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Monday, February 2, 2015

Speculation Comics & Solid Comic Investments!

Inspired by LK's recent comment on another post, I think it's imperative I talk about a few things before I get into the actual meat of his concerns or questions. I have said this before and I know a lot of you are seeing this as well, but this market is in a state of perpetual flux.

It can change on a dime for the good and for the worse as well. The best word I can come up for it is fickle.

We are in a speculator's market. This market, at the root of it all, does mirror the 90s speculation comic market. How do I know this? Same freaking patterns.

Go to new comic day at your local and you'll see what I mean. Speculator's waiting outside before  a shop even opens, and once it does, boom! Same thing you saw in the 90s - Multiple copies of some new Image or indie title or Star Wars #1 being snagged up. Highest grade copies first of course.

As I've recently said before in other posts, "sold out" and "low print" doesn't mean shit to me unless their is actual natural demand backing it up, and I mean natural demand as in fan-base.

If a new comic only has speculators pushing up the price, it will live and die in that speculator pool. Most speculators could give two hoots about the actual character, story or title of that fresh new comic. 

Only 5000 copies printed without any real fan base for whatever comic only means that there better be more than 10,000+ speculators and growing that are willing to buy that new comic in order to keep pushing the demand up. It also means you better be an early bird as well.

Actual fans will want to hold onto the comic in their vaults for a longer period of time. Speculators want to dish off that comic as soon as they can.

5000 copies perpetually being dumped back into the market is still 5000 copies in the market. You better have quite a bit more than 5000 people who continually want that comic.

But this isn't just about new comics either. Speculation has a definite presence in the back issues market as well. Even once solid comic investments have increased drastically in value due to speculators.

It has made comics to invest in for the long-term definitely more unpredictable to gauge. That means Silver Age, Bronze Age or any age. Just being honest here.

First, in order to help determine the difference between a speculation comic investment and a solid comic investment, we have to look at one simple thing: Fan-base demand!

I've been talking about it a few times, and with the current market's emphasis on rarity, rarity, rarity, I still look at this easy signal of fan-base (Natural Demand) to categorize what comics I'm buying as a comic investment and which I'm buying as a speculation comic.

For instance, last week I went on the hunt and hit up two comic shops. What were the comics I was gunning for?

  • Aquaman #11 1st appearance of Mera
  • Aquaman #13 2nd appearance of Mera
  • Aquaman #29 First appearance of Orm (Ocean Master)
  • Aquaman #35 First appearance of Black Manta
  • Aquaman #42 2nd appearance of Black Manta

ALL, and I mean ALL, every single one of them, WITHOUT A DOUBT, no questions asked, Speculation Comics! Why do I think this?

One question: How in-demand or popular were the comics or the characters prior to the announcement of an Aquaman solo movie?

Answer: Not very! Actually, Aquaman is considered lame. Even with a movie coming out, most comic fans not of the character deep down still consider the character just lame.

Only reason why Aquaman #11 is going for ridiculous prices right now is because of movie hype and speculation. Period. Not much real demand before ever pushed the demand for the first appearance of Mera. Hardly anyone was even talking about these Aquaman comics before and for a long, long time.

Trust me, I've taken some heat with Aquaman fans over that in the Aquaman key issues when calling the character lame. I'm just going by the general consensus when it comes to that, and it's a factor that needs to be taken into account concerning short-term or long-term comic investing. 

If you're a fan of the character, you can disregard what I'm talking about here, because you want these key issues purely because you want them. End of discussion.

A few years back, I snagged a Marvel Premiere #15 for around $40 bucks. I thought maybe Marvel might do an Iron Fist movie.

How in-demand was the first appearance of Iron Fist in Marvel Premiere #15 before all the rumors started or when Marvel and Netflix confirmed the character to be in a TV series? Not much.

Totally a speculation buy. Iron Fist had a cult following prior, but by no means was a major popular player in Marvel Comics. Once casting is confirmed for the character, another peak may happen for that first appearance, and you can bet that I'll be dishing off my copy.

Most so called sleeper comics that the majority of collectors could've gave two shits about before I classify as Speculation Comics. They are more questionable than others to me.

When you're buying speculation and solid comic investments, that's the first question you should have answered in determining what's a long-term or short-term comic to invest in. Your answer may be different than mine.

What was the demand or popularity like before the movie, TV, or whatever hype for that key issue or character? If it was very little, like with Squirrel Girl and her first appearance, it's a Speculation Comic and purely driven by Speculator demand and value. Dish it off if you have one.

The problem with most of these comics is what I've said before, once the speculators are done with it, poof! It usually goes down in value and reverts back to being the crap sleeper comic it was before.

Not always the case, but I'm saying most have a good chance of doing so. When you have comics like Marvel Preview #7 and the first appearance of Rocket Raccoon, these once Speculation Comics can turn into solid comic investments. Key word here is can.

Anyone who says they can 100% positively predict that any Speculation Comic will turn into a solid investment comic is lying through their teeth. Nobody really can. It will remain a comic one will have to keep a close eye on in the market for quite a while. No other way around it.

Why, because this market is in new territory here. Let's look at the advent of CGC. Remember the old Wizard Magazine ads and how they boasted that CGC copies were going for substantially more than their raw counterparts? CGC and it's grading system has become standard in this market, and I predict the third party grading services won't go away anytime soon.

Also, we are in a huge comic book movie boom! Never in any time prior has seen this boom before. We are in new territory here.

Everything, and I mean everything, after this comic book movie boom is a black hole. It's a mystery, because the comic market has never gone through anything like this before.

However, you can gauge how the character's fan base is growing or not. Are there people cosplying as Rocket Racoon or Star-Lord now in big numbers? 

How many comic fans are actually talking about the character in the actual comic books, movie, cartoons, whatever, outside of friggin' value or anything to do with investing? Are there kids (next generation) talking about the character?

Now, there is a hole in this question that I ask myself about natural demand. As I've said before, every comic is situational. Some comics just weren't that well-known before.

Best example I can give is Harley Quinn. No doubt this character has a lot of natural demand, right? Sure, she does and before Batman Adventures #12 was an in-demand comic.

Then again, nobody really knew that Batman: Harley Quinn #1 was the first appearance of the character in DC canon. A a few years back, that comic was completely under the radar.

So, just because a comic was a sleeper before doesn't necessarily mean it can't be a solid comic investment. Then again, you have to take the character's popularity (natural demand) in mind. In this case, I think Batman: Harley Quinn #1 will turn out to be a solid comic investment if you can or got it at a reasonable price before the over-bloated hype.

However, if a once sleeper comic is susceptible to speculator demand, it's only fair to say that a solid comic investment can become a Speculation Comic as well. Absolutely and 100%.

Look at New Mutants #98, first appearance of Deadpool, after announcement that Fox was going to take a stab at a Deadpool movie. The prices sky rocketed fast and crazy.

This is an example of a once solid comic investment being caught up by speculator demand. Yes, the first appearance of Deadpool has had a long track record of being an in-demand comic, but there's no way that natural fan-base demand drove that comic up to near the $1,000 mark so quickly.

When it comes to that, I pass on super high grade 9.6s and 9.8s of comics like that. Actually, when 9.6 and 9.8 Copper Age comics which are far from rare like ASM #300 and New Mutants #98 hit the $1,000 mark so quickly like that, I know that it's speculation demand at work.

For this comic, I once again take into account popularity, era and rarity. Deadpool - hugely popular character yes. Era is Copper Age and higher percentage of chance high grades are not rare. Rarity for 9.8s and 9.6s, both past the thousand mark.

Actually, there are more 9.8s and 9.6s than there are 9.4s and 9.2s in the CGC Census. How many speculators buying up this comic at those grades currently? How many are actually keeping them in their vaults?

You can assume or you can see how many have been flooding the market in the last two years on eBay at GoCollect. In the last two years on eBay, there have been 295 sales of 9.8s and 318 of 9.6s.

Dude, that's pretty high and quite a few have been letting their high grade copies go, and this doesn't count the other online venues, comic cons, and comic shops all over either. The more copies of a key issue that floods the market, the more available it becomes. The less scarce it is, the more chance the value has in dropping.

In short, not a good time to buy or invest in those comics, but are they still solid comic investments? Yes, they are, but not at the majority of prices they're going for currently.

Gauging price increases to popularity, rarity, and scarcity in the market can help to determine whether current prices are reasonably rising in value or ridiculously rising in value. It's not fool proof as Deadpool does have a large number of fans, but if you actually compare the amount of high grade copies in existence and floating around in the market, the price spike is still highly questionable.

Why is this? It's because before the hype there are a certain amount in the market place already. Then a peak happens and a few copies sell at $700, $800, $900 and then $1000.

You can guess what happens after that right? Well, when others who have the comic at high grades learn of this peak, they bring their copies out their vaults and put it back in the market place as well.

This keeps happening until the market is over-flooded with that comic issue and values drop, if that comic can flood the market to a high level like that. Apparently, New Mutants #98 and ASM #300 have enough high grade copies to do this.

So here are the questions I usually ask myself to help determine whether I'm in for the long haul or short-term:

1. What was the demand for this key issue like before whatever hype and how big was the character's fan base prior?

Like I mentioned before, Iron Fist had a cult following but the character wasn't hugely popular, not like Harley Quinn or Deadpool popular. Mera or Ocean Master, forget it. Not really popular characters or were their first appearances in-demand keys.

2. What is the hype about? Movie, TV, etc?

The movie hype may be the only reason why a key issue or character got a push in demand. If so, it is a factor to take into account. Also, how long is the character being set up in a movie or TV show. If it's a one shot villain, the speculation prices have a good chance of not sustaining, but this only depends on the comic and the character.

For example, Amazing Spider-Man #6 and the first appearance of the Lizard is in the first 10 ASM issues. That may be a huge contributing factor of that key issue sustaining value, even more so than the actual first appearance of the villain in that comic.

3. What era does the comic fall into? Are 9.8s really rare or is the rarity due to the fact that it was a comic not worth CGCing or slabbing before?

Era plays into a lot of things. For some late Bronze Age and for many Copper Age comics, 9.8s may be the only grade worth getting. Also for many of the key issues that fall in these eras and especially for those that were sleepers before, CGCs may be more scarce due to the fact that most collectors who had these keys did not deem them worthy of getting slabbed prior to the hype.

4. How fast and how much did the prices go bonkers and was it already an expensive key before?

You have to view a comic that was once a bargain bin comic a year ago and suddenly becomes an $800 dollar comic with suspicion, even if you own the comic at the grade it's been boosted up too. Why? Because there's a good chance it may drop significantly after the hype has faded.

Even for those that were pretty expensive keys before like ASM #300 and the first appearance of Venom, you have to watch that comic closely and see if it's on its way down again because it is not rare. However, a comic that was once an in-demand and expensive key has a better chance of sustaining or dropping slightly lower than peak prices as opposed to a bargain bin comic that seemingly came out of nowhere.

So what are solid comic investments now that we are in a boom speculator market? Comics that usually have lasting demand or long demand or a big enough fan base. 

The bad boys of the Bronze Age like Hulk 181, Amazing Spider-Man #129 (first Punisher), I don't worry about as much. I can breathe a bit easier with those because they've been high demand key issues for quite a while. Early Amazing Spider-Man keys are the same for me.

Why? Because I got in somewhat early on those and yes I trickled down. I've talked about trickling down, and with any comic investment buy, you have to look at your budget and potential growth.

Giant-Size X-Men #1 was the 2nd highest key issue I've ever paid for and the highest raw copy I've ever paid for: $700 raw and advertised as a NM. As I've always stated before, I got lucky. It was a huge risk I took buying a raw $700 copy. If that came back restored, I would've been screwed big time. I have not done that again.

Incredible Hulk #181 8.0 VF is the highest book I've ever paid for at $1300. As a fan, I wanted the key issue first appearance. As an investment comic, it's pretty simple to know the natural demand situation. Also, did I think it had potential to grow. Due to the comic's track record of demand, I did.

Was that comic still a risk? Of course it was. I'd be lying to say that I wasn't still taking a risk. Was it a lower risk than some others? Sure, I did some research and looked at the track record of growth from various Overstreet guides, each about a decade apart, that I had.

However, do not get me wrong here. Despite a comic that I've labeled as a solid comic investment, I am suspicious of any immediate and quick spike in value when it comes to investing in comics. That means all key issue comics - Speculation or not!

I've talked about this plenty of times and this market is in the habit of viewing the latest price sold as the value of a particular comic, completely disregarding average sale price. One recent copy sells at $500, which may be fifty dollars above the copy sold previously, then everyone thinks the new price or value is $500.

Trust me, I've gotten heat for spotlighting that epidemic in the current market. Apparently, this site pisses off all sorts of comic collectors/sellers and those investing in comics at all hours during the day for all sorts of reasons. 

I say my view about most Modern Age comics to invest in, I get nice emails telling me this site sucks. I say prices are over-bloated for a specific comic at a specific grade that someone has, I get an email telling me how much I suck. I should really just take down my email address from this site.

Everyone wants to know what's solid and what's not when investing in comics, but the plain truth is that it's not that simple sometimes. All comic book investing is a risk, plain and simple. 

The reason is that there are all sorts of factors at play. When did you get the comic? Did you buy at a peak? Did you pay a ridiculous amount that's well over the average value it was being sold for at the time?

You may have over-paid $800+ plus on a solid comic investment, and even if long-term, it might take 10 more years for that comic to break even at the over-bloated price you paid for. In that case, is it still a solid comic investment?

Also, the comic market has changed drastically from 2000 and on, and the only thing that's for certain is that it will continue to change.

Yes, some are more solid than others for sure, but buying at any peak online is truly risky. I try to go around the peak and take it offline if possible. I know for some of you out there that comic investing method is completely useless since your area may not have that many local comic shops or comic cons. 

If I cannot go around a peak, I usually trickle down or just pass on the key issue all together for the time being. If the comic hits a downswing, I may consider snagging it if I think it has growth potential in the long run to make a profit.

In the next part to this series, I'll explain how I incorporate these questions into my own comic investing buying strategy. So, I'll see ya soon for the next part!


  1. a very good article you should write more of these babies TCM..

    Common sense would suggest you shouldn't invest in modern comics to be honest.. high print runs,better paper quality. you wouldn't see a wine invester go in to tesco and buy a bottle of jacob creek would you.let's be honest.

    1. I actually have wrote articles pertaining to this subject before, but I guess I didn't do them clearly enough or detailed enough. I don't know, sometimes even I forget what I've written or haven't written about on here. lol. I'm definitely burning out on all this.

  2. 100 Percent DEAD ON ! Don't worry about the haters, and cash hungry card dealing, flippers. Your site has mostly been about long term holding of Key books. This market is poisoned at the moment by guys that don't even know the characters , they just read the current news and the CGC label and buy the book . Like mentioned above, latest price mentality (churning) is not sustainable ! Besides Flipper books and some real sleeper DC books This is not the time to BUY books for the log term, again mentioned above, your wait to break even could be very long . Most books are getting a very undeserved speculator bump. BEWARE. If you could grab a real nice 9.2 FF #45 for $900.00 less than a year ago and now flip it for $4,000.00 there is something off ! Yes that is a great silver age book that was very undervalued but the new highs are half pure flipping speculation.
    Keep up the great work !

    1. I agree with you and partly don't agree...but mostly...there are still collectors out there who are keeping their comics in their vaults and there are probably more vintage comic collectors out there than there are pure speculators.

      If that wasn't true, this whole thing would have crashed already, but you're right there's a lot of over-inflating not only because of speculators but because of sellers and collectors too. The last sale and that's the value of a comic has been going on for quite a while now in the market.

      There are always ways around something if you have the means and the options are available. Remember, not collector out there has comic shops near them. You'd be surprised how much this is true. Often times, their only means of getting comics is online.

      As for eBay, it may be the biggest market place online, but it's not the only market place for sure. You've got auctions on ComicLink, mycomicshop, ComicConnect and other places as well. Not to mention the offline market places.

      Just going by eBay alone is only looking at a slice of the comic market as a whole. There are sellers online who still try to give great deals for comic books. Not all sellers on eBay are over-bloating prices and sometimes it can't be helped if they throw out an auction and buyers bid it to a crazy amount.

      Demand is demand, and every comic is situational when it concerns peaks. You can't do a one-size fits all on everything. Virtually impossible. I'm not really into the gloom doom of the current market, because I still see it as better than what it use to be like....and what it use to be like was that only the dealers were making money from comics. At least, now, you and I have a chance to sell comics for what they are worth instead of getting only 30% of their guide value.

      When it comes to that, which one would you rather take?

  3. Great article. Love the Aquaman commentary. I agree. I don't like Sub-Mariner either. I blame Spider-man and Friends. He was a jerk in the cartoon. To the point about timing for long-term buying, I am focused on books not movie related for long-term acquisition. I dont typically get the books off ebay like I used to. The prices are pumped and grading is suspect. Question, have you considered an artist focused On the Hunt? One, or more, on Neal Adams, Alan Moore, Frank Miller or Steranko? Thanks and appreciate all the work and writing.

    1. That's definitely an interesting idea for a key issues list. Thanks for suggesting that.

  4. Great Article Mayhem! Wow! You have gone "all in" on a few sweet comics.
    I think you are right on the money when it comes to your investments.
    One thing I do, is consider how big the book was BEFORE the movie/comic hype.
    Certain comics are on the way up, because of it's rarity and/or character popularity.
    Even if the next Punisher film (hypothetical) flops as well, Spiderman 129 will continue
    on as it did BEFORE the movies ever came about. Same goes for Spidey #6 and so on.
    The ones I would question would be ALL Modern and ones that were not so hot BEFORE
    the hype. Example of an older book would be Strange Tales 126. This book was so so before
    the Doctor Strange Hype, and now it has skyrocketed. Will it last AFTER the Hype/Movie?
    Good Question. A lot of "riding the hype wave" is about guts and timing. This week it's $800 and for the next 10 years it's only worth $200 or less. Case in point Star Wars #1. Let me first say, I DO NOT invest in new comics. I don't care if it's Guardians of The Galaxy #1 with 24k SOLID GOLD Cover and pieces of Groot's Bark & Rocket's Fur encrusted in it. But, the only way would be if someone made an offer so good, that I knew I could cash in. (say 100 Star Wars #1 for $50)
    Even then, I'd have to consider how much time/work vs reward. AND The Timing would have to be EARLY ON. After the market is saturated, you are going to take a bath with just about anything new. As far as long term goes, the WINNERS will continue to be WINNERS. Ex. Spidey 121 129 Xmen 1 94 GS Xmen 1, Hulk 1 181 Avengers 1 4 57 etc. Last thing. When I was a kid I had a few Megos and my favorite 4 were Spidey, Supes, Falcon &.......Aquaman. Screw The Haters!
    WE ARE JEDI (MAYHEM)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!lk

    1. LK, brutha man, you have to remember that for a lot of us, we are all products of growing up watching the comic TV shows and cartoons. Incredible Hulk, 60s Spider-Man cartoons and Batman TV series, Electric Co., The Spider-Man TV movies and even some of the older Marvel straight to VHS movies like the Punisher (Dolph Lundgren) and Captain America.

      All these shows influenced our love of comics one way or another. I know they influenced me hugely. So why is this comic book media boom any different? I don't think it is.

      I was reading a comment on another site about how some guy's little nieces are obsessed with the Hulk now. Why is that? Because of the movies...and I think that's freaking awesome, because it wasn't too long ago I was obsessed with the character due to the television show.

      You are right! Comics always come back because they are so ingrained in pop culture. Superheroes will always be around, because we are hardwired as humans to marvel at them. Look at all the Greek mythology...Hercules was an early superhero during the ancient times..Achilles is another.

      I'm not worried about the speculator market we are in. Sure it resembles the 90s in terms of buying and some mentalities, but let the speculators go when it's time. The 90s didn't have all these comic movies and tv shows to keep comic heroes at the forefront and expose them to a whole new generation of fans.

      The most awesome thing I witnessed last year was on Free Comic Book Day where this little girl was so excited about the comic she got. I mean excited where her eyes were lit up and she was jumping up and down and shrieking loud. I could've done without the shrieking but it was such a genuine excitement.

      What were the chances of seeing that during the 90s on a large scale? Pretty slim. It's awesome cause I see parents and their kids cosplaying and getting all excited about comics. This market now isn't a total disaster. Sure, there are some things off with it. Nothing's perfect right?

      Like you mentioned, enjoy it while it lasts. Sure, it won't last forever. There will be a cooling off period. I don't dispute that, but comics have always come back and usually in force, because well...they're just AWESOME!

      May Force be with you my fellow Jedi! ROCK ON!

  5. Howdy!

    Is there also a bit of both speculation / investment happening as well? DC Presents 26 as an example. That is a pretty key issue which most people did not know about. Since it came out, the price has not really done much. Now, the news has made it really heat up. Should the show fail, shouldn't this still keep some of the new found value? Yes the speculation steam will fade, but people who collect now know why it is important.

    Or does this not work that way? Is speculator push so high that when they leave, prices return back to whatever the previous trajectory would have been?

    Does this make sense?

    Craig Coffman

    1. DC Comics Presents #26 - 1st new Teen Titans...was not that well-known or sought out before news of Cyborg being in Batman v Superman and then in Justice League movie. In my opinion, this key issue is under performing its hype.

      Thee are two hype factors backing up this key right now...Titans TV series and Cyborg in the DC Cinematic Universe. If the Titans series is a flop, there is still Cyborg in the proposed movies coming out.

      If there wasn't Cyborg in the movies and only a Teen Titans TV series that flopped, this comic would drastically drop. Hellblazer #1 was doing ok until NBC decided not to pick up another season. That comic comic dropped fast from when the hype was pushing it around the $300 mark.

      Failed shows for comics that weren't all that popular to begin with (maybe they had a cult following), more often than not do not sustain hype value or anywhere near it. Mega drops occur!

    2. Mayhem -

      Okay, that does make some sense. So this example really does rely on the success of the associated media. I was thinking that now the knowledge is out there, people would see this as a fairly big issue given all the firsts it contains. Seems like this will be a fate forged through motion pictures.

      Does that also mean that it should be a shorter term than a long term investment? That is, sell when the hype gets the cost up since the speculators hold the keys to this ride?

      Just finished reading everything you have in comic investing tips. Lots of valuable insights in there, thank you :)

      - Craig Coffman