Hidden Comic Costs: Protect Your Investment

by Joseph Overaitis

083121C-300x157 Hidden Comic Costs: Protect Your InvestmentIn my last article, I wrote about how the comics you purchase can help you keep your costs down to increase your Return on Investment.  This article will focus on some costs you may not have even considered that could affect your bottom line. Let’s talk about hidden comic costs.

Basic Non-Book Costs

Bags, Boards, and Boxes (Oh my!!!)

Comic books are fragile collectibles. Bags, backer boards, and comic boxes protect comics from harm.  These defense costs are very minimal to most collectors, but they can add up in the long run.  The better your level of protection, the higher your expenses.  This, in return, lowers your ROI.CurrComicSleeves Hidden Comic Costs: Protect Your Investment

There are different types of comic book bags beyond the sizes.  These materials determine the protection level.  Polypropylene, polyethylene, or Mylar are the main types of comic book bags.  Polypropylene is the cheapest you can buy, but I argue it is the worst for protecting comic books.  On the other end of the spectrum is Mylar.  Libraries and governmental institutions require the highest level of protection for their documents.  They use Mylar to protect their documents.  These bags are the best for your collection but cost a lot more.

Tip #1

What the investor has to do is determine the right protection to maintain a healthy ROI when selling their books. I let the cost of the book and its long-term potential determine the protection I use.  Bags are the first line of defense. You must choose the right level of protection for each of your books.  Boards and boxes also can vary in price based upon the protection level provided.comic-boxes-300x225 Hidden Comic Costs: Protect Your Investment

Tip #2

Check your books annually.  Boxes deteriorate over time.  Stacking boxes is a problem.  Improperly sealed books can also start to smell like mildew because of moisture in the environment.  You may find signs of rodent damage. It is best if you catch the damage as soon as you can.

Get out the Microscope

A basic cost for many comic book investors is grading fees.  Grading takes away the mystery of the condition of the book.  A graded book is easier to sell than a non-graded book.  CGC, CBCS, and PGX charge money for their grading services.  The fees you pay vary based upon the company you use and the books you seek graded. Rarely is that fee factored into the cost of your books.  Do not make that mistake.

Tip #3 

Books that will get a lower grade or are non-keys should not be graded.  I have seen these books sell for less than the fee paid to have them graded. You have to be smart with what books you get graded.

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Advanced Costs

Burning Down the House

Insurance is a must for ALL collectors.  Homeowners insure their homes against loss.  What happens if your comic books are lost when you lose your house?

Many of our readers have collections that can exceed tens of thousands of dollars or more.  The out-of-pocket cost to replace those books may exceed the ability to replace these books for many if they have no insurance.

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 The most basic thing you can do is to get insurance on your books.  Prices have exploded for some books.  If you do not get these books re-appraised the insurance company will only pay you for the last appraisal.  Ultimate Fallout #4 in 2018 would cost you about $250 for a 9.8 and yet now that book has an FMV of $2,450 on August 30, 2021.

As your books rapidly increase in value or you add an expensive book, please get them re-appraised for insurance purposes. If you do not, you will get from your insurance company a check for $250.  Today that would only allow you to buy maybe a 6.5 copy!

Storage War Fees

Comic books take up space.  Space costs money.  I am amazed that an investor would never take into account storage space as a cost.  If you rent a storage unit then this cost is easily identified.  If you rent an apartment and need to add a room for your books you can again see that cost every month.  Homeowners seem to never add that cost as an expense because they take storage in their homes for granted.  That is, until a spouse or a child needs that space.504482be5e4380396b5c60b0263faa6a-225x300 Hidden Comic Costs: Protect Your Investment

Many investors and collectors will have their collections evolve as they do.  I once bought a collection from a store that I found out had belonged to another attorney.   He was downsizing his collection to a smaller number of older books.  Years later I ended up doing the same because space became much more valuable in my home.

Every collector should factor in their space as a cost because this can influence the books you choose to invest in.  A smaller collection takes up less space and, thus, is much easier to protect.  This will allow you to keep your storage costs down.

Tip #5

 Many collectors like to save costs for storage by placing their slabbed books on a wall.  The slabs do not protect the books from UV damage.  Even if a book is graded a 9.8,  a sun-damaged book will not see the returns a non-damaged book will obtain.  Sellers know this.  I have heard of one seller who would use a picture of a slabbed book and then deliver to people another slabbed book with sun damage.  He would argue that each book received the same grade so there was nothing wrong with this conduct.  Books with the same grade may have a different FMV, and sun damage is one reason for these differences.

Tip #6

Pallets may keep your books off the ground.  An inch may be the difference in a flood.  That small investment can sometimes save you in the long run.

Costs Even Ignored by Experts

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How much time have you spent reading this article? Time is money.  An attorney will bill for time to conduct research for a case.  A home builder needs to conduct prep work before they begin to build a house.  It is ironic that comic book investors rarely factor in the time they spend on buying, researching, and selling their books.  Many sellers factor in the cost of the booth at conventions or auction fees, but rarely do they add the time they spend working that booth or auction.  An employee may cost you $15 to work that booth but most investors are apparently willing to work for free. Do not be that person.

Tip #7

  The size of your collection can impact the time you invest in it.  If you do not want to factor in your time, you should downsize your collection slightly to offset this cost.

WARNING…

Recently on an internet comic book board, a hobbyist told of a store that invested very little time in their books.  They had a policy, though, that before you purchased a book as priced they reserved the right to review the book to see if the price should be adjusted.

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The owner did not want you to buy a hot book in the dollar bin for well below the FMV.  They eliminated the time expense for their workers so they wanted the buyers to do the work for them for free.  Sounds bad?  Well, that is what you are doing if you do not factor in your time in your costs.

The Other Costs

Many investors love going to their local comic store and find hidden gems in the dollar bins.  Others like buying books at comic cons.  This costs gas and the price of tickets.  I keep track of my incidentals to let me know how much a book truly cost.

I once was told by a fan that a comic con special he received cost him nothing.  He would receive only pure profit from the sale of the item.  The individual did not include in his costs the price of the plane ticket, hotel expense, and the price of that comic con ticket.  He still argued the exclusive was free. He did get a priceless experience, but that does not mean the exclusive was free.  Try to keep a list of your expenses with each book your purchase and sell.  You might be amazed at how little profit you are truly making on your books.download-2021-08-31T113639.146 Hidden Comic Costs: Protect Your Investment

Tip #8

Keeping track of your expenses can help you identify sources and methods to maximize your ROI.  Buying books in bulk has led many investors to find hidden gem keys and high-grade books.  They then flip the others quickly to keep their storage fees down.  Sometimes, the price that they bought the whole collection for is less than the selling price for the remaining books just days after their initial purchase.

Summary

Many costs are incurred in our hobby.  You must understand them to determine how your books are performing.  First, you must properly identify your costs.  Once you have identified these costs you can look at possible ways to reduce or eliminate them. A proper ROI analysis requires you to know these numbers.

Log and track your entire comic book collection. Follow the latest sales. Keep up with FMVs. Upgrade to GoCollect PRO!

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11 comments

octoberland September 1, 2021 - 12:32 pm

These are some great points! I try to mention them to people as well when they look at their collection. I cannot tell you how many times I hear a friend brag about a $200 sale…on a book he bought for $100 five years ago. That is another thing that is hard to navigate, but along with storage costs, length of ownership matters. Shipping and handling (time) also matters.

Also, TAXES! If you are aggressively selling you need to account for those. IF not you will be painfully surprised when the bill comes. I pull .30 of every dollar. I know that’s too much (real cost is the difference between what you have in the book and what it sold for) but I’d rather have more than not enough pulled aside.

I’ve built a (usable-but-not-great) spreadsheet to track books I sell and try to include all those elements. Not storage / time…not sure the formula…but original cost / pressing / slabbing / mailing to CGC / packaging / final price / selling fees / taxes. TBH it’s a bit of a bummer what books _actually_ earn! There are always big sales that make it worth it, but the day to day are more just to “keep the lights on” IMHO.

Great points and I hope other readers take them to heart.

– Craig Coffman

Reply
Joseph Overaitis September 2, 2021 - 3:37 pm

Craig

No one comes after you more than the IRS. Imagine a software system that could keep track of that made specifically for comics. Handling time is important and yet people seem to ignore it. I had a financial planner talk about a great ROI and then when you can show him all the costs and how much a comic book can make if done correctly it blows their mind. People think they are just comic books. Our readers know they are much more than that. Even collectors who never really “invest” will one day flip their own books to get even more books for their collections. They too know that our hobby is more sophisticated than what you saw on the Big Bang Theory.

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octoberland September 3, 2021 - 10:06 am

With you on that. My buddy for some reason did not pull money after selling over 12K a couple years back and was on the hook for nearly 4K! Yikes! I think it’s easier to just pull the funds aside and if I need them come tax time, awesome! If not, it’s like an early return for me to use.

– Craig Coffman

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John September 1, 2021 - 1:03 pm

Great article. Very informative and it gave me some things to think about!

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Joseph Overaitis September 2, 2021 - 3:33 pm

John

You keep posting and I will keep writing articles to think about. In all honesty though the topic of ROI; costs; and the like were because of posts on the comment sections from readers like you. One day I asked what people wanted to know and read about and that was one of the topics posted.

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James Black September 1, 2021 - 1:25 pm

If you really get down to invested cost, count every penny. I am an older collector. The bulk of my keys were bought on the comic rack new. When you have a book that you want to grade, you factor in what you stated above in regards to grading. ALSO, factor in cleaning and pressing. The shipping supplies, time in packing, time & fuel going to the shipper you use, shipping cost to your presser, his/her fee, his/her processing fee to ship to the preferred grading company, the grader’s processing fee, grader’s fee and finally grader’s shipping fee back to you.

My cost of getting a modern book cleaned, pressed and graded average $31-$37 each, depending on the quantity of books sent.

I see many collector’s that proudly display their graded books. That’s good if you choose to do so. Personally, I keep the graded shipment as it was packed at the grader. Sure, I take them out and look them over. Afterwards, they go back i the bags and then back in the box.You have already paid for the box and bags. Seal it back up and those books take up a minimum space. Displays, shelving, frames etc. are good if you want them. It just adds to your investment.

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Joseph Overaitis September 2, 2021 - 3:31 pm

James

I love how you keep track of the pressing and cleaning costs. I see many books sent to be pressed and clean that the person will see no returns from because the books has very little value compared to those costs.

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John Elder September 1, 2021 - 3:27 pm

Excellent article!

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Joseph Overaitis September 2, 2021 - 3:28 pm

John

Thank you. Great readers like those on these boards are the reason I keep writing. Our readers challenge us because of their knowledge to present to them well thought out and fact based articles.

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CapeFiction September 2, 2021 - 9:13 am

Lots of great information here! Thanks for posting!

Reply
Joseph Overaitis September 2, 2021 - 3:26 pm

capefiction

Thank you for nice comment. Keep on reading and I will keep posting.

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