Our Comic Book Market: Sustainable or No?

by J

Comic-Book-Sustainable-300x157 Our Comic Book Market: Sustainable or No?The comic book market is at an all-time high. This leaves a lot of collectors in the community wondering: How long will this last?

Thinking Through It

First of all, I don’t have the answer because I can’t read the future. These are just some factors I’ve been thinking about whenever I hear people say the market is overvalued/undervalued/valued just right. Ultimately, I’m curious what YOU all have to say about this more than my own opinions. These are more points to start a conversation.

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The Covid-19 Bump

The Coronavirus has been devastating across the globe, it’s our sad reality, but the pandemic also changed our lives in ways nobody saw coming. Our work lives have changed, our casual lives have changed, and strangely, our investment lives have changed.

There’s no way of quantifying just how much of an impact a global pandemic has had on the collectibles market, but we’ve all seen that it’s had a large one. With everyone stuck at home and going through their closets, the spark for comic collecting regained its former flame; our community has grown considerably since January 2020. Beyond the obvious fact of having more free time, a lot of collectors today have more money. The people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic simply don’t have the funds to invest in anything. However, they aren’t the ones investing in comics. It’s a lot of us who work from home, have stable incomes, and suddenly have a lot fewer things to spend money on that have found an outlet for these past spending habits: comic books.

Correction

Will there be a market correction when things go back to normal (whatever that means)? I think so. But I wouldn’t overestimate it. While a lot of these new collectors will have to siphon away the money they’ve been spending on comics over the past year to their pre-Covid habits, they will still very much be a part of the hobby. A correction is impending, but will we ever see ASM #300 drop down to pre-Covid-19 rates? I’m not so sure.

Speculation

This has got me thinking of ways in which to really kill a hobby, or at least put it down for a long time (like the ’90s did). The

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way to do it? Unbridled speculation. This happened with Beanie Babies, Baseball cards, and lots of other collectibles back in the 90s and early 00s. These markets were simply flattened by the surge of outside speculators. (I still have a complete set of 1993 Top Deck Baseball cards worth a total of $0.) Let’s look at a recent example.

If any of you played with cryptocurrency a couple years back, you remember the catastrophic crash that happened after its meteoric rise. The problem with huge crashes like that though is a lot of small players who were entering the game took HUGE hits from the fallout of their risky speculations.

The same could happen to investors/speculators today who are banking on the [insert name] movie deal or Netflix show to pump these comics to the heavens. It’s possible. But hype, like beauty, always fades. And sometimes it can fade in a hurry, leaving lots of people with big losses that no longer want anything to do with comics.

And yet, Bitcoin is now worth almost double what it was before the big crash in the Winter of 2017.

5-1-1-204x300 Our Comic Book Market: Sustainable or No?The Wild West

Unlike larger markets, comic books and other collectibles are completely unregulated. This allows for pump-and-dump schemes from shady merchants as well as market inflation from all kinds of media influencers (who are certainly invested in what they are peddling). This all means we’re speculating, collecting, and investing in the Wild West. There are no rules to abide by, no laws to prohibit insider trading or market manipulation, and no real repercussions for those that do. I’m also not saying that there should be; that’s the fun of the collectibles markets as opposed to stocks or other traditional forms of investment.

But where does that leave the future of the hobby?

129-1-205x300 Our Comic Book Market: Sustainable or No?I Don’t Know

These are the thoughts that just keep bouncing around my head when I read something about how it’s all going to crash or how the sky’s the limit.

Do we think all of the collectors/speculators that rejoined the hobby during Covid will remain in the same numbers today? I think a lot will, but how could we know?

Are we starting to view graded comics as liquid assets when the markets are still too volatile? Compared to other markets though, i.e. Crypto, Toys, etc., comics have a much more stable market historically.

Is it going to be all gravy train as long as the MCU keeps popping out hits? It might just be.

All in all, I’m not sure what to think about it. Eight months ago I was pretty optimistic about the comic situation, but values have continued to climb ever since. Can they just keep going? Are comics now at the point of being synonymous with American culture? Forever entwined with our national ethos? Have they moved beyond popular culture and into High Culture?

Hard to tell.

What do you think?

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20 comments

Matt February 16, 2021 - 7:28 pm

Great topic! Based on WAY too many hours analyzing data in my opinion now is a great time to be selling. People are paying crazy money for 9.8’s, first in grade and first appearances. People are buying “shares” of certain high value books.
Will it implode? We know it will and the trick is getting out just before the inevitable…
There will be winners and losers.
Again, just my opinion.

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Harry Stone III February 16, 2021 - 9:30 pm

Your hesitation with the comic market and your article on market manipulation are spot on. I wrote a similar article months back about comic collecting during Covid and a possible impending crash. Are there lots of new or returning collectors to the hobby? Sure. But are there enough to sustain almost every key issue doubling in price in the last 6 months? I find that hard to believe. Even books with historically low prices because of massive print runs have doubled. Those books were cheap for a reason.

Something has to be said about social media and its effect on the collectibles market. We recently saw what social media did with Gamestop stock. People that never traded before pumped a virtually worthless stock through the roof. I’m surprised how few people are seeing the same effects in the collectibles market. Signs of market manipulation and shill bidding are rampant right now for anyone who has been following daily sales on eBay. Established sellers and bloggers are pumping books and newcomers are taking the bait and falling victim to their FOMO. I think newcomers with stimulus checks or saved income are gobbling up NM98, UF4, and ASM 129 copies not for nostalgia’s sake, but out of boredom and because they think they’ll get rich. Shady bloggers and sellers are profiting. Same situation as GME, just in comic form. Its very easy to manipulate a market where there is zero regulation.

For instance, replace the VW buses in your last article with TMNT Adventures 1 or any TMNT book for that matter. That comic was 20 dollars raw last year, 250 in a 9.8 as of September last year. I noticed they stopped showing up on ebay, a tell tale sign before a pump. Then someone that everyone follows commented it was the next book to blow, a few show up listed for 2k despite there never being a previous sale remotely close to that, add some shill bidding and next thing you know there are 15 copies on eBay selling for 1500 or more. Coincidence? I don’t think so. How many people genuinely care about that series or can recall a major plot? Not so many I think. But because someone told everyone it was the next book to blow, people started chasing it down thinking it would turn into the next Raphael #1. Same for Spawn #1 newsstand with hundreds of thousands of copies. It just doesn’t make sense unless you consider market manipulation.

I do agree comics have evolved past pop culture into high culture. I do also think think these record prices won’t last forever and there has to be some middle ground for prices. This market is kind of unprecedented right? Can every remotely important key from the Silver Age to the Modern Age really double or triple? The fallout from Covid hasn’t even started yet. I can’t help but be reminded of the 90s. My question is, how should we handle this market? Just sell off what we have, take profits, wait for it to cool down then buy keys when they come back to reality? I can’t lie, I am experiencing some major FOMO myself but ignoring it and crossing my fingers.

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Austin Allen February 17, 2021 - 8:54 am

Good points here.

I think certain things in the comic market have gone up for good reason and will keep their prices. Specifically, I am referring to X-Men, FF, and Daredevil. FF has been officially confirmed to be in the MCU, we can say with a very high amount of confidence that X-Men will appear within the next few years, and Daredevil has been undervalued for years. I don’t see books like X-Men 1/Giant Size X-Men 1, Fantastic Four 48, or Daredevil 1 going down in price (or at least not within the next several years).

However, some books have gone up due to what I think is market manipulation. Others (the ones you referred to as the books with high print runs with historically low prices) finally have enough demand to meet their high supply, but that will most likely correct when the world is returned to normalcy and some of these new collectors drop off. I don’t see these maintaining their prices at all.

If I had to guess, I would say prices will keep going up for a little while, then drop, then self-correct back to some down to earth prices as people who wanted some of these keys are presented with a great opportunity to buy them up. This is especially true of popular major keys like JIM 83, ToS 39, or TTA 27.

As for how to respond; personally, I’m holding on to Silver Age and books with low print runs. But I’m selling off most of my stuff from mid-Bronze Age and later. ASM 252, Secret Wars 8, pretty much anything WandaVision related, etc. These books are too common to sustain their prices when demand inevitably drops imo.

I could be way off on these predictions, and like you said, it’s impossible to know what’s actually going to happen with 100% certainty. These are just my predictions.

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octoberland February 17, 2021 - 2:08 pm

That’s 100% where I am and have said it to everyone who’ll listen. This is manipulated rn. The unprecedented rise of sales on nearly all books is ludicrous. I don’t believe this is real, but I also can’t explain what to do. I keep wanting to sell it all but then worry that it might (somehow) be the new norm? The sticky wicket for me comes from my thought that all these books have been over-looked / undervalued for decades. Perhaps this is the correction? IDNK, but it is a bit paralyzing.

FWIW, watch for Marvel Spotlight 4 as a soon to be big pump.

– Craig Coffman

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Harry Stone III February 17, 2021 - 6:16 pm

Oof. Craig you have no idea how happy I am to see your reply. This market has made me feel like I’m crazy and pessimistic. I’ve been saying the same thing to anyone that will list too. That being said, happy to see we’re not the only ones who feel this way. I think a whole lot of people who don’t know what certain issues have historically sold for are about to lose a whole lot of money. I am not buying a thing right now with the manipulation going on. Don’t even get me started on the newsstand scam. Silver Age keys were due for a correction maybe but are that many people really in the market now to make Darkhawk double in value? No way. Stinks like social media echo chambers if you ask me.

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J February 17, 2021 - 4:40 pm

All excellent points, Harry. I have a tough time seeing these prices sustain after everyone is going back on vacation and paying for restaurants and all of that. I’m definitely anticipating a correction. If I had to give any advice for anyone reading this, I’d go for the pieces that will one day be in museums, and not the next thing in the movies. But that’s just an opinion. Everyone’s got em.

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Harry Stone III February 17, 2021 - 6:18 pm

Again I think you’re spot on. I’ve been looking at some Silver Age keys that I think have been overlooked that have some significance outside of comics. I’ll be dropping an article on one soon that I would love your input on. Outside of that, I refuse to pay these prices.

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Steven Moore February 16, 2021 - 11:37 pm

I agree that the market has a reckoning coming, for many of the reasons that the article and Harry mentions. Some collectors have a lot of disposable income right now since they’re not paying daycare, going on vacations, etc. This has pumped up comic prices and social media has acted as an accelerant. But at this point, with vaccines available, it feels certain that the economy will be reopening and so some of the money will dry up, causing prices to stagnate or decline. If I had to bet (and actually I am–through my sales and purchases), I would bet on a modest market correction, not a steep one. This feels very different from the massive speculative frenzy of the 90s. For one, so many more people were involved in speculation in the 90s (millions?) which amplied the potential for a severe crash. For another, the comic companies were catering to the speculators so crassly. At Marvel, writers were paid large bonuses based on sales and they eventually figured out they could increase their salaries greatly by having ghost rider or the punisher appear in seemingly every third issue or adding a special cover. I remember Barbie 1 selling out immediately because it was polybagged. There was a real sense of disorientation and burnout among collectors. Say what you want about variants today but they are not nearly as market manipulative as comics of the 90s. So a modest correction..with perhaps a serious pullback for some books (TMNT?) and perhaps none at all for blue chips like silver age Marvel. Some of the new collectors are enjoying buying comics and likely here to stay!

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comicbookfinsta February 17, 2021 - 8:32 am

I’m with Harry. I think the market will correct. I don’t think it will drop to or below pre-Covid levels, but they will come down from the current highs. There’s so many books I want now, but I’m holding out. I’ve made peace with the chance that I might never get a few of my grails if I’m wrong and prices keep soaring.

In the meantime, I’ve been buying a few excellent condition raws and some of my want books with room to grow or haven’t been on the price skyrocket.

I think the non-sport card crazy crazy boom is a clear indicator that all sanity has left the geek collectible world. 🙂

It’s a difficult time to be patient in the comic book market.

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Harry Stone III February 17, 2021 - 6:21 pm

So hard to be patient right now. My FOMO is severe. But I’m treating it like stonk market and trying to be disciplined. Buy the dip!

How about those Marvel Cards? Never thought those would actually be worth something. What a strange 12 months its been.

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Marc F February 17, 2021 - 11:55 am

I think MCU keys will continue to have a strong market, especially as new shows/movies with those characters approach. But I also think they will fall off after those shows debut or finish. And I expect a lot of Phase1-3 MCU keys to gradually decline as people get farther from those stories (Thanos stuff in particular). So that’s one aspect of the market that feels more predictable, at least. But overall, a broader slide does make some sense once we get our lives back!

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joegeek74 February 17, 2021 - 2:45 pm

I think certain issues on the DC side regarding first appearances will stick, on the Marvel side with the MCU speculation, not so much, I see many books that are $20 or more that IMO will be down 75% or more in the coming year or so

I am actually still acquiring Batman keys in the 80’s and 90’s I thought they were undervalued before, now they are hitting their stride I think

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johnnyspruce February 17, 2021 - 4:11 pm

Harry, your comment was by far the best and most accurate thing I’ve read about our corrupt market, in the last year.

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Harry Stone III February 17, 2021 - 6:36 pm

Thank you but at at the same time your validation of my thoughts is concerning. I’m very, very happy J started the conversation with this article and the article before it. I have been alluding to a rigged market for the last 6 months. Way too often people are quick to pump a book (I wonder why) but they never, ever ever comment on books that are cooling off or might be overpriced.

Those with large platforms need to act responsibly with the books they speculate on. We often have a chicken and the egg scenario. If you point out a book for speculation, and then it triples in price for no reason other than your comments, should you really be patting yourself on the back for calling it, or did you cause that comic to quadruple in price? No one has to reveal what books they are holding when they speculate. That’s why I generally speculate only on super cheap, obscure books. I try to find fun books to gamble on and leave it at that.

I can’t emphasize this enough, I have been watching the prices on almost every Copper and Modern Age key and they are all experiencing shill bidding. There are definitely younger or more inexperienced collectors out there that can’t afford to take the hit. People are hurting out there right now. I hate to think of anyone chasing a book because its a grail or because they need a quick buck only to lose half of its value.

The collectibles market should not be a casino. But its turning into one just like the recent stock market. This has turned into my favorite and least favorite topic all at once.

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Alan Hom February 17, 2021 - 9:18 pm

I remind myself never time the market because I am not good at it. I buy low, set a price point at which I want to take profits, then sell. I wish I could say that I am as disciplined as I pretend to be. Some days, I am better at it than others.

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J February 17, 2021 - 11:56 pm

It’s so hard to be disciplined when you see these huge price jumps. I always ask myself, “Can this be just the beginning?” And then I really try and push myself to sell it. It’s hard to do though.

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Aaron Stechesen February 18, 2021 - 6:50 pm

Like people’s hate for the newest generation of books there’s always market doom and gloom talk. Will this bullish market correct? Yes, of course it will but there are so many books out there there’s always going to be some sort of market going on. What most people never seem to understand is that some trends end but with the wealth of books out there and there’s always some trend out there or one in formation. The only thing that could bring doom and gloom is publishers getting out of print copies. If there’s nothing new what has been published to date will eventually be out of reach and nothing to stimulate future interest for the next generation of collectors.

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Ricky February 19, 2021 - 4:32 pm

I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those guys that COVID reintroduced to collecting. I had a fairly large collection in the late 80’s and 90’s that was lost. Last March, while sitting at home with nothing to do, I started browsing eBay. I’m a very nostalgic person, so I like to look for toys, baseball cards, comics, etc., that I had when I was a kid. I started buying up comics and haven’t stopped. I made a lot of initial mistakes, but have put a lot of time and effort into learning as much as I can about the hobby so that I can make more intelligent investments. I was initially buying books solely based on what I wanted to collect. As I got further into it. the guidance of “let the hobby pay for itself” was repeated everywhere I looked. That’s when I started speculating and buying books for returns. If the market dropped off right now, I probably wouldn’t be too upset. I could start to afford some of those higher-end grails that I working toward right now. For those that are in the hobby just to make money, they may get hurt.

I’m 40 years old. I was talking to a friend of mine (same age as me) about how I have gotten back into collecting comics, and how it’s a totally different world now with the reach of the internet and popularity of grading. After a nice conversation, he asked me about the sustainability of the hobby. He wasn’t referring to any kind of current boom, but more along the lines of which generation is going to continue to care about the hobby beyond ours. It made me stop and think about it pretty hard. I have 5 kids who I have been begging to get into collecting comics with me, and none of them have any interest at all. All they care about is their phones and staring at electronic screens. My data pool is very small, so I was wondering what you all think about the subject. If I am way off topic from the OP, I will understand if my post is removed.

Thanks,
Ricky

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J February 20, 2021 - 2:01 am

Ricky, you aren’t off topic at all. I can relate to the extra time granted by Covid, thus, the further dive into the hobby. Someone selling at a convention told me this about comics blowing up after Marvel movies. He said, “Look, there aren’t many people that read comics. Maybe a hundred thousand? Maybe more? But when it hits the big screen, that audience grows to millions. That’s why everything is exploding.”

I think he has a point. What I personally enjoy so much about the MCU is that the whole idea is so firmly rooted in the Marvel Universe of the comic medium. Cross-overs and reboots are all a part of the gig. We can’t get too upset with two Quicksilvers. I mean, isn’t there quite a few of all characters in the Marvel Comic Universe?

Maybe one of these movies will hit one of your kids and they’ll get the bug. Or they won’t for a while. There’s a lot to be said for modern myths and the impact of the well-crafted MCU.

Thanks for the comment,
J

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rferraro February 25, 2021 - 7:02 am

It’s a feeling you get when you know there is going to be a crash. I have that feeling now, same as you. As we watch prices on keys reach ridiculous levels while definitively non-key issues stagnate, I know that the market is already flooded with speculators compared to collectors. Once people can take exotic vacations, attend sporting events, go to nightclubs and concerts or just hold expensive birthday parties, the comic market will inevitably correct. Certain ultra-keys may never go back down again, but they will stabilize. Now is a terrible time to buy books if you are a long-term collector. If you are a flipper, dump your inventory at the high point while you can. This is your last warning. If you are a collector, probably best to just wait it out. We are well past the peak of the market at this point. You know it as well as I do. You can feel it.

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