Questions and Answers: ROI Basics and Whitman Variants

by Norman Robinson III

125303_c98bc044883a258764a1708b690c222ce06b9fe1-201x300 Questions and Answers: ROI Basics and Whitman Variants

Some of our readers have questions regarding specific variant comics and the calculation of ROI. It is important to note that while writing this blog we love to hear from our readers as they often make salient points and force us to expand our knowledge base. Because as we all know; the comic book investing subculture is vast and all-inclusive with a great deal of media input. Therefore, obviously, no one person knows it all. That being said we still manage to cover alot of ground with comic book speculation. But we are always willing to stretch into other areas of comic collecting. This blog is my attempt to explain my use of ROI calculation and some background for Whitman variants from the 1980s, enjoy.

Our readers sent two questions this month that are worthy of a response:

“I recently read somewhere that the June 1980 DC Whitman variants were the rarest of all the DC Whitman variants. But I have no idea why (or if that is even true). Does anyone have any insight on that? Thanks, Paul.”

“I was wondering if you could do an article on ROI and how you calculate it? Thanks, Chris.”

Return on Investment

ROI stands for “return on investment” it is traditionally used to calculate the amount of profit from a speculation in a more traditional investment like stocks or bonds. I use it as a reference for trends in pricing for comics tracked by GoCollect. The website Investopedia has a good basic formula to understand this equation:

ROI = (Gain from Investment- Cost of Investment) / Cost of investment

“In the above formula, the “Gain from Investment” refers to the proceeds obtained from the sale of the investment of interest. Because ROI is measured as a percentage, it can be easily compared with returns from other investments, allowing one to measure a variety of types of investments against one another.” (Source: Investopedia)

Now, this is a basic return on investment but by reviewing it you can figure out standard ROI calculation. For the purpose of explanation and example. Let’s take one of my favorite comic book investments Amazing Spider-Man #129 for a spin to help get our arms around ROI. In addition, I will show you how I tweak existing GoCollect calculations by a broader use of our “Analyzer.”

The Amazing Spider-Man #129 was created by Gerry Conway (script) and Gil Kane (pencils) in 1974. Now that makes this book a Bronze Age key. It is probably the second or third best key of the Bronze Age. When you pull up this comic on GoCollect click on the “Analyzer” button top left; that will take you to a section called “Refine Sales.” You will see a “Date Range” and the box for “CGC Universal” checked off.  If you look on the right-hand side of the page you see the subheading: “Sales by Grade” below that is “Grade” then “Trend,” the trend is basically the return relative to other sales. Now, this would not be indicative of a big enough sample size to test the percentage returns. Therefore, I scroll down further to subheading: “Max Sales” and click on “Max” it will give me a sample size of up to 10,000 comics sold (if they even have that many). The larger the sample size the more accurate the return on current investment will be over time. Then you click “Submit” button and it will recalculate the currently estimated returns on each grade by up to 10,000 comics.

If Amazing Spider-Man #129  uses only the last 100 sales to calculate returns; then a (9.8) shows a negative -8.6%. Now when you adjust to “Max Sales” at 10,000 that changes and the new return become (9.8) at positive +88%. What a difference a sample size makes, hmm? The expanded sample size is key. If you do not use the 10,000 comic sales, the system will default to only 100 comic book sales. A good rule of thumb from my Poli-Sci days is the larger the sample size the more accurate the calculations may be. Therefore, I use the largest sample size I can when calculating ROI. It should be noted that the “Trend” calculation is what I use for ROI.

Whitman Restricted Distribution

In regards to the Whitman variant comics from the 1980s, I found a good source online and believe I can relate why Whitman’s are valuable (warning: my source is one website “Recalled Comics”). In 1979 Mattel Corporation purchased Western Publishing which owned Whitman Publishing Company. That merger changed the dynamics of Whitman’s distribution with Mattel selling only the more profitable “bagged comics” as non-returnable through department stores. Due to this change, there were severe cuts in production and delays with only some issues being distributed as limited samples. The confusion that ensued meant that even the publisher didn’t know what was sold to stores.

“There are many good sources of information on the rare Whitman comics including updates in early 1980 copies of the Comic Reader, analysis by Jon McClure in the Comic Book Market Place (issues 85 and 86) and analysis from Doug Sulipa (Overstreet #38 and through his website).”

Whitman3-packs2 Questions and Answers: ROI Basics and Whitman Variants

Because of chaos at closing down certain comic publications the confusion at Whitman created and specifically restricted distribution, some issues have become rare collectibles today, even “commanding high” prices. “Below is a list (in alphabetical order) of four “rare” pre-pack Whitman’s from 1980 that have exceeded $100 in near mint equivalent.” It is not a definitive list but these four are a good starting point. “Nobody knows how many were printed and distributed for each issue (or how many survive today) but these are certainly some of the more valuable issues (Source: Recalled”

  1. Black Hole #4
  2. Donal Duck #222
  3. Little Lulu #260
  4. Mickey Mouse #208






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