I am often asked what started my collecting journey or why I still do it after all these years, and what on earth will happen to ALL THAT STUFF? These are challenging questions to answer, but maybe sharing some of my “behind the scenes” reasons will connect with, or inspire a few more of you out there to collect & share with your younglings, so here goes!
Ultimately, there are many reasons, expectations, and memories at play, but if I had to nail it down, my collecting passion (and ultimately my current strategy) focuses on connections to the brands I love, grew up with, or created specific memories that now bring a smile to my face or a fun conversation to share with my family and friends about the items.
IS COLLECTING INVESTING, OR HAS INVESTING BECOME PART OF COLLECTING?
As with every collector, the ‘investor’ component obviously sneaks into play as well. Why shouldn’t it? The mere idea of others finding similar value or enjoyment in a piece you hold is exciting, and often worth showing off. However, where that value balances out from a monetary standpoint is far more open to consideration these days, as is the question of what will happen to those collectibles in the future as younger generations grow up fully immersed in digital ecosystems.
Take, for instance, my >200 physical comic book collection. It is not the biggest holding by any means, but those comics are memories of the characters and stories I enjoyed reading as a kid. Today, our basement entertainment room walls are adorned with Marvel, Star Wars, and other iconic movie art & posters, yet their utility ends at that personal nostalgia adding a more enjoyable experience when we use the room. Will I ever sell them? Likely not. Will my kids want them when they can ever afford to move out? Highly Debatable.
In this depressing bear market, a lot has been spoken about serious investors shifting investment portfolios into collectibles.
Real estate is always in the mix, of course, but art, paintings, movie memorabilia, sports cards, and comic books have been surging in popularity lately. Influencer Andrei Jihk is even promoting fractional art ownership via MasterWorks.
A Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card just sold for $12.6 MILLION. A 9.2 CGC version of Fantastic Four #1 from 1961 just sold for $1.5 MILLION. A Super Mario Video Game Cartridge? Yup – $2M. Superman Comic #1? $5.3 MILLION.
It’s clear that nostalgia collecting is as big a deal as it has ever been, with no question serious buyers are gravitating to key physical assets and becoming the lore of news outlets everywhere. After all, the media loves printing stories of huge financial moves and most journalists certainly understand what a physical sports card or comic book looks like.
This becomes very important in a time where the likes of FTX draws us right back to 2008’s Lehman Bros collapse, where investments plummeted as mainstream media again couldn’t resist the click-bait revenue-generation caused by calamitous news stories. We just need good, fun & rewarding news to read, and seeing collector successes fills that need.
Still, though, my comic book collection remains secured in plastic baggies & cardboard backings, further encased within a water & airtight container to protect them from damage. They seldom see the light of day and carry a small add-on to my home’s content insurance to ensure their ‘monetary’ value could be replaced in a disaster…but not necessarily their sentimental value of holding them for over 30 years. Nor can I afford a physical $1.5M FF#1 right now.
SO, WILL MY KIDS EVEN WANT MY OLD, PHYSICAL COMIC BOOKS?
Collecting is often a deeply personal endeavor, spanning years, decades, or lifetimes. Will my kids end up collecting comics? Will they even want their dad’s hobby passed down, with tighter living space constraints a real concern, the inconvenient effort needed to insure, move or sell physical comics, let alone care about the characters I grew up with?
We still have my grandfather’s navy medals and historic coins, or my wife’s family heirloom plates, but so much else had to be parsed to keep our house…livable, so it’s not a stretch to think many of my collectibles may not be passed along within the family when the time ultimately comes.
Granted I own a few key books many collectors would appreciate, but my collecting journey focused heavily on Daredevil, X-Men, Westcoast Avengers, and Spider-Man. In the years to come, it’s quite likely Marvel’s launch of new characters or focus will be considerably different.
Ms. Marvel appeals to my daughter, but Kitty Pryde or Wonder Woman does not (for now). The recent She-Hulk series was a disaster – if you can’t get a teenage girl to gravitate to a Marvel character, you can forget any collecting to it long term. I place my bets DAREDEVIL is going to very big (again) soon though, but his onscreen depictions represent a level of violence that wasn’t necessarily the case when reading a comic book.
Even more so from The Punisher, which may have many parents blocking the “family hour” of those characters, limiting the younger fan engagement factor I held from hours of reading those comic stories. Today, new Marvel fans grow from what they are able to watch on Disney+, Netflix, or in the theater.
Sure, my kids and I now enjoy spending hours watching the Marvel MCU timeline on Disney+ – It’s easier for them to experience a thrilling story depiction or watch the latest Star Wars series like Book of Boba Fett, The Mandalorian or Andor than reading a stack of 30-50-year-old books they would think smell funny or look weird anyway.
Even despite She-Hulk’s complete failure, we ended up watching JUST to see Daredevil’s 1st appearance onscreen with the traditional yellow suit.
But these are the characters and stories I grew up with, not my kids. 40+ years-worth of history. Sure, the family knows my immense connection to them, but I would be foolish to assume they have that same DEEP affinity for these shows (well, I know this for a fact, but I of course ignore it!).
My neighbor’s young son, for instance, upon seeing Darth Vader in Obi-Wan, shouted ‘that’s the guy from Fortnight!’, not my big screen May 1977 FA VADER experience I recall as if it was an hour ago. And it was terrifying…
My assets also focused on things that were popular within my friend circles. We couldn’t get enough of Back-to-the-Future as kids, and when Atari came out it was game over (sadly) for our BMX rides to the local video game arcade. We kept the ‘bus-to-downtown’ adventures going as the excitement of hunting awesome comic covers at Golden Age Collectibles was too appealing, but my Spider-Man was…is, Peter Parker.
For the next 20+ years though, for the younger fans today, that will more likely be Miles Morales. My collection of Peter’s isn’t quite as appealing to my son, the Miles fan. At least right now, although Peter still resonates heavily with my cohort.
GROWING UP – AN ENTERTAINING EXPERIENCE
When I turned 21, my dad surprised the family with an unforgettable 1-month trip to Maui. Our condo had a small library of paperback books, one of which was Michael Crichton’s New York Times Best-Selling, JURASSIC PARK. I decided to give it a go while enjoying my time laying on beaches for endless hours and was enthralled. As a comic reader, a lot of enjoyment comes from imagining yourself in the character’s situation. Jurassic Park amped that factor 100X. I loved that book so much that I read it twice during that vacation. That was 1992, with the book originally published in 1990.
A year later in June 1993, Jurassic Park hit theaters and I was there on opening night. Like Star Wars, this movie actually nailed its book experience and T-REX became…frighteningly real. Steven Spielberg delivered. Movies often struggle to improve their book origins, (like the new She-Hulk series…oops…is my “I can’t stand that show showing again?”), but not this time. I kept the tickets and the movie guide along with the photos my friends shared at the theater. And yes, I kept that book for many, many years after.
It’s now 2022 – over 30 years since the best vacation ever and 29 years after witnessing “an alive” T-Rex on the big screen. While the trembling water cup scene may never be outdone, my kids watched the entire series at home, on our living room big screen. Even Science World in Vancouver continues running their science exhibit on the ‘Ultimate Predator, but somehow, the allure and character connections with many big films just seem to keep, lacking somehow. The passion to follow those stories, waning.
Is that my age showing though? Like, READING BOOKS? Who does that any more? Spending hours or days engrossed in a novel that enticed my imagination, building desire to see the story re-created for the big screen. It was thrilling, and rewarding. Today, I just can’t help but get the feeling we are in a world where rushing content to screens is overtaking the creative process – sound storylines, well-written characters you form deep connections with, understand their plights and so on. Just get it filmed, get it out there, and get it making revenue…SHE-HULK.
It just seems that generally today, storytelling on-screen has weakened. Sure, there are many releases we really enjoy and when written well, the character-connection value is definitely there (ANDOR is a great case in point on how to write an effective character backstory & it shows – this series is one of the best Star Wars pieces of content ever.). When connected, we want to follow their journeys, invest in new material, and collect their comics or figures. As a grown man, I am now buying Star Wars (officially licensed) NFTs on the VEVE app like a kid in the candy store. The connection is real.
I’m not going to get into a huge diatribe on this issue, but if you “sort of” feel the same way with weak writing to pump new material to market quickly to satisfy our new craving for fast, CGI-enhanced content, check out THE CRITICAL DRINKER – a writer by trade, who has amassed a 1.5M fan following on YouTube to discuss this very topic. Note: he has an awesome Scottish accent and isn’t afraid to use ‘the explicative,’ if you get the drift, so take heed.
The point is, if we are losing the deep-rooted connections to characters, are we at risk of losing their iconic values many years from now? Is it getting harder to form bonds that lead to the desire to collect their memorabilia? Or…is it possible that the VERY FORMAT of collecting may change? Surely if the new arenas are fast-to-theater, digital & streamed, maybe a new style of brand association may start to appear that could be hard for long-standing, physical collectors to understand, but one that our kids & younger generations will have no issues gobbling up.
THE TRANSITION: GROWING UP BEFORE TECH, AGING ALONG WITH IT
Growing up in the ’70s through ’90s, I went from having no Internet, Social Media, Mobile Phones, Electric Cars, Quiet Jet Airplanes, Non-Smoking Sections, Computers or Laptops all the way to Connected-Gaming, Connected-TVs, Connected-Satellites, and Connected Conspiracy Theories. It’s been incredible to see. However, as we rush to engage more online, work online and play online, could this be changing how we perceive our world, our sports icons, or movie stars? Are even our iconic superheroes beginning to fade as their profiles are changed or rewritten to align with current social expectations? Will this change collecting or kill physical values of stored collections?
Marvel saw some of these trends back in November 2007 and created a digital platform to read pretty much every book they ever created at their Marvel Universal site. Prior, the Internet created fantastic ways to suddenly research & engage with sports and Marvel brands such as Fathead – where you can order your favorites as removable wall art (stickers). And of course, we can now pretty much order anything on eBay, Amazon, or websites that fit your fancy. Heck, for the gym buffs out there, you can even order SuperHero workout gear from SUPERX
However, there always remained similar issues – storage, safekeeping, space, moving, damage, difficulty reselling, or delivery if you happened to make a sale.
THE MOVE TO DIGITAL COLLECTING
Then, along comes NFTs. It’s thought these originated in 2012, but these new ‘digital collectibles’ exploded during the Covid-19 pandemic with incredible sales figures, despite seeming very weird to A LOT of people. For example, In December 2021, a digital artist known as Pak sold 266,445 shares of an NFT collection titled “Merge” for $98.1 million on Nifty Gateway. Artist “Beeple” sold an NFT for $69 Million. Two of many stories that led to a $338M Global Market Cap in 2020.
As a ‘low-level’ collector, I immediately saw the appeal. These were “digital firsts;” first to appear (mint) on these new ‘blockchains’ verifying their ownership, typically owned by those who had done “rather well” for themselves during the cryptocurrency boom of the past decade. Where Dot-Com (b)millionaires went after Lambos & Yachts, NFTs suddenly represented something new, unique. Items you don’t need to gas up, find moorage or ways to show off. Something our parents (or I) never dreamed would hold any form of collector value. Yet did they ever…
Like any shiny new toy, copycats sprang up everywhere with NFT software kits making almost anyone with the time and guts a potential NFT artist. The selection grew from a few to a few million. Trading marketplaces like OpenSea and Coinbase came along to make listing and buying ‘easier,’ but issues lingered.
NFTs have been hard to buy (linking fiat bank accounts to crypto, transferring to Ethereum to buy or sell the NFTs, trade back to cash), the images were largely 2D, and brand IP was almost non-existent, making bets on the artist a bit more challenging than many collectors could stomach. FTX & global market collapses are not helping either right now.
Even the very term itself, “NFT” does more to scare people than excite them. Non-Fungible-Token sounds like something you want to avoid or leave to the realm of techies & coding enthusiasts. It’s a major reason why more “marketable” terms like DIGITAL COLLECTIBLE or DIGITAL OWNERSHIP are rising quickly. And major brands are noticing.
THE WORLD’S LARGEST BRANDS ARE JUMPING IN QUICKLY – TAKE NOTE!
As discussed in my last blog, David Yu (CEO of Ecomi) saw these changes happening within a collecting passion he held most of his life. He assembled a team of like-minded individuals & secured the legendary licensor Al Kahn (of the ‘Pokémon’ brand in North America), plus 100s of incredible IP brands like Marvel, Universal Studios, USPS, Coca-Cola, Star Wars, and DISNEY, then built the first Intellectual Property (IP)-based, digital collecting platform, VeVe.
David set forth an incredible new world of collecting that makes storage & sales issues a thing of the past, while directly connecting my “old fashioned” collecting history to the “future forward” opportunity my kids are now starting to engage. Suddenly, assets so out of reach in physical form for most have become attainable. Affordable. Investible…
Let’s go back to that JURASSIC PARK chat we shared above. Christie’s Auction House recently announced the First Tyrannosaurus Rex Skeleton Ever to be Offered at Auction in Asia (Shen the T-Rex), which is believed will sell for $31 Million. 66,000,000 years from roaming the earth to becoming an astronomically expensive collectible.
Most of us, of course, will never be able to buy a T-Rex Physical skeleton, let alone have the patience to wait that long, but many can certainly now own a piece of (iconic movie) history with a T-Rex Digital Collectible, under $10 from VeVe’s Universal-Studio’s licensed Jurassic Park NFT Collection.
My kids are unlikely to read a 1990’s paperback, but after watching the movies, now ADORE playing with these fully animated, augmented reality, VeVe T-Rex NFTs, placed into any physical setting and create…an experience. Such as a T-Rex showing up in my backyard after my wife over-fed the squirrels!
These digital experiences are transitioning to metaverses, online games, educational opportunities, and other realms we can’t even comprehend yet. It sounds incredible, absurd, and even frustrating for many, but so too was transitioning from radios to TVs, wall phones to mobile, gas to electric cars, cable to ROKU, and phone books to Google. There was even a time people were SCARED of books moving online or computer clocks turning over to the year 2000 (a near-global panic called Y2K). Yet it all happened and for most of us today, we barely understand or consider the underlying technology that allows a voice command to order a pizza or play a song, yet it works, it’s easy and we live among it every single day.
Surely if all this can happen, a digital comic book has just as much chance of becoming mainstream, and collectible?
The next 20 years will see even more immense transformations as technology becomes exponential in capability, but along the way will be building ‘moments worth collecting.’ For now, pairing PHYGITAL opportunities is absolutely good for me…
Imagine T-Rex guarding the virtual real estate of heavy NFT landowners like Snoop Dog, borrowing from the exact scene depicted in 1989’s Back to the Future 2. We’re in for some pretty fun show scenes, and I absolutely love this shared journey with my family I can be a part of. I am certainly focused on the positive aspects here, which of course will have challenges and potential misuse of these incredible technical advancements, but the way I see it, if fewer trees are felled so we can find phone numbers outside of a printed book, or read experiences off paper pages then that has to have long-term benefits.
SO, WILL MY KIDS ACTUALLY WANT MY PHYSICAL COLLECTION ONE DAY?
After finishing that Marvel MCU Timeline on Disney+ mentioned earlier, I took my teenage kids to the basement and showed them my physical comic set. To my happy surprise, they recognized many of the characters, asked questions, and wanted to know more about how I found these books, why I chose them, and of course, what I was going to do with them.
So we went online together and visited GO COLLECT, Amazon, eBay & Marvel, built a spreadsheet, and one-by-one, mapped out the physical values of that collection. Their surprise at the value was worth the entire experience, but as is often a challenge these days, had to be tempered by the fact that value took MANY YEARS to accumulate.
It is the journey that matters.
My son now has a VeVe account, along with many of his friends. Although the drop experience has changed, what I value most is how they do the homework before jumping in. Funds are limited, so I hear them discussing the merits of a piece, the characters’ value, speculation on MCU involvement, and how popular vs. how scarce the item is…and I am happy. Those are the questions you should ask when collecting anything and managing investment or spending against available resources.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if my physical collection ends up with my kids. What matters is I have passed along an opportunity for them to investigate and find their own paths, with a foundation of homework, effort, and care. If years from now we have a chance to talk about their interests, or see the great pieces they’ve found at the dinner table, there will have been no greater value to my collecting journey.