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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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?