Econ 101

I was talking comics with a pal last week and we were both marvelling at what seems to be the endless demand generating record prices for items we both thought were forever doomed because of their bottomless supply. Books like Spawn #1 are now generating $200 plus sales for each CGC 9.8 posted and there are 8,000 of those and growing.

We called this current market the Demand versus Demand market in defiance of the indisputable Supply versus Demand principle. I brought up Daredevil #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #33 as older examples. I’ve missed out on a ton of opportunities on these two books. I remember maybe 10 years ago doing some CGC Census studies and deciding to stay away from Daredevil #1 because I thought it is so plentiful vis a vis the other Marvel keys would always make it an also-ran, too common. I also stayed away from high-grade copies of Amazing Spider-Man (ASM) #33 because I remember when the warehouse copies were found, just have a look at the CGC census on ASM #32 and #33, there are 94 copies of ASM #32 at CGC 9.4 or better and there are 202 copies of ASM #33 at CGC 9.4 or better yet they command about $1500 each at the CGC 9.4 price. Even two short years ago in 2019 ASM #32 was averaging about 30% higher. I wish thought up this Demand versus Demand argument way back then, I’d be sitting on a pile of Daredevil #1s.

It is true that demand has never been higher for quality graded comics and it’s also true that the supply has never been higher as well so one answer to the ever-increasing prices must be that available supply is falling behind current demand. Is this because most of us use the 3 or 4 major auction houses when we want to buy our comics? Is it that the current supply via auction offered on Heritage, ComicLink, ComicConnect and eBay are not sufficient to meet current demand? I think so. I think we get a little lazy and default to the trusted interfaces these great sites give us. Perhaps joining more Facebook groups or the CGC boards would result in better deals? Note that I specified ‘via auction’ as we do see a lot of copies offered of say, Daredevil #1 on eBay “buy it now” but at prices even green and wet behind the ears buyers are leery of.

I’m only willing to defend my argument above for the high supply comics. True scarcity is true scarcity, be it scarcity of copies available or scarcity of grade or even scarcity of page quality and these scarce books keep getting stronger and stronger.

At the moment the supply side of the equation is a weaker force than it should be and I think some of this is due to our ‘group think’, when we are buying, we all seem to be running after the same books at the same time which seems logical given how wired we are to each other via social media. Everything is instantaneous now and it seems many of our decisions are group decisions. Group decisions can stack the deck on the demand side when they are being executed. Back in the day we knew less about what everybody else was thinking and made purchasing decisions more independently of each other.

I’m not sure if I’m getting my thoughts across accurately, as I’m typing and rereading I feel like I’m unable to articulate this the way I want to. Demand is dominating the market even where supply is plentiful because supply is not plentiful at this moment, demand is so dominating because we can now easily unleash the power of group demand within seconds as our community is so connected in real-time, supply has a lag time to correct demand does not.

Now I’m going into loops so I’ll cut it there, I could use some help extrapolating this.

Speaking of lack of supply, check out this beautiful copy of My Love #14 we sold last night on the internationalcollectiblesexchange weekly eBay auction. This beauty featuring the Woodstock concert as the backdrop for love is the Giant-Size November 1971 issue I love so much. Some lucky bidder won this price for only $112, Advantage Buyer all weekend long.

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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: 1600

11 Comments

  1. I like your “groupthink” term. And I agree with it. A bulge of customers, probably mostly younger, all going after keys and ONLY the keys. That worries me, because I was around (as a distributor and retailer) for the “black and white bust” in the nineties, or maybe it was the late 80s, when Teenage Mutant success drove everyone and their brother to produce and buy crazy independent black and white books. Then, suddenly, everyone realized they were junk and there was lots of them. In fact, expand that and look at so many books of the late 1980s and 1990s. And dare I mention the book in non-sports trading cards during that time, also? Or Beany Babies? Did any of those markets ever recover? I don’t think so.

    Why couldn’t this happen to graded books when they are SO many of them. Eventually demand will change, and will everyone care about 9.8 Spawn #1s? Maybe not, if you didn’t grow up with them….

    It’s not apples and apples, but we HAVE seen demand get red hot and then cool on genres and large areas…for everything from real estate (2008) to ECs, which plateaued out for many years, as they were reprinted and reprinted. But I have to admit, both those examples have recovered and are hitting new highs.

    The comics market continues to astound old collectors like me, but nothing goes up forever. When a new generation comes along and considers the Marvel and DC movies to be their parent’s thing, not their own…like musicals and western movies of the 1950s were for the next general to come along, like pulps and dime novels and big little books…we could be in for a rude awakening. Are we in a giant game of musical chairs on the top tier books?

    In the area of financial investment…”previous activity is no indication of future activity,” no matter how much you want it to be. You can average out historical data and get a general key to the liklihood of future demand (think the stock market over decades long activity). But only over very long periods. But in the short run, no one can outguess the market, not in the financial/investments area (no matter how much they claim to be capable of it). It can be very volatile, as we see on stock market reports. I wonder if this can be any analogy for comics? Isn’t human nature the same, be it a day trader in stocks or an short term investor in comics? Its run by emotions and reactions to the latest news…

  2. Bud, what do you mean by ‘the book in non-sports trading cards’? I know the local shops were selling tons of card sets featuring just about everything, from comics, movies, tv shows to adult-oriented material. I’m just glad I didn’t get caught up in all that.

  3. I think I get the gist of your point and agree in some ways and disagree in others.

    I don’t think there is any failure of supply and demand. The problem is that each issue is unique, so it’s very hard to compare even sequential run books just on scarcity. However more or less I think that scarce 9.8s cost more than not-so-scarce 9.8s in Silver Age run books. Also, as you point out with Spawn #1, plentiful doesn’t have to equate to cheap. As Charlie says, this is a “name” key that can be had as a nice CGC 9.8 plastic case for $200. I don’t see a lot of upside so I’ll pass.

    DD #1 might be plentiful relative to the earlier Marvel keys, and sure enough that’s still reflected in the price. I think you are just seeing all of these keys moving up, and DD is right there with them. I think a good comparison is X-Men #1. DD #1 5.0 and X-Men #1 4.0 both have about 2150 copies down to those grades. For DD it’s $600 in 2010, $2500 in September 2020, and $6250 now. For X-Men it’s $1500 in 2010, $7500 in September 2020, and $15k now. The DD ratio is 1 : 4.2 : 10.4, the X-Men ratio is 1 : 5 : 10. I don’t see a meaningful difference. People just like X-Men a lot more than Daredevil, and they have for a long time at the same ratio.

    I think the strange price equality you see for ASM #32 vs. #33 is driven by people’s natural reaction to absolute price points than any strong consideration of scarcity. I will cite what I saw last night – Defenders #7 9.8, about 12 in 9.8, going for half of Defenders #8 9.8, 4 in 9.8. If the ratio were exact it would be three to one. BUT, it is also about absolute cost. The person who will pay $400 for Defenders #7 will not pay $1200 for Defenders #8 (which has a better cover) mainly because it’s “too expensive” for a Defenders run book. Similarly 9.4 early Spidey run books have their general level. So there are many factors going into the equation that produces the final price. (It turns out only I and the guy I was bidding against would pay even more than $600 – and I wouldn’t pay more than $800…)

    I think the “groupthink” is definitely there, but it is not a cognitive bias in this situation, because we are talking about the attractiveness of collectibles, not objective facts. Spawn #1 is again a great example – you can’t justify the price based on anything, except that it is what people are willing to pay. I think the game is not to say “it should/shouldn’t be worth…”, but rather “I think people will want/not want…” I personally love scarce books mainly because they make this game easier. Yes people might want book X more in the future, but most of them might be satisfied with one of the zillion mid-grade copies, hence little appreciation at the high end. For scarce books, they can’t take their pick.

  4. The upside is in how you play the game:
    $70 – Previous graded value as an unknown book
    $100 – Social media highlights book as being key
    $200 – Rumors of a TV/movie appearance circulate
    $500 – Rumors become more substantiated
    $700 – Marvel confirms solo TV show in the works on the cusp of the upcoming Hawkeye TV show.

    Current value is closing in on $1k as the market waits to see if Echo shows up in Hawkeye, and if so, how well will she be received? And if Echo does not show up… the high price of $700 to $1k may seem ridiculous, but by the time her solo TV show rolls around, value may climb higher. So the question is, do you keep your money sitting in the bank with 0% interest, or do you bet on the potential popularity of Echo?

    https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2487249.m570.l1312&_nkw=daredevil+9+cgc+9.8+echo&_sacat=63

    For those who can’t afford the golden and silver age keys… there are plenty of books like this to keep speculators preoccupied.

  5. Klaus, my non-sports card comment was referring to the boom in the late 80s, as I think you figured out. I was a distributor then and we sold tons of them. For our own retail customers, we hired a guy to break the boxes and make up our own factory packs. They’d get a complete set at a reasonable price and not end up with tons of duplicates. I think he took the bonus/limited edition cards as payment for his labor—smart guy, but we didn’dt want to deal with one-off specialty cards.

    Unfortunately, now I have all those duplicates in a corner of the warehouse. Michael Kaluta, Moebious, Maxfield Parrish, Hildebrandts, and many lesser lights, including some very bad choices. Norman Rockwell?? Really?? Who would buy those? Even flea market dealers were setting up stands full of card packs. That’s when you know the boom is getting out of hand.

    Talk about labor intensive, even more than comics, keeping track of them. That’s why I’ve done nothing with them for 30 years. Waiting for that one guy to come in and sweep them off my hands. Once in a while, we use them as a promotional freebie. Recently we put together 10 assorted cards Hildebrant cards with an art book on the brothers’ work for Marvel. I don’t think it sold a lot of extra copies. I’ve hear the lenticular cards are supposed to be hot now…This is certainly a crazy business, my friends….

  6. Good lord! (Choke) Those prices on the Daredevils featuring Echo are unreal! Still further proof, as if any were needed, that Overstreet is so far off base almost as soon as it is printed that it has truly become obsolete when pricing books realistically, and has basically been reduced to nothing more than a checklist. Those Daredevils only list at three or four bucks in Overstreet. I’ve been telling people for years what a great, cheap run of quality books this is, with wonderful work from Bendis, Maleev, Mack, Brubaker and Lark. I would rank it as one of if not the best runs of this title. So I’ll be hanging on to my Echo issues just because they are so damned good!

  7. Great analysis Chris, I liked your ratios!! And Charlie, nice summary of the spec book process, now you need to make a list of books we could all try to play this game with.

    Bud, like day traders comic speculators are certain they can predict the market, until they can’t…

  8. Nice work Mel! I started at DD#26 with Bendis&Maleev….by the time I heard there was a deaf character (I was born deaf) the market was heating up…fortunately, as per Walt’s idea, I found a nice copy for $100 (which I still found hard to swallow). That Brubaker ‘Devil in Cell Block D’ storyline is just awesome in every way…loved the writing that Frank Castle just calmly sits in his open jail cell and ‘only’ kills a couple of prisoners during the jail riot was so well handled. I went back and read the whole run again, it’s begging for a movie/tv series.

    Mel, what other modern runs (last 20 years) do you hold in the same high regard?

    Walt, I agree with your alternative buying strategies; I don’t use the big 4, I use networks of sellers, Instagram, reddit contacts, local Facebook pages and now WhatNot auctions (and contacted them out of the auction) for book hunting, it’s a lot more personal, a little old school, but I prefer it than listed auctions. Me being located in Australia has forced me to collect in a particular way, it’s slower and much more deliberate…there’s no ‘popped in and bought this’, every issue has a particular reason for being purchased.

  9. Mel, those are in US dollars, by the way…

    Unfortunately, I can only include one link at a time but one area of comics that I think is being overlooked by traditional collectors are books like these:

    https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2334524.m570.l1313&_nkw=Invincible+Iron+Man+%231+CGC+9.8+2017&_sacat=0&LH_TitleDesc=0&_odkw=young+avengers+1+cgc+9.8&_osacat=0

    For those who’ve missed out on recent 1st appearances of Riri Williams, Kate Bishop or Cindy Moon… Their first solo outings are being heavily spec’ed on. As well, these characters are just getting started so I only see upside for the next decade or two.

    I’m also gonna go out on a limb and say that Young Avengers #1 will be a $5k book by the time the movie rolls out. A $5k prediction may sound shocking, but this book is already at $1500 and the actual movie may not be made till 10 years from now. So from this perspective, $5k is actually quite conservative, and we also know how quickly 10 years can pass. Currently, this book is in a lull and can be picked up for just over $1k, which I think is a pretty good deal if you can land one around that price.

  10. Hey Spider
    I love making lists! Just check out Ivan Kocmarek’s Comics for the Apocalypse to find out which comics I would want to take into a post-apocalyptic world. Funny though, I think I might have something else on my mind than comics in a post-apocalyptic future! Anyroad, here are a few suggestions to satisfy the tastes of any lover of that Daredevil run. If you love Brubaker, you are bound to enjoy Velvet, his collaboration with the great Steve Epting. For you’re Rucka and Lark fix, Lazarus is a great choice. Michael Lark takes the skills he developed on that Daredevil run and outdoes himself repeatedly. For another taste of Bendis and Maleev at their best try The Infamous Iron Man. I’m a huge Alan Moore fan, so heartily recommend (even though they are a bit more than 20 years old) From Hell with Eddie Campbell and Promethea with J.H. Williams III. Jim Williams also did a great job on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Overture (of which he kindly sent me a copy of the absolute edition as a gift, so maybe I’m a bit biased on this one). I was furious when Marvel took the FF out of their mix just to spite Fox, but the 2015 Secret Wars that spun out of that was just brilliant, Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic at their very best. And, also a bit out of your 20 year range, but i would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady, and 1985 by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards: And, If you want to find very early work by the likes of Brubaker, Mack, Lark and Bendis, go back to the old Caliber Presents anthology title from a few years back. You will also find the works of Guy Davis, Vince Locke, Tim vigil and more at Caliber. I think I may be the only contributor who didn’t become famous!

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