Comic Collecting Strategies for a Hot Market

by Daniel Hatch

Hot-Market-300x157 Comic Collecting Strategies for a Hot MarketHave you been priced out of keys? Daunted by the price appreciation of your buy list? Don’t get discouraged. And don’t overreach. Shift your focus, stay calm and enjoy hunting for books using comic collecting strategies like these.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

If you have been at it for a few years, the prices realized for existing (and an ever-expanding list of new) keys are breathtaking. Hopefully, you have a few books in your collection that have appreciated nicely over the past year. But along with the excitement of watching your collection grow in value is the realization that it might not be growing in numbers any time soon as the big books move farther and farther away from what most of us can afford.

Fear not, I have a couple of ideas that will keep you in the game and also keep your bank account out of the red. Let’s take a look.

Behold, the Benevolence of the Birthday Book

spidey70-203x300 Comic Collecting Strategies for a Hot MarketThat was my best Stan Lee intro. My first suggestion is birthday books. I have been adding comics published in the month I was born since I first heard this mentioned in the comments on a now-forgotten YouTube video. For me, that means books with the published date of March 1969 (roughly a hundred years ago). Now, I do understand that any comic published for March of that year most certainly hit the shelves at least six or eight weeks before that, but we need to start somewhere.

adams385-198x300 Comic Collecting Strategies for a Hot MarketI am fortunate in that there are several early, beautiful Neal Adams covers for that month. There is also the iconic John Romita cover for Amazing Spider-Man #70. But there are all kinds of treasures to be discovered. Herb Trimpe and Dan Adkins cover featuring the Sandman for The Incredible Hulk #113, for example. I was surprised by the quality of the story (the Neal Adams cover speaks for itself) in Detective Comics #385. But there is so much more. How about the fantastic peace symbol cover for SGT Fury and His Howling Commandos #64?

You get the idea. Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the stories and art from your birth month as well.

Villain Appearances (other than the first)

ff36-198x300 Comic Collecting Strategies for a Hot MarketThat Sandman cover I mentioned earlier got me thinking about another approach to collecting. We all know Sandman got his start in Amazing Spider-Man #4, but he has appeared in numerous Spidey stories and titles since. The aforementioned Hulk #113 (and #114 too) of course, along with Marvel Team-Up, Fantastic Four, House of M, and even Wonder Man #1 and many, many others. Even just picking up his Silver Age appearances yields some nice Fantastic Four issues. Check out Fantastic Four #36. Silver Age, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on the credits, first appearance of the Frightful Four (Sandman is a member), and Medusa. While not dollar bin material, it does not break the bank time either. That’s just one example from the dozens of characters out there that we could focus on.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Scarecrow looms large in Batman’s immediate future, I plan on taking a hard look at his appearances in stories since Batman #189. I anticipate finding some collectible gems that will bring some joy to my collection without interfering with my family’s long-term financial goals.

There are a lot of ways to keep that passion burning, even when your larger goals are momentarily out of reach. Good luck out there!

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octoberland February 22, 2021 - 3:36 pm

I’m in this camp. I bid aggressively, but what I consider smartly. If I want something, I research prices and then go just above. I’m okay being ‘the new high’ on a book if it means I land what I want. However, in this market I cannot even figure it out. I’ve lost every single auction of note since June 2020. And not even close. Hypothetical: TheBook is worth $100. I’ll bid $120 as a max. TheBook sells at $250. What? Perhaps we are seeing a price correction as some of these books are undervalued. That said, they are not worth 2.5 times immediately. That’s bananas!

I’m with you on the birthday / special occasion book. At that point it’s a gift. But for investing / speculating rn I’m a seller. Even if these prices become the new norm and I cannot reacquire at a lower price down the road, my spec / investment books are doing what I bought them to do and I’m okay with that!

– Craig Coffman

Daniel Hatch February 22, 2021 - 5:19 pm

Hi Craig, thanks for your comment and that is illuminating. I completely agree that when things seem bananas, I would rather sell. Thanks again for sharing your experience!

Dave February 23, 2021 - 12:36 pm

Prices won’t be retracing. I believe we are seeing the ramifications of everyone’s 401k and retail investors moving thier money around. If this stimulus gets passed prices are going even higher. If the minimum wage goes up as well then we are literally seeing the american dollar turn into a 10cent piece.

Daniel Hatch February 23, 2021 - 2:07 pm

Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. I agree that prices are up because those that are doing well are doing really well (stocks and real estate and assets in general). I worked in margin and risk in the brokerage industry for a long time and things can turn around in a hurry. The same forces that propel prices higher can work in reverse. But even if they don’t, there are usually long periods of consolidation where prices cease to advance and tend to move sideways, sometimes for years. If you are comfortable chasing the books you want as they spiral upward, by all means, go for it. But that’s not me. In the meantime, while I continue to plug away at improving my own personal finances, these strategies keep me in the game, enjoying the hobby without overextending myself.

SteveC February 25, 2021 - 5:56 am

Personally I buy comics to read them. Most of the valuable books out there very often contain less than good stories. While everyone is focused on the next big hype book (mostly Marvel 1st appearances) I’m buying all Alan Moore’s ABC books and completing my 2000 AD run. I also have near-complete libraries of Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Abnett/Lanning, Joe Casey, and Peter Milligan’s comic work in single issues. Somewhere along the line comic collectors switched from enjoying complete stories to having collections of slabbed books that cannot be read. That being said, I always dreamed of owning a House of Secrets #92 and a Giant Size X-men #1 one day, but I’m struggling to justify their high prices. Sure, I can save a few months and buy one of each, but I’d rather go touring Europe for a month or renovate my house. But that’s just me.

Daniel Hatch February 25, 2021 - 3:10 pm

Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. It’s great that you have put together some fantastic runs. I try to do that myself with a few characters and titles and even creators. In my mind there is no, “wrong way” to collect. My hat is off to you for being able to avoid the “spec fever” that gets most of us to one extant or another. I enjoy that part of the hobby as well, but I try to be disciplined and I use it to fund my collection.

octoberland February 25, 2021 - 3:40 pm

Steve –

I follow some of your ideas myself. I have two different categories for speculation and collection. Spec books I get the best I can (raw and graded) and then they get moved once they yield a return. I do not chase books and try to catch what I can before news breaks. Making sure I am speculating on (ideally) informed characters come from my collection. That is, books I’ve read or at least researched. I definitely do not own them all!

My collection sparking my speculation is a different beast. I collect what I like and if they somehow go up in price (Haywire or Martial Law optioned yet?) then bonus! I am definitely with you in that my collection is things I just love. Either new or nostalgic. Two minds are different for each approach.

The issue for me is some of the things I want to add to my collection are just too dang priced up. Forget about it on the spec side which is on total fire ATM!

– Craig Coffman


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