Looking Forward

From terror attacks, the US election, floods, protests, Brexit and the many, many celebrity deaths… 2016 has been widely panned as the worst year in recent history. Some of the factors are par for the course, so unfortunately, much of this continues today as the buffoonery from US political leaders continues and the mainstream media refuses use the term “climate change” in the face of science, even as a possibility, as to rationalize record weather related stats.

In the world of comics, we lost Bernie Wrightson, Rich Buckler and most recently, Wolverine co-creator Len Wein just to name a few. Overall comic sales is down about 10% and Hollywood has been hammered with people choosing not to see movies this year, resulting in one of the weakest summers for Hollywood box-office. Both the Inhumans and the highly anticipated Defenders were duds and online comic sales continue to struggle for certain books with low ending results, bringing down overall averages.

Speaking of Hollywood, I stumbled across this excellent essay (above) with undertones of Mr. Plinkett, which was posted back in the spring of 2016. It makes some of the big picture points that I’ve been trying to make and based on the box-office results from this summer, it appears to be unfolding as predicted… but I digress, except that the factors discussed remain true.

A beautifully sensitive portrait of Len Wein (1948-2017), co-creator of Wolverine, Swamp Thing and the new X-Men, by one of my favourites in the  world of comics, Bill Sienkiewicz. A fantastic portrait, on par with any of the top illustrators!

It’s not all bad news, of course. Wonder Woman was an unexpected hit, with Patty Jenkins poised to become the highest paid female director for the follow-up. Spider-Man Homecoming was saved by the Chinese market, making the Sony/Disney partnership worthwhile. And the world of pop culture remains optimistic with lots of planned events, movies and new comic titles/ideas coming down the pipe. Sometimes things are up, and sometimes things are down… but either way, we look ahead so we can continue to move forward.

Checking in on the Silver Age, this graph shows a steady rise for Avengers #1, graded 5.0. Normally I would check in on AF#15’s as the SA bellwether but it’s been unusually strong and not representative of what I would consider normal. I also can’t afford one.
Sitting at the fringes of big Silver Age keys is this Daredevil #1, also graded 5.0. After a sweet “pop”, it’s leveled out recently. Probably taking a breather before the next run up. I still think DD#1’s are still affordable even at its current relative price. I hope to pick up more eventually.

2017 is far from over. As we head into the biggest retail season of the year, I don’t anticipate that the upcoming season will be much different from the past couple of years. Many businesses are currently working hard in the background preparing for it. Expect lots of new products, like the new iPhone 8 and X (what happened to 9?), new DVD/bluray releases and on going rotating sales throughout the season. If you’re an active eBay seller, now would be a good time to start loading up your listings because once those orange and black displays come down after Halloween, get ready to be bombarded by red and green.

It’s proving to be a long wait for Giant-Size X-Men #1, graded 9.8 to reclaim its previous high. However, those who got in after the big slump are fairing much better. I think I made the right decision selling my 9.8 copies because based on it’s current performance, I just can’t see it doubling any time soon.
Congratulations to those who were patiently holding Amazing Spider-Man #129, graded 9.8. With several sales on record in $10k range, and at least a couple in the $15k range that I know about, I think we can officially declare that this book has fully recovered. Question is, what lessons have we learned and where does this book go from here? $20k? $25k? With the imminent release of the Punisher TV show, I wouldn’t bet against it.

There have been some continued signs of weakness from the comic book market. Books like Strange Tales #110, CGC 4.0, which hit a peak of $2,000 last year hit a 4-year low at $900 on September 3 due to poor auction results. Amazing Spider-Man #300 at 9.8 appears to have peaked at $2,500 on Venom news cycle, currently trading at about $1,800, but this was anticipated so no surprise here. Amazing Spider-Man #6 in an 8.0 was relatively flat despite featuring the Vulture in the recent Homecoming movie, having experienced only a modest climb up to about $2,000 but currently back down to normal levels. The flip side is that there are multiple sales of Amazing Fantasy #15, CGC 4.0 on record at above $30,000… which still feels insane to me, with the most recent sale at a mere $25,000. Hulk #181’s continue to be strong, especially at the high end of the grading spectrum. Looking ahead, I’ve got my eye on a few things:

Lets take a break from Deadpool and check in on Batman Adventure #12, graded 9.8 instead. This book has lost about a third of it’s value but I’m still bullish about this book. Moderns tend to be more volatile and kids who are growing up with Harley Quinn today will become the senior buyers of tomorrow. Also, from what I understand, there were less copies printed of this particular book compared to other books from this era. I guess I have faith in Harley’s continued popularity… or is that just wishful thinking?
The Amazing Spider-Man #300, graded 9.8 frenzy appears to be settling somewhat. If you managed to sell this book at its recent peak, congratulations! If you wanted one but feel you missed the boat, I wouldn’t fret. Keep some extra cash on hand and just be ready to pounce once the movie has come and gone. I think your patience will be rewarded.

Thor: Ragnarok
As one of the most viewed trailers in a 24 hour time period, the expectation for this film to perform is building. However, it’s going up against poor summer box-office results in addition to its regular competition. This film interests me because it signals a shift in tone and is expected to be a lead in to the Infinity Wars. How will the movie going audience respond to this stylistic change? Inquiring minds wanna know… because it may hold clues to how Marvel movies can evolve.

Justice League
Part Zack Snyder, part Joss Whedon. The unfortunate circumstances being what they are for both directors, DC and director Zack Snyder are looking for redemption. Wonder Woman has given Warner Bros renewed hope and the potential success of Justice League may be interpreted as being the big middle finger to Marvel from Whedon. As well, we’ll get our first cinematic experience of Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg… so keep your eyes on books like…

  • More Fun Comics #73-75
  • Adventure Comic #103, 229, 260
  • Aquaman #1, 11, 29, 35
  • Brave and the Bold #28-30
  • Justice League of America #1
  • Showcase #4, 8, 30
  • All the early Flash
  • Flash #105, 139
  • DC Comic Presents #26

Also… Ben Afleck? In or out? Justice League has to reach beyond Wonder Woman and into the billion dollar territory… but money is not enough. In order gain respect from both the critics and fans, the story needs to be concise, intelligent, as well as entertaining. I can sympathize with the creators of this film because the pressure is on.

Star Wars, The Last Jedi
Kathleen Kennedy is the Kevin Feige of the Star Wars universe… or she? This is what she is out to prove as she teams up with JJ Abrams again for episode 9. As for the comic, Star Wars #1 remains a $1,000 book in 9.8, chopped from it’s all time high of $3,000. Fellow peers tell me that Rogue One was not part of the main story arc so we can discount it’s lack of influence… and yet, there is zero movement with episode 8 just around the corner. Many of us were looking for second bumps from movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and other subsequent films like it. Question is… what have we learned from this?

Retail Sales
Up, down or the same? So far, nothing catastrophic has happened to suggest that anything should be different, but I have seen several instances of low offers being accepted by sellers recently, and then mysteriously removed. Question is why? It’s a curious behaviour because it’s counter to the comic book seller mindset, who typically want top dollar for their book? Perhaps the drip, drip of poor leadership from the bumbling business man in charge is taking its toll for certain sectors, or it’s all just an unfortunate set of events.

Exchange Rate
When I talk about comic book values, I’m talking US currency. And as expected, the US dollar has plummeted almost 20 points from it’s most recent high to it’s most recent low against the Canadian dollar. This will mean very little to our collector friends down south, but for us Canadians it’s a big incentive to start buying again. The problem for me is, while the exchange rate has improved… not much else has.

Soon after my last report, the US dollar has been on a slide all summer against its Canadian counter part. There is no formal reason for this, although many people believe it’s due to Trump’s inability to get anything passed.
I like Doctor Strange but I’m not a fan of Strange Tales #110 (5.0 shown above) due to its less than appealing cover. I still hold my 4.0 copy due to a botched sale that caused me to miss the window. A very lonely buyer kept messaging me about nonsensical things, wanting be my “friend”. When I explained to him that I was on eBay strictly for business, he got upset and requested a refund. By the end of it all, the ship had sailed and I was left with a very bad taste in my mouth. I’ve had mostly good experiences on eBay (knock on wood), but once in a while you can’t help but encounter the fringe element.

In summary, I expect the remainder of 2017 to be a repeat of the last couple of years. I make no judgements about whether this is good or bad because it simply is what it is. Either way, we want to look ahead so that we can make more calculated decisions. Junk books continue to do poorly and eBay adds to this stress by having announced this summer that they will be collecting tax from us Canadians for their services. It may not seem like much except that we are already paying over 42% of our income in taxes, once you factor in all the hidden taxes that many of us are not aware of. Once you’ve lowered your prices for these hard-to-sell books and have tried employing various sales techniques, like offering free shipping in order to stimulate more sales, there’s not much more that can be done short of taking a loss, although I’ve had moderate success by trading away some unwanted inventory.

According to a report by the Fraser Institute, the average Canadian is paying about 42.5% of their income in taxes. However, the really surprising stat for me was that spending for basic necessities is much, much less than what it used to be in the 1960’s. I’m guessing it’s our way of trying to offset the effects of inflation and rising costs. But… if we’re spending less on our needs (and believe me… I am), how do hobbies factor into this equation?
With the exchange rate much improved for us Canadians, I’ve been tentatively plucking off low hanging fruit. Yes, I’ve been advising people to hold off on purchasing ASM#300’s… but if the asking price is below pre Venom news, there’s nothing to think about… You drop the cash, take the book and don’t look back.

Let’s revisit the market influences in the new year and see how the holidays will have played out. We’ll have lots more stuff to discuss, such as…

  • Black Panther in February
  • New Mutants in April
  • Infinity War (can’t wait!!) and Hans Solo in May
  • Deadpool 2 in June
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp in July
  • Venom in October
  • Dark Phoenix in November
  • Aquaman in December
I picked up the X-Men #1, 4.0 recently off eBay for about $3K. Seems like a pretty good deal considering it’s on GPA and most people are asking $4K, except that I had to pay almost $500 in import charges! So lets round up and call it $3500. Still… a good deal for being $500 less than the current ask you say? If I list the book right now at $4k and someone actually decides to purchase my book over all the others for some reason, eBay and PayPal will eat about 15% or $600, leaving me with a net loss of -$100. Flipping books is not an easy sport. I feel much happier about the RAW specimens I picked up. Still, as I always say, I much rather overpay for a book like X#1 than underpay for a junk specimen.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Charlie Kim
Charlie Kim

Charlie Kim is a designer who is currently transitioning into teaching. While working for various companies, he helped develop many international brands such as the Hong Kong Airport identity, Lenovo’s sponsorship program for the Beijing Olympics and Lavasa, a new city being developed in India. Locally, he's also worked on the 1998 campaign for the Canadian Opera Company, the Canadian Innovations stamp for Canada Post and the terrible Grand & Toy re-brand (hey, they can't all be winners). Charlie’s love affair with art and design all began with comics.

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