Perfect Storm

Happy Solstice everyone.

The Heritage Auction results are in and in the words of a friend of mine that had a bunch of items in the auction “it was a blood bath”! He says he actually lost money on most of his submissions and says the prices were around 25% to 40% below what he anticipated when he sent the books to Texas a few months ago. I also did a very unscientific study and watched the three Amazing Fantasy #15 results roll in: there was a 7.5, 6.5 and 5.5, all CGC and all three were about 30% below the last GPA tracked sale for the grade. So taking my friend’s data and the Amazing Fantasy data I’d say we were looking at a pretty broad 30% correction on this auction. “Walt, that’s not a large enough sample size to say that”. You are right, it isn’t. I also won two books on the auction: a CGC 9.8 White Page Amazing Spider-Man #77 and a CGC 9.8 Amazing Spider-Man #97 CGC 9.8, both of around 50% of last recorded GPA sales for the two books. I needed the Spidey #97 to complete my Drug Issue run and I had no intention of getting the #77, I saw the cover, loved it, put in a very low bid… and won it.

Yes, there were some big winners too, I saw the Famous Funnies #1 from 1934 sell for something like $27,000; I thought it was worth maybe $10k tops. Generally though, the commonly traded items that I was observing were down, overwhelmingly. Taking these observed results with the results I’m seeing day to day on the GPA I’d say a correction is underway.

I’ve also been observing CGC absolutely clamping down on their 9.8 grading. We’ve been sending down pre-screen batches for years and on good lots we’ll get 23 out of 25, on so-so lots maybe 16 out of 25. We’ve seen a lot of books over the years and by necessity, we’ve gotten to know how CGC grades; we don’t want to waste our money sending in stuff we know won’t pass and as I’ve mentioned we’ve done a good job over the past few years. CGC is hiring and training a lot of new graders which I agree is much needed. It seems to me though that they are training these new graders to be extra vigilant. We’ve received three batches back in recent days and we got killed! We went 8 for 25, 7 for 25 and I forget the third one but it was well under a half. That’s a lot of $8 reject fees. We’ll have to adapt to their new graders.

While I won’t yell at CGC for being way too tight on their grading I will point out that the combination of them grading way harder and the market going way south might not be the best combination at the moment. CGC needs to do a real wide-sweeping analysis of how they have historically graded and train the new graders within those boundaries. We do not need buyers looking for 9.8s graded “after May 2022” because they are all “true 9.8s”, and let’s extend that across all grades and all eras and all tiers. Imagine a soft-looking 8.0 Silver Age key competing against a downward trending market and also competing against recently graded 8.0s of the same book. We will need consistency from CGC to help weather this current correction.

Boy do I have a huge stack of books heading to our eBay weekly auction; there’s a nice little run of early Marvel Tales and in nice shape. I stopped when I saw the #12, which is my cover of the week: something was off about the cover but I wasn’t sure what. I thought it was a redraw of #39 but this is what it says on comics.org – but I think they have it wrong because that’s a very Romita Spidey, oh and also it should be corrected to read – 1963 series!

The cover is a composite of the Spider-Man figure from the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel, 1962 series) #17 and the Green Goblin figure from the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel, 1962 series) #39. Additional background art likely by John Verpoorten.

So it’s a bit of Ditko’s ASM #17 and a bit of Romita’s ASM #39. I think they knew this was a great layout because they went back to this with the Spectacular Spider-Man magazine of 1968 and then again in the early 1970s with Amazing Spider-Man Annual #9.

The ad of the week highlights my absolute ignorance of the early video game scene. I’ve never seen this ad before nor have I ever heard of these games. Sometimes though it’s these obscure ones that end up being worth a lot of money to collectors because they really are scarce. I think I’d be way better at the Lunar Pool game, if it’s anything like Pocket Pool I’d be great at it!

We’ve talked a few times about how the original art market values are skewing heavily to important pages, remember that first Spider-Man in black costume page by Zeck? Leafing through Daredevil #57 it was like I was ignoring all the other fantastic Gene Colan pages in my haste to get to the page where he reveals his identity to Karen Page. This page would fetch a pretty penny I’m sure.

Our weekly internationalcollectiblesexchange auction on Bay had another solid week. The market doldrums are not hitting the raw listings as much yet and it didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm for our CGC 3.5 copy of Falling in Love #1. There was only one sale of a CGC 5.0 back in 2018: it got $125. I was hoping our CGC 3.5 would trade a bit above that price and the book delivered, finishing at $224.72. Nice book!

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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: 1653

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  1. I had to do a double take on that Marvel Tales as well… I knew it wasn’t a reprint if #39 … and Spectacular Spiderman was a painted cover… glad you figured it out! That Falling in Love is a great book I wish I had… but I am curious about lack of the DC logo… was this a way if distancing romance from the rest of their fare?

  2. Walt, I have to totally disagree with you and your buddy about Heritage. I wanted that drug book too, but I evaluated the price you paid as roughly on-market. Look at the 9.6 history on GPA – that book has been dead forever, until ONE recent sale. People got overenthusiastic a couple of months ago for a very short period, and it skewed the latest results. You need to look at the history to really get a sense of the market. I track the issues I own in these auctions and I was extremely happy with the results. Overall 117% of my estimate, with some crazy good outliers, like Showcase #6. Yes a couple of losers – I wanted Yellow Claw #1 to go to $12k, and I thought Batman #78 should have done better (maybe it was the Kenora dinner jacket) – so I bought it. Incredible Hulk #181 9.8 cracked $100k, and you were all excited about the possibility of this last year. And look at those Silver Surfer 9.8s – yow! As I said in previous comments, I think grade A books remain solid, but grade B books are taking in on the chin a bit (but still much higher than pre-Covid).

    I continue to believe CGC works on a quota system. This might be absolute as well as percentage, and both could work against the population of 9.8s. I believe the system is semi-nefarious (“this distribution helps the brand”) and semi-sincere (“if we have more than x% 9.8s, something is off in our grading”). My guess is the 9.8 population is being regulated based on age and knowledge of how common the issue is. As you say, this might have been recalibrated with all of the recent hiring – but I think it also might be that new hires are being limited in the numbers of high grades CGC is allowing them to give, on the principle that being an easy grader will cause grade inflation forever, while too-tough grades can be remedied by cracking and resubmitting. So your worry about “post-May 2022” can be dismissed if the latter – in that case you just are suffering from bad timing of submission.

    I just love love love that Marvel Tales cover, but finding out that it is a paste-up of earlier covers makes me lose all interest in pursuing it.

    I kind of get the video game collecting thing, but the “grading” is weird to me. In the case of comics, the “packaging” (cover and pages) is the item, while for video games the “item” is the software. So caring about the shrink wrap being in perfect condition strikes me as odd. And like with comics, I think it is a fetish to just go after something because it is rare. There are lots of rare comics and video games that are rare because nobody bought them, they were low quality, and the people and stories behind them had no further impact. I think Pocket Pool falls into this category. It seems like Manhunt might be the equivalent for comics.

    That Falling in Love would have interested me at 5.0 or above. There are so many out there in low grades these days. Nobody collected them, but they ended up in various pile in attics, basements, and garages. So speaking of scarcity, what is unusual are ones that remained inside the house in good shape. Then I want a crazy cover – this one is lovely but I need more pizazz.

  3. ‘Perfect storm’ – I’ve been using that saying for weeks regarding the economy. Fuel/Food/Energy/interest rate rise. This is the price drop all the old, patient collectors have been waiting for. Your speculators (just like crypto & NFT) are going to bear the brunt of this return to realism.

  4. I’m not sure re the DC Romance Gerald, I seem to recall a bunch that had prominent logos, but those may have been later.

    Chris! Always calling me out! But you are right! My buddy did poorly on his batch but he bought all those recently and I had a narrow focus on a couple of non key ASMs. If someone did a complete study they’d find a bunch of winners and losers, though I will hold that there are much more losers than we’ve been used to seeing these past few years and I still hold that there is a correction under way. And, I like your CGC breakdown.

    Very well put Spider.

  5. I will say on MY selling front… Marvels in all conditions seem to sell well, while DC has had a couple spectacular sales on hot books the bulk remain dead in the water and it doesn’t matter if it has a Neal Adams cover or not.

  6. Gerald, I’m making out like a bandit on Neal Adams on the auctions (WhatNot has a young crowd)…VF+ of Strange Adventures #213 Deadman, auction starts at $3…finished at $10!!! Green lantern I’ve picked up most of the O’Neil/Adams run at under $20 for 7.5 copies…it’s a lot of book for a $20, even my 10 year old boy proclaims they are something special…we have a Batman #245 coming over in high grade (VF+) too, that was $15 well spent.

    This absolute lazer-like focus on Marvel indicates how shallow the knowledge is for a lot of the buying public…and I’m saying that as the least experienced person on this board!!! DC books just die on the auctions, Super-man is straight embarrassing, no one bids and the clock just ticks down or the auctioneer just watches the screen then kills the book.

  7. It may be too early to say that a correction is taking place, but we certainly may be at the beginning of such an event unfolding. Time will tell.
    Certainly, I feel that the rampant, mindless bidding should come to an end & cooler heads prevail. All comic books cannot just endlessly appreciate in value, without reason.

    There is a natural ebb & flow to the dynamics of collecting/purchasing any item of interest, whether it be comics, coins, stamps, militaria or even real estate [ yep, people do ‘collect’ real estate!].
    & corrections do happen. Flippers may get hurt in the short run as a market depreciates, but anybody who is planning to keep their purchases for the long haul will generally emerge just fine!

    There have been a few ‘corrections’ in the comic book market place historically, yet the books affected by a temporary waning of interest seem to rebound at some point down the road. Remember
    back in the 1980’s when Overstreet published their monthly Comic Book Price Updates for Marvel & DC comics [ with select Independents ], focusing from the Silver Age to the present ? They would indicate with a ‘+’ or ‘-‘ which book was hot & which book was cold. There were lots of little corrections that appeared in those pages & I recall that Silver Surfer actually went down in price for a good
    chunk of time during the publication life of this magazine, yet look at Silver Surfer now- it is flying high with no end in sight! Does it matter that it was ‘cold’ 35 years ago ???!!! If you hang onto your
    stuff for a long period of time, you will more than likely emerge just fine. If you are a short term flipper, then you are playing with fire.

    There was a massive depreciation in the market after 2009-2010 during that great recession. People lost their homes, their jobs, even took their own lives. Some nations were brought down to their knees [ Iceland, Portugal, Spain etc ] & the comic book market tanked. The comic market had been insane leading into the recession, much like it has been now, during Covid & ‘collectors’ were paying loopy prices for just about everything. Once the recession hit, there was a panic stricken sell-off, the results of which can clearly be seen by studying the Heritage Auctions archives for sales that happened during this time period, on specific books & pieces of art. Lots of people lost their shirts, but i guess they needed to claw some money back from their collectibles, any money, to pay off debt or merely survive in that financial landscape. It took several years for the comic market to emerge from it’s funk, & it was back in full fury by about 2018. Do any of you even remember that we had a major global recession back then, or are your lives only consumed by studying the GPA & worrying about the value of your Spider-man collections ???

    Global conditions do affect how people spend their money. If you are paying $2.10/litre for gas, watching your grocery bill double & struggling to pay your mortgage, then I will be surprised if you will be engaging in raucous bidding for old comics !! The US will be raising it’s interest rate shortly to a level not seen for almost thirty years. How do you think that will affect the market ??

    Walter- if your buddy bought a bunch of overpriced books within the last couple of years, what does he think that he will achieve by selling them now ??? If he spent $3000.00 on a book back in 2019, what would that book need to sell for right now, with shipping & auction fees being considered, for him to get his $3000.00 back ??? Answer pls.

    I have never paid more than fair market value for any book that I have purchased, then or now. I have always kept my head & I stand to benefit handsomely should I decide to sell off my books. I never
    bought anything with the intent of making an investment as in all honesty, I never saw that situation developing [ none of us did back then ! ].. I made sure that I was not overpaying for anything & only bought the books that I enjoyed. I almost got caught up in the black & white craze of the 1980’s, when many of those silly books never even hit the store shelves for cover price, but appeared on store walls for $10 to $20 a shot right off the bat ! I looked at the crap that was being offered at these luxury prices & realized that I could not be an investor if I was expected to purchase this kind of rubbish for good money. I kept my head & spent $10- $20 on pre-code horror instead, when $20 could buy you 3,4 or even 5 different non-key issues . I think I did ok.

    We are due for a correction, but I stand by an earlier comment that I made. This market is driven by many ‘kids’ who still live with their parents, & who have no connection to reality. They have no mortgage to pay, no bills to pay, no groceries to buy & they probably do not even do their own laundry ! These ‘kids’ can throw all kinds of money mindlessly at the books they want & will not stop until something happens to stem the flow of their income, such as the loss of their jobs. Some employers are already beginning to shed employees in this unfolding crisis, & time will tell how our precious comic market will fare in this new environment. But fear not, my friends- because comic books are like dandelions, they just keep coming back ! & no matter what happens out there in the real world, comic books will ultimately rebound ! [ except for those damned Dell & Gold Key westerns !! P-tooey!!! ]

  8. Live Frog, I agree with your last point; as the older generation sometimes we get blind because the comic community we build around us is usually similar in interest, experience & knowledge – I think we’re at the cusp of a significant downward spiral but there are still young buyers who have never witnessed it and are still buying at really high prices, I’m still seeing stupid prices paid but naive buyers on IG/WhatNot, but I believe that reality will slow that down soon.

    So prices are mixed at the moment, a few outlier high sales as a large section of the market heads downward. There is nothing wrong with lower prices, allows the younger generation to enter the market, allows us all to spend less of our total income on the hobby…and maybe by taking the heat out of the market we may…sit down, open a book and enjoy our favorite little fantasy world!

    now…onto something cool…what I’m reading:

    Malvels; the 1994 four book series by Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek – just a stunningly good read! There isn’t a lot of 1990’s stuff in my boxes that I’ve kept, but this is just a great series!

    Amazing Spider-man #109 – 2nd meeting with Dr. Strange and gorgeous Romita pencils and inks. Very Enjoyable!

  9. Thorough run through Live Frog, as far as my buddy goes, he was betting on an ever increasing market where each new auction sets a new record price, this has worked for him before but eventually that scheme ran out of steam. Those Dell Westerns will end up the winners in the long run, you’ll see!

    Rohan, you are becoming a WhatNot star, use your fame wisely and don’t forget where you came from.

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