Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse Nostalgia

by Matt Kennedy

031822A-1024x536 Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse NostalgiaGas prices through the roof. A Russian invasion halfway round the world. Gary Numan on tour. It’s either 1979 all over again, or we are on the brink of Cold War nostalgia –the kind that spawned Mad Max and other tales of the Post-Apocalypse.

Inflation Is Real

Uncanny-X-Men-141-195x300 Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse NostalgiaThe parallels between the late 1970s and the early 2020s are undeniable. The recession caused by Covid may be almost over but it has spawned inflation in its wake. We saw the first signs of inflation back in 2020 when the cost of toilet paper went through the roof as supply chains bottle-necked and grocery store shelves became barren.

Two years later there are still supply-chain issues, but necessities have become more abundant and more affordable as luxury items have sharply increased in price. The Six Dollar Burger at Carls Jr may have only set you back $3.99 in 2002, but now their average burger meal set costs about $20. Likewise, that Uncanny X-Men #141 you could get in a 9.8 back in 2002 for $190 will now cost you north of $1,200.

The Days of Future Past story that started in that issue is still considered one of the all-time great (and most consequential) storylines in all of comicdom, but it didn’t develop out of thin air. By the time that Claremont/Byrne classic hit newsstands in January 1981, the Post-Apocalyptic wasteland motif was already building-up steam on the back of a modestly-budgeted Australian action film with a sci-fi bent called Mad Max.

It’s Always an Oil Economy

Star-Wars-41-196x300 Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse NostalgiaThe gas apocalypse that Mad Max predicted in 1979 (and really drove home with The Road Warrior in 1982), was spawned by the oil crisis of 1973 and 1979.  Prices hit their peak in 1980 at over US$35 per barrel (US$110 in today’s dollars), just as a dubbed Mel Gibson was hitting American movie theaters in his breakout role.

Collectors of a certain age will recall the long lines at the gas pumps and the (then) unheard of price of $1.19 per gallon (US$4.06 in today’s dollars) which gave way to the explosion in sales of Japanese economy cars from Toyota, Honda, and Datsun –initiating the slow death of Detroit and the muscle cars that were so celebrated in the films of George Miller.

To give context, the current average price per gallon for mid-grade gasoline in California is just under $6.00 and peaking at almost $8.00 in some parts of San Francisco and Los Angeles. With the Cold War heating up in Europe, and cultural touchstone like Luke Skywalker and (baby) Yoda, experiencing a resurgence of sorts, we can learn from the past to make smarter investments in collectibles today.

Lesson number one: take advantage of slumping prices to Buy in the Dip

While the unpopularity of The Book of Boba Fett has driven down prices on Star Wars #42, everybody still loves Yoda and his first full comic book appearance is also in that issue (after an in-the-shadows cameo in Star Wars #41). He’s bound to appear in Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ and that will drive the price back up on this as well as Marvel Super Special #16, which is the undisputed first appearance of ALL the characters introduced in The Empire Strikes Back.

The World Isn’t Ending, and We’re Not in a Bubble

Hot books are always changing and so it’s not unusual to see prices spike, correct, and then rise again. Some big money books have slipped a bit in recent weeks, but other books have continued to replace them. At this moment in time the on-screen fate of a character has much more consequence than their published history, so bear in mind that many of the villains being announced (and probably quite a few heroes) will have no lasting on-screen contribution and it might be smart to steer clear from the announcement hype.

While many collectors are seemingly liquidating keys for characters whose MCU entry seems still far-off, this creates a lot of opportunity for a patient collector. Any Silver Age or Bronze Age key that took a tumble recently is probably a smart investment now.  While risky, it’s generally better to buy on the rumor and sell on the news. Right now, a lot of collectors who bought on the rumor are selling before the news, which passes more potential value onto whoever picks these books up now and puts them away for a while.

Lesson number two: any character that can launch a franchise and whose presence is a necessity to the longevity of that franchise is a good investment.Harbinger-1-195x300 Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse Nostalgia

This may even be true for Bloodshot, a character who may well survive the disappointing film that failed to launch him. So many people got rid of their Rai #0 after the film flopped, not stopping to think that Paramount is probably way too invested in making their Valiant Universe succeed for that to be the final word.

Harbinger is confirmed to be on the way, and we can probably expect a Bloodshot cameo in that, but we know that characters introduced in Harbinger #1 and Harbinger #2 are guaranteed to be in that film. Remember that Hannibal Lechter, the horror icon that won Anthony Hopkins his first Oscar in Silence of the Lambs was first portrayed by Brian Cox as a minor character in the film Manhunter.

Whether we get another Vin Diesel version of Bloodshot or a complete recast, the character is pretty damn cool and under the right circumstance, with the right script could be awesome. You can pick up two of the key issues mentioned in this paragraph for under $100 in 9.8 right now –but for how much longer?

Speaking of Franchises

Mad_Max_Fury_Road_Furiosa_Vol_1_1-195x300 Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse NostalgiaMad Max: Fury Road has a sequel in production right now, and it’s a prequel built around the origin of Imperator Furiosa. While the titular Max has roots that go back to the 1979 film, the very first Mad Max comic book was Mad Max: Fury Road Nux & Immortan Joe #1 published in May of 2015. Former cop, Max Rockatansky, is but a minor character in this prelude to the film series reboot and wouldn’t get his own comic until two months later with Mad Max: Fury Road – Max #1.

Perhaps because of this confusion (and because it can be argued that he’s not the hero of the movie that bears his name), prices are low on both comics. Each can be had for under $100 in 9.8, and even the rarest variant is only a few dollars more. Furiosa’s first appearance is in Mad Max: Fury Road Furiosa #1, and that is probably the pick of the litter.

Since it’s she and not Max that will be taking over the future of the franchise, this undisputed first appearance is an absolute steal with eBay prices hovering between $60 and $200. And with Anya Taylor-Joy taking over the origin-story role for the character first brought to life by Charlize Theron, we are poised for possibly the best entry in the Maxiverse. Whether you liked or hated the New Mutants movie, odds are that you loved Anna’s performance as Magick.

The Way, Way Back

Kamandi-1-203x300 Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse NostalgiaNo discussion of the Post-Apocalypse can be complete without discussing Planet of the Apes or Kamandi. It can be argued that the former was the film that really kicked off the Post-Apocalypse genre, but since the subsequent films in that series were more about the apes than the humans, it’s kind of a thing unto itself.

The first sequential adaptation was actually a manga published in Japan, but the first US comic book was the Gold Key adaptation of the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes #1. Like most Gold Key comics it is rather undervalued, and the highest-graded copy is a 9.6 which last sold in 2018 for under $500. I would expect one now to be around $1,500, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an investment as much as the Planet of the Apes #1 published by Marvel under the Curtis Magazine imprint.

Bronze Age Marvel Magazines are notoriously hard to find in high grade and are becoming quite collectible. The first six issues adapt the first movie but like the Marvel Star Wars comics would also tell original stories. The stated FMV of $675 for a 9.8 seems out of step with recent sales which range $779 – $1110, but I wouldn’t consider this necessarily investment-worthy either. If the Matthew Vaughn film series (which was excellent) couldn’t drive these prices up I don’t see the pending kid-friendly reboot doing it either.

Lesson number three: always bet on Kirby.

So I’d have to put my money on Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth #1. While developed as a consolation prize for not getting the rights to Planet of the Apes, it’s classic Kirby, through-and-through. The Wednesday Comics serial written by Dave Gibbons and illustrated by Ryan Sook and Kamandi Challenge (which gathered stories from 12 artists and 12 writers, including Tom King & Kevin Eastman) showcased how interesting this character could be in the right hands. The FMV on his first appearance in 9.8 is under $1000, which is pretty much in-step with any early Bronze Age DC first issues.  Whether or not this gets rebooted, it’s an excellent comic from Kirby’s last great creative output and the cover of that first issue is as classic as they get.

What parallels do you see between now and eras past?  Please comment below and be sure to like this post if you do!

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Signup_Footer Invest in the Recession: Mad Max & Post-Apocalypse Nostalgia*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not reflect advice on behalf of GoCollect

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11 comments

Richard Jackman March 21, 2022 - 1:42 pm

Ummm, “The recession caused by Covid”, if one is to recognize it, was a micro-recession which ended in the 3rd qtr of 2020. That said, we may actual experience a real recession in here in 2022 or 2023. So I will look to buy dips then.

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Matt Kennedy March 22, 2022 - 3:06 pm

Thanks for your comment, Richard. I agree, hence the pivot to the term “inflation” rather than “recession” in the second paragraph, but since this column is read globally I wanted to recognize that there are countries still trapped in recessions. I think it is certainly possible that we could see a recession next year in the US, but most economists don’t expect one before 2024 –as historically they are either organic or engineered in the lead-up to an election cycle.

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Jay Pele March 21, 2022 - 3:34 pm

In 2020 I was paying $1.80 per gallon for gas, now it’s $5.09. This country has taken a wrong turn.

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Matt Kennedy March 22, 2022 - 3:02 pm

OPEC sets gas and oil prices, not the US government, but I acknowledge the frustration. Now let’s pivot back to comics (and not turn this thread into a political discussion).

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Jay Pele April 6, 2022 - 8:52 am

Wrong. It’s a commodity and the MARKET sets the price, but if we pumped more oil here we would counter issues with limited availability, decreasing price. It’s simple simply vs demand, and the gov’t limiting supply by shutting down pipelines, banning offshore extraction, and offering useless leases makes everything worse.

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SEAN R LEVINE March 21, 2022 - 7:50 pm

*Anya

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Matt Kennedy March 22, 2022 - 3:00 pm

Thanks, Sean – autocorrect has rarely been my friend. Fixed!

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GQGuyforComics March 22, 2022 - 5:06 am

the thing about the dip is …. if the comic boom was such a phenomenon of which movies, new titles and TV series being done and rights being bought … im sure your not taking away the factor that people have subsidy getting in their pockets and now thats it dried up , your claiming that this dip is just a spur of the moment but the question is it brought by what ? if you look at rumors and news or even gossip , people claim they can now afford to pay stuff or go on vacation etc due to the money made through selling of comic books be it manipulation or for the fact that people just cant shake off from FOMO … given those who used subsidy money are taken out of the picture since it dried up and i dont know how you feel using your own money to drive and speculate your gamble to make money in this time. how many are really playing the stakes here , compare to collectors and hobbyist. lets take it and give credit to this phenomenon that a lot of people have taken out their collections to sell and a lot got their books graded and its in the market but really your saying the dip is largely cause by oil prices? when for how many years economy are plummeting and even nations are bankrupt cause if its not why should govt just give out money to sustain your livelihood. , im not just waiting for the dip to buy , im waiting for this thing to collapse like a movie getting into the finale still i hope and pls prove me wrong i want to be wrong

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Matt Kennedy March 22, 2022 - 2:59 pm

Thanks for reading and for contributing to the conversation.

I think the government checks were a factor when they first arrived. That’s when there was a massive shortage of available goods and services and so people sort-of navel-gazed back to their formative years and sought collectibles. In that respect we should never underestimate the power of nostalgia as a “joy delivery service.” But subsequent subsidies were not much of a factor in the exploding collectibles-as-investments market. An important factor here is that people who used that subsidy cash didn’t leave the hobby. They’re still here. While there may be no more forthcoming government checks (beyond tax returns), those people are back to work now and they are hooked on comics and cards and games and other condition-graded merchandise and they are spending earned money on the stuff that makes them happy. While a lot of the country has opened up, people haven’t rushed back to lavish vacations, so a lot of expendable income is still available for collecting.

Also very important to know is that the economy (writ large) is a thing that impacts us all. So if or when a collapse happens, unless you are independently wealthy –and I mean CASH rich, you are unlikely to be able to take advantage of the declining prices because you, too, will be subject to Economic hardship. Looking at where interest rates are now and where they are likely to go, some people are selling right now to buy property. I did that, myself. But I most certainly didn’t divest of everything I own and I even bought another collection hot on the heels of selling one. I am still buying some comics as I sell others. I look for undervalued comics and I write about them.

I do believe that the dip we are seeing now is not an across-the-board dip, and so the rising prices at the gas pump contribute to (but are not solely responsible for) the majority of stagnation in the auction and sales market. That said, I primarily used the current gas price as a parallel to the late seventies and what that caused in the zeitgeist; not as a scapegoat for the state of the market.

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GQGuyforComics March 23, 2022 - 10:12 pm

hey matt, much respect for you since your still buying and not just selling in this times. which brought me to my next question how many of the so called great comic collectors especially those in social media are actually buying more than selling in this times. you made interesting and awesome facts but we cant take away in this case those who could have manipulated the market and also (sorry) those who jump in the comic market to make a quick buck. just like a booming market being the simplest example is the stock market , when people everywhere , the tv , news, are telling you the market wont crash its doing good , your going to make money by this much at how the market is going …. people wont jump in ?
how many actually use their own money ? how many did actually use their cash reserves , how many did actually just use their subsidy money , but in every nostalgia brought about the chance to have free money did anyone use money they dont have since you know every month you get subsidy and you use credit cards to make purchases to get a collection or make money which here is quick money in hopes after a few weeks or months … you get it all back with profit.
we are at the information age and social media like IG twitter, Facebook , etc you name it people are talking , lets state the fact its been how long and the comic prices are still up and it make sense people to come in. but what happens when the money stops ? even if you have cash your telling me you would decide to buy numbers of comic books and wait till in few weeks or months expecting it to increase increase 50-100% 200 % 300% …. likes what happening right now? when the normal cycle for a comic book is just how many % and account to years to see significant increase in value.
im not slinging mud on a hobby i love, but you take away the manipulators take away those wanna earn quick buck , do you really think the actual comic community can sustain whats coming? expecting and paying for another 50%-1000% increase . lets wait for the 90% of those books who got graded due to the comic boom comes out and see what happens , raw books are getting out there at crazy prices , i wont say the comic market wont be healthy especially golden age books and silver age books to go to certain prices and it will since its so rare especially on a high grade but compare or apply the situation to modern age books and late bronze books who has so much prints and variants etc.
i dont get the fact that if someone who is already so diverse in the comic market , would behave as the same as those who are just new or be suck in totally to market manipulators effect. are you telling me with your diverse collection when you see astronomical prices you would still buy or do you sell ? does it not make sense if you sell a collection for lets say xmen 1 1963 for 10k , you would still buy it on a boom market for 15-30k? normally you wouldnt jump in even seeing a dip but when the market normalizes. of course a lot of things affect it like speculation, movie rumors, actors getting signed for the project etc. it could make sense for this book but take that approach and exponentially expand it to the whole comic market ? cause a lot of people i know who collects already stop buying i even bought a little of their collection.
all im saying is we wouldnt know , but in every market for it to grow you need money to make it work. though i could be wrong maybe the comic market is really diverse. again dont get wrong comic books will sell and continue to sell , it will be interesting to see what will happen next. it could be selective portfolio of books
i like watching brian’s channel and dave of comic investment , and reading articles here it gives a lot of insight and a pieces of the market which led to me to raise a lot of questions about whats happening.

good day and cheers !

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Matt Kennedy April 1, 2022 - 6:23 pm

Let’s take something that is well established –and perhaps a bit too close to the point: gambling.

Casinos frequently give away free chips because they KNOW that once someone loses the $200 in chips they were given, they are likely to follow-up with $200 of their own money, and probably more.

If we want to move to a more sinister comparison we can see how the first taste of any drug off the corner is usually free –because again, the dealer is betting that the customer will be back for more and more and more.

It’s not entirely fair to compare collecting comics to drug addiction, but the gambling example is pretty apt. Investing is gambling. We may kid ourselves about it or think we have an inside track (which to some extent readers do), but there is no guarantee that money in = money out.

Not EVERYBODY who spent a portion of their government relief money on nostalgia went back into pocket for more, but a LOT did. Also important to factor into the equation is the amount of money that entered the hobby from outside the United States. People with vast fortunes traded some of their cash reserves for tangible goods and non fungible tokens. Some of them are still doing that as they emerge from the recessions in their own countries. Those of us selling high-value books know who is buying them, and I can tell you for a FACT that both graded and raw comics and other collectibles are going from collections in the USA to other North American nations and literally every other continent on earth –including research bases in Antarctica. Not all of those buyers received government incentive checks to make those purchases.

The bottom line is that collectors have a compulsion that makes them want to collect. If they get priced out of Golden Age, they’ll switch to Silver Age. If they can’t afford Silver Age, they shift down to Bronze Age, then Copper Age. The Modern Age is where the love of reading becomes a bit more prevalent in purchasing decisions because it is a given that the payoff won’t likely be fast. Modern comics are generally a long game. Certainly there are major Modern Keys and some of them have been on the continual rise while some have seen peaks and valleys. Some spec has crashed and burned but may rise again. It’s always a buyer’s market in some sense because buyers dictate prices.

For any character that has remained in-print from the Golden Age onward there are multiple generations of readers that have their own era with that character and so there are multiple waves of Nostalgia that can reinvigorate prices when they fall. Considering how many excellent writers have worked on Daredevil over the years it is astonishing how long it took Daredevil #1 to get out of range for most entry level collectors. The same can be said for Batgirl in Detective #359. A smart investor will look at slightly younger properties and dig into their awards records. Even if the Sandman HBO MAX series fails to click with audiences, there are decades of award-winning stories beloved by smart readers and as new readers discover Neil Gaiman’s other writings they, too, will pivot toward Sandman Vol.2 #1. That’s why I frequently champion the articulate and well-written comics over the hype fodder. Sure, a lot of badly written comics can become valuable, but that requires at some point someone coming along to do a good job, be that on a subsequent run of comics or via Hollywood movies. Most good writers want to take a crack at the things they liked when they were young, and successful writers tend to like well written material. As new generations discover these great characters, they will each drive up the pricing on the first appearances because that connects forward to the era where they opted in. Werewolf By Night #32 will be hitting Hulk #181 pricing eventually. It may even surpass it because there is no controversy about what issue has Moon Knight’s first appearance –and it’s also a cover appearance. Look for those factors and opt in for the long haul, because barring global or personal catastrophe, you should be just fine.

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