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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Investing In Comic Runs!

I once had the goal of getting a complete run of X-Men vol 1 issues 100-200. My thinking was that it would add more desirability and value to my collection.

Soon, I learned the startling reality about this comic investing method. You see, when most invest in large comic runs, they have the ideal of someday selling that run as a whole. They also have the misconception that they'll get more money for it.

On paper your large complete run will be quite valuable, but in reality most comic collections and runs don't sell anywhere near each comic's guided value. This is especially true when it comes to selling comics on ebay.

On August 18th, 2013, a complete run of Amazing Spider-Man #298-328 sold on ebay for $331.00. There were 30 comics total. All were unslabbed, and sold for $11.03 a piece.

In the listing they noted that most of the comics' grades were very fine or better, so I'm assuming that the average grade falls between VF and NM. However, they did specify the grade of the comics listed below in the auction specifically...

#298 - NM
#299 - NM-
#300 - FINE
#301 - FINE+
#316 - NM 9.8

Now, lets look at the guide values for these books.

#298 - NM $85-$90
#299 - NM- $55
#300 - FINE $27
#301 - FINE+ $6.50
#316 - NM 9.8 $60-$70

Just to be fair, let's put all the other issues not specified in the auction at VF along with their Overstreet guide prices.

#302 = $10.00     #303 =  $10.00     #304 = $10.00 
#305 = $10.00      #306 = $9.00       #307 = $9.00
#308 = $9.00        #309 = $9.00       #310 = $9.00
#311 = $9.00        #312 = $13.00     #313 = $9.00
#314 = $9.00        #315 = $15.00     #317 = $15.00
#318 = $6.00        #319 = $6.00       #320 = $6.00      
#321 = $6.00        #322 = $6.00       #323 = $6.00 
#324 = $8.00        #325 = $5.00       #326 = $3.80
#327 = $3.80        #328 = $8.00

According to Overstreet, this entire run is worth $423.80. Now, I used the lowest price amount of the 2 specified NM comics (ASM #298 at a solid NM 9.4 and #316 at 9.8) and the lower grades of VF for the all the other unspecified issues. I also did not factor in ebay and Pay Pal fees. If I did, the amount per comic that sold would be lower than $11.03 per piece.

Concerning just Amazing Spider-Man #300, the first full appearance of Venom, an unslabbed, raw VG/FN copy sold on ebay for $90 on June 30th. This is an auction, mind you. Two days earlier, a FN raw copy sold for $49.95. That sold with the buy it now option.

Amazing Spider-Man #298 cover
Concerning Amazing Spider-Man #298, first Todd McFarlane artwork on the series and the first appearance of Eddie Brock, a NM- (low NM) copy sold on ebay in the month of August for $70.99. Another low NM copy sold for $54.00 in the same month. One copy listed at a solid NM 9.4 only sold for $24.00! Yikes, but still better than $11.03.

This is just one example I used of a complete run auction. The loss, not including any ebay or Pay Pal fees, was $92.80. 

Now, that isn't too bad if you got this entire run at cover price or fairly cheap. That wouldn't really be a loss or a bad return on investment. I'm just calling that 92.80 a loss concerning guide prices, and the whole point is to try to get a return on your investment comics as close or over their guide prices. 

Let's find another example, but concerning Amazing Spider-Man silver age issues. I'm using Amazing Spider-Man, because it's one of the most popular titles that usually sells the highest on average on ebay.

So, we have a complete silver age comic lot of Amazing Spider-Man #18-30 that sold on ebay for $550.00! This is a few months back, and the auction had a total of 12 comics. Each comic sold for $45.33.

Here's the grades that were listed on the auction for these comics.

  • 18 VG-                   OS Value: $ 69.00  
  • 19 VG-                   OS Value: $ 54.00
  • 20 GD 2.0              OS Value: $ 36.00
  • 21 FR/GD 1.5         OS Value: $ 19.00
  • 22 GD 2.0              OS Value: $ 37.00
  • 23 GD/VG 3.0        OS Value: $ 69.00
  • 24 GD/VG 3.0        OS Value: $ 51.00
  • 25 VG 4.0              OS Value: $ 74.00
  • 26 VG 4.0              OS Value: $ 76.00
  • 27 FN/VF 7.0         OS Value: $ 197.50
  • 28 VG/FN 5.0         OS Value: $ 210.00
  • 29 VG+ 4.5            OS Value: $ 60.75 
  • 30 VG 4.0              OS Value: $ 54.00

Overstreet guides this complete run around $1006.75. That's a loss of $456.75 without including ebay and Pay Pal fees nor the cost of the comics or shipping. If you think $456.75 isn't a big deal, you shouldn't waste your time investing in comics.

You're always going to have a loss when selling your comics, sure. You'll have to pay fees for using some market place somewhere down the line, but the whole point of comic investing is to get as much return as possible from your investments. $456.75 is no small chunk of change to me. I can get a nice high grade CGC bronze age key issue with that.

Also, it's important to make wise investment comic choices. How you're going to sell your investments later should also be a concern when you implement a buying strategy for comics to invest in. 

As I've shown you from the examples, you should be wary about investing in complete comic runs only because selling them as such (a comic lot or complete run) usually sells far less than what they're worth. Those examples I showed you are not uncommon. 

Do a search on ebay's "sold" items for the keyword complete comic run, and you'll see for yourself that investing in complete comic runs and selling them as such doesn't pay off in the end whether they're golden, silver, or bronze age complete runs. Be sure to do the math and see how much each piece sold for within the run.

Unfortunately, ebay is one of the only places where you can sell entire collections or large runs, often called comic lots, so that makes the method less easier to liquidate as well. There's also Heritage Auctions as well, but here's the problem.

You see, most average collectors don't have that much dough to pay for a large valuable complete run or collection all in one shot. The ones that do are usually those who want your comics for cheap to flip them, and guess what? They flip most, in some cases all depending on the issues in the run,  piece by piece. I don't see that changing all that much in the future.  

Even many of the largest online comic market places like Comic Connect, mycomicshop and NewKadia buy collections, and I'm sure they'll offer a super ridiculously low price for them.

Sure, you could sell the complete run piece by piece, but it's highly likely that if you aim to collect a large run of a title, most in that run will be common issues, and most raw, common issues sell way below their guide values.

Amazing Spider-Man #323 at VF and NM prices on average sold for $3.00 on ebay in the month of August. Minus all ebay fees, Pay Pal fees, shipping cost, and shipping supplies to package the book correctly, I'd say it's not really even worth the time. 

I'm not against all complete runs. A complete run of Amazing Spider-Man #1-10 from the first series is a good investment. So is X-Men #1-10 from the first series. Each issue within those complete runs are sought after, and most places will accept consignments of those comics in low grades and unslabbed. Getting a complete run of famous story arc like The Phoenix Saga in Uncanny X-Men bodes quite well when selling piece by piece also. 

That's what you want to do in order to have the best chance in getting the most for them. If you collected a complete run of X-Men #1-10 from volume one, and then collected a complete run of issues #20-50 at high grades, that would be easier and more profitable to sell piece by piece as well.

I'm not saying you shouldn't invest in comic runs. The point of this post is to bring awareness that most complete runs are very limiting when selling and they usually undersell their values. If you're gunning for comic runs, be sure they're high grade and have enough key issues within that run so you can sell them individually for maximum return. Or, use a fixed listing auction. I don't recommend selling them in comic lot auctions, unless you don't care about getting the most out of your investment comics.

How you're going to sell your comics should well be on your mind before purchasing a comic as an investment. It should be a factor in your comic investment strategy. In the past and now, most complete comic run auctions sell greatly under their total Overstreet values. Most raw comics sell far less than their CGC counterparts.

Just something to think about. Thanks for reading.

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