The weakening Canadian Dollar got me to thinking about the effect it is having, if any, on the back issue comic book market.
Comic books are like oil in that they are traded in U.S. dollars. The price guide is quoted in U.S. dollars, almost all the big internet dealers are U.S. based and all the major comic auction sites are U.S. and prices are quoted in U.S. Dollars.
Basically holding a comic collection is like holding U.S. dollars.
Canadian collectors and investors and for that matter European, Asian and Australian collectors all suffer decreasing buying power if their currencies are losing ground versus the U.S. Green Back. I live and work in Canada and am paid in Canadian Dollars, as of this post I have less buying power than I did a year ago based on my monthly allocation of Canadian dollars to buy comics.
In this situation it is best to realize that the comic I purchase will one day be sold in U.S. Dollars and I may see a gain due to an ever-increasing U.S. Dollar or a loss due to a correcting Canadian Dollar. These fluctuations are apart from the value fluctuations each comic may experience, value fluctuations caused by demand fluctuations for that particular issue.
But wait, how far removed is a weakened foreign currency to a weaker demand for a comic?
The back issue comic market is now global; buyers from all over the world are grabbing up these American pop culture time capsules also known as comic books.
You can tell me all you want about how it all evens out in the end but right now, today, getting me to plop down $400 for that Scooby Doo, when I know I could have bought it for $355 only 6 months ago, will not be an easy task. That $45 is $45 and I could grab a nice case of Stella on sale for the difference. I simply may not have the extra money at the moment, my budget may be set so I may only grab 6 book off that auction and not 7.
So yes, obviously currency fluctuations affect demand. I’d bet Canadians are not as active on the auction houses now as they were a year ago.
As I was contemplating the exchange rate’s effect on the market I notice a couple of other more recent trends that are also playing a role in shaping today’s market. These are taxation and regulation.
Auction houses like ComicConnect and Heritage now have firm taxation policies in effect. Taxation has always been there though it was not policed on the net as diligently as it is today. No escaping the tax man it seems.
Taxation has been creeping into local comic book shops too and to a degree at cons as well.
Most comic shops worth their salt are just that, worth their salt. These new progressive comic shops are not the old “ma and pa” or the “buddy boy and pal” enterprises that flip second hand stuff for cash. Good comic shops these days are viable businesses and good corporate citizens. They charge tax on everything including back issues. Even if they didn’t charge tax to you they for sure ate the tax when putting the sale through and for sure had adjusted the price up slightly to compensate.
Safe to say that the maturing of the back issue market has seen more and more dollar value go through “over the counter” channels. These transparent channels have taxes and this too surely is affecting the market.
More and more regulation is creeping into the market. Regulation and standardization can be a good thing as it can eliminate cheaters and scammers but the result is usually increased costs to the consumers. Case in point the new eBay Global Shipping Program. Basically a seller ships to a warehouse in say Kentucky and eBay charges the seller say $15 then eBay ships to the customer in Calgary for say $40. No more shipper arranging shipping. This could be seen as good in that it eliminates fly by night shippers and shipping scammers, bad in that it eliminates honest shippers willing to ship you that $35 Nova #1 you just bought for $10 shipping. Now eBay may charge you $30 shipping. I may be willing to pay $45 for my Nova but I’m not willing to pay $65 (add my weak Canadian dollar and whoa!).
All this stuff, the rising U.S. Dollar, the increased taxation, the increase in costs due to regulation, must be affecting demand adversely ?
Still on the high end marketplace we are seeing record results. Perhaps the market is eroding on the lower end? Unfortunately I don’t have enough data to reach a conclusion.
What seems evident is that the wild west laissez-faire days are over, the back issue comic book market is saying bye to Freidman and hello to Keynes.
Shouldn’t the more regulated market be chasing more books underground? Craigslist? Kijiji? Forums?
Yes more people are trying to find back issues in places where they can avoid these costs but it is costing them in time and effort.
I’ll stick my neck out and say that a disproportionate amount of these people are the old veterans, ones that can’t fathom paying a penny more than they think they have to and will go to great lengths to save that last penny. For many of these folks it’s almost the principal of the thing.
Still, lots and lots of new buyers and investors are jumping on board and they simply don’t have the knowledge or skills to root out these savings, they most certainly don’t have the time en masse to spend years to learn.
Are we slowly buying into a more structured, more expensive market? Are we trading costs for security and time?