Can New Comics be Long Term Collectibles?

It’s been busy in the shop today, really busy. I have never seen so many people buy “one of each”. There were 13 new DC #1s today (the 1st wave of this month’s 52 new titles basically re-launching the whole DC Universe) and they’ve literally been flying off the shelves. We were one of the luckier stores, ordering heavily on most titles but not all. We’ve already sold out of Justice League International, Hawk and Dove (the first to sell out) and at last count we have 3 Static Shock’s left. Static Shock? 3? Yeah!

I’ll leave the retailing end of things in the capable hands of my partner Marc. What I’d like to discuss the potential collectability of these things.

I’m semi-knowledgeable on most things to do with the collectability of comics and this rush for the new DC 52 got me to thinking. Is this the first opportunity in perhaps 25 years for a sustainable crop of collectible comic books? I’m talking about a large group of books that sustain a collectible market price of over the cover price for a long period of time, decades! I’m not talking about lucky one offs like Chew where it’s a surprise hit and copies sell for $50 on eBay then 3 years later nobody remembers it, I’m talking sustained demand for a large group of titles and issues from this day forward.

Now don’t rush to judge.

Comic book print runs are at historic lows. Justice League’s 200,000 print run made headlines for its size yet Marvel’s X-Men #66, printed back in March 1970 was the last original content issue, and Marvel went to reprints with issue #67 and on. Now I read somewhere that the print run for #66 was 225,000 or something close to that. Marvel basically abandoned the title based on numbers that would have the execs dancing in the boardrooms today.

The DC thing is revolutionary; it basically sets everything back to zero and starts anew. Major characters that were heavily collected before this new 52 are basically starting all over again. The new Batman is unfamiliar to us, heck we don’t even know his origin yet. The print run on the Detective is most likely in the mid 100,000s. Batman titles pre the 1960s TV show were in the 400,000s and circulation during the TV show years topped 800,000. Batman fans devour these old books anytime they come to market at multiples of today’s cover prices. These are collectible comic books.

Don’t go saying “well these are old” because Rin Tin Tin’s are older and I sell those for $1.99. Demand is above supply and thus they are worth money and the demand has been sustained for decades!

What happened with the speculative boom of the late 80s and early 90s was that the massive print runs rendered the books valueless because it was impossible to sustain a demand level above say the 7 million copies floating around of X-Men #1 or the some odd million copies of McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1, or the how many ever copies of the Death of Superman.

The collecting of new comic books post the speculation bust of the 1990s basically disappeared. Batman collectors collected up to #429 and then stopped! A whole generation of comic book readers basically did not participate in the collectible comic market, they walked away from it, they stigmatized all current comics as not worthy of collecting.

Years later we see a small resurgence in Marvel’s from the mid 1990s because of their low print runs. Slowly collectors are buying into the fact that Amazing Spider-Man in the #430s are tougher to get than issues in the #330s and slowly they are getting up off $10 to acquire issues.

The DC re-launch could easily represent a platform where each and every one of the 52 #1s (and perhaps #2s and certain future origin issues, villain intro issues etc) could be worth collectible values of over their cover price even years from now. Print runs of Hawk and Dove are probably very low yet all completists will need the issue to have all 52, ditto for Static Shock (which we just sold out of by the way) and ditto for all the titles.

Marvel’s famous 1968 re-launch  was nothing more than a split of titles that were carrying two characters into titles devoted to a single character yet Iron Man #1 is worth  7 times more than Tales of Suspense #99  (the story in Iron Man #1  is actually just a continuation from the Iron Man story in Tales #99, just the title and the numbering changes).  These things matter to collectors and the big question with the new DC 52 is will the current collector slowly wade back into the possibility that current comics can be collectible and just as importantly if not more so, will there be a new crop of collectors created with the new DC.

The ebay activity is already fast and furious but unlike other ebay opportunistic moments like say Amazing Spider-Man #583 are the speculators selling themselves short by only getting $10 for a Batgirl #1? Should they sit on Batgirl #1 for a year or two?

Has there been a change in the fabric of comic space and time? Is there the possibility of a re-birth of the current collectible comic book where people buy an issue optimistic of it storing and even gaining value?

Walter Durajlija Written by:

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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36 Comments

  1. September 7, 2011
    Reply

    But the point isn’t only that the print runs are lower; the point is that more people collect comics and keep them in “near-mint” condition now. Percentage wise there will be far more 9.8 books from the DC 52 issues than there are from the 60s. People didn’t keep books in good condition back them. You traded them, stuck them in the attic, your mom threw them out, or you wrote Scott on the front cover. 

    While some of the #1s may “jump” to $10 now, in 30 years I’ll be interested to see if they are any more than that. Let’s have a bet Walt, if any of the #1 titles are worth more than $10 (in 2011 dollars, so we’ll adjust for inflation) in 2041 I’ll buy you a bottle of Space Brandy. But if they are relatively the same price you’ll owe me a bottle. 

    Also, who didn’t manage to buy a Batgirl #1 and now thinks that $10 on eBay is a good investment? They would be much better off putting that money into copies of X-Force #2.  

    • September 8, 2011
      Reply

      X-Force #2 is a great book! It’s hindered by it’s large print run and buy the fact that the collecting society as a whole ignores books from this era. Hopefully the tens of thousands of copies that have gone into recycling bins will tighten up the supply a bit;)

      I think you are dismissing the possibility of these things retaining value too easily Anthony. If you were a shop keep you would have under ordered every single title of this re-launch!

        • September 8, 2011
          Reply

          Upgrade it to Cognac and we’re on, oh and let’s make it 2021, you’re a lot younger than I am.

          • September 8, 2011

            No. 10 years doesn’t prove your point. We’ll meet in the middle and say 2026. Space Cognac it is. 

    • Ben
      April 29, 2015
      Reply

      Looks like you owe someone a bottle of Space Brandy

  2. Charlie
    September 7, 2011
    Reply

    Here’s my haul today:
     

    • September 8, 2011
      Reply

      Here’s the code I fixed for you above, in quotations so you can see it.

      “<a target="_blank" href=”http://www.eltoro505.com/_comics/haul/P1030942.JPG” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>”

      “<img src=”http://www.eltoro505.com/_comics/haul/P1030942.JPG” border=”0″ width=”300px”></a> “

      • Charlie
        September 8, 2011
        Reply

        CyberCity near Steeles & Bathurst. One of the few stores that’s actually busy in Toronto. Primarily sells newer stuff but I was presently surprised to find a couple of older books reasonably priced last night. I can’t say I’m buddies with Darrel but he’s a good guy. Tries hard to play fair and very intelligent. He’s aware of comics as being a commodity and he could give some marketing execs a run for their money when it comes to marketing. A logical and pragmatic thinker. I always seem to go over my $10 budget so now I’m trying to drop in alternative weeks… just to stay somewhat current.

        Sign me up if you ever decide to teach an HTML class ^_^

  3. Charlie
    September 7, 2011
    Reply

    My haul
    Found a couple of late 80’s hardcovers:
    Paid $8 for Dr. Strange. Mignola pre Hellboy. Interior here.
    Paid $9 for Silver Surfer. Classic Buscema. Interior here.
    I’m a sucker for older stuff… Only new books were Danger Girl and Northlanders from previous week. I didn’t pick up any of the 52’s but planning to eventually from the $1 bins. Walt, interesting premise and I would love to see the new books encased in a CGC 10.0 case 20 years from now…

    • September 8, 2011
      Reply

      They may well end up in dollar bins but, this would be the old way of thinking, the way seasoned haggard collectors like you and me suppose it will happen. The people running into shops to pick up their new DC books may not give a hoot what you or I think.

      • Charlie
        September 8, 2011
        Reply

        The Beguiling had or has an offer to collect all the 52′ for about $100. I thought about signing up but then I started thinking about the reasons…

        Fun collecting? Yes, but with the limited variants it’s hard to know where to draw the line. Being the anal guy that I am, I can picture myself scrubbing through eBay and forking up $30 for a new book just to complete a collection. Not a pretty picture.
        Fun reading? Looking at Hawk and Dove reminded me too much of X-Force, so yes to some, others no.
        Investment? Possibly, but is my $100 really going to yield significant results in the years to come? I’ll be lucky to be still breathing in 20 years, so for me… no.
        Sign of the times. Not to mention, times are different now and the conditions that made the 80’s a speculative boom no longer exist.

        It’s a personal choice but for me, the cons out weigh the pros. Best of luck to those who are jumping in…
         

        • September 8, 2011
          Reply

          Shops offering all 52 for $100 puzzle me. They are open to make money, customers are lining up to buy these things at full price yet they are selling at cost?

          These comics don’t need the likes of me and you to turn into viable collectibles. We are from another time and place.

          Also, I’m not talking about another speculative boom, I’m talking about sustained market for these as collectible comics, a speculative boom may be a by-product of this though.

          Just thinking out loud.

  4. Simon
    September 8, 2011
    Reply

    Also the Marvel No. 1’s from the 60s were all ‘first appearance in own title’ books, and that’s what makes them so collectible, though iron man 1 has also shot up because of the movies.

    • September 8, 2011
      Reply

      Comics do not have to have first appearances to have collectible values above the cover price. These new DCs will never reach values of Amazing Fantasy #15 or Fantastic Four #1 but the question I’m posing is whether these characters are strong enough, whether this event is big enough, whether the print runs were small enough to keep demand ahead of supply for the foreseeable future?

      • Simon
        September 9, 2011
        Reply

        I was referring to the late sixties first issues of Thor, Hulk, Dr Strange, Iron Man etc. which, as the article says, are in more demand than TTA, TOS, etc. One thing I always think of is the way music companies flogged endless limited editions of records in the eighties to unsuspecting kids – who then grew up and invented Naptser, MP3s, etc so and in the long run the music companies have suffered for their behavior. Will the same happen with comics, replacing quality content with gimmicks?

  5. September 8, 2011
    Reply

    But how will you make any money off of those? They are neither Batgirl #1 nor X-Force #2?

  6. Danny Champ
    September 8, 2011
    Reply

    Perfect question Walt.  I’m a story guy… I buy the books to read and consume the story (and art) – that said, I also bought 2 copies of (some) of the new number DC 1’s…  one to have – and one to use right 😉
    I think it’s a small victory for the Print side, in a “space and time” of growing digital consumption. 

    Could this help to validate the continuation of printed comics? and halt the speculation that… Comics will become a fully digital platform for story at some stage???  Good times for the brick and mortar stores.

    Imagine what’ll happen when Marvel follows suit…?

    • September 8, 2011
      Reply

      A small victory indeed Dan and one that few was coming. This is usually how sustainable collectibles happen, by accident. Double back and grab a few Static Shock #1s will ya!

      • Danny Champ
        September 8, 2011
        Reply

        I’m on it fella 🙂

  7. Danny Champ
    September 8, 2011
    Reply

    “new DC number 1’s :-)”

  8. Ed Campbell
    September 8, 2011
    Reply

    When I was at the Beetle last night, I was told that one customer came in and bought 4 issues of each #1.  He wanted to have a complete set of 52 for each of his kids.  He doesn’t have 4 kids yet, but he was planning for the future. 

    I can see how this would be difficult for a comic shop to plan on how many #1’s to buy.  If you don’t buy enough (ie: Men of War – which sold out in Barrie) this could easily drive the prices up, and send frenzied comic fans driving all over the place to find one book in particular.

    The point that Walt brought up that I didn’t think of yet was introductions of villains in future issues.  This is “the” opportunity for comic shops to drive in more sales.  Tell your customers that “The Penguin” or “Metallo’s” first appearance will be next month, and this could create the frenzy again.  

    It looks like we may have returned to the heyday of the 90’s with comic collecting.  Which I don’t see it as a bad thing, comic book shops making money isn’t a bad thing. 

  9. Laura
    September 8, 2011
    Reply

    I think like anything, it’s about supply and demand. I think Anthony is right that people will keep them in better shape and hope to sell them in 10 years and be able to get a buck or two for them. Who knows, maybe in fifty years the handful of people who didn’t sell them will then have a chance to sell them for more.
    The other thing is you don’t need to own the comic to read the story. Everything is collected into graphic novels, and many people are making the switch to that format. So people who just want to read the story but don’t want to collect the floppies can just grab a collected volume. Part of me wonders why there aren’t as many new serious collectors hitting the scene these days.

    • Danny Champ
      September 8, 2011
      Reply

      Hiya Laura, I’m a ‘story guy’ I always gravitate towards the graphic novels, simply to hold a complete arc in my hands at one time.  I love to flick back to previous pages and enjoy a story with a clear beginning, middle and end (of sorts)… or at least have closure on the arc in question.  However, there is something to be said for the ‘soap-opera’ of story – delivered over time, to follow along with and share, gossip or speculate with friends over – and to have an investment in a character (or story) that’s available weekly/monthly is a different feeling to reading a story in one hit or… in 2 or 3 visits.  This, for me (as a newish reader of comics) is the perfect chance to indulge in the ‘soap-opera’ side of comics… How could anyone wait for a graphic novel in this case? 🙂
       
       

  10. September 8, 2011
    Reply

    I consider myself a collector. I love silver age, purely for the art and over the top dialouge, but it has grown harder and harder over the past 3 years to find anything I’m looking for at resonable price. I understand the fact that every year fewer issues are available, movie buzz and the fact that people are realizing older issues are becoming more coleectible, they are buy more and this drives the price up.
    I picked up a few of the new 52, OMAC, ACTION COMICS, ANIMAL MAN and DETECTIVE COMICS, I didn’t get JUSTICE LEAUGE last week. I went on EBAY to see if I could pick one or two copies up…wtf….I am not spending more than cover price for a week old comic.
    I understand the prices on old comics, I get that, but this instant market price increase reminds me of the 90’s implosion. Supply and demand and all that makes sense, but I saw some issues of J.L for nearly $10.00, this makes me not want to put any money into the new 52. First off, I wasn’t impressed with any of the issues I picked up…although Keith Giffens art in OMAC was updated Jack Kirby and I LOVE Kirby, so that was fun.
    I guess what I am trying to get at is the buyer creates the market value, and everyone buying these issues just because thay are number ones makes me nervous for the future of collecting. Amazing story plots, new artist/writers, introduction of new characters or the death of a key character makes me want to read a book,  not the #1 on the cover.
    If DC really blew my socks off and showed me something different, I would totally be on board, but for now it seems like more of the same, just resetting the issue number. I don’t think, from what I have seen so far, the new 52 in particular will be all that collectible, but what do I know? I bought every variant of McFarlanes Spiderman when it came out, including the gold cover! I traded in so many comics to get those and am now kicking myself!!!!

  11. BC
    December 14, 2012
    Reply

    You missed a very major and important component to your analysis, and that is that you need print run AND condition AND key in order to = value.

    Once upon a time, before comics were seen as collectible, the major component of CONDITION was ignored. So even if you printed 400,000 of something in 1950, it’s easy to assume that nearly all of those copies were treated the way we treat a Sunday paper and hence very few survived and even fewer survived in decent condition.

    Whereas today and into forever, a key issue comic will probably NEVER be treated poorly. Very few will fall out of existence.

    So your 100,000 print run, by comparison, looks more like a 10,000,000 print run, percentage wise.

    The only modern age books that will retain value are the sub 10,000 printed keys (first issues basically, which means its 100% speculation) and the 1,000 printed-or-less hyper rare variants.

    The rest will, for the most part, lose value.

  12. Terry Hoknes
    January 12, 2013
    Reply

    Very few stores stock back issues anymore so new comic sales need to happen instantly or they wont happen at all. For those dealers who stock back issues for 20 years find that those unread unsold NM copies actually downgrade over time. Dealers who currently have unsold 1980’s comics that were NM+ have an average grade of VF- now from general shelf wear and handling for 20 years. Though its true more and more new comics are getting CGC so the newer books will never be rare (unless perhaps a newcomer indie title or surprise hit like Walking Dead. Walking Dead is a great title for debate about what it will be worth 3,5,10,20 years from now since its already higher than 50 year superhero comics !

  13. Darrin
    January 18, 2013
    Reply

    I have a question for some of you collectors out there: Lets use the New 52 Batman series for example. I have a Batman #1 1:200 Sketch CGC graded at 9.8. From what I could dig up, there were only about 800 of this variant printed. Of those 800, currently 132 are CGC graded 9.8. Let’s say for the sake of argument 10 years from now, half of the prints of this variant end up CGC 9.8 (Not likely, but let’s be optimistic), that would mean only 400 copies exist as a for sure grade 9.8. Would that not make the variant rare, and therefore more valuable to a collector? What about a complete set of Batman 1-9 1:200 variants all CGC 9.8?

  14. Richard
    July 22, 2013
    Reply

    Ive got swamp thing and animal man complete runs up to this date and intend to carry on collecting for as long as it goes, do you see potential for them having value in the future? Also started collecting suicide squad and justice league dark. I love getting the single issues alot more than the compilations and enjoy reading them each month :d

  15. Bob
    September 13, 2013
    Reply

    What happens when DC goes back to the original numbering? The 52 books won’t be anything more than another title. Batman #1 will be like $7 and the rest will be cover price. When they go back to original numbering Batman #1 vol. 2 is nothing more than Shadow of the Bat #1 or Legends #1 and neither of those are worth much. As soon as sales slump enough they will have another earth shattering event and go back to the original numbers

  16. September 13, 2013
    Reply

    I write market reports on the best investment new comics at http://www.HoknesComics.com and http://www.InvestComics.com
    New comics have smaller print runs in the old days but yes almost all copies are saved and kept in NM shape. So while they have smaller prints in theory they are actually more common than comics over 30 years old. Should you buy any new comics to go up in value in 20 years. Simple fact is any title that stays popular for 20 straight years will show slow but steady increase in value over time. But nobody can predict what title might stay strong for the next 20 if its a new title. Key issues of famous superheroes already established like Batman will always have demand. But if you want to make money long term I NEVER recommend buying a brand new comic because 20 years is LONG TIME !!! Why not buy some affordable comics that are already 30 or more years old that have proven a track record of constant demand. Its way safer!

  17. rob
    September 25, 2013
    Reply

    im so glad you wrote this. ive recently been buying old comics again, mainly for the investment and value (and for the joy of having, reading and enjoying them) – but new comics just dont seem to be worth buying for an investment sake even if there are low print runs. im actually shocked that old comics had such high print runs – then again, there wasnt an internet and if you liked comics as a kid it was cheap entertainment.
    however id like to make a point nobody seems to be mentioning: im 45. im buying things from the 60s & 70s. i dont know anything from before that (cuz i wasnt alive) therefore im not really collecting old cartoon character comics nor old non-superhero stuff. so in 25 yrs from now, when i start to sell my collection, who will care about MY comics? which is why i wont pay a lot of money for old stuff – i dont think anyone in 25 years from now will care about it. an example: Beetle Bailey. who the hell will buy any of those regardless of condition or price guide value in 25 yrs? sure theyll be rare (more rare then now) but to pay mid to top dollar for them now FROM a collector in the hopes of making a profit in the future seems very iffy. same for non-key superhero comics too i think. i have a nice (VF+ or better) run of kirby Kamandi 1-40. will anyone care in 25 yrs?
    which brings me to: why is anyone CGC-ing these brand new comics for $30-50 each??? when, of any given issue, 90% of whatever is out there will be 9.0? seems like a waste of time and money.
    then again, i cant wait to see what happens with some of those terrible 80s and 90s books (and the good ones) that i gave away because they werent in demand…that might come back to bite a lot of us.

    • September 25, 2013
      Reply

      I”ve had the debate before about some old titles going “out of style” Maybe Beetle Bailey for example could go out of style as the next generation of collectors has no interest at all. But I do believe rarity, age and comic history always have influence on what is valuable and collected in the long run. I collected romance comics when barely anyone else would but these comics are not only rare but fascinating pieces of history and over time they do become more appreciated.
      In terms of cgc new comics I think the plan is to flip those books quickly while they are “hot”. I wouldnt recommend doing that just to hold books for 10 years. People can make very quick profit with new books if you pick the right titles. Kamandi will always be a bit popular as its a classic DC title of the 1970s and Jack Kirby did the artwork and he will always be in demand.

    • David
      November 17, 2013
      Reply

      Who knows maybe Hollywood will make a big budget Beetle Bailey cartoon for the big screen and it will be a blockbuster?

  18. Emanuel
    February 9, 2015
    Reply

    The hyper-inflation that CGC and ebay flipping have created will come back to bite everyone in the ass very soon. Similar things happen in the stock market all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Walking Dead #1 drops to as low as 10$ a year after the show is over. As for any #1’s people are buying now 99.9% of them will be worthless over the long haul. Best to flip these books as soon as possible. We are currently in a speculation bubble that is almost identical to the spec bubble from the 90’s that caused the comic book crash. I anticipate a crash in 1-3 years.

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