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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Investing In Comics: Choosing The Grade!

In the last post, I discussed the basic definition of what's considered a high grade comic. If you've yet to read it you can click here to do so and come back here later. 

Many investing and collecting comics move the goal posts of the definition of high grade when it comes to certain comic eras. I explained in my last post that I believe when a comic book falls into high grade is still a high grade comic, no matter what era it hails from.

When it comes to comic investing and buying investment comics, it gets more convoluted and complex. Some argue that VF/NM 9.0 is the start of high grade for bronze age comics. I think it's a subjective preference when it comes to that call, not the actual definition of grade. 

But there's some logic to back up this subjectivity, and to grasp it, we need to understand grade spreads for different comic eras.

Take into account this is the generalized view of grades for these comic eras. There are always exceptions like limited run price variants, but most major and minor key issues within each era will resemble what's depicted in the graphic pretty closely. 

With modern comics, most are high grade with the majority recorded by CGC in the 9.8 range. Very few are mid-grade, and low grade copies extremely low or close to none.

With copper age, the spread is still wide between high grade, mid-grade, and with a low amount of low grade copies. 

In the bronze age era, the spread is weird with a lot of high grade, a lot of mid-grade, and not much low grade either.

Then we get to the coveted golden and silver age era. This era is completely flipped around with most comics in low grade. The second biggest is mid-grade with high grade being few and far between.

So you can see why some say high grade starts at VF/NM 9.0 for bronze age comics, because as you can see, there are a ton of 'em floating around. There's a ton of mid-grade copies as well. But to be completely honest, each comic as an investment is on an individual basis for me.

When I got my Amazing Spider-Man #6, it had just come in my local comic shop. It was mere days after the Lizard was announced to be the villain in The Amazing Spider-Man movie as well

The price was decent. I looked over the comic to see the grade was near the grade it was priced at (the grade was actually higher). You can see and read the whole story and what grade it came back from CGC by visiting this link right here.  

Although it was an unslabbed book and a low grade GD, I snagged it. The same with the Tales of Suspense #52 copy I got. That comic was CGC graded already at a low FN 5.5, but it was only $85.

The book was close to its Overstreet Guide price, and the copy was already CGC graded! Plus, I'd heard the Black Widow was going to be in Iron Man 2, so I snagged it because it was a great deal and knew it would go up. It did by the way.

Now, it was different for when I finally bought Amazing Spider-Man #129, first appearance of The Punisher. That I made a calculated decision based on three things when it came to choosing the grade:

1. My budget.
2. The price.
3. Key issue demand.

Because it was a bronze age comic, I decided I would go no lower than a solid mid-grade FN. I didn't even want a mid-grade copy, and my budget fortunately allowed me to invest in a grade a bit higher.

So, I decided on a CGC graded VF comic to invest in. The price I got it for was fair in terms of what that CGC graded copy was selling for. Also, the first appearance of the Punisher is a major Amazing Spider-Man key comic in constant demand. 

Sure, it may be a bronze age comic, but what's the demand like? Is it like Incredible Hulk #181? There are a lot of high grade and mid-grade copies for that major key as well, but demand for those two key issues are high enough that a VF is a good enough investment.

Actually, to be truthful, the first appearance of Wolverine in Incredible Hulk #181 is in higher demand than the first appearance of the Punisher in Amazing Spider-Man #129.

Taking into account rarity vs. demand of a key issue is important. Remember, the higher the grade of the comic, the more rare it should be. The more rare, the less available that grade will be on the market equivalent to demand of that issue.

For a bronze age key issue comic to invest in lesser demand, I would definitely choose a copy in the NM range. For a copper age key issue in lesser demand, I'd definitely have my sights on a higher near mint copy. Of course, this also depends on my budget and the deal I can get.

Once again, there are quite a few factors that determine what grade to choose for a comic investment. Some can be subjective, but that subjectivity can be logical guidelines as well. 


  1. I'm reading a great book by Grant Morrison called "Supergods" where he gloriously goes through the golden age and silver age of comics. I think it's important to note that going backwards from bronze age to silver age—there was the big comics scare with Frederick Wertham and the invention of the comics code, and I think that contributed to a lot of comics in the silver age getting thrown out. Silver age books were definitely more disposable. GREAT article as always. - Wiebes

    1. Heya goes it? Yep, that fact is true about The Seduction of the Innocent, and the Comics Code, and just like most everything that gets a bad rap, there were some communities that actually burned comics in bonfires during the Golden Age because of what Wertham started.