The Spectrum

This week Chris and Walt talk about the two polar worlds within the comic collecting hobby: the pure collectors and the pure speculators and the fact that most of us fall somewhere in between.

Please let us know what you thought of the show: just add your comment. All we ask is that you keep things civil.

Where are you along the collecting spectrum? Do you speculate, do you grade books, or do you just collect the raws?

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Walter Durajlija

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

Articles: 1644

13 Comments

  1. ‘Mylar is like lingerie for comics’. Every week the wisdom of you you two gentlemen (and the XO) simply astounds me.

    Chris, completely agree over the Zeck Cap run, have been busy getting as many of the run in nice high grade as I can – they are a wonderful inexpensive buy with great art and J.M.Dematteis does a great job scripting; recently I’ve hit upon the introduction of Arnie Roth; very interesting character as he was obviously gay and I suspect Marvel’s first gay character (Northstar being the famous one in 1983) – however his treatment is very well done, there’s even a part where Arnie’s won’t go to the police which reflects the fear of brutality by the gay community in the hysteria of the AIDS epidemic of the time. You can also buy these books just solely for Zeck’s ability to draw Madame Viper, now, when she talks world domination, i’m listening!!

    A far as the topic, yes, i’m in both camps, will gladly buy a few books and move em whilst doing a bulk order if I see them cheap.

    Lately I’ve been importing books just to help out the local collectors – not to profit but just helping getting our small community some decent issues, that’s been fun! Great way to connect and meet others and not have to try and discuss books with my wife…cause that is not helping anyone in the relationship!!!

  2. I have never been a speculator. I have always collected the books that I like to read. I carried my Overstreet guide with me to every convention that I attended to make sure that I was not overpaying for anything. Back in the 1980’s, I refused to pay over guide for anything. I am still trying to adhere to that rule right now, but it is becoming impossible to maintain. And thus, I have begun to fall back into the several other hobbies that I enjoy, such as stamp collecting, that still remain fun, viable hobbies at minimal outlay of cash. Investment is not my game. All I care about is that I do not overpay, because if I need to sell my collectible in the future, my losses will be smaller if I have not overpaid.

    I am beginning to think that the comic book market is actually very small & shrinking fast as even 1970’s comics are priced out of the reach of collectors who would love to read them. How can I say this when comics are reaching unheard of prices ?? I believe that the market is being propped up by dealers/speculators who are buying & selling to each other at ever more stupid prices & occasionally ensnaring some mindless moron with no brains and too much money into making a purchase. I believe that ultimately, this market will fail, especially when enough hapless fools who bought into this ponzi scheme try to sell their investments & fail, spectacularly!

    We have just witnessed a horrific invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. The effects of this invasion will hit us all soon, hard, in the wallet. President Biden in his state of the union address has noted the massive inflation that is gripping the USA & that many people are living paycheque to paycheque, experiencing difficulties paying their mortgages, rents & putting food on the table. I have read about MASSIVE increases in rents within many US states, forcing people to leave their homes & move in with their families or friends. I ask you now, do you honestly believe that within these economic conditions, any sound, sane human being will be spending any serious amount of money on an old comic book ???

    Who are the morons who continue to spend inhuman amounts of money on these silly pamphlets??? While war rages in Europe & threatens to engulf us all, these fools can spend thousands of dollars on books that are worth pennies ! If these people were sane, they would stop, now, & send some of that money to the various humanitarian organizations that are trying to help the displaced & injured victims of this war. That sounds to me, to be a better investment !!!

    By all that is holy, how is spending a thousand dollars on a comic book that guides for $20.00 at a time of economic crisis a sound investment ???????
    There is a massive disconnect from reality within a small gang of idiots within the comic book market. Unfortunately, their actions affect the whole market and give it credence, but for how long ???

    Sorry to burst your bubble. I used to be the Spongebob Squarepants of comic book collecting……but now I have turned into Squidward !!! I no longer believe in this hobby.

  3. Spider! I love what you are trying to do for the Melbourne comic collecting community! You guys need a freight forwarder co-op of some sort that pools all your groups buys into big shipment back home to amortize the shipping costs over all the books.

    Live Frog, sometimes it does feel like a Ponzi scheme.

  4. Yes… I guess I am in between. I remember when it was exciting if your comic increased by $20 from one Overstreet to the next years… now however its sad as some of us have been priced out of the market. I may be sitting on 50-60 golden age horror comics but don’t make me feel very wealthy… so send that guy my way… maybe we can come to a compromise. Which, I would like to add… I am retiring at the end of the month… who needs a list of what I have cause I have to finance my retirement?!

  5. Gerald, drop Walter a line for my details! I’m ready to finance your new ‘Mai-tai on the beach’ hobby (actually just typing that it sounds a lot better than collecting old bits of colourful paper)

  6. My wife just gave me the hairy eyeball today and asked “When are you going to start selling those comics?” So I started opening boxes to try and figure out where to start. A for Avengers? I did open the box with Silver/Bronze Captain Marvel and was surprised at all the minor key issues. Plus should in that case I sell them individually or as a lot… besides the really early CM’s I have 23,24,26,27,28,29,32,43… which would make for a really nice lot… decisions decisions…

  7. It was never a hobby. I bought them to read and, most often, follow an artist not so much the story. Then I kept them like one keeps a book. Over time they became valuable, surprisingly. The prices I see on auction are constantly surprising and, well, can they really hold ? (Much ‘fine’ declines below selling price or has modest gains. Buy it because you like it, as we say.)

    But the next question is sell ? donate ? Both a huge task.

  8. Yikes! We need an intervention for Live Frog! Don’t turn your back on comics, buddy, just because the world is going to hell in a handbasket! I have been collecting comics for more than 60 years, and through it all we have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, numerous wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Balkans, the fall of the Berlin Wall, China’s brief invasion of Vietnam. the break-up of India, the war in Bangladesh,, tumult throughout the third world and who knows what all else.. These are some of the reasons we need an escape like comics for a bit of relief in troubled times. Sure, we should all be trying to help in any way we can through monetary donations or clothing or medical supplies and good old fashioned moral support, but it’s no reason to give up the hobthat has given you so much joy over the years. And besides, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that we would miss your input to Comic Book Daily if you left the hobby. Keep the faith mate!.

  9. Beautifully written Mel!

    Whilst I completely agree that buying a $1000 of New Mutants isn’t a great idea right now, there’s certainly something to be said to reading a nice Byrne era X-Men as they hunt down the reality-altering Proteus or wallowing in self-pity with Peter Parker as a cavalcade of beauties try and win his heart! Completely agree though Frog, I’m sticking to my guide prices too – and they very useful for determining where the heat is in the market and therefore which issues to avoid.

    I personally find that the old blue chip books are also the most stable books in this current environment. I’ll gladly buy an ASM#53 whilst clearly avoiding that shiny New Avengers #7 !!!

  10. Thanks for the words of encouragement, guys- it is appreciated. I will clarify my position by stating that I am not turning my back on comics [ I love ’em too much ], rather I am refusing to engage in the mindless pissing away of money that today’s market has become. This ignorant abuse of money is not collecting, it is not a hobby, it is just some kind of mass hysteria that has gripped a small part of our population and threatens to destroy what once was a hobby! I am reminded of the Tulip Bulb mania that gripped Holland in the early 1600’s, where ‘rare’ tulip bulbs reached prices similar to today’s key comic book prices. By the mid-1600’s, investor’s confidence was shaken to the point that the market collapsed & never returned. Can this happen to the comic book market ??? Sure can !

    The hobby was created by legions of fans & enthusiasts over many decades. Now many of those fans & enthusiasts are priced out of their hobby due to moronic, mindless ‘investment’ by idiots who can not/do not read their books BECAUSE THEY ARE ENCASED IN PLASTIC!!!. This does not mean that many old time collectors, like myself, are on poverty row [ although I am not too far away !!!], many of us simply cannot justify the ludicrous prices being achieved for books that we were buying not all that long ago for about $10.00 !!!
    When you shut out the very people who made comic book collecting into a hobby & replace them with mindless drones who only think about flipping their books, how can the hobby survive ?? Who will these investors flip their books to in the future ??? Back in the day, fans created fanzines & prozines, threw conventions & talked about the beauty of the story and art enclosed within their four colour pamphlets. Today, we have morons gibbering about cleaning, pressing & slabbing in order to achieve a higher return on their ‘investment’. What world DO YOU belong to???

    In spite of my anger at the current state of affairs, I am still active in the market & am still buying raw books at prices close to guide through a handful of favourite ebay sellers. In spite of the rampant idiotic over-spending around me, I am still able to scoop up nice books, golden age through modern age, at prices close to guide. Yes, this means I lose an awful lot of bids, many fine books spiral out of my comfort zone due to the antics of braying donkeys with too much money, but I have still managed to win about 30 nice books in the last two weeks at prices of $5.00 to $20.00 each! It can still be done, but you have to sacrifice an entire Sunday afternoon to accomplish it, and stick to your guns- do not spend [ appreciably ] over guide ! It can be done- I just dood it !! My big prize last night was a Marvel Chillers #3 [ Tigra series begins ] in VF+/8.0 for $42.00 ! Not bad, I think!

    It is bizarre to talk about comics at a time when innocent people are being slaughtered in Ukraine. I find it surreal that kids are losing their lives, blown apart by rockets & artillery, yet we can sit here & babble on about comics undisturbed. The economic effects of this war are only just beginning & time will tell if we will be able to justify spending ANY money on old comics when the full fury hits us. The recession in 2009-2010 sedated the comic book market for a few years, as people lost their homes, their jobs & even their lives. Covid has had the opposite effect & driven the market into hysteria. How then, is Ukraine going to affect us ?? Are you prepared ?

  11. Being priced out of the game seems to be the name of the game these days. I remember when Canadian wartime comics were in a dollar bin at Memory Lane in the early ’70s. In the early ’80s when I first encountered Harry Kremer’s Now and Then Comics he sold them at about five bucks each since very few people collected them or even knew what they were. Jump forward to about 2012 when I bought the coveted Nelvana of the Northern Lights from Andy Brast of Carry On Comics in Waterloo. There was no price guide for these books back then and Andy wasn’t sure what to charge for it. I had never even seen a copy outside of a comics history book and we settled on $500 which we both were quite happy with. About two years, later an inferior copy sold at auction for $14,750 US!!! Was I happy? NO! This was the beginning of the end of my Canadian “Whites” collection because i now saw that I was going to be priced right out of the running by people who were throwing money at this stuff! Had I been an investor, I would probably have been thrilled to bits that my book was now worth so much more than I paid, but, as a collector, this sounded the death knell of that particular field in my “collecting strains” (as Walt would put it). My solution was to just start collecting Canadian mini-comics from the ’80s and start a new strain! You take your bargains where you find them and just get used to ignoring the insane prices. These idiot buyers will have their comeuppance eventually, so let’s allow them to dig themselves into a hole and, with any luck, they will just drop out of the hobby. Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished! For the real collectors out there, you will always be able to find something you love within your budget. Happy reading! Oh, and did I mention that Andy has given me a money-back guarantee if I ever want my five hundred bucks back?

  12. I feel the same way, Mel- as I may have indicated on a previous post. Instead of being happy that some of my books are worth a fortune, I am sad as I feel that my collecting days are almost over. Trying to complete a run of books that are dear to you is a treat to enjoy, especially if that dream is attainable –that pursuit keeps you ALIVE- but at today’s insane prices, that pursuit is no longer possible, the outlay of money no longer justifiable. The collector loses heart & walks away.
    I used to obsess about the books I still needed to complete a run, think about them during school or work. That pursuit gave me a reason to live ! I lived for every convention & rejoiced with every new book that I purchased which plugged a gap in my run. The chase was just as good as the catch ! I was also able to forage & make discoveries- I awoke to the beauty of 1950’s comics-war,crime,horror, western- as they were affordable & available and I began to develop a serious interest in that era. I was able to collect them & admire them and began to obsess about them too! Now, there is no chase or no catch- it is just the mindless flipping of books encased in plastic for ever bizarre prices! The average collector can no longer complete a run of vintage books under these conditions & the passion is gone, the chase is over, unless you wish to buy fraying rags or incomplete books to fill the void in your soul !

    Stubborn donkey that I am, I am still active in the hobby ! I still have the bug to collect & am able to still score decent books at around guide, occasionally stuff from the Golden Age or fifties, but generally from the Bronze Age, which is where my hobby began. In spite of my bitching at the current state of affairs, I guess I'll keep on plugging away until it becomes no longer possible fro me to do so. I do have several high value books that I would love to sell, but do not relish sending them down to CGC to sit in storage for months until they get looked at. I am also loath to support the very company that I blame for helping to destroy our hobby ! What a dilemma- do I risk selling my books raw???
    The pulp market is in much the same predicament as the comic book market. I have recently talked to a major Pulp dealer who is enjoying massive price realizations during his auctions, yet is startled by their meaning. He is auctioning books that even Heritage has never seen, but these are from collector's estates, not from an investor's portfolio. The bids he is receiving are from new collectors, no doubt diving in from the comic book market- his long established army of long time pulp collectors is silent, refusing to bid, not trying complete their runs anymore...walking away. Yet these guys refuse to sell their pulps, refuse to cash in..& will not sell as long as they have a pulse!

    The current market conditions will not change until enough ‘investors’ try to re-sell their pieces and fail, spectacularly. It may require the intervention of a serious financial cataclysm, such as the 2009-2010 recession to force this to happen. It may also require the escalation of war to inspire a mass selling, but by then it will be too late.

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