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.