Restored books are a tough corner of the market to figure out. Each one is unique, and value can fluctuate wildly. So let’s think it through a metaphor.
I’ve owned a lot of cars. I’ve had ’66 Barracudas, two ’72 Dodge Darts, a Grand National, and even a 1929 Ford Model A. Cars are a large part of my family and it’s natural to be buying, selling, and flipping automobiles.
A Quick Anecdote
A friend had told me his brother was looking to sell his 1978 Volkswagen Bus. Pancake motor, minimal rust, and a hippie mural scrawled on the sides. It was a perfect candidate for a restoration. So, I talked to his brother, agreed on a good price for both of us, and I was there the next day with a car trailer. We pushed it up the ramp, latched it down to the trailer, and walked inside to sign the pink slip. When he pulled it out, my heart sank, it had a Salvage Title.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it refers to any car that had been damaged beyond the value of the car and paid out by an insurance company. For new cars, that means considerable damage: bent frame, caved front end, structural damage. For older cars, it can be anything that would cost more than what it’s worth.
Salvage titles hold a stigma in the car community because you can never be sure what exactly happened to a car that had been salvaged and repaired. And the “Salvage” denotation follows the car until it hits the crusher.
The Purple Label
In comic books, at least ones graded by CGC, the comic has a deep purple label denoting its restoration. Sometimes you’ll see sellers on auction sites hide the purple label in the featured image only to show it in the second click. Why would they do that? Because most collectors don’t want touched-up books. They want Clean Titles.
While the metaphor isn’t perfect, I think it helps to clarify the position of restored comic books in the comic community. There are plenty of restored books out there, but there’s something about that haunting purple label that keeps buyers away. The value of a restored book depends on the buyer; there is no consistent pricing because it depends on the amount of restoration, what kind of restoration, etc. It comes down to the individual buyer calculating how much the comic is worth to him or her because there is no universal value for restored books.
Similarly, cars with Salvage Titles have the same issue. Some buyer might think a salvage title is no big deal, they’ve always wanted a 1993 Toyota Supra and they’ll gladly pay 20% less because it’s a Salvage Title. They don’t care. But the next buyer might not feel the same. And that’s the issue with Salvage Titles and Restored Comic Books. Nobody knows the fair market value of them because it is so dependent on the individual buyer. They are also a LOT harder to sell.
There’s nothing wrong with purchasing restored comics. There’s also nothing wrong with purchasing salvage title cars. You can get a great deal on something you really want, but it comes at a cost. If resale is something you aren’t that worried about, then grab those purple labels and enjoy your discounted books. Just know, not everyone is going to see the same value in them as you do.
To finish my anecdote, I sat at the table and stared at the pink slip knowing what I had to do.
“We can take it off the trailer if you want.”
I looked at him and thought.
“Yeah, we’re going to have to take it off.”
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