Comicbookdaily.com’s first look at market trends will examine the growing influence the CGC Census is having on what graded comics are selling for.

There is now a very large and very liquid trading arena for graded collectible comics. The internet has provided us with many reputable and trustworthy places to buy and sell. Ebay, ComicLink, Heritage Auctions and Comic Connect are just a few of the ‘trading floors’ that have built solid reputations and gained the trust of buyers and sellers alike. This is an important stage we’ve reached since most graded comics now trade where uncertainty (of quality and delivery for buyers, payment for sellers, etc.) has been all but eliminated and thus full and fair market value can be realized based on supply and demand alone.

In any mature trading market information is king. The more one knows about the item being sold the more informed a decision he’ll be able to make. cgc

One piece of information that has emerged as an important determinant of price is the CGC Census. The CGC grading company keeps a census of all graded comics and this information is available to all on their website cgccomics.com. A word of caution though: the census is not 100% accurate. People do crack graded comics open and try to re-submit for higher grades, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. People also open comics because they like them open. This usually happens to lower and mid grade books. More often than not these people will not report to CGC that a serial number is no longer valid and thus this comic stays on the census (this same comic is now actually on twice). Opening CGC cases only affects a small number of comics and for obvious reasons very few in the highest grades so this fact is usually not considered. In actuality things are a bit scarcer than they seen. 

The importance of Census information can be seen in the following example. Avengers #1 is a hot comic these days and is very actively traded on the internet. Within the last few weeks a CGC 3.0 sold for 9% over guide, a CGC 4.0 sold for 42% over guide, a CGC 6.0 sold for 159% over guide and a CGC 9.4 sold for 688% over guide. Obviously the days of saying “that’s a double guide book” are over. Premiums for hot comics are now dependent on the grade to a much larger extent than ever before. There are many copies of Avengers #1 available at CGC 3.0 or better, much less at CGC 6.0 or better and very few at CGC 9.2 or better. The census numbers steadily decrease as the grades increase. The increase in premium in the higher grades indicates that while supply drops as grades get higher demand certainly does not. If they did premiums would be uniform throughout the grades. The size of premium seems to be directly related to the census statistics.

This census driven market is even more evident when looking at comics with no high grades. We’ll use Star Spangled War Stories #84 (1st appearance Mme. Marie) as our example.  The four highest grades on the CGC Census are 7.5, 7.0, 6.5 and 6.5. A CGC 6.5 copy sold over a year ago for $477.00 which was about 7 times guide at the time. A mid grade comic book should not be getting 7 times guide except of course when it happens to be one of the highest graded copies in existense.  Access to the census informs the buyers of this scarcity and drives the price up.

Caution is needed when buying the highest graded copies. That Amazing Spider-Man #1 at a CGC 9.8 is pretty safe but when a CGC 9.8 copy of a comic like say New Mutants #98 gets a record price a mini gold rush ensues until you have close to 400 9.8s available with each new one forcing the price realized down. This is a classic case of increased supply pushing prices down.

I think it’s safe to say that the graded collectible comic market will continue to look to the CGC census to help determine market prices.

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