So What’s the Play?

I hope everyone is safe and healthy and practicing their social distancing responsibly. Right now we need to keep up our mental health as well as our physical health so I thought I’d post something positive that looks forward to a time when this health crisis is behind us.

Collectible comic prices are falling and we’re now able to pick up books for prices that a year ago seemed impossible. Whether you collect the early Marvel keys, Golden Age books, Bronze Age keys, Modern Age keys or you’re just trying to complete your runs, it’s a good time to buy. Or is it? Will prices fall even more? I can’t predict the future but I will make the assumption that we will get through this crisis and that we’ll get back to some semblance of normal. If that is the case then I think we may have a good opportunity to buy, our finances permitting.

Will prices correct? I think they will. Will prices correct to spring 2019 levels? Maybe not.

Before this Covid 19 crisis, there was an Avengers End Game hangover factor I want to discuss. To me it seemed like the number of casual collectors the decade-long Marvel movie run brought in had fallen off and the participation rate in the hobby was not enough to offset the slow and natural increase in supply and was unable to sustain any value increases except in a limited number of one-off type transactions.

Now we can add panic selling to new supply making it even harder to see any gains in value. So yes, I do think we will bounce back from the depressed prices caused by the momentary increase in demand due to duress selling but getting back to the levels we saw in the lead up to the Avengers End Game movie will be a lot more difficult but I can’t rule it out.

Avengers End Game was the culmination of one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons ever. The gradual build-up over a decade of interconnected hit movie after hit movie had people entering into the collecting hobby that didn’t even know why they were there; they were just swept along by the whole thing and we the veterans found it easy to sell our old piles at a nice profit, even the resellers had an easy time – pay market today, wait a month and make a bit of money.

If we are to get anywhere near there again we need the Marvel movies to develop a new cohesive direction towards another climax event and don’t tell me Disney doesn’t want this because there are billions to be made. This last decade has added a lot of new collectors to the game, they may be dormant now but I think many of them could be brought back online. There doesn’t have to be an exact copy of the End Game run-up but there needs to be something akin to it, a well planned and well-executed roll out with fan awareness as to what is happening at the paramount, we need to be talking about it, tweeting, commenting etc. I know this alone will not be enough but if Marvel is having success then other studios and even other media will continue to tap into comic book culture.

Does anyone plan on buying in over the next few months? Are we sitting it out to see where the dust settles? Are we selling because we have to?

As a reseller, I’ve taken the stance to sell at whatever the current market will bear regardless of what my investment into the books are, going forward I will adjust my buying to the new realities of the market.

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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brian Campbell
4 years ago

Great post, Walter. Personally, the biggest obstacle for the comic market that our business is facing is that convention season was just starting and all of the books we accumulated over the winter will have to sit and wait. We are inundated with comics right now. Luckily, we are still able to operate our online business for the time being and, fortunately (for us at least), other products are moving well even if comic sales have evaporated.

That said, I do have my eye on a few keys that I might invest in if the price is right. We are guarding our money closely, but will pull the trigger on the right deal.

4 years ago

A nice optimistic post Walt. Here’s what I’m thinking… let me know if you disagree:

1. We can look to China to see how things may play out. It won’t be exactly the same, but depending on how prepared you believe the US has been, we can expect to follow China by 3-4 months. I’m focused on the US because it’s the greater market for comics.

2. Many people are citing mid April as the peak but I’m not convinced. Even if it’s true, the situation will need time to taper off and won’t be completely resolved till other countries also get a grip on the situation.

3. In the mean time, you can expect earnings to trickle in. 1/4 won’t be great but I think 2/4 will be worse. So we can expect cut backs in the form of jobs. I’m hoping that earnings will start to improve by 4/4 as people become more active by then, ie: shopping.

4. Corporations being what they are, won’t start hiring again right away. Job numbers will follow as earning start to improve, all of which will take time.

5. The other thing to keep in mind is that 2019 is was a bad year for comics, prior to any pandemic, and this is a US election year. So confidence in the both the market and leadership will be considerations. So, to state the obvious, 2020 is shaping up to be a write-off.

6. Think about what “panic selling” means, who is saying this, and why. The translation is… should collectors, or investors take a loss? Keep in mind that early sellers will simply be cashing out and it’s the stragglers who will be struggling with this dilemma where comics are concerned. If you believe, as I do that the current situation will last throughout 2020, the real question is… can you sustain yourself till things improve? If not, “panic selling” may be the only viable option.

7. We all know that storms pass so while “cashing out” sounds good right now, I would think twice about taking a loss. After the housing crisis, the comic market came roaring back in 2012 and I’ve spoken to many folks who’ve regretted not picking up key books during this time. We also know that there are many movies in the works. If and when they make… ie: Hulk vs Wolverine film, Hulk #181’s are gonna be hotter than ever.

Conclusion: Think things through. Prepare. Be strategic based on your individual circumstance. Above all, stay safe.

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

I know I am taking this time to index my comics rather then accumulating more. While I anticipated a down turn on the collectables market, the nervousness of the future has curtailed any more purchases with online sales being all thats left. I also feel I shouldn’t be overwhelming the postal service who may be delivering needed commodities!
I am one if the ‘lucky’ ones who are still working as I am receiving/inventory clerk at a major food supplier… which exposes me to not only fellow workers but also truck drivers from all over the country…so I have to be realistic about my possibility of contracting the virus and therefore feel my continued collecting has to be put on the back burner. I don’t mind lower prices…but not like this…not like this.

Bud Plant
Bud Plant
4 years ago

Online I follow the Heritage Sunday nite auctions and the MycomicShop Monday nite auctions. I have yet to see a downturn in sales or prices achieved there, at least for Golden Age, which is what I watch the closest. So what Walter says above surprises me.

I have remained an active buyer until just a week or two ago, but I cut back due to tax bills, and because I’d been overdoing it for a while on both sites. Not really due to the Virus, which I see as just a temporary situation.

Selling your collectibles, for a collector, in a down market is just like selling stocks in a down market. You lock in your loss and you aren’t there for the recovery. For a dealer, I agree with Walter–take what the market dictates, because you have to pay the rent and the staff. But while your profit MARGIN may suffer, it may be away before you are actually selling at a loss.

I’ve watched my IRA take a beating, but the same thing happened in 2008. Professional advice is to sit tight and don’t sell, because you will not know when the (stock) market heads back up, and you will most likely miss that all-important upturn. This is proven through decades of serious academic research. So unless you really need the money, I think the same advice applies to stocks as well as old comics…ride out the storm and we’ll see “normal” values return.

That said, I have felt/seen lately that Gold and Silver Age prices, especially for slabbed books, have really gotten out of hand, in my mind. We have not seen a market correction in a long time, so it may have just been waiting to happen. If it wasn’t the virus, it might have been something else. Nothing can go up forever, and in my opinion, prices have gotten way too hot out there. Only an ever smaller group of buyers can afford many of the higher-end collectibles in old comics today.

I’d be interested know more detail about how badly collectibles sales are being effected. My antiquarian book (i.e. out of print art and illustrated books, fanzines, and even some Golden Age comics dupes) sales, which are online have kept up to normal levels so far. We lost the local bookfairs, but we can weather that.

My comic book consignments at MyComicShop are still selling regularly.

The same is for Bud’s Art Books, aka Bud Plant Comic Art, which sells new comics archives, art books, graphic novels, even the occasional new comics. Last week (ending Sunday, March 22) was still surprisingly strong for us; as good or even better than a normal week at this time of year. We sell online through our website (not through Amazon or any other sites. We also do a printed newsletter and a printed catalog. We have virtually no walk-in business.

So I believe, so far, that people are still willing to buy online. Granted I’m looking at this as seller of primarily new product and as such, “cheap” entertainment. Which is what history tells us sells in downturns.

So that’s my take–at least this week. We’re playing this one day at a time.

Bud Plant
Bud Plant
4 years ago

I think we are good on mail, UPS, other couriers — shut-ins and health-challenged people need deliveries of food and medicine, even pet food, and other stuff to keep going. Pretty essential.

Our daily delivery and pickup guys from the Post Office and UPS are pretty upbeat every day. And it helps keep businesses going. I am a bit taken aback that Diamond is stopping shipments. I would have thought they, like Amazon, could keep up safe practices and keep that money and product lifeline going, from publishers who need income, to stores that need product.

That’s a problem when one company becomes so big as to be nearly a monopoly. Not knocking Diamond. It’s just how comic distribution evolved. When I was part of the system, in the 1970s and 80s, we had 13-14 different comic book distributors. One could not cut off the pipeline like this.

I am very glad I have sourced much of my incoming material direct from publishers, and other large distributors, so with Diamond out, I will still be getting shipments and filling orders. And safely, using a skeleton crew practicing social distancing or working from home. I know many comic shops have done this too, as much as possible.

So Marvel and DC and other companies’ COMIC BOOKS are going to stop, but most other product: graphic novels, archives, art books…they are still available from other sources, so far, such as Random House, Little Brown, Ingrams, Independent Distributors….the list is long. These companies distribute Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and other publisher’s BOOKS into bookstores and other outlets that Diamond does not serve. And they and most other smaller publishers are still shipping product. We have on a very short list, less than five so far, as of March 24, of publishers who are not shipping new product and reorders orders to us. I know the list may grow, but not everyone needs to shut down and still be safe.

Dave Mackay
Dave Mackay
4 years ago

I see comic collecting declining for one reason only….Young people don’t read comics. With circulation numbers between 10,000 to 60,000…those numbers don’t support a collecting market 20 years later. It didn’t help that a collector from the 1990’s took, his or hers, ten boxes of comics to their local comic shop and were offered ten dollars a box if that. The books I read and reread had circulations of 500,000. From that number, we had more life long collectors. And we were avid readers of books, mags and comics. Not so today.
I wasn’t distracted by cable, wifi, Internet,smart phones and such. My three joys were the outdoors,sports and comics. Books too.
It’s a different word….and comic collecting is a smaller part of it, then ever before.
I imagine that the internet and such have similarly destroyed the adult magazine market. Dwindling collector demand.
There will always be a market for keys. Everything else? well , the proof sits in Walt’s Big B bargain bins at $1 to 5$…everything there being negotiable.

Dave Mackay
Dave Mackay
4 years ago

Gerald, Bud, Walt and everybody with comments here…keep safe and may health be your companion.
Thanks for being there for us Gerald. I love that truckers, inventory clerks, fast food servers and such, are getting their due credit finally !!!

4 years ago