Notes on Collecting Comics (Pt. 3)

by Blaise Tassone

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Last time I was looking at how demand drives value up on collectibles, and especially how different kinds of comics grab the attention of collectors at different times, leading to premiums regarding prices for select genres and titles that the same collectors fervently desire.

At a certain point, ups and downs in the market will follow the demand of the majority of collectors who, in turn, will use their purchasing power to push the cost of the wanted comics upwards.

So far, so good. I doubt I’m saying anything innovative or controversial above. In this post I want to offer some final thoughts on comics as collectibles and add some final notes on how to predict value and a so-called ‘collectible’ book versus merely indiscriminately holding onto all back issues either out of habit or because your LCS is pushing a certain set of books that, objectively speaking, are probably better off turned into recycled paper.

Let me also add the caveat here that, the first and most important reason to purchase any comic book is because you find the art/story compelling and engaging. Comics should not be your main source of wealth generation. Therefore, as long as you enjoy comics, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with collecting a run of any title you like.

However, if we’re looking at what becomes a valuable and collectible book, these are inevitably issues that somehow manage to capture the popular attention of many consumers over a prolonged period of time.

The main point I wanted to make in my last post was that trends can determine which comics are worth money. The ebb and flow of popularity and desirability inevitably leads to what ends up being today’s highly sought out comics by, in effect, giving certain titles a higher status than others and causing the less desirable to remain merely average, ‘run of the mill’, comics.

What I want to examine here, in my final post on this topic, is how the cycle of demand that creates value, and directly affects prices of collectibles, is actually formed.

There seems to be a pattern, and if my theory is correct, it may look more or less as follows.

First a product appears that captures the attention of the mass of consumers bringing with it good feelings and happiness.

I’ll use as my example, this time, Marvel Silver Age comics.

These comics flew off the shelves in the 1960s because they felt fresh and lively to readers who were used to the sanitary and formulaic titles being produced by the other big publishers at the time.

Readers who picked up comics like Fantastic Four #48 in 1966 or Amazing Spider-man #33 in the same year, got flesh and blood characters who talked like real people, lived the same world as their readers and had recognizable problems. But, and this is important, these comics also featured magical and fantastic powers, larger than life heroes and villains playing out archetypal themes that resonated with readers living in a complex modern society.


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Second, after certain titles become imprinted onto the consciousness of many people then the wide availability of the title comes into play. No one would collect a series they couldn’t regularly read or is so obscure and hard to find that it takes too much effort to track down published issues. In the case of Marvel Silver Age books, these were available at newsstands, bookstores, variety stores, the doctor’s office, etc. Moreover, these comics were meant to be disposable and provided at low cost (are you listening modern publishers!).

The consequence was that kids could buy them with their lunch or allowance money and adults could read multiple titles a week without having to take out a loan from the bank.

Third, and stemming directly from the second point above, in making a comic collectible the majority of stock of the original run has to be first widely distributed, creating loyal readers, and then eventually discarded. If the demand remains strong, and the remaining copies bring -for want of a better term – ‘good feelings’, then they can attain the status of prized pieces of comic book history (think Fantastic Four #1 or #s48-50, Amazing Fantasy #15; Amazing Spider-man #33, etc.). At this point people will want to own them again and pay big money for them.

So the most important factors seem to be: a connection to many people and the creation of a popular brand, leading many to have the idea of ‘I must own that’, or ‘this is an iconic cover/character/event’. Conjoined with eventual lack of wide availability, which is however less important than demand and desire for a certain run/title/character, which leads finally to the situation where collectors say: this is valuable [for whatever reason] and so should be obtained, even at a very high [sometimes five or six figure] price range.

Have I left anything essential out?

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