Collecting Comic Book Runs vs. Buying Key Books

by Jestin Davis
070921A-300x157 Collecting Comic Book Runs vs. Buying Key BooksShould new collectors focus their time, attention, and money on collecting comic book runs? Or should they laser focus on key books?

Key books are all the rage today. Nearly every dealer has their wall books proudly on display at shows and conventions. eBay sellers are busy putting out the latest hot key books. Believe it or not, many collectors used to collect full runs of their favorite characters and titles. The thrill of the hunt for that odd book was satisfying, especially when the book was finally found.1d198ce1b60092527668ddb8f71088c2-300x192 Collecting Comic Book Runs vs. Buying Key Books
Unlike key books, not all of those common-run books have a big price tag. In fact, many of the common books could be found in dollar bins (are those still a thing?).  This begs the question, should new collectors focus on accumulating full runs of their favorite title or character? Or should new collectors focus solely on buying up key books?
I actually set up as a dealer at a local show last weekend. While there, I observed that collectors bought key books off the wall I had set up. However, the majority of people coming through were rifling through the short boxes I had brought. I’m not sure if it was due to the lack of comic dealers at this show? (I would say less than 40% had comics, and the rest were split between toys and other collectibles.) Or is it a resurgence in run collecting? I will say that the increase in key book values does make it hard for new collectors to amass more than a few books when on a limited budget. Let’s take a look at the reasons a new collector would focus on collecting full runs and the reasons to focus on key books.

Why Collect Full Runs?

Again, my observation from the show was that the JLA and Batman books went quickly, as did the silver age Doctor Strange books that I bought. I say that to say, if you are collecting a full run for anything more than your personal collection (for investment purposes) you will want to focus on A-List characters. Spider-Man and Batman are good examples. If you are solely collecting a run because you love the character, look for deals and have fun!img-300x256 Collecting Comic Book Runs vs. Buying Key Books

If you are looking to collect and invest, you will want to stick with popular characters (over decades, not just the latest trend) because inevitably a portion of those books will house first appearances of villains or B list heroes that could increase in value in the future.

A great example is Amazing Spider-Man #129, the first appearance of the Punisher. If you were collecting a Spider-Man run back in the 1970s, you could have picked up this book on the cheap. Last month, a 9.8 sold on Heritage for $40,800. Take a deeper dive into the book’s sales history by clicking the title.

Obviously, the Punisher has taken on a life of his own and exploded in value, but those A-list characters in general are jumping off points for new heroes and villains that could pan out for you in the future.

Why Collect Keys?

keycomics_ft-300x165 Collecting Comic Book Runs vs. Buying Key BooksIf you focus on tried and true key books that have maintained and increased in value over the past few decades, you know exactly what you are getting. The chances of coming across those key books in a cheap bin are shrinking by the day. People can determine a comic’s value within minutes nowadays, so valuable books tend to get snapped up. Still, it means you will be able to easily find the key you are looking for.

The speculation comes into play when you are paying for a key book that already holds value, but may still have room to grow in the future. Be sure to reference GoCollect’s Price Guide to keep up with the latest FMVs. You will want to avoid the hot book of the week if you want to grow the value over time. When it comes to collecting keys, I would look for those out-of-vogue for the time being but should come back around in the future. Again focusing on A-list characters that have stood the test of time.

Both strategies have their own merits, just do your research, and at the end of the day, do what you love!

Are you a key collector or do you prefer to focus on collecting comic book runs? Let us know in the comments!

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Arkham July 10, 2021 - 7:34 pm

Nice article. I liked your final words: “at the end of the day, do what you love!”

That’s the absolute right advice. Collect what you love. As a long-term collector, I’ve changed focuses over the years but it’s always been books I love. Some collections I’ve sold. Some keys I’ve sold. But where I got on they hype wagon and picked up speculation books, the vast majority of those ended up just being a waste of money and valuable collection storage space… because they weren’t what I love.

The market has gone bonkers in the past 18 months. All keys/semi-keys have had hockey stick growth. But they’re not following the Richards curve… keys keep going up, pure speculation books are coming back down. If collectors new to the hobby are paying what they are comfortable to pay to own a book that means something to them, they’ll never regret the spend. Gamblers who gamble on a budget always have some regrets.

Jestin Davis July 11, 2021 - 8:40 am

Well said!

Steven E Larson July 10, 2021 - 8:14 pm



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