There is a question a lot of collectors and investors ask. Do you have to buy key comics? It can be easy to answer ‘yes’ very quickly, but seasoned collectors pursue non-keys. Why?
Comic book collectors are a weird bunch, kind of like assorted sour skittles. You never know when they might make you pucker up or even outright grimace. However, in my experience, there is a level of serious collector below the surface of the day-to-day speculative frenzy. This silent group mines away at a future value like dwarves in the Mines of Moria, not caring one-wit who they disturb.
This group, I choose to call them pinnacle collectors, simply avoid the limelight and hoopla of big keys and pursue value and, more importantly, quality above all else. They often have large personal collections. These collections have made them some of the most knowledgeable investors in ephemera.
Pinnacle collectors have taken our current comic craze to a comic obsession. Why do these knowledgeable collectors pursue non-keys? What are the traits of a non-key book they might absorb into their collection? Are “their” lessons to be learned by the wider comic book investment community?
What is the Pinnacle Collector?
These types of collectors are often decades in the making. They tend to have a true love for comics and dabble in speculation more out of the fun than any serious need for wealth. Many that I have run across have large collections that allow them a whimsical attitude about the market. That said, there are characteristics common to these “pinnacle collectors” that might help us determine their motivation and learn from their success. First, there are three attributes that they all possess: the keenest of eyes for detail, an appreciation for quality art, and a horizon for investing that would make Warren Buffet pause.
What exactly are they buying?
Put simply, these audacious collectors are buying everything you are not! Yep, now the next question out of your trembling speculative lips can only be, “Why?” The answer is multifaceted and as varied as the people collecting. However, there are elements that we as normal collectors, investors, and speculators can learn from. All of these pinnacle people purchase profoundly profitable printed comics. Whew! That alliteration would have given Stan Lee a run for his money. But seriously, what are uber-collectors buying? Further, what criteria do they use?
Pinnacle Practices or “If I fight; I win.”
- They buy comic books with masterful comic art, the iconic stuff that is almost timeless. For instance, like Mike Kaluta’s Shadow from the 70s’ (see below).
- Quality over keys- This group of collectors buys extremely high-quality comics. This is usually around 9.4 grade or better and raw.
- They often buy entire runs; say all of Web of Spider-Man. This gives them access to untold large runs of comics that are relatively untouched as key hunters jump past them in the bins. Hence they all tend to be in the near-mint range as no one wants them.
- These collectors are very long-term investors. They move collections over decades and even through generational wealth transfer.
- When they do play the “key game” they play to win, or in the words of Confucious, “If I fight; I win.”
- Pinnacles only play on the key books years in advance. When you mow through your LCS dollar bin, they are the silent ones, quietly picking up discards.
- Finally, they truly enjoy what they are doing and can often be found working at the intersection of our little hobbies in full-time careers inside the comic book community.
I picked this comic as a perfect example of a solid Bronze Age non-key that could definitely be a book in a sophisticated collectors vault. Now some might argue that this is a Mike Kaluta cover and therefore already a key. But that aside, this book will provide the criteria we need to understand why these pinnacle folks pick these books up years in advance.
Batman #253 has elements we can use to understand a pinnacle perspective. First, the book has zero defects, is in very high grade, and here is the best part; even today it sells for about $25 raw on eBay in a higher grade. Let’s take a look at the results of three high grades and the values that accompany them.
|Title||Grade||Last Sale||CGC Census||Return|
The results truly speak for themselves. Our pinnacle collectors would have made a small-time killing on these books. Paying even $50 for near mint to mint in raw then getting it CGC’d and selling it for $950 profit.
In addition, take a look at the CGC Census. Only 7 comic books in 9.8; yeah, that is rare in my book. The same goes for the other grades; the pinnacle collectors are literally cornering the future market. Two things stand out here: one, the profit potential is huge, and two, the loss potential is almost negligible. Do you remember my earlier skittle analogy? Now is time to pucker up and learn from this pinnacle of success! Do you have to buy key comics? I think the answer is pretty clear.