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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Personal Philosophy On Comic Investing

Thanks L.K. for the suggestion on this write up. Although, I've been dropping a few nuggets here and there about my personal philosophy on comic investing and how I approach it, I haven't been too clear about it.

First, I must explain why that is. I basically inform and do it based on stats and facts in terms of investing in comics, as well as what's going on in the market and factors that should be taken into concern. I've explained some of them in my post
Comic Investing Factors For Investing In Comics

Do I take these factors into concern? You bet I do. I am aware of them in most every purchase I make.

But what about my personal comic investing philosophy? Funny, because me and Gerry were discussing this recently. He said something along the lines of snagging some comics that he likes, not always because it's a good investment comic. 

I'm on the other side of that. I call it the "Dark Side". Sure, I still get certain comics because I still like the characters, but I don't get any comic unless it has investment potential. Well, unless, I just buy it to read, but we are talking about comic investing here.

My philosophy is trying to take out as much bias as possible when it comes to investing in comic books. I don't care whether I like the character or not. If a character's important key issues are on the move or primed to heat up, I'm all over that like stink on doo doo.

I'm not a huge fan of Deadpool, nor Iron Fist or Black Bolt or even the Black Widow to be honest, but I have their first appearances. I am a fan of the Punisher and Wolverine and the X-Men and Spider-Man, but I don't just get key issues of the characters I'm a fan of. That would be too limiting.

Like I mentioned before, the difference between comic investing and comic collecting is comic collectors solely get what they like without much emphasis on value. I lean a lot more to comic investing, because my decisions are not largely based on like or dislike. It's largely based on potential return.

I stick to key issues and don't bother with common issues, and I do not bother with large complete runs at the moment. I once had the dream of having a big comic collection and was working to achieve one. That was until I woke up and realized I had a big collection of mostly junk. I also realized that complete collections or comic lots greatly undersell their individual values, as opposed to selling key issues individually. If the market starts to change concerning that, I'll adapt.

My philosophy encompasses comic investing factors such as my investment timeline, my budget, key issue demand, key issue past performance or potential growth, the market, and particular grades. I no longer take the shotgun approach and straight up collect comics or speculate in modern comics. I tend to take a calculated approach with all those factors I mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph to minimize risk, gain the best possible potential for growth, and maximize return. 

Despite whether some copper age comics are on the move up, I still mainly gun for silver age and bronze age key issue comics. As time goes on, many landmark key issues from those eras keep getting more and more older, more and more sought after, more and more valuable and more out of reach. 

I would choose the first appearance of Henry Pym as Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #35 over Marvel Premiere #47, first Scott Lang as Ant-Man, because Tales to Astonish #35 is a key issue that's been a solid investment for a long time. Marvel Premiere #47 only shot up recently. It would've been better to already have Marvel Premiere #47 before it sky rocketed, but if I were to make the purchase now between those two choices, I'd choose the older, more solid Tales to Astonish option.  
Even though my philosophy seems rigid, it's actually more fluid than what it sounds like. For instance, I'll still dip into copper age comics. I've pointed out Amazing Spider-Man #300 and New Mutants #98 quite a lot on here. Those have been solid copper age issues for over a decade now.

Also, the grades I choose are more fluid than rigid. I'm sure you can tell by looking at the few comics I've shared in the Vault that I'm pretty sporadic when it comes to grades I choose and for good reason. It has to do with budget, but also timeline and potential growth. So here's what I do.

I look up the values of a particular key issue from older Overstreet Guides from the 80s, 90s, 2000s to current and see how well each grade has done over the decades for an issue I'm gunning for. As I've noted earlier that an Incredible Hulk #181 in GD hasn't really done that great over the last 30 years. It keeps going up but not the way I like, and since I'm getting close to mid-life, a $125 or $150 investment return in the next 30 years doesn't cut it for me. That's probably how much it will cost to fill up my gas tank when I'm 70.

Then I take into account era and demand. We all know that the first appearance of Wolverine has had strong demand for the past decades, but it is a bronze age book. There are a quite a few high grade copies out there, but I also know the demand for that book far outweighs the supply. Still, I wanted a high grade copy, but the question is would my budget allow it?

So I go onto eBay and look up all the sold listings, and yes that means for each grade. eBay only lists the sales for the past two or three months, and I copy them all and average each grade out to get the average value.  After I did this, I discovered the highest grade my budget could squeeze out was a VF CGC copy at most, and I was gunning for a CGC copy and the highest I could get.

If we are talking about early golden age Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, my grade preference would be even more lenient. They are a lot more rare and even GD grades would be great comic investments. 

But there is still a rigid standard when it comes to which grades I'll purchase for certain comics. With most copper age comics and moderns, not all but most, I'll mostly gun for 9.8s because of the market. Too many high grade copies from that era floating around, but once again, it depends on the particular key issue and what deal or the potential growth return I can foresee.

For instance, I got New Mutants #98 for $40 a few years ago. It was advertised in the VF range, but when I inspected it, the comic looked better to me. I knew that copper age key issue was in high demand for over a decade and was getting more popular and popular. I also knew that CGC copies sold more than unslabbed copies, so if I submitted it and it came back higher, I would've added instant return on investment. It may as well of had a big flashing neon sign that said high potential investment growth on it, so I snagged it. 

When I got Tales of Suspense #52, first appearance of Black Widow, it was going for $75, which was guide price at the time. There were two hitches, though. First, it was already CGC graded, but the book is only a 5.5.  Not the best grade or anything to toot your horn about, but getting a CGC graded key issue at Overstreet Guide price is already a steal. Two, announcement of Black Widow in Iron Man 2 had just leaked, and I knew at the time people would be gunning for that particular issue soon. Once again, potential value growth was written all over it, and I would've been a fool not to snag it just because my standard for grades is too rigid.

A deal is a deal. I believe in being flexible enough to spot them. I've heard of guys that only buy certain high grades like 8.0, 9.2, 9.4, etc no matter what key issue it is or era it hails from or the demand of it. It's nice to have a budget like that, but I surely don't. Also, they may pass up a great deal on a comic just because it doesn't meet their grade standards.

Shit happens. You never know when a deal like that is going to present itself, but I know I wont be able to hunt down deals like that all the time. I carefully planned my Incredible Hulk #181 and Amazing Spider-Man #129 purchases, because deals like that for those two issues are few and far between nowadays. More calculations as well as budget constraints were considered much more for those two key issue comics. 

Once again, timeline played an important factor in the purchasing decision for those two books. I knew that VF was what my budget allowed me, but after researching how that grade performed throughout the decades for those two comics, the growth was suitable enough for my tastes.

As for my personal philosophy on which comics I get unslabbed or CGC? When it comes to high ticket key issues from the golden, silver and even bronze age, I prefer slabbed copies. With early golden age land mark key issue comics, you run a higher risk of getting a restored unslabbed copy. Many are extremely scarce compared to the comic eras that follows the golden age. A lot of people restore those comics and sell them unslabbed. I'd rather not pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more for a book that would automatically decrease in value substantially once I get it graded.

If we're talking copper age key issues like New Mutants #98, I have no problem buying that sucker unslabbed, which I did, because there's a lesser chance of buying a restored copy for most copper age books. There's also a better chance I'd get a high grade book since there are so many of them out there like I mentioned earlier.

As for most other copper age comics, it really depends. I'll set my sights on CGC 9.8 first. If it's around the $200 mark or lower, I'll buy it CGC'd.

On the other hand, if a copper age key issue is nearing the $500 mark or above it for CGC copies, I'll seriously start hunting for unslabbed copies. I'd much rather buy a $500 and up CGC graded silver age comic like the first appearance of the Black Panther in the NM 9.0 or 9.2 range than a CGC copper age key at that price.

There are some preferences I am quite rigid about. I don't like coverless comics. I won't outright purchase a comic that has a cover or centerfold detached at any staple. The only ones I have ever gotten were those from comic book lots I bought quite a while ago, and the comic only came with the comic or comics I was gunning for in that lot.

I don't like major spine splits. If it has one, it must be CGC'd already and a comic in huge demand in order for me to consider it. If it's unslabbed, the price better have a good ring to it, or I'll hand it back to the dealer so fast even the Flash would be impressed.

Not a huge fan of big chunks missing out of covers or pages. Missing pages, forget it. It has to be complete for me. 

I stay away from comics that are stapled directly on top of the cover and not along the spine. I think restored when I see that. Although it could be just a printing error, I don't care and don't like the way it looks. Unless it's a square bound comic, that is, but with square bound comics like Giant Size X-Men #1, the book should be stapled that way underneath the cover, not on top. 

Also, I don't necessarily care for the UK or German or whatever price variant copies. They generally sell for less than American copies, but that could change. There are more rumblings in the comic collecting community about price variant covers from other countries, but I'm generally not all that interested in variants to begin with. Completists are usually the ones who hunt down all the variants, and I'm definitely not one of those. I don't bother with cover variants at all.

So my philosophy on comic investing is getting investment comics based on budget, investment timeline, grade, and how well a comic has performed or will perform. Sometimes certain factors will outweigh others for particular comics and situations. Like I said before, a great deal is a great deal, and grade sometimes takes a backseat.

I try to get key issue comics before they blow up, but I know that's not always possible. I watch the market for each comic I have on my want list and for those that aren't.

Shit happens, remember? If a comic suddenly blows up beyond what I'm willing to spend on that key issue, I move on, or I accept a lower grade. For example, I had my eye on Hero For Hire #1, first appearance of Luke Cage. I was going to get that CGC 9.6. Then news of the television show blew that puppy up way beyond what I'm willing to pay.

What will I accept now for Hero For Hire #1? I'll settle for an 8.5 or 9.0. I'd even consider an unslabbed copy, but both options greatly depend on what kind of price I can get.

I can't have every important key issue. I know that and don't try to accomplish that. I'd be dead broke if I did, so I work with what my budget allows me in concert with the market.

I know my philosophy works for me. It took me a long time to learn what works and what doesn't, and believe me, I've made a lot of mistakes. I also know my philosophy and the way I go about comic investing may not work exactly for you. 

Gerry still mainly gets unslabbed copies, even though he knows there's a possibility of them being restored or over-graded. He has a different budget and different philosophy, and it works for him.

He also knows what I write about on this beast is just to inform. What I try to do here is to shed some light on some pitfalls to watch out for, mistakes I've made and learned from, and facts about investing in comics than can greatly help in attaining a strategy that works for you. Also, of course, some of the best comics to buy and why.

Hey, unslabbed comics sell better than CGC! 

Great, I'll get my unslabbed important keys graded. 

Hey, there's a chance that you could be getting a restored copy buying unslabbed comics.

Ok, great! Thanks for the info, but buying the comics on my want list already CGC graded is way too expensive for my taste.

That wasn't an actual conversation by the way. Just an example. Do I sometimes buy on impulse or overpay for a comic? Sure I do. Do I always hit the mark? Of course not! I'm definitely not perfect, but my strategy definitely minimizes it a lot more than when I didn't have one.

It's not a contest, though. There are a lot of collections that are way better than mine and more valuable. Comparing mine with them would be a waste of time, so I don't.  

Not quite sure if I delivered what was being asked of me concerning my philosophy on comic investing, but I gave it my best shot.


  1. I appreciate your posts. One of the most important thing about investing, especially with comics, is managing risk and finding out how much of it one can handle. If you didn't care about investing in comics, which title would you willingly part money for?

    1. Not sure if I'm understanding the question right. Do you mean to say what title I would collect if I didn't care about the comic investing aspect?

    2. That would have to be X-Men/Uncanny X-Men volume 1. What would yours be?

    3. I have a few fave reads that have nothing to do with $$$$......Spiderman 1-16 (KILLER MCFARLANE!!) and KICK ASS (anyone with guts, can be a hero...AWESOME!!) and many awesome artists like FINCH, John Romita JR, Capullo, Jim Lee & Angel Medina (Spawn, KISS Psycho Circus) The Artwork is MINDBLOWING!! lk

  2. WOW!!!! This is Awesome! You hit this one out of the park for me! I loved reading on how you gauge potential investments and how you have crossed over to the "Dark Side". I have a very similar attitude with comics. I usually want graded, as there's less chance of alterations or missing pages.
    My brother, on the other hand has mostly raw comics. I have several Overstreet guides from 1973, 1983, 1993, 2003 and of course 2013-2014. I am also a key hunter and pay attention to what movies are coming out, but also how good they are as a film....avengers movie.....Avengers BUY BUY!!! Spawn Movie...SELL SELL SELL!!!! ; ) Actually I still have #1 Black & White Cover...Still hoping for Mcfarlane to make that KILLER movie we know he could.
    Anyways, Thank You So Much For Doing this blog!! It has really opened my eyes to the strategies and logic of a Great Comic Investor!! YOU ROCK!!! LK

    1. I agree. but you can still make money from non key comics. I personaly got my own code depending on age of the comic. for example copper age i will never buy anthing that isn't a key and 9.8. I just bought the 1st appearance of omega red that might possibly be in x-men film coming out in 2016 or even the new wolverine film in 2017. but when it comes to bronze age i won't go lower than 9.2. just for the fact anthing lower won't get your a big enough return except if it's a super hot book like hulk 181. The sliver age i will not go lower than a 9.0 except if it's pre 1967. then i will go to fine.

      The thing is the comic's that we are all investing in shouldn't be for the current market of buyers. it should be for the future buyers i went in to my local comic shop the other day and it was full of kids buying comics. so buying title's like iron man, spiderman, avengers and hopfeully justice league now should be great investments in say 15 years time.

    2. That's still can make money with common issues if they are super high grade enough. Unfortunately, my budget is limited concerning that and I cannot simultaneously get key issues and common issues.

      I've heard of thresholds for grades, and I have nothing against them. I do have some as well, but unfortunately, it depends on my budget and my budget is quite limiting.

      You do have a point about the current market of buyers, but there is the boomerang effect. I started collecting during the copper age, and I knew nothing about grades, first appearances, key issues. Actually, when I first started collecting The Punisher, I thought the limited series #1 was his first appearance. I just collected whatever titles I liked and got every new issue that came out.

      But, somewhere down the line, I started working my back to the older issues. Every generation has kids that start off just collecting all the new comics, but the ones who end up becoming serious collectors get exposed to all the older first appearance and key issues and start gunning for them too. It's virtually impossible not to nowadays with all the online communities and such.

      Which brings me back to the point of grade thresholds. It's good to get the highest grade you possibly can, but if you are looking at the future: As the higher grades get more and more out of reach for most, many will also start looking for mid or lower grades.

      I'm trying my best to not assume what people can or can't afford on here concerning investing in comics, and you do bring up a valid point and it's a fact that I've stated on here many times...higher grades have quicker and more return on investments, but I certainly don't want to alienate those who are on tighter budgets. You can still profit from comics on a limited budget, maybe not on the same scope as those who can afford high grades, but it's still doable.

      Great input and great advice on grade thresholds!

    3. Ok LK, you said a title not titles, but I'm a pretty big McFarlane fan myself so if comic investing wasn't a big concern, I'd be collecting the comics with all his artwork on it. Actually, I use to have his complete run on Incredible Hulk and ASM as well as The Spider-Man series.

      Jim Lee? Big fan also, as X-Men was the longest title I collected.

      I actually met Angel Medina at Wonder Con and the dude is a totally awesome guy. Super nice, great artwork, and got to talking to him about how the Gunslinger Spawn came about.

      I think McFarlane is in the process of writing another Spawn movie, but I'm not sure how long that's been. You keep rockin' as well LK. You still haven't told me how the new album is coming along, amigo?

  3. yeah your right but if people are on budget and are serious about investing in comics. They are better of buying on 1 nm copy than 6 vf copys. the demand is going to be extremly high for super grade comics.people are always are going to be willing to pay for it. and the chances of say 9.6+ copy of FF 69 getting graded is highly unlikely.

    but say the chance of a copy getting graded over a vf is quite likely. so if you invested in say a 8.0 copy.10 years ago then it would of been in top 20% of the cgc census then . but say in 5 years time it could be in the bottom 60% graded making it more common. but that 9.4 will be rarer if that makes sense.
    also you've got take the factor that most 9.4/9.6/9.8 of comics will be locked up people's vault for a long time. That's why a buy nm copys now because i personaly think your money is safer.

    But say if it's hulk 181, asm 129 or even a iron man 55 now. the prices will go up steadily in all grades because people are always buying and selling key titles. that's why everybodys wants them for in there collection. and that's why people invest for to make big £££.
    by the way i am extremly jealous that you've got hulk 181. what would you say? is a good key comic that is undervalued. I am was thinking of getting hulk 181 or asm 121 or 122. but there on the up in value rise. i was thinking 1st wasp.

    1. Ah, okay, I totally see what you're getting at. Sorry, I am a slow one here. You're absolutely right about how the CGC census can change and certain grades like FN and VF can become way too common. After all, there are still a lot of unslabbed copies out there, and I'm sure quite a few of those will sooner or later get slabbed as well.

      Yep, the higher the grade, especially the higher NM range has the least potential of falling into that trap for sure, especially for Copper Age comics. Great point!

      Hahaha...I was just looking at the first appearance of Wasp...Good call! I think that book is pretty undervalued for an early silver age book.

      Spider-Woman #1 is a highly undervalued book in 9.8 high grades. Super undervalued.

      Green Lantern #87 first John Stewart and 2nd Guy Gardner in 9.6 is highly undervalued.

      Tomb of Dracula #1 in 9.2 to 9.4 and even 9.6s are still highly undervalued books. This one surprises me most.

  4. First off, thank you for your comments and great help. It is very difficult to locate a reliable somewhat current post on comics of many eras and reasonable advice without someone trying to sell you something. I agree that anyone should always buy the best grade they can at the time. I know many people who ran to get their hands on Green Lantern #76 after it blew up at mid to low grades. Every one of those graded issues, and most over graded nonslabs, was mid to lower grade and the ability to recoup costs over time on any type of sale is minimal. I'd rather save and get something better a year from now, of course I don't pass up good offers when they arise, but those don't come along often. Silver and Gold keys are always going to be expensive and available, so I can wait and save, I don't expect a good deal on those books.

    I stopped reading comics more than 10 years ago (I get the trades now), because so many reboots and just the expense of modern books can get staggering. The number of variants is absolutely ridiculous, and I'd rather pay $300 for a Silver or Bronze book than a Marvel Now sketch variant or Blackest Night sketch book. It's great that you point out good books to hunt and I do not have thousands of dollars to spend on comics, I am one person & I only collect. Much like many, I used to collect everything when I first started and have spent the last few years, when I can make the time, culling my modern books. It makes no sense to list most of the books I've read post 1990, for example, for cents on the dollar. Strange thing was I couldn't even donate them to my local library, I was told there is no demand for individual issues, so I recycled them with magazines, etc.

    Last thing, buying raw books on e-bay or other auction sites has become very difficult. I can count on one hand the number of sellers that have an accurate grading system when they advertise. I'd say, 90%+ of the books I purchase are over graded. I am no expert, but I can tell that a book with spine kinks, color breaks, etc. is not NM. These types of transactions will become detrimental to the market. Likewise, just because someone has a CGC book for sale does not mean that it is worth 5-10 times Guide, especially for non-key books.

    Thank you for the time and the great posts.

    1. Everyone has their own philosophy on comic investing for sure. I can tote all I want about what I would do, what's heating up in the market, or how it's shifting, but it really boils down to what people take or throw away from this site.

      I really don't mind whether it's either/or. Some can't afford the higher priced books, so I try to give them options on what they can invest on or should at least save up to invest on. I won't necessarily agree with it, but if they're looking for cheaper comic investments and want me to do a key issue list on it, I won't object to doing one.

      If certain Copper Age or Modern Age comics are hot or heating up, the market is speaking. I just report on it.

      And you are right, just because a comic is CGC'd doesn't mean it will sell higher than guide. A lot of factors determine that. Key issue type and grade plays a part, as well as demand.

      Thanks for commenting and reading, and I'm glad that I can provide a somewhat reliable source for this topic. It's one of the reasons why I starting writing about this subject in the first place.

  5. I learned the hard way last year about trends. Your Valiant story mirrors what's happening with Vertigo and Image. And those companies are milking it. #1 issues and new characters that have in no way entered the cultural lexicon are going to crash hard. There was a time when John Byrne was gold. Matt Wagner's Mage would never fall. GI Joe #1 would forever be worth a fortune. Nope.

    1. Heya and sorry for the late reply. It's getting to harder to reply in a timely fashion. I agree that the modern age speculator market still has a flimsy foundation.

      More and more new readers to this site are trying to push it so I cover more modern age comics, and I'm like why? I see a real problem with the new trend of speculator's mindset that are way too focused on low print run numbers and sold out new comics. They're shoving actual popularity of a title, character, or basic story premise in favor of low print run or a sold out comic.

      Why is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 the big book of the Copper Age? It's because those characters hit the proper pop culture significance and because it's a low print (rare) book.

      You're right...the new speculator mentality with new comics will lead to another's inevitable because it's the polar opposite of the 90s, which relied too much on popularity of the characters or titles and shoved rarity to the bottom.

      There needs to be a closer balance between rarity and popularity (demand), which is why this site will never lean too far to the pure speculator side like other sites do with their Top 10 Weekly Hot List of new releases toting sold out phenoms that will just end up back in the market place a week after they came out with no real popular demand to back them up.

      I'll stick to recommending comic investments, not trend of the week or comics that get $5, $10, or $50 profit returns. I'm talking $100 and up profit returns.