Back Breaking Work

by Norman Robinson III

151611_54d5c8d25dcade32cc58ccbe7cc60e4af44b2221-192x300 Back Breaking WorkEvery society has a book of some kind for rules and ratings structure. This book gives clarity to a subject matter and allows everyone to be on the same page. That may be as simple as The Ten Commandments like “Honour thy father and thy mother;” or, as complex as the Code of Hammurabi, and boy were those Babylonians tough on criminal sentencing. In the comic book collecting world, we have our own “book” for answers and pricing: The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide 48th Edition by Gemstone Publishing is our comic bible. This “bible” on ephemera is potent, salient, and still relevant today. Oh I know, many websites have the jump on the latest price points. Despite all this, you need a foundation to build off, a bottom line or perhaps a book value. Can the Overstreet Guide have intrinsic value for comics, even an issue from the Modern Age?

The Guide

The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is wholly objective with very little subjectivity to cloud the pricing of tens of thousands of comics. The total inventory of books priced is staggering with Platinum, Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Ages all represented. The Overstreet Guide covers comic book “pricing from 1934 to the present” (Overstreet 48th Edition). They have established just six grades for comics. Essentially, the Guide is a very conservative book supporting only the grades the publishers feel they can honestly represent. Both CGC and CBCS  are less then 20 years old in the comic book industry.  I find the Overstreet approach refreshing and probably needed to anchor real price points. Is that (9.8) really so pristine that it obviously eclipses an Overstreet (9.2) near mint minus? Hmmm, makes ya wonder and that is the point. The book is baseline, most of the (9.4) thru (9.9) are hype and probably overpriced. Bottom line is The Overstreet Comic Book Guide is a conservative approach and a prudence limits risk and objectively appraises value.

Batman #497

One of the big events in DC Comics was the “Breaking of the Batman” in Batman #497. This was huge back in the day and was made a centerpiece of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises movie. In a nutshell: Bruce Wayne is utterly defeated by the steroid love child of Julius Bjornsson (World’s Strongest Man) and Igor from Young Frankenstein. In his victorious moment, Bane breaks Batman’s back like kindling for a campfire.  This is basically the storyline to Knightfall by DC, but its high point (or low, if you happen to be Bruce Wayne) is Batman having his back broken and becoming paraplegic. It made for one heckuva movie. Did the comic book fare as well?

Bane breaking Batman’s back is a major key and huge event for DC Comics in Batman #497.  It was created by Doug Moench (script) and Kelly Jones with Jim Aparo (art). This book was printed many times and has a second print as well. They printed a ton of these books in 1993. You used to be able to find them in the .50 cent bins, not anymore. The most recent sale of $50 for a (9.8) grade copy of Batman #497. Even a (9.0) goes for around $22 FMV with the last known sale in 2015 for $21. There have been 314 sales at (9.8) in the previous 18 years, and the result has been a negative return of -3.3%. This is probably skewed by the three Dark Knight movies, but I think a fair appraisal is the (9.6) ROI at positive +15.3%. Not as impressive as a back-breaking attack to be sure. Let’s see if the Overstreet Guide can get closer to the truth on this comic.

Overstreet Analysis

The Overstreet guide has Batman #497 at (9.0) price $10, and (9.2) at a price of $12. If we use the natural progression of plus two each grade, we wind up with a book value for (9.8) at $18. This would mean the current market price of Batman #497 is rough twice book value at $50 per GoCollect. Remember the Overstreet Guide is based on raw comics. If we add in another $35 for CGC grading, the price seems pretty reasonable, and weirdly matches the book. Now, this won’t always be the case, but the book supports the rationality of paying $50 for a mint copy. Also, the Overstreet Guide alerts us to a couple of particulars that are very important: First, it informs us of second prints and newsstand editions. Second, it has details like a black and white cover page missing or added. Finally, it notes the artist and writer and gives us a baseline price. Yes, there are other ways to find it but not with the same reliable track record as Overstreet.

The best course of action for any investor, collector, or speculator is to use “every weapon at your disposal” (Miyamoto Mushasi: Book of Five Rings). That means, learn about the Overstreet Comic Book Guide 48th Edition, use GoCollect’s website, and read the speculation blog.

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