Nostalgia cycles exist and they have a great effect on collecting comics and other pop culture collectibles. The process seems eternal. As kids we enjoyed what we enjoyed then too suddenly we grew up and found ourselves in school. After school we were hustling to land a good job then we hooked up with some great significant other, got ourselves married and some of us then had kids. And before we knew what hit us we were in our 30s remembering the carefree days of our youth. This is just one of the many paths people take, yours may be different but the end result is the same – wanting a connection back to your youth.
I’m not sure how many years have to go by before the nostalgia cycle swings into motion but I’ll say 20 is close and it’s a nice even number and its long enough to allow us to go through all those changes and reach a level of stability and disposable income that would allow us to actively pursue the things we want to reconnect with.
Watching Ninja Turtles when we go home from school or watching WWE wrestling on a Saturday morning are strong and pleasant memories. For me, it was the Six Million Dollar Man, Star Trek (by then 5 years into syndication), Kung Fu and the Planet of the Apes TV show. I remember in my early 30s buying a beautiful high-grade set of Charlton’s Six Million Dollar Man and Emergency magazines; I still have them.
The pressures of today’s world are not easy to cope with at times: marriage, kids, work, ageing parents and on and on. Boy, it would be nice to be 11 years old again.
Hunting down and finding those old Hacksaw Duggan and Bushwacker LJNs or those old Flintstone comics may bring you mounds of joy but before you dish out the big bucks to recapture your youth maybe you should step back and review your exit strategy. Buying nostalgia can be a very costly endeavour and most of us can’t afford to buy this stuff without the assurance that they will hopefully continue to be worth those same big bucks or hopefully even bigger bucks.
This is where I get to introduce my concept of the generational jump. The problem with pop culture properties is that many of them service only one generation, maybe spilling over into the early part of the next one. The Flintstones did not make a generational jump because we fans could not convince our kids to watch. The kids found their own Ralph Cramden in Homer Simpson and the Simpsons, they shunned the Flintstones. It’s pretty easy and cheap to buy high-grade Flintstones comics from the 60s because there is very little demand for them. The questions we should be asking ourselves if we want to hold comics long term are will Deadpool, the Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles, Walking Dead still be cool to the next generation. Time flies by and your little nostalgia binge could cost you dearly if there are no buyers around when you decide to sell.
The largest entertainment company in the world has for its logo a character that nobody cares about anymore. Mickey Mouse is not a viable pop culture character in today’s marketplace. Times change and we should keep that in mind if we want to hold comics as investments for a long time. More Fun Comics #52 was a huge book in the late 1970s: I think it was the third or fourth most valuable comic book. The Spectre simply did not make any generational jumps and the old insular guard of comic collecting elitists that gave it the value were not replaced by like-minded folk as they aged and got out of the hobby by the 1990s. In contrast, Batman has made four successful generational jumps, Spidey has made three.
Comic investors and speculators use the nostalgia cycle to their advantage: when did the Transformers and G.I. Joe get hot? How come I’m now selling Mighty Morphin Power Rangers stuff? What were the kids into 20 years ago? Pokemon! Pokemon was huge and it is now 20 years since it was the thing and today people are asking about the original Charizard cards! I know these examples are not comics but they get the point across.
When old boxes of comics come in I’m always hoping they are filled with Batmans and Spideys. I frown at the Gunsmokes, the Lassies and the Challengers of the Unknown: these properties had their nostalgia cycle but they did not have the generational jumps needed to sustain the demand.