If you’re in this hobby to read books and be entertained, then far be it for me to tell you what you should be buying. The answer is simple: buy books you like and don’t let guys like me tell you otherwise. However, I’ve been on a selling spree the past few years and I’ve been noticing certain buying habits. I see a lot of people buying books because they think it’s “cheap”, but “cheap” is relative. If words like “high grade”, “rare” or “restored” are terms you use often, then chances are you’re also in it for the investment. It’s difficult to make the distinction between collector and speculator since they are two sides of the same coin but if your want your money to work harder for you then consider making more strategic purchases.

Typical scene on the show floor.

A typical scene from a show floor. Most of these buyers are hunting for books that they feel are undervalued. Some may have $1000 in their pocket and will take home several cheap books instead of one big $1000 hammer.

A few years back, I was trying to collect all the first appearances of Spidey villains prior to #50 certified 8.0. There is joy in collecting in it of itself and I definitely enjoyed the challenge of the hunt, but joy is an emotional state of mind. The logical side of me had to ask… why 8.0? Well, for me an 8.0 was the threshold in which I considered a book to be “high grade”. It was a respectable grade for Silver Age books which allowed me to brag and show off. I also assumed that these books would rise in value but I realize now that this is not the case. Looking at the sales stats, the first appearances of Spidey villains are relatively flat, even for villains with past or upcoming movie appearances. Some have gone up a bit but not enough to justify the investment. Financially speaking, the money didn’t really grow and in some cases I risked losing money if I factored in the selling fees. This made no sense to me so I switched gears and looked for books on the rise, even if I already had multiple copies. As for the hunt, collecting lower grade copies proved just as challenging and fun without having to tie up large sums of money on books that weren’t going anywhere.

1st Vulture

ASM #2, CGC 8.0, 1st Vulture: Although finally breaking past the $4000 mark, the Vulture seems to be flying back south again. Still really only a $3000 book in my mind.

1st Doc Octopus

ASM #3, CGC 8.0, 1st Doctor Octopus: Recent results are reaching high but has yet to grab hold of anything past $3000.

1st Sandman

ASM #4, CGC 8.0, 1st Sandman: Still roughly a $2000 book after all these years. The Sandman has yet to solidify.

1st

ASM #6, CGC 8.0, 1st Lizard: The Lizard can’t seem to climb past it’s average as it zig-zags around $1500.

1st Electro

ASM #9, CGC 8.0, 1st Electro: Will Electro ever zap his way past $1000?

1st

ASM #13, CGC 8.0, 1st Mysterio: Smoke and mirrors here. Basically a $1000 book, although it did mysteriously rise beyond $750 from his past.

1st Green Goblin

ASM #14, CGC 8.0, 1st Green Goblin: The Goblin can’t seem to bomb his way out of $1500 although he did look hopeful just a few years ago.

1st Kraven

ASM #15, CGC 8.0, 1st Kraven: I’ve always felt this book was undervalued relative to the others on this list but Kraven has yet to jump into action.

1st Scorpion

ASM #20, CGC 8.0, 1st Scorpion: Don’t get stung here by expecting anything more than $500.

1st Molten Man

ASM #28, CGC 8.0, 1st Molten Man: This book oozes past $500 only to melt back down again. This zig zag pattern leads to nowhere.

1st Shocker

ASM #41, CGC 8.0, 1st Rhino: The Rhino finally busts past $200 to reach a high of almost $600… but will he be stopped? One of the few books on this list making progress.

1st Rhino

ASM #46, CGC 8.0, 1st Shocker: Shaken into action in recent years, breaking past the perpetual $100 but I’d like to see more results before grabbing hold of this one.

1st Kingpin

ASM #50, CGC 8.0, 1st Kingpin: The success of Netflix has given the Kingpin a slight lift but can this heavy book be sustained?

Another aspect to buying that I’ve noticed is that some people prefer to purchase 10 books valued at $100 as opposed to one book valued at $1000. The perception being that a $100 book is cheaper than a $1000, and yet, these same people most likely have thousands of dollars invested into their collection. The problem with this kind of thinking is that in order come out ahead, lets say to make $100 profit… the $100 book has to double in value while the $1000 book only needs to go up 10%. True, you tie up more of your money but it’s a lot quicker and easier to reach 10% than it is 100%. The other problem is, if a book is cheap (or expensive), it’s usually a reflection of the demand. Even among “key” books, there are “junk keys”, which most likely will not last. Owning a smaller collection of quality books is also much more manageable in terms of handling, storage, inventory, etc. Owning a large collection of “junk keys” may appear to have a high value overall, but trying to actually cash in on those books is a different story. Not to mention the extra work of selling $100 books 10 times as opposed to a $1000 book just once. Of course, much of this depends on the book(s) itself but the point here is that quality trumps quantity.

Iron Man #118, CGC 9.8, 1st Jim Rhodes (War Machine):

Iron Man #118, CGC 9.8, 1st Jim Rhodes (War Machine): Jim Rhodes blasted up to new heights during his appearance in the Iron Man movies but lost gas and is grounded once again.

Uncanny X-Men #129, CGC 9.8, 1st Kitty Pryde:

Uncanny X-Men #129, CGC 9.8, 1st Kitty Pryde, White Queen and Sebastian Shaw: I love this book and will never sell any of my 9.8 Byrne X-Men’s but the books high value was not solid and just an illusion.

Avengers #55, CGC 8.0, 1st Ultron:

Avengers #55, CGC 8.0, 1st Ultron: The internet went “boom” over the announcement of Ultron as the key villain in the most recent Avengers movie but this party seems to be winding down now that Ultron is unplugged.

The third point I’d like to make is that there is a huge discrepancy between online prices and show prices. At first I wasn’t sure why, but after doing several shows and talking to lots of buyers, I’ve come to the conclusion that many people who buy at shows simply do not troll the online sites enough and have no clue about the online market. The same could be said for vendors, who miss out on opportunities to max out on their books because they are behind the curve. This is often true of modern keys where the value tends to be based more on a book’s recognition as opposed to being legitimately important; I won’t try to define “legitimate” or “quality” here because it’s too big of a conversation. The large quantity of these books floating around out there makes their value highly speculative, volatile and prone to fluctuations. Understanding the ebb and flow of the online market is an advantage at shows… let it whisper to you. Become familiar with online prices so that you won’t feel pressured to undersell your books at shows just because someone else has it cheaper. Put it away and list it online. You also won’t feel the need to pay high prices for “junk keys” because you’ll know you can pick those up cheaper… even with the added cost of shipping.

Fantastic Four #48, CGC 8.0, 1st Silver Surfer:

Fantastic Four #48, CGC 8.0, 1st Silver Surfer: One of my current favourites, I like the fact that the Surfer remains popular, has no upcoming movie deal and thus people are not talking about him, making this book a bit of an open secret. Not only have 8.0s doubled since 2011 but at $1000, it’s off it’s high and a much better choice than a handful of Spidey Gwens.

Hulk #181, CGC 8.0, 1st Wolverine:

Hulk #181, CGC 8.0, 1st Wolverine: There are thousands of these books registered on the census, but thankfully, there are even more fans out there. As well, this book has a cult status, recognized for its high value by the public at large. Since coming out of the housing fiasco, an 8.0 has gone from being affordable to being green with envy for those who missed the boat.

I’m not suggesting that all moderns are bad and that you should only be buying books with a steep slope. There are many books that have shot up due to being the flavour of the month, only to come crashing back down. But do your research and invest in books that have good long-term potential, even if you hold multiple copies. I would even go so far as to say that it’s okay to overpay for quality books, which I have personally done many times in the past. Good books are difficult to pick up below market because many collectors know their strength. You may have to pay a little extra just to pry it out of their hands. I’ve purchased several copies of Hulk #181 above market and I’m sure the sellers thought they had the advantage. But today, I’m way ahead and if those sellers want it back, they’ll have to pay me a bit extra on top of the already appreciated value.

So, while the current climate has many collectors chasing the next hot book, I would say don’t feel the need to try and pick up the next Kamala Khan or Spider Gwen. Consider pumping that money into another Hulk #181 or a Fantastic Four #48 because these have stood the test of time.