics to invest in, the current atmosphere couldn’t be better … and worse.
In the past if you wanted comics, the first place they were available was through various stores on spinner racks and newsstands.  Subscriptions soon followed.  Then came mailorder, which was a huge boost to the hobby and eventually led to flea market booths and comic shows.  From there, specialty comic book shops opened, followed by the behemoth of eBay … and the world of comic investing has never been the same.

To downplay the importance of eBay in the field of comic collecting is to not understand the market one wishes to invest in.  eBay opened up the world for everyone with a computer and Internet availability.  Issues that were impossible to find suddenly became readily available … in multiple copies.  Books you thought were rare were as common as romance novels.  And it wreaked havoc with prices … or so it seemed.  The reality was that it leveled the playing field in all ways … something not exactly conducive to investing.

When flea markets and mailorder were the only way to buy, consumers (and that includes investors) were at the mercy of the seller.  If you were an investor selling this way, you were in luck as long as you could find someone to take your comics off your hands.  That usually wasn’t a problem, though you sometimes had to wait to find the person.  When stores entered the picture, they stuck to competitive pricing based on the comic values given in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and what the local market would bear.  eBay started a race to the bottom … for serious collectors.  Sellers who dealt in comics underpriced to drive bids.  Sometimes this backfired and worked wonders for the collector.  Sometimes it went the opposite way and sellers made out like bandits.  All markets have their pros and cons, however.  I’ll focus on the three main markets here and let investors decide which is best for them.  I’m doing this under the assumption that the investor is simply looking to buy comics in which to invest. 

Flea markets are the bane of comic book collecting at this point in time.  All one has to do is take a walk through any market and see that if there is one certainty when it comes to sellers at flea markets it is that most don’t know what the hell they are doing.  There you will find one of two types of dealers: the one who has knowledge of comic books, or the one who doesn’t.  The two are easy to differentiate.

The dealer who doesn’t know what he (and it is usually a he) is doing will usually have one small box worth of comics.  The comics may or may not be sleeved.  They most likely won’t be boarded.  The prices will have nothing to do with condition or anything even remotely resembling reality.  The stuff you can find in a .25 cent box at your local comic book store will sell for $5.00 or more here.  The price, as odd as it is, is usually set by the comic’s age and who is on the cover.  The good thing about this is that you can sometimes find a gem that is vastly underpriced, but that is rare.  Also, once you check out this guy’s stock, there is usually no reason to return to him on future visits, as his lack of sales will keep him from purchasing more books to sell.

The dealer who does know what he is doing will have the comics sleeved and boarded, and the prices will be around Overstreet levels.  Your chances of finding a gem with him are very slim, but negotiating prices works out better.  After all, it is far easier to get a deal on a book you want to pay $8 for that is priced at $11, but really worth $10.  With this type of dealer you are starting closer to what the book is worth, while at the former dealer that $10 book may be priced at $20, so your odds of getting it for $8 are virtually nil.  This dealer’s stock will also change, so checking back with him is a good idea.

The comic book store is a great place to get new and back issues, though fewer and fewer shops are carrying the latter due to space constraints and competition from eBay.  Like with the knowledgeable dealer at the flea market, the comic book store owner will have his books priced competitively.  You can negotiate, but it is rare that you will find a deal, unless you go to the one place a lot of people avoid: the discount boxes.

Discount boxes usually have comics anywhere from .25 cents to a dollar.  The conditions aren’t always great, but there are some treasures to be found.  You can also cheaply fill gaps in your collection so that you can sell off the entire run of a title at a good price.  I have found quarter books worth over $11 in the condition they were in, so treasures are not unheard of by any means.
It's "Action," not "Acton." Also, that lion is screwed.
eBay and other auction sites have changed the game.  They have let everyone with a comic book to sell and everyone who wants to buy a comic book connect like never before.  That rare issue you’ve wanted for years?  It’s there.  The problem with these sites is that there is so much “inventory” that the shrewd investor won’t be able to sell here with any reasonable certainty of return, but will be able to buy as long as they do so from a trusted source who knows comic conditions. 

The amount of traffic on this site sometimes drives down prices, as you will have 800 copies of the same book selling, but can also inflate prices on books that shouldn’t be valued as high.  If you are investor looking to buy, one of my tricks is to purposely misspell the book’s title while searching for it.  You’d be shocked by how many people list things like Acton Comics.  Sometimes they don’t even put them in the comic category.

As I noted before, this is not the way to fund your retirement unless you own a store, but it is a fun hobby that can bring you some money if you work hard at it, study the markets, and invest in what you love.  Otherwise, it’s blindly throwing money away, and that’s not investing.  That’s gambling, and nobody wants to gamble with their financial future.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Investing in Comics Part 1

A topic which often comes up in the world of comic collecting is that comics are a good monetary investment.  This is often followed by the advice to collect what you love.  Fair enough.  I’ve made some decent money selling comics throughout the years.  Would I look at them as a retirement plan, however (this coming from the prospective of not owning a store)? 


I do believe comics are a good investment.  I don’t believe, like I’ve read time and time again, that they are recession proof.  The value of comics, like any other collectible, can take value hits based on supply and demand, the state of the economy and so on.  Currently, most of the short-term collector market is being driven by the comic-based movies.  As soon as word gets out that some character is going to be featured on the big screen, investors start seeking out its first appearance.  If I’m a collector or investor looking to sell previously purchased issues, that’s good news.  If I’m an investor who doesn’t own any of those issues, but is looking to find them and make a quick buck … well, I’m not a very savvy investor.

Buying comics while they’re hot is usually not a good idea, and this holds especially true for comics that are hot simply because of films.  The comic book film genre will cool, and these comics will come back down in price.  As an investment, these comics would have been good to grab back when they first came out or well before a film was announced.  Hence, collect what you love.  (If you are investing for a short term turnaround, you may see some profit, but you have to remember that there are a lot of other people doing the exact same thing, and that will actually drive your profits downward as it causes the price you pay to obtain an issue to be inflated too dramatically.)

If you are an investor just buying whatever you think will rise in price over time, and you want to avoid the advice of buying what you love to read, you’ll want to look at books with a crossover appeal.  Crossover appeal assures you that your investment will have some kind of value no matter what happens in one market.  A good example of this is Disney’s Pocahontas comic.

If you bought this comic when it came out in 1995 it would’ve cost you $4.50.  One would think if you were buying it simply as an investment you would have been eyeing the comic market, the Disney market (which is huge), the film tie-in market, and possibly the market for female-centric collectibles.  The good news is that each of these markets, while they do have some crossover appeal, is separate from one another.  The comic has its worth to comic collectors, but a Disney collector may be inclined to pay more than the comic collector (either through ignorance or perceived worth) for the issue.  From an investment standpoint, this particular issue has more potential long-term value than, say, a random issue of Action Comics from the same year if only due to the size of the audience that will want to buy it.

The 2014 value placed on that Disney comic in Near Mint ungraded condition by the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was $7.50.  Selling it at that price would not seem to give you a huge return, but you actually came close to doubling your money (over nearly twenty years, which is not unheard of in the comic field) but that is just to the comic collector market.  The price willing to be paid by other collectors could’ve been higher depending on what they were buying it for.  The fact remains, though, that if comics are to be a long-term investment, you have to treat them like a long-term investment (and twenty years isn’t that long).  Yes, you can make fast money by buying and selling what is hot in the moment, but you will usually burn out financially in the long run as the market fluctuates as badly or worse than the stock market.  Higher risk leads to potentially higher rewards, but also bigger losses.  The short-term comic investor market rarely gets to buy low and sell high.  Keep that in mind.

The bottom line is: you can make money investing in comics.  People do it every day.  To do it, however, means you really have to know what you are doing.  You have to educate yourself on the product even moreso than when you invest in stocks.  The easiest advice to give a newcomer is the age old invest-in-what-you- love-to-read line, but there is one other thing that should be said, too: Expect nothing to come of your investment.  If you are expecting that issue featuring the death of Superman to worth hundreds of dollars, you are going to be disappointed.  If, however, you bought it for a few bucks, enjoyed reading it (if you took it out of the special sealed bag it was sold in), and then you get a few dollars more than you paid for it – great.  You just came out ahead, and that is the absolute best scenario one can expect from investing in this hobby.  Yes, there are the rare moments where an investor makes over a million dollars, but that is not the norm, and nor will it ever be.

Next time: the best places to buy comics for investment purposes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


I’ve read Uncanny X-Men since the ‘80s.  That means I’ve experienced some high points and some (very) low points.  It also means I’ve gotten to know the characters.

My favorite X-Man has always been Nightcrawler.  He was, in better times, the heart and soul of the team.  I’ve also enjoyed, depending on who is writing the title and its storyline, Wolverine, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, and Sunfire.  I have not ever really gotten into Cyclops, however, despite his status as the team’s spine.e his status as the team'

Cyclops has always been a one-note general to me.  I was even cold to him when he first got romantically involved with Emma Frost, no pun intended, despite the potential for character development.  He’s never been all that interesting, and there were always better players in the ensemble. 

That has changed.

Brian Michael Bendis, a writer with whom I have had problems with in the past, is the reason for this turnabout.  While I loved Bendis’ work on Daredevil, I do think he tends to get a little wordy and stuck on himself at times (and this has nothing to do with him turning down my interview request for Film Threat over a decade ago).  That said, Bendis’ work on Uncanny has taken the generic character of Scott Summers and has filled him with more issues than Matt Murdock had back in the day.  Not only has Bendis made Cyclops relatable, he’s made him interesting to a degree writers tend to fantasize about.  He’s become the standout Marvel always wanted him to be.  The comic is now the Cyclops show, and it is worth reading again.

I’m sure that someday, when Bendis has moved on to some other title, Cyclops will slowly fade into the background and become just another body.  Until then, however, Bendis is doing for him what he did for Daredevil, and future writers of the character should take note:  this is how you write him.  Mark Waid was able to keep Daredevil’s momentum going.  Will Bendis’ successor be able to do the same with Summers?  Only time will tell, but if they don’t, the title will, as it has in the past, suffer … and so will the readers.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

iZombie on the Small Screen: When There's No Room Left in Comics ...

I’ve written about iZombie before, and did so prior to the CW show.  Basically, I am a fan of the comic’s story and Mike Allred’s fantastic art.  I was saddened when it ended, but was not all that surprised when I heard it had been picked up for television.

I’ve watched the show.

I like it.

It’s not the comic.
What strikes me as odd is the direction in which the show went.  At first I thought the show was going to slowly introduce the comic’s aspects in order to ease the audience into this weird world that had been created.  As each episode passed, however, it was clear that the show was going in its own almost cookie-cutter direction.  It is, for all intents and purposes, a mystery show with a psychic.  Something, I might add, that has been done before, though not with a zombie.  I imagine the show’s creators didn’t want to mess with the formula that has been tried and true.

A fan of the show who picks the back issues or trade paperbacks is going to be very surprised, especially if he or she really loves the show.  The comic is nothing like it.  My guess is that if they are driven to pick up the source material it is because that fan loves the show’s premise that much and if that is the case I can’t help but think that fan is going to be disappointed by what he or she reads. 

There are moments in the show that lead me to believe it could be really slowly delving into the comic’s storyline (and I’ve yet to see the last two episodes as of this writing), but at this rate it will be about ten seasons before it even gets close to the insanity of the source series.  Perhaps that is the plan, but I doubt it.  The show, as good as it is, has played it far too safe so far to make me think it has the rotting guts to do anything else.  That’s a shame, too, as iZombie was at its best when it took readers out of the norm.  The show seems content to be by-the-numbers, and that is fairly disrespectful to the comic’s creators … and the audience.