High Floors

A guy brought in some rag copies of some pretty good Silver and Bronze age books and I did what any sane shopkeep should do: I bought them up. These things are low grade, so low I would have turned my nose up at them back in the day. It took me way too long to come around to these low-grade comics, guys were telling me to jump into these a decade ago! Eventually I came around but there were definitely some opportunities lost.

Over the past 10 years, the low end of the grade spectrum has been the most active and has perhaps delivered the best market results, there’s been some fantastic ROI on the far left side of the grade spectrum. It’s all about owning a copy and if the book is a big key with an even bigger price tag on it then you see a large pool of demand get forced into lower and lower grades until you can’t get any lower. Now we have CGC 1.0s and 0.5s, NG incompletes, Qualified copies with no back covers etc, etc, all getting prices that have us old-timers scratching our heads. I personally don’t like the incompletes and the 0.5s but I do have a few, one being a CGC 0.5 Hangman #3. I’ve told myself to get rid of the thing but every time I look at it I love it even more, nasty cover!

One of the low-grade books that I just bought is going up onto our icecollectibles weekly eBay auction; I guess we’ll get to see just how high this floor is. Our copy is pretty low grade and it is missing the Poison Ivy pin-up centerspread. Still, here is a chance for someone to own the first appearance of Poison Ivy. Let’s see what happens.

I was doing a quick check of a run of a stack of Howard the Duck when I remembered that #12 contains the first appearance of Kiss in comics. Seeing Gene Colan’s great splash page reminded me of the crazy result realized by the Mike Zeck splash page of the first appearance of the black Spider-Man costume; it was over $3 million I believe. Here we have a full issue of nice Colan art that I’m sure would fetch maybe a thousand or two per page, then we come to this page and I can’t even guess what it would bring at market. I’m impressed by all those art dealers that decades ago realized page significance is where it’s at and where it will be, that’s some forward thinking that in hindsight seems so obvious.

I was checking for the Marvel Value Stamp in Amazing Spider-Man #135, (it was there – #4 – The Thing), when I spotted this little item in one of those full-page trinket ads. A Raquel Welsh pillow with a nice hard sell, “what man wouldn’t enjoy spending a night with Raquel Welsh…” sheesh! Did Raquel give consent for this? Did she get royalties from sales? Somehow I’m doubting it and somehow the ad just reinforces the whole shyster vibe those trinket ad pages delivered. I’m wondering if any of you old timers sent away for one of these? Aren’t there Japanese pillows similar to this? I think I saw them at cons pre-pandemic.

I’ve talked to a few guys who believe the safest bet going forward in the Silver Age is DC key issues, especially secondary character first appearances, characters that have the potential for future development. Showcase and Brave and Bold are the titles to scour if you are in that market. Our copy of Showcase #75 got $224.23 on this week’s icecollectibles eBay auction, the price has been holding steady which is a good showing in this market,

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

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

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mel taylor
mel taylor
1 year ago

Hey Walt
Sometimes a beater is all one can afford! A while back my buddy Mike bid for me on Comiclink for a copy of Unusual Comics #1 from Bell Features (9-10/46) with the 9th wrap missing, affecting the story, and off-white pages. Even though the cover presents quite well it is graded only at .5. Now, not being a fan of slabbing because all you can see, after all, are the front and back covers, I would normally crack the slab. But, since the contents are just American reprint material (in which I am not the least bit interested) and, since I really only bought it for the Fred Kelly cover, I have left it in the plastic.

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Agree on the merits of Silver age DC, I have been grabbing books for the past couple of years – however I find you actually have to ask sellers about DC books – because most of them won’t bother to list them for sale as the lack of interest of the market doesn’t make it worth their while! Hot little life-hack right there!!!

PS: love the ability to like posts…and most importantly…edit my poor spelling!!!

Chris Meli
Chris Meli
1 year ago

Having detached myself from my pillow, I thought I would see about your contention about low grade books, for Batman #181 in particular. Here are some comparisons from GPA over the past ten years (grade, price then/now, multiple):

2.0 150/315 2x

4.0 100/700 7x

6.0 200/1300 6.5x

8.0 450/5000 11x

9.2 1000/15600 15.6x

I will take the high grade thank you very much.

The results will vary based on the book, but I think this old saw of yours is open to question. I think you might be noticing that these very low grade books sell for “real” money now, and the turnover is much higher because there are more of them. As a dealer these are better because they create a consistent cash flow, but as a speculator the higher grade books might be better, because they appreciate as much or more, and storing one book is a lot easier than storing fifty (I am going this way with my collection). I will try to look at a few more SA keys (I think I have posted some similar analysis in the past).

Chris Meli
Chris Meli
1 year ago

I have a LIVE FROG pillow. It is heavily used, similar to that Batman #181.

Chris Meli
Chris Meli
1 year ago

I picked couple of big Marvel keys to extend my analysis, and only after getting the numbers did I realize the books were connected. Oh well. If anyone has any particular keys that you think might behave differently, I’ll try to look them up.

FF 48

2.0 70/800 11.5x

4.0 200/1300 6.5x

6.0 350/2000 5.7x

8.0 650/4500 7x

9.2 1500/12000 10x

—–

Silver Surfer 1

2.0 85/380 3.5x

4.0 150/450 3x

6.0 250/850 3.5x

8.0 575/1900 3.3x
 
9.2 1500/9200 6x

—–

I guess these are somewhat in favor of 2.0s, but I think the evidence is still weak. I think the evidence for current ~$10k books is more compelling.

Past performance is no indicator of future returns. But if you said Silver Surfer 9.2 was “crazy high” at $5k, you would have been wrong. I think better to take an educated view based on what is “objectively” good (Silver Surfer #1 is a cool book forever), your subjective feeling (I can’t get excited about House of Secrets #92, so regardless it is not on my list), and the current price, and target a small number of expensive books. Again, this is from the speculator perspective – dealers might do just as well with a lot more of these books in 2.0, but they have other business supporting the infrastructure cost – storing this volume of material is much more costly for the speculator, and turnover is far lower.

Chris Meli
Chris Meli
1 year ago

That is kind of a clipped response but I can handle it.

“We all expect the high grade to go up ten fold, seeing the 1.0s do the same when not to long ago they were frowned upon is surprising.”

I didn’t cherry pick my examples, starting with yours and just picking a couple randomly. I don’t know why you say this is surprising. You seem to be saying that high grade copies should have a higher appreciation rate than low grade copies. I don’t see why you would expect this, especially for older comics where the total population of copies is small.

Presumably you would have this expectation for 2013-2023 if you had seen this behavior earlier. So I looked at the same books 2003-2013. I am not going to post the results unless you want to see them, but they go against your expectation. In some cases there are no low-grade sales in 2003, but I think then you can say the books were seen as almost worthless – in those cases (mainly Batman #181), you would have done much better to buy in these grades. Otherwise appreciation is pretty independent of grade – about 1.5x for FF #48 and 2.7x for Silver Surfer #1.

I would be interested in examples of books that you think show the opposite.

activejim
activejim
1 year ago

Hey Mel
I have a copy of Unusual Comics 1 Sep/Oct-46 that I got from Michael Campbell back in 2012 that I have only done a cover/back cover scan of.
I’ll make a complete scan of it and make a print of the 9th wrap …as soon as I find the box I buried it in.
This year I have at least 6 weeks of holidays I have to book that I haven’t yet so I should be able to book a few weeks during weekend comic shows in towns like London, Hamilton. Toronto etc