Looking Back

For a year that seemed to drag on, 2020 sure went by quickly. Blink, and here we are.

2020 was a year that taught me more about myself, and about others, than any other year. Overall I’d say we shone.

Overall I’d say the back issue comic market shone as well. Here are my takeaways from 2020;

  • The back issue comic market was resilient, it outperformed everybody’s expectations
  • The back issue comic market is multi-layered, there were many, many micro-markets within the market and most of them were hot as hell
  • The hottest of all had to be the Modern Age or current market, the number of new participants and the amount of activity and the amount of value appreciation was staggering
  • The Star Wars franchise is so much bigger than just the core vintage characters, there’s tons of room for growth and there’s such an appetite for new quality content
  • I can watch way more TV than I’d like to admit, I had no idea I could watch TV for so long in one sitting
  • The two most important drivers of comic value, key first appearances and covers got even more important this past year
  • Comic Cons are going to have to reinvent themselves not only to get the public going back to the cons but also to get the dealers back to the cons
  • Dealers and stores have done very well adapting and moving their business online and as I alluded to above, some will be questioning the need to go set up at cons that are dependent on max capacity crowds for any whiff of a profit
  • Staying positive and helping others is the best approach to all things including dealing in comics
  • DC is not doing the hobby or themselves a favour by leaving the old distribution model and by cutting its titles so drastically, we don’t like to even talk about what most of us are considering is their endgame
  • Pandemics make people spend money online
  • There is so much great comic book art we’re missing because of CGC encapsulation, I learned a lot working on the Making A Slash posts this past year
  • Everybody has done something really dumb that ended up damaging a comic, no wonder high-grade copies are so hard to find when there’s an army of nincompoops out there
  • Issues from the Golden Age of comics were soft, key issues did fine but the old run issues lost a bit of favour
  • The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide needs to work hard to move content online and to update more often, they don’t need to be a GPA to carve themselves a niche, they already have a niche, they just have to widen it
  • The strong back-issue comic market happened without the piggyback help of a robust superhero movie release calendar, this is a good sign for the back issue market
  • All pop culture collectibles seem to be blurring into one big market, card market participants are entering the comic market more than ever and visa versa, I don’t mind this as I think the comic as a collectible is strong and can stand up there right beside toys and cards and all the others
  • There are way too many streaming services, and each streaming service has just enough content that I like to make me buy it but not enough content that I like to make the price worth it, I think there should be one discount price to get them all
  • The comments section are often the best parts of the post, Time to Collect owes everything to those that took the time to post a comment and enriching everyone’s experience
  • Thanks for supporting Time to Collect
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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: 1589

13 Comments

  1. Nincompoops!? Well, what’s this series “Make a Slash?” A horror blog I missed!

    Ok, ok, couldn’t resist. Fun to read your observations, I am mostly working on be grateful for my health and that of those around me. As one of those on-line retailers (and still issuing print catalogs), we turned out to be well-positioned to benefit this year. Boy, I didn’t see that coming when Covid first hit.

    And it taught me, once again, to value my time off and time at home, after 50+ years of working. I get a lot out of working around my place, just being outdoors, keeping an exercise regimen going. Enjoying my collection, organizing…

    For me, it is easy to let these things slide when doing a 40-hour or often longer workweek, plus out of town shows. We were doing roughly 12-14 a year, I can hardly believe it now when we do zero.

    Yes, the shows are a real question, I had already pulled out of comic shows, sadly, even the smallest are generally more work than they are worth. Happy to go and look for old comics, and see my friends, but not exhibit.

    The antiquarian BOOK shows we do, these are lower key and less headaches than comic shows. But 2020 did make us think long and hard on these. I think we’ll keep setting up at our favorite shows, but try and keep it more sane. Avoid back-to-back weeks of shows, and ones that we have any doubts about. As much as I love finding new stuff for myself at shows, buying online has its advantages with no overhead costs!

    The antiquarian book trade now has frequent virtual shows, more than one a month. Google “Getmans” for a look. Suddenly you can also “participate” in shows as far away as France, Germany, Amsterdam and London, and see items rarely seen at even non-virtual U.S. shows.

    I am very surprised someone in comics hasn’t stepped into this…The bigger comics retailers mostly are already online, but so do the largest RARE BOOK seakers, and they still all participate in the virtual shows.

    I have studied and participated (both exhibiting and as a buyer) in the online antiquarian book shows. I even found a rare 1952 British anti-comics pamphlet in one, and 1907 Platinum Age book in another, and lots of vintage illustrated books, which I collect. I think there is a place for a virtual comics show. It levels the playing field for smaller or part-time dealers to play with the big boys, and has ongoing benefits: finding new customers and reaching a huge new market. It’s hit or miss for book dealers right now, I admit, but I see these evolving and sticking around even after the pandemic is over. Why not for comics, too?

  2. I agree… based on my own habits even, covers are where its at right now! I am much less interested in runs as I am in a great cover buy as it motivates my collecting purely as a presentation factor even if it is primarily for me!
    I agree the Overstreet needs to go online! A subscription service that is in line with the cost of an annual volume that is out of date by the time it hits the shelves would be fantastic! As it is its only a reference at this point and you don’t need to buy it every year unless your a modern collector!
    I also agree its the various responses to your forum Walt that make this site my go to everyday before seeing what the rest of the world is throwing at us! I like some enjoyment before falling into despair!
    Thanks and Happy New Year to everyone!

  3. Walter agree with most of your observations. Comic Cons will have to reinvent themselves. Perhaps there will be two kinds, one for CosPlay and Pop Culture, and the other just for people collecting comics (not investing). If you haven’t guessed by now I collect comics, not invest in them. I am against grading them but I understand to a degree why grading exist. I think graded comics has narrowed the scope of getting new collectors interested in comics in general. As I have said before, there is more to a comic than the cover.

    When I worked at Comics and Comix in Sacramento, we went out of our way to introduce our customers to new titles, new companies, new characters. Which means we tried to entice people to see what was BETWEEN THE COVERS.

    What is happening at DC makes me very sad. As a whole they have been producing the best comics on the market today in my opinion. Changing their distribution model has certainly shaken new comics foundation. But I have to shift some of the blame to Diamond. I have heard from several comic stores of the poor customer service they provided over that past years.

    Yeah, the Price Guide issue needs to be looked at. From my one perspective, the price guide should also drop prices on those books that are no longer popular or in demand. Lets go back to the $1 western comic (since they are deader than dead) and push those to need collectors cheap to get them hooked on a variety of comic book genre that may not be currently hot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for your dedication on doing a weekly email blast. Perhaps on occasion focus on new comics which may attract new collectors and then they’ll see your other posts on older comics???

  4. Comic cons are definitely going to have to do some rethinking. The sheer thought of thousands of people cramming themselves, shoulder to shoulder, into these venues, after a year of careful social distancing, seems like a whole other reality.

    I can’t see Overstreet reducing the values, to a buck, of old western comics etc, as well as other lower demand issues, although the current values are completely out of whack with reality, but they should, at least, take the values back somewhat. A friend buys old Dell westerns in mint shape for pennies on the dollar from ebay dealers wanting to unload. And he’s just a collector and not a reseller.

    As for a subscription-based OPG I, for one, like the standalone physical book, which I can read, while on my patio, and not have go be online. Since I don’t buy new comics, I can’t comment on the DC situation. Perhaps, someone can fill me in.

  5. Klaus, I am with you about Overstreet. It keeps getting further out of touch. If it didn’t involve so much data, it would not be a surprise to see an on-line competitor come along. GPA is helpful, but its limiting to only do graded books and auctions. Like Bob Overstreet, I’ve been around for 50 years, so I can understand not wanting to reinvent your business model at this stage of your life (and Bob’s got some years on me).

    But…someone is going to do it, either within his company or outside it. A fast, up-to-date, searchable price guide app, its time is here. But someone has to write the code, create algorithms, and figure out how to make money from it to pay for the time invested. Updating Gerber’s Scarcity Index in concert with an online guide would be good also. Terms like scarce and rare are too general, and though Gerber’s 10-point code has stood the test of time, it too is out of date and would benefit from decades of new data.

    Jeff, Good comment…But you and your $1 western! There are good and not so good westerns. You can’t put down All American Western or All Star Western or even most of DC’s run of Western Comics. And we both like Tim Holt with Ghost Rider, those are sleepers and not all are plentiful. Lone Rangers will always have some demand and is still enjoyable.

    But Gene Autry, titles with no good artist, and heroes that are long forgotten…I wanted to include Tom Mix, but at least the Ralston giveaways are very cool and have really gotten cheaper over the years. But Tom Mix from Fawcett, bad stuff unless you score the handful of painted covers by Norman Saunders. And I’ve turned on to good back-up features in even Red Ryder, like the Kiyote Kids and King of the Royal Mounted (really solid art and story).

    Jeff, you know how I feel about Atlas westerns…super under-appreciated. Atlas horror and pre-hero monster were once neglected, too. No more. You never know when something neglected will be rediscovered. Sexy Archie covers. swimsuit covers. Romance, especially Matt Baker and Colletta’s Atlas romance, key Quality titles like Flaming Romance by Bill Ward, are all being discovered with big jumps in pricees.

    We all know that as titles like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Timelys, they get so expensive, collectors migrate to other under-appreciated genres and titles to keep scoring new finds.

    An example, lesser Golden Age titles like Prize, Super-Mystery, Owl issues of Crackajack, Suzie, Atlas good-girl titles by Dan DeCarlo…have joined better known hot titles like Catman, Amazing Man, and Consolidated’s Suspense.They’vd all left up in price and are being snapped up in almost any condition.

  6. Yes Jeff the cons really have some work ahead of them but but the damage will mostly fall on the big multi con brands like Reed, Informa and a few other big players that can get crowds up past 100,000 for their events. There are a lot of smart people in those organizations so I’m betting they work something out. And I agree it is about what is between the covers, as a shop we try to support a new series we believe in by carrying back issues so people can jump on at say #4 if we still have #1 to #3 in stock.

    You are right about health But, it is the priority for everyone, what’s the old saying “a healthy man has a thousand wishes, a sick man has only one”. I think there are some virtual cons going on right now, I’ve seen Instagram dealers and Facebook dealers do virtual sales and such, it is early days but this is being tried by individual dealers. I like your idea of having multiple dealers at once give it a go.

    Klaus, DC Comics left the sole distributor of comics, Diamond, last year to distribute through another third party creating more work for shops, they’ve also been drastically cutting their titles and they’ve been laying off lots of their staff. The fear is that they stop publishing comics altogether and stick with Graphic Novels etc, perhaps they end up licensing their properties to comic publishers like IDW etc.

    Happy New Year everyone.

  7. They may as well close up shop. There’s nothing more annoying than to have multiple portrayals of your favourite characters in different media.

    Take Supergirl, for example. The tv show version is completely different than the comics version and both will be completely different from the Supergirl that is rumoured to be introduced in the new Man Of Steel 2: Man Of Tomorrow movie.

    You can’t connect your comic favourites with movie versions who display variant powers and have background stories that are totally different. At least Marvel’s onscreen characters are close to their comic counterparts.

  8. Hey Walter… Happy New Year to you, Scott and the rest of the merry men at CBD. Being able to reflect is a virtue.

    Indeed, this year has been stirring in many ways. Not just because of the pandemic, but what the pandemic has revealed. It’s been interesting to see the solutions from our leaders, the behaviour and response from the general public… and the results stemming from it all. In the middle of this crisis where lives have been lost, businesses closed and the jobs that they provided gone… social media, online activity and online learning have kept us going. Imagine if we were in a pre internet era?

    Some people will cite to low moments during market fluctuations as being a crash in order to justify their predictions. Yes, March was deep but to me, it wasn’t prolonged enough for it to be meaningful. Just to sum up where we are today…

    • Comics keep rising. In particular, there is a fever over speculative moderns.
    • Stock market at all time highs. Retail investors buying into bankrupt Hertz? Frenzy over EV with 30, 50, 70% pops in one day from small start ups like Arcamoto? Pre earning SPACs on fire?
    • Real estate still bullish.
    • Bitcoin shoots past 2017, reaching uncharted highs.

    The only losers appear to be folks holding cash. Perhaps there is a lag and we’re just kicking the can down the road… But it’s also clear that our social and market dynamics are changing more rapidly than I could have imagined, and Covid has brought these under currents to the surface. To see these changes unfolding is pretty remarkable.

    At this stage, I’m happy to admit that I was wrong and that the back issue market will apparently never crash. At least not like the 1990’s or 2008. There is nuance to this statement, of course… but if Covid couldn’t take it down after a decade long bull run… I can’t imagine what will. I get the sense that the new generation is perhaps desperate, and I can’t blame them. They don’t respect the old guard anymore. It’s exciting to see and hopefully, it will lead to positive change!

  9. Thanks Walter for all the great articles, it’s been very educational and thought provoking….it’s also been very expensive, between the (no-longer) undervalued spotlight column and the making-a-splash articles my want list has grown faster than my completed list has.

    In a year of sacrifice and limitations it has been helpful to have a hobby and an appreciation for the art and stories of our passion.

    Thanks again for your wisdom and efforts

  10. Yesterday, Jan 1st was another interesting day:

    • I started to hear that some of our friends down south began receiving their $600.
    • Then the USD tanks in relation to the CAD, from about 1.27 to 1.23.
    • BTC surges past from about 29500 last night to over 32000 at the time of this writing.
    • I wake up to a half dozen eBay sales. Not a lot for some, but huge for me.

    I’m not a statistician, but being able to correlate the “cause and effect” on such a wide scale is very interesting. It gives credence to the concept of demographics and statistical truths, which we can extrapolate into the future. Peace!

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