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.


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