Comic books are considered alternative investments by financial planners. Even if collectors want to classify their interest in the hobby as something else, it does not matter. The IRS does not care if someone says they are a collector because in the end, comic books are investments. In addition, comic books are transacted in an open market. As a result, once a person looks at comic books as investments, then it is very apparent we are in a comic book bear market. That identification is very important to investors and collectors.
Bears vs Bulls
Investment markets and assets generally move up and down. A period of market movement in one direction is classified as a bear or bull market based on the trajectory of that market. A bull market is when securities and investments rise in value. This rise in value causes investors to believe the course of the market will continue its upward trajectory. There is a euphoria and people get greedy because there is money to be made and everyone is making it. Investors are more likely to buy in this market.
In bear markets, there is a downward trend in investments. Prices fall and the general belief is that the bottom is not within sight. Fear starts to permeate the market because most investments are losing their value. People panic and start to sell out of fear that the asset will have little to no value. As a result, prices will continue to drop based on investors’ perceptions. Fears soon become reality and the market keeps going downward. Investors start to sell much more frequently in a bear market.
Differing Investment Strategies
In a bull market, investors may be able to afford more of a risk because of the explosive returns one can see. Investors do not want to put resources in safe choices when most investments are seeing great returns. The chance of seeing a larger return on investment (ROI) allows for risk because one correct choice could offset many bad ones. The bad choices are hard to make because almost everything is performing in a bull market.
In contrast, investors in bear markets choose safer investments. The key is to preserve capital to guard against losses when everything is losing value. ROI is not as important when assets are plummeting in value. Even sound assets may lose value. Surviving until the market rebounds is now the goal. Readers should now begin to see similarities between standard investments and comic books and how this impacts both investors and collectors alike.
Comic Book’s Bull Market
The comic book marketplace had all the trends of a typical bull market. Prices rose every day as new all-time highs were hit. Variants and speculative picks were all producing because people were chasing the next hot book. The fear of missing out and greed fed the market. Some misses were acceptable because even those losses were not that great. Market participants also realized books that hit would more than make up for those potential losses. Everything was “hot” and a “can’t miss” because buyers were spending on everything. Demand was never-ending.
Teen Titans #12 had the first appearance of the Batman who Laughs. This book had a sale of $675 for a 9.8 copy on 7/9/20 and yet now the FMV for that very same copy is $453 at the time this article was written. Books like this were viewed as more than speculative picks. In the bull market, books like this were praised as “the next…”. Every week, new characters and hot artist variants were dropped to feed the hungry mass’s appetite for that next hot book.
Investors were buying books like this and selling them for a profit. Any and every book was viewed as a sure thing. Online people were downplaying that books could EVER go down. Comic book market naysayers were scoffed at because times were good. There was no such thing as overpaying for a book because prices rose and there was no end in sight. How could the sky be falling when everything was rising in value?
Enter the Bear
Key Differences in Markets
Comic book investors/collectors cannot ignore the economy. Local comic book stores and vendors may have this as a business, but their customers spend mostly discretionary income to buy their goods. People were flush with cash because of the pandemic. Money not spent on work or going out to eat was allocated to comics. Then the world economy took a hit.
Prices on staples and necessary items increased. Less money was being spent on books as budgets were constricted. Demand declined. Books fell in value. Everyone could see it, thus it is now hard to deny. The market evolved and the resulting data mimicked most conventional investments during a bear market.
In a bear market, less-risky investments are sought. Buyers are also looking for a good deal. Facebook stock may decline in value but buyers may still purchase that stock. Snap Inc. is a niche social media company that, as a result, is more vulnerable. Buyers may want to still invest in social media stock, but may not be as interested in taking a risk on it. The comic book market is no different. GoCollect provides readers a snapshot of those markets to see what books are being moved.
The Copper Age is a nice age to analyze market trends because that segment is the oldest age that has some affordable iconic books while still having room for cheap speculative books. Trends occur more quickly and yet are more sustaining than in other ages for desirable books. For example, Transformers #1 is a comic that is highly sought after by buyers but still is within their reach. This book has dropped in value but not to the degree of other books. The reason is it has a track record and built-in cache as a key book. In summation, it has less risk.
The only real speculative books during a recent review of the Top 100 moving Copper Age books were (#82) Star Wars: Heir to the Empire #1 and (#95) Toxic Avenger #1. Both these books were more speculative that the other books on the list because they had less of a track record. Toxic Avenger #1 was losing almost half its value in some grades because it was truly the more speculative of the two books, but even Heir to the Empire was losing money. Buyers avoid risk in bear markets. The Copper Age sales data was showing people wanted to avoid risks.
Buyers, Don’t Give Up!
Bear markets offer great opportunities for comic book investors and collectors. Prices are dropping because of decreasing demand. The key then is to do what typical investors do during this time and buy with safety in mind. Risk avoidance is the key. That does not mean all risk is or should be eliminated. There will be risks that the market has not hit the bottom for some key books. Those risks may eliminate some from making moves in the market, but that is not wise. There are opportunities out there.
Iconic Yet Undervalued
Iron Man #1 is a key book that is not being impacted by MCU news. In September 2021 a 9.4 copy on eBay sold for $6000. Recently a 9.4 sold on ComicConnect for $4300. That is a great buy. This book should appreciate in the long term.
The key is that some buyers can afford to purchase a book and hold it for when the market hopefully rebounds. These individuals can play the long game.
Daredevil books are historically undervalued. Daredevil #1 was the most undervalued and unappreciated of all the Silver Age Marvel first-appearance comics. This was in spite of the character appearing on film, tv shows, and cartoons.
Another book in that run that is undervalued is Daredevil #2. This book features the 2nd appearance of both Daredevil and Electro. The one-year average for a 9.4 copy was $11,250 at the time this article was written, but today (10/29/22) it has an FMV of only $6,500! That is a very serious drop for a key book of this stature. In a bear market, deals can be found.
Buyers Must Identify Collectors from Dealers
In a bear market, companies still have to run their day-to-day business. A bear market impacts the value of the business but that doesn’t mean day-to-day operations cease. The fact that Apple stock is down does not mean people stopped buying Apple products. This is a significant point that is lost on many comic book retailers. Retailers want to avoid this truth because they too realize the existence of the comic book bear market and what it means for their inventory.
Business is Business
Many retailers are holding firm on the prices of books that were once worth a lot more. They believe these issues will eventually rebound. These retailers are hoping that others will buy their less valuable books at possibly a slight discount to allow them to hold onto their more valuable inventory. Retailers view selling those higher-end books now as a bad business process. That is a misguided way of thinking. Why would a buyer want to buy bad books that the seller would not buy?
Retailers are there to move product as a business to make money. If they are waiting to see the value return to an issue they have become investors and/or collectors. Sellers like this may not sell books for the fair market value. The prices of most books are going down, so unless that book is rare or a pedigree copy, the chances to find another copy at a better price are good. Don’t buy from a dealer whose mindset is that of a collector or investor. Collectors and investors do not have to pay for a retailer’s mistake, as they would not pay for the buyer’s mistakes.
Study the Data and Be like a Bear
Be the Bear
Bears survive the winter by minimizing their energy while attempting to fatten up for the winter. Safe choices are made to avoid risks that could spell their demise. Rather than chasing prey and wasting energy, bears stock up on food readily available and that does not require a great expenditure of energy. Why chase a deer when a nice salmon will jump into open jaws? Bears know that, like in Game of Thrones, winter is coming. Bad decisions do not end well during tough times.
Study your Environment
The GoCollect data team and journalists bring data to the readers. This unique format, which is not present with many other sites, provides a total view of the market. The provided information is important to collectors, investors, and retailers. Retailers do not want to hold stock. They would much rather move books. That is why, at many shows, retailers are dealing among themselves to acquire inventory that will move in their area or to their specific clientele. Retailers study the data. That data is available to collectors and investors. A knowledgeable collector and investor will know when to double down on a book and when to run away by reading the room like a seasoned poker pro.
So Now What?
Now is a great time to obtain books in this bear market. The key is to buy smart and avoid risks. Collectors should target books that they want that were beyond their price point before the market went down. These books might rebound and once again be beyond the reach of collectors. Investors should look for deals of distressed comics that are keys. Finally, investors should avoid risks because it may take a lot longer, if ever, for those choices to pay off. Play it smart to survive the winter of this comic book bear market.
“Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy only when others are fearful.”