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Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Low Grade Comic Investement Trend!

This topic was requested to discuss recently, and I think I've mentioned it a little bit before, but nothing in great detail. You've probably noticed that a growth in low grade Silver Age is starting to occur in the market. I believe one article in the latest Overstreet noted this as well.

To tell you truth, I am not all surprised about this. It happened with a lot of major low grade Golden Age keys, which is why so many are downright expensive even today.

But this new trend not only deals with just major low grade keys in the Silver Age, it deals with even common issues from that era as well. What's the deal?

Well, there's a few factors involving this, but I think I should start off with the two main factors of why this is happening.

1. Accessibility.

2. Preservation.

In the first case of accessibility, this has everything to do with affordability. Just like with a Golden Age Captain America #1, high grades are extremely rare and thus less affordable to the majority of the masses. That's pretty common logic, so before keys like that during the Golden Age got overly expensive back in the mid 70s to very early 80s, the average collector started buying up lower grade copies.

This is what I call the Trickle Down Effect, and it's still going on today just like it did then. Look at Amazing Spider-Man #300 and how it has boosted up in demand. Only 9.6s and 9.8s of the first appearance of Venom use to be considered investment worthy, but if you take a look at the market, quite a few are snagging up 9.4s and 9.2s on a larger scale.

However, it's common knowledge that there is no shortage of Amazing Spider-Man #300 copies out there, high grade, mid-grade, or low grade. Not to say that there aren't quite a lot of Golden Age or Silver Age low grade copies out there, but there are less of them for particular issues compared to their Copper Age counterparts.

So when many Silver Age keys start becoming less affordable over time, average collectors work their way down the grading scale and snag up copies that they can afford until they hit low grade Silver Age comics. No biggie, and nothing new.

The only real difference between now and then is preservation. We have better techniques of preserving a comic compared to then. Slabbing a comic helps to preserve a comic by giving it a strong protective holder that's a hell of a lot more protective than a Mylar bag and backing board. They also put a piece of Micro-chamber paper to help slow down oxidation of the paper.

Comics during the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, and most of the Copper Age were printed on the cheapest, crap paper available which is called newsprint. This paper is extremely prone to oxidation, because of the impurities left behind in the process of making this kind of paper.

One of these impurities is called lignin and is a complex wood acid. This bastard breaks down in the presence of oxygen and ultraviolet light. Foxing as it's called in the industry is a result, and the more browning of the paper, the more this process of oxidation is occurring in the paper of the comic.

Light and heat are the two main causes, and acid hydrolysis is when heat creates a reaction in the acids in the paper or the air itself to start to deteriorate a comic book. Which is why everyone says to store your comics in a cool, dry and dark place.

Now that I've kicked down a freeze-dried amount of knowledge on that front, what are the sub-reasons why some collectors are trending to snag up low grade Silver Age comics?

1. Potential Growth.

2. Rarity Mentality.
As I've stated before in this post, potential growth is a reason why low grade Silver Age comics are starting to be gunned for in the market on a big scale. Sure, affordability is the main factor, but without a feeling of potential growth, these comics would just be ignored for the most part.

Take for example the Tales of Suspense #52 copy I got a few days after it was announced Black Widow would be in Iron Man 2. It was only a 5.5, which is still considered a low grade copy, but it was already CGC'd and only $75 bucks at the time.

Why did I snag it? Potential Growth of course. Now the comic at that grade is selling for around $425 to $450. Same concept that these others are doing when snagging up low grade Silver Age comics.

The other factor is the rarity mentality. There are quite a bit of low grade Silver Age comics out there for sure, but there's not a huge abundance of them like most think.

Let's kick down some more knowledge here about deterioration. Comic book pages will turn yellow in about 10 years in humid climates. You lived in a relatively hot, humid climate and didn't have air conditioning in your household while growing up collecting comics, you can bet that your Copper age and earlier comics in your collection are starting to or have turned yellow already. The picture shows an example of foxing or the tanning and browning of a comic cover.

In an average climate, pages may start turning yellow in about 15 years. When preserved in a dry, cool climate, preventing pages from yellowing can be stretched to 40 years or a bit more. Throw in a piece of Micro-Chamber paper and even longer.

I still know there are tons of third party grader haters out there. They refuse to get a book slabbed or whatnot. They keep their comics in plastic mylars and backing boards, and if these are low grade Silver Age comics, you can bet that they are deteriorating faster, because low grade Silver Age comics are already deeper into the deterioration process.

You don't really have to get your comics slabbed to help preserve them to be honest. A piece of Micro-Chamber paper inside the book will do ya, but most collectors don't even do that or know to.

photo from
Make no mistake that all comics are deteriorating. You can help to slow down the process and preserve them longer, but nothing lasts forever, especially something that is biodegradable like paper.

Which is why so many stress about high grade comics. High grade comics are less into the deterioration process for sure. They will last longer if preserved and taken care of.

Yes, as time goes on, more low grade Silver Age will start turning to dust, but I don't know about them being ultra rare 15 to 20 years from now. If there are those out there that are snagging up low grade Silver Age comics and then CGCing them on a big scale now, they are helping to preserve not only the comic but the amount of copies still in existence. Sounds like a double edged sword there.

There are negatives to this trend. As I've kinda hinted at before, low grade Golden Age or Silver Age comics need more maintenance. If you got a CGC 2.0 of the first appearance of Lex Luthor in Action Comics #23, you'll need to send in that comic to get re-holdered every 10 or 12 years to simply stick another piece of Micro-Chamber paper in it to keep the oxidation process at bay.

It's also a fact that high grade Silver Age copies go up in value faster and a hell of a lot more than their lower grade counterparts. That still has not changed. Just look at Fantastic Four #52 in CGC 9.4 compared to a CGC VG.  All I can say to that is Yowza!

However, there are positives to this trend also. Like I said, these comics are more accessible to the majority of collectors, meaning that they are affordable and will be relatively easier to sell later on.

Sure, there will always be rich people no doubt, but they will always be a minority compared to the over-all population. There are only so many rich avid comic geeks like Nicolas Cage, Gene Simmons, Enimem, or Samuel L. Jacksons out there, and chances are they already have, or had in the case of Nick Cage, an impressive high grade comic collection. It's simple logic.

This brings me to another positive about this trend, and that means more stock in a particular issue. For example, I'll use the Tales of Suspense #52 at a 5.5 example again. Compared to it's CGC 9.6 counterpart, you could say, "A 5.5? Big deal! A 9.6 is worth about $3-4 grand!"

And you would be right. However, if I had bought 20 CGC copies of that issue at 5.5 VG/FN and for $75 bucks per pop, which is what I got my copy at, those issues would be worth a total of $8,000 if I sold them all at $400 in today's market. 

Then again, if I had just dumped a fair amount of money on a CGC 9.8 instead of getting that 5.5 at the time I bought it, I would've definitely made a more huge return on investment without putting all that work in hunting down 20 CGC 5.5 copies of that single issue.

Anyways, there are many methods of comic investing for sure, and it all depends on your goals.

I'm not looking for $40 or $50 dollar returns. Maybe for short-term books that's cool. I'm looking for $500 and higher returns. Minimum $100 return for short-term and minimum $500 for longer-term books. Ideally, $1000 return and up for my long-term investments. If you got 100 of those books, you've got $100,000 dollars in comic investments. 

Of course, if you had 1,000 low grade Silver Age comics that got you a return of $100 per comic investment, it would be $100,000 as well, but that's a lot of work and also not guaranteed that every comic in that 1,000 collection will give you a $100 return.

Comic investing is not totally a rich man's venture yet. However, with the way this comic boom is going and all these comics skyrocketing in price so fast, it has sped up the Trickle Down Effect dramatically.

What concerns me is what happens when even low grade vintage comics get out of reach of the average and larger comic investing or collecting community? Will the demand for Modern Age quickly increase and burn out faster as well?

The next part to this series is a look at the 90s comic crash, and what I believe is the real reason behind why it happened. It might not be exactly what you think it is, but I promise it will be interesting. Just click the link below to continue onward.


  1. Well done Mayhem! Another Awesome article, and as always, right
    on point. I believe that 2nd appearances also become the go to, after
    the 1st appearance gets out of reach....Strange Tales 111, Hulk 2 and even
    Brave Bold 29 have all started drifting upward and are more affordable choices.
    Keep up the good work man!! ROCK!!! lk

    1. Yep, it's a natural progression of the comic collector market. Happened with the Golden Age, still happening with the Silver Age and Bronze Age, and moving onto the Copper Age. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th appearances will all be important books and gunned for in the very near future. ROCK ON LK!! Hope all is well over there on the East Coast!

  2. Definitely a good read with many valid points! As far as the modern books go, I do believe that there will be some serious collectibility there but will require a little more umph when compared to gold/silver/bronze keys. I think you'll see books that have major events ie 1st apps, deaths, arcs, etc... and scarce variants become this age's keys. Books like Wolverine Origins 10 and Amazing Spider-man 700 illustrate this pretty well. With that said, variants are currently being done at such a rate that I could very well see the bubble bursting in the next ten years. Books like Death of Wolverine 1 had some pretty significant variants (all the way up to 1:500) which many collectors want pretty bad but shop owners have to purchase a ridiculous amount of product to get just one!!

    1. Heya Jessie, thanks man. Good to hear from ya and thanks for commenting. Always appreciated. I think there's a lot of truth to what you're saying. I can also see variants getting the smack down in the near future.

      Modern books should take a while. There's no hurry for those to start hitting ridiculous prices, and I'm starting to see all these new comics barely two years old jumping up drastically as well. I'm gonna assume the new comic speculators are the cause of this, and I agree that those who are emulating the 90s Speculators are gonna get hit in the near future.

      I agree with ya on this point.

  3. Well done TCM! I love reading this stuff. Very informative.

    1. Thanks J Kandefer. I love writing about this stuff. Glad you like it too.

  4. Amazing Article as usual.. Keep up the good work.

    - Sid

    1. I love this site it is very informative and I like to learn all I can about investing in silver age books. And lower grade books are a lot more affordable. One question if you had $200 to spend would you buy ( silver age ) 1 book or 2 $100 books or 4 $50 books? Thanks and please keep the site going......kevin