Collecting and Confusion

Over the last year or so, it seems like there is no end in sight to the record prices in our fantastic hobby.

Never was it more evident than in  ComicLink’s  Featured Auction which ended last week with some staggering results.

There was a lot of discussion in Walters’ column Auction Highlights #88 and many well thought out comments by people who take this hobby seriously and with a great deal of passionate, emotional connection to it.

I made a decision to sell my high-grade Amazing Spider-Man and to use ComicLink as my vehicle. I was a little hesitant but made the decision largely because the market is so hot, especially Spider-Man, as it is the grease that really seems to keep the wheels turning.

asm109Now my nervousness was as a result of my decision a few months back to sell two grail pages of Amazing Spider-Man, one a vintage splash from ASM #74 and the other the finished pencils of the cover for ASM#109. Now I loved these pieces and thought it would be a good bet to sell them now when the market and the dollar have been so strong.

I was wrong. They underperformed greatly at Heritage, and by no means was it because Heritage didn’t highlight it properly. They gave both pieces the full page treatment in their always impressive catalogue. That’s just the way it is sometimes in the collectable market. What was so aggravating was that you see some pieces over perform and not be nearly as rare or important as my pieces were and they fetched stupid money.

So after that experience I went back to ComicLink. Part of it was sour grapes , but mostly because of the Buyers Premium of 19.5% that Heritage charges. I am happy to say of the twelve books that were posted, all 9.6’s and 9.4’s really performed well, with 90% outperforming what I had hoped for.

Now why am I bringing this up? I know that anyone reading this column is more than likely very passionate about this hobby. Many of us either help subsidize our collecting habit by buying and selling or very seriously pursue the business aspect of this hobby and keep some of the best treasures we come across for retirement.

I have a great time searching for the next Grail Page, or the next investment grade key and will continue to do so, but the thing you have to remember is , it doesn’t always end up with the big win. You always hear about the big win, and very rarely hear about the loss. The loss does happen. I argued with myself about putting a reserve on the original art pages , and I know that instantly some of you will say…doh! I planned on it and unfortunately listened to the recommendation that when you post a reserve you really don’t help to create the bidding frenzy that happens in auction. I took that risk. Will I do it again ? Probably not, but it is a proven fact that no reserve auctions way outperform those with reserves.

One of the obvious trends that is happening in our hobby is the effect that Hollywood is having on prices. Speculators abound and again I would refer you to Walt’s last column, Auction Highlights #88. This has caused a lot of Bronze Age books to really escalate in value recently. Crazy money for books that are sure(?) to drop because of the likelihood that a lot of 9.6’s and 9.8’s will be heading down to CGC to get slabbed over the next few months.

I for one am kind of pleased about this. I am an admitted “Son of the Silver Age”, and that is where my childhood passion started and where it is felt most deeply, so it is a lot easier for me to buy and sell the Bronze Age keys than it is the Silver Age keys. So I have been scooping up a bunch of Bronze and Modern keys where the emotional connection isn’t in the way of sentimentality and logic.

So, I really just wanted to share that sometimes you win some, and sometimes you lose some, but in the end, it is better to have these treasures go through your hands than to never have held them at all.

Continued Happy Collecting!

Dennis De Pues
Dennis De Pues

Dennis is an admitted "Son of the Silver Age", having grown up with the influences of Silver Age greats: Kirby, Colan, Romita and Buscema.Three decades later, he is the creator of Crash!! and Galloway Park. More is definitely on the way.

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9 years ago

Thanks for sharing your auction results. The auction formats on the sites you mentioned are interesting and wonder how they impact sales. I agree the BP is a burden, but there are two other factors I think impact an item’s auction performance: saturation and timing. If a particular auction has many lots for a particular book or art of interest, that seems to keep prices lower (not saying low, but not at a frenzy level). Also, for Heritage, they fly through each item during the Live auction. You do not have time to think when the item is up for bid. Granted, the item was up for a week and you can watch upcoming items during the live auction, but if you did not prepare, it is not a friendly buyer platform. I have been debating on when to sell books and art too. Instead of an auction reserve, I am considering using “buy it now” with “make offer” options on several websites. Put the item up for 30 days and see what happens. Great way to test the market and see if people are interested. If the item does not sell, I at least have some info and use it for how to proceed (lower the price or try an auction). I worry about people overspending – movie spec or variant spec. I know the situation in the 90s crash was different, but it feels like we are one bad comic book movie away from a bubble pop.

9 years ago

as i have mentioned before, the comic book world is not a liquid market. you have to get while the getting is good. otherwise, you might end up with stuff that may take another decade or two to sell, or never.

Walter Durajlija
9 years ago

It really is the luck of the draw sometimes. We’ve all been left shaking our heads on both ends of the spectrum. A while ago I submitted an old Fox Golden Age comic that I had stickers at $800 CDN for a whole summer’s worth of Cons. I was hoping to net close to my cdn sticker price, it sold for $26oo US!. I put that Active Comics #8 up last auction with the Brain cover, yeah it was restored and low grade but based on what the Whites were getting I figured I was safely above $500 US, it sold for $198.

Nestor makes a point about liquidity. Well comics are very liquid, within a month you can have any book sold. The thing is the fluctuation. Heavily traded books will have a narrower window, you can bank on a Hulk 181 at 9.4 to a very narrow range. Same can’t be said for a page of original art or an obscure comic that is not heavily traded.

9 years ago

i’ve mentioned it before, but a market that has wide fluctuations and price swings or takes time to unload, is by definition not a liquid market. it’s not just comics. coins, art, real estate, toys, etc etc. none of these things are “liquid”.

liquidity implies a market that trades near constantly, has a very narrow range between buy/sell prices, and payment is settled immediately.

this is not to say books won’t sell fast. some will. some won’t. but if i need a month to sell something, or there are wild price points ( for example, the Big Book of All-American Comics can be had at half guide, or less, or more, who knows) then this is not liquid.

ArcRun - Mike Huddleston

Thank you for posting this Dennis. I know how tough it was for you to put up that ASM#109 and #74 splash page in to an auction in the first place, and to have a dissappointing sales result is double gut punch. You are doing the comic collecting community a service by highlighting the downside risk to any comic investment. Now go back and think happy thoughts – like finding a raw ASM #122 in 9.8 condition (or the bright side of the hobby!).

9 years ago
Reply to  Dennis De Pues

collectors have to be careful what they buy, why, and what they pay. especially if they are looking to profit from the purchase down the line. you’re right, it’s not all roses.