by: Joel V. Grineau
|Why Speculation Does Not Pay: Collecting Comic Books
Last column I went over three factors which hamper the comic book speculator. In brief, they are ancillary costs, scarcity of older issues, and the chance aspect. However, the speculator faces a further gauntlet of hurdles.
Sheer size works against them. Part of the reason why gold and silver age comics are so valuable is because initially they had small print runs rarely topping 40,000. Today's top sellers, like "Batman" print about 400,000 copies per issue. The true juggernauts, like "Spider-Man" #1 (1990) and "X-Men" #1 (1991) each topped the 1,000,000 mark in sales.
The marketing works against you. The aforementioned "X-Men" #1 had 5 variant covers; and "Spider-Man" #1 had 6 variant covers and packaging gimmicks. There have been a plethora of special or enhanced cover schemes: such as metallic ink, gatefolds, die cuts, embossed titles, holograms, poly-bags, inserts, etc. Yes, they look nice, and they're worth more, but they also cost more to purchase in the first place. And, rarely is their any internal difference in an issue which has 'enhanced' and 'unenhanced' cover options.
Comic books are now heavily advertised, both in house, and in the trade magazines. The comic book fan-boy has dozens of advertisements, articles and reviews thrown at him per month. The days of the unknown comic, or obscure pivotal issue are gone. When noteworthy events happen, like the 'death'(ha!) of Superman, it makes the national and international news. Comic books were the cover article in "Time" magazine a couple of years back.
And finally, the comic book store never pays 'guide price'. They rarely pay more than 50% for a book, unless its in high grade, old, and in demand. Why? Well anything they buy, which takes up space for years, and then is resold at the same price, is a drain on their business. Yes, business. They pay taxes, heat, electricity, wages, and whatnot; so they have to make a profit. Have you ever been to a comic book store that's having a back issue sale, where there were boxes holding 10 cent, 25 cent, and $1 comic books? You no doubt noticed that they were being sold for less than cover price! Well, the owners can do this, because, they didn't pay that much more for them, or they were ridiculously overstocked in such 'hot' comic books in the first place.
Add it up: larger print runs, produced on acid resistant paper, with gimmick covers, plus ancillary costs, and heavy advertising so that everybody and their brother bought one, and business costs, equals almost no big increases in value on the majority of todays comicbooks.
So collect for love, not money. Yes love. If a comic book series you've liked for years has gone to the dogs, even if it does have a good resale record, like the much vaunted "X-Men", drop it. Just quit collecting it. Then, when you hear it's turned around, pick it up again. You'd be surprised at the joy you can derive from rediscovering a good series.
On a personal note, back in 1982, I began collecting "G.I. Joe"( you know, the comic book based on the revisionist Hasbro toy.) Anyway, it became a runaway hit, and by 1988, issue #2, which was rarer than #1, was worth about $100. I didn't even think about selling it, and today, its worth. . . about $5. Stupid? No. I bought it, and collected the series because I liked it. End of story.
||Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos"
Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of
1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his
enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA
from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.
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