That coveted 9.8 graded comic book looks great on display, but what about a 9.6 or lower? While the differences are minimal, are lower-grade comics worth investing in?
When it comes to collecting comic books, different strategies work for different collectors. If you are new to collecting, focus on what you enjoy and avoid paying inflated amounts for books that are currently hyped up. You can use tools like goCollect and others to see past sales history and gain a pretty good understanding on where that particular book is in it’s cycle. (Is it trending up, down, or has it hit an all time high?) Try to avoid all time highs for common books as well as modern books.
Investing vs. Collecting
Investing in comic books is a little bit different than simply collecting. Investors are looking to make a short-term (1-5 years) or long-term (5+ years) profit on their investment. Are you a collector and want to invest in a few books that you think have long-term investment potential? Then you have to factor in the grade of the book that you are purchasing. When it comes to comic books, and any collectible for that matter, condition and rarity are key. In fact, the term investment grade actually has a definition; the top 15% tier of a given collectible. So, what does this mean for comic books?
Investment Grade Comic Books
This term can mean different grades for different books, especially depending upon the era in which it was produced. Golden age comic books, for example, are extremely rare to find in a grade of 9.8 The most widely recognized and most valuable comic book in the world, Action Comics #1, has a high grade of 9.0. So, for this particular book a 6.5 or better (based on the CGC census data) would be considered investment grade. Having said that, a key like Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27 is worth having in nearly any grade because of the historical significance as well as the limited total number that actually exists. Investment-grade key books have proven to hold their value and appreciate over time. The same can not be said for more common books in grades that fall below that top 15% grade-wise.
Worth the grade?
When it comes to the silver age, the grades tend to be roughly the same if not a little higher to get into that investment-grade criteria. As an example, there are many more copies listed on the CGC census of Avengers #1, but to fit the investment grade criteria you would still be in the 6.5 or better grade range. Obviously, the golden age keys are worth much more, but that is due more to rarity coupled with the grade. Investment-grade doesn’t guarantee the book will rise in price. But if that particular key does rise in value, collectors will want to purchase it in an investment grade (top 15%) if possible. This makes them more sought-after and easier for you to sell if you choose to do so.
Modern age books almost always need to be a 9.8 in order to fit the investment grade criteria. New Mutants #98 is a good example in that a 9.8-grade accounts for 19% of all grades of that book. So, technically a 9.8 is an investment grade for New Mutants #98, but that census data also shows that there are quite a few of them out there.
To answer the initial question, YES! Lower grades are worth collecting and investing in, but it depends on the book itself. What is the rarity, what is the collectability, and what is the grade? If you are looking to put some money behind a key book, be sure you answer all of those questions before doing so.