Sociology is the study of human society. Understanding how one functions in society can help collectors and investors navigate the comic book market. The way these two groups interact in the comic book community is constantly evolving. Understanding these changes could be the difference between success or failure for collectors and investors. A few trends have started to recently emerge that should be evaluated and discussed.
1. People feel social pressure to conform to groupthink (MCU or Bust!).
The comic book marketplace consists of a group of individuals who buy and sell comics. These individuals have subgroups such as collectors, investors, and a hybrid mix of the two. In groups, a pattern of thinking sometimes emerges so that the will of the many becomes the prevailing and accepted way to think. This thought process mentality exists in the comic book community. The key is to see when the prevailing accepted way of thinking changes.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe was THE driving factor for both collectors and investors. A mere rumor of a character appearing in an MCU property made that character hot (Hydro-Man anyone?). This made the market predictable in that those characters’ keys would rise in value and then take a slight dip after the product was released. The issue’s FMV would still hold value even after that dip.
In contrast, non-MCU books would be largely ignored by the masses. This formula became the mantra of many in the comic community, but slowly, that is changing.
Analysis of Change
The MCU started with characters that even those with very limited exposure to comics had a passing knowledge of. Captain America, Hulk, Spider-Man, and Thor existed in everyday culture consumer products and in multimedia forms. People may not have read comics but they may have watched Hulk in a cartoon or seen his image on a t-shirt.
The problem was that as these properties were used, consumers demanded more and Marvel had only a few iconic characters left. Betting on second-tier heroes with comics became more risky.
Special Marvel Edition #15 has the first appearance of Shang-Chi. The Shang-Chi movie was a success, but that has not been enough to keep the issue’s FMV above water. A 9.6 has lost close to a third of its value in a year.
She-Hulk is currently on Disney+. Her first appearance in Savage She-Hulk #1 has also seen sharp declines in value even though it currently is “hot” because of the volumes sold.
Werewolf by Night #32 may not appear high on the “hot” lists, but it too has seen a sharp decline in prices for all but 9.8 grades.
Some of this decline can be attributed to the economy, but some loss also can be because of the MCU title characters themselves.
The majority of people will still follow the MCU pattern and never deviate from it. A more careful analysis should be used to see if following the group is not always the best. Fantastic Four and the X-Men may follow the old pattern, but other characters may cause some to reconsider this approach. The quality and history of characters do matter.
Sadly, many great books are undervalued and underappreciated because the communities’ groupthink is that Marvel Comics are king. Hardly ever does someone ask why or review the data to see if that is even a good way to think. As a result, sometimes groupthink can be wrong. The problem is that many times people find out that something is wrong one day too late (Bernie Madoff Investors?)
2. Dance with the one that brought you (Key to Your Heart)
In turbulent times, people tend to migrate to what they understand. This allows people to either control or, at the minimum, be better equipped to navigate those trying times. Risk aversion makes familiarity the safe option for many. There is a time for change, but during problematic times people tend to stay the course because they know the lay of the land.
Hot comic books sought after by investors and collectors had a more current feel when reviewed. Modern variants and recently released books filled many slots of “must-have hot” books. Now, hotter books being sought after tend to be older books with a track record. The trend of the hotter books being newer may have disappeared for the time being.
Analysis of Change
Comic book values are falling across the board. That means people are wary of unproven books. News announcements of comic characters’ movie and television rights being purchased are now quite common. Savvy collectors and investors know a movie or television deal does not mean a finished product is coming down the pipeline (I see ya, Batgirl). In addition, variant issues are hot one week and not the next, which makes buying and selling a risky venture. Collectors and investors hate overpaying and thus have moved to older, safer picks. This can be seen in a review of the Top 100 Market.
The problem is that, for many retailers, the money is to be made in new product sales. Newer books continue to get the hype, but the sales data deviates from those new books. Older seems to be the choice of collectors and investors. Investors and collectors should follow the data rather than the hype.
On September 1, a quick review of a recent list of GoCollect’s Market Review 100 top comic books revealed a Top 5 of X-Men #1, Savage She-Hulk #1, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, Spawn #1, and Sandman #1. Paper Girls #1 was the first book to appear on the list (#22) that was less than ten years old.
Everyone wants the newer version of an item. Hot lists regularly have praised newly released issues and variants as the hot books to chase. The sales data reflected that in both offerings and sales. As the market fluctuated and buyers changed their tastes, people were afraid to buy books that they may be stuck holding. That belief has caused a resurgence in older books generating heat in the market while newer books are cold (Oh where have you gone, Punchline and Hell Arisen #3)
3. Sociological problems have many different forms (MO FOMO!!!)
The study of society can lead to observations in one group being applied to other groups. The New York five families originally set up their criminal organization to be like a regular business. Their leadership style can be seen across most boardrooms. Problems in society also can be seen across a wide range of groups. Sometimes the difficulty is in seeing those problems unless they appear in their most common form.
The comic book marketplace thrives on transactions that are impulse purchases. The purchases can be conducted in a few minutes or they can take a few weeks on eBay, but the one commonality that exists with the transaction is that they are conducted in a factual vacuum. Emotions trump logic. Facts that do not play into the FOMO narrative are ignored.
GoCollect can provide FMV, census populations, recent sales, number of books for sale, and other data, but FOMO victims omit the data that would cause them to hesitate with the sale. Recently, FOMO has mutated and yet many fail to see it in its current form.
Analysis of Change
FOMO used to be thought of when buying rashly. FOMO now has changed in a unique way. People are selling books, but are afraid to cut prices to reflect the FMV because they believe prices will eventually rebound. GoCollect data shows a healthy supply of books for sale but most are above well above the FMV. Buyers always ask more so they have room to negotiate, but FOMO has now infected sellers.
Different assessments of the global and national economy have caused many a seller to fear selling books that will soon rebound in value. They are very reluctant to sell any book at a discount because FOMO tells them that others who own the book will sell it for more shortly thereafter.
Others have pulled books from being sold at all because they are “must keeps” for when times are better. Supply numbers for some books have been less than what was expected during tight times. Some rare books have crept up from the rocks they have been hidden under and sold for premiums, but for the most part, the market has a take a wait-and-see approach.
Factual Analysis Part I
Daredevil is going to appear in the She-Hulk Disney+ show, based upon the released trailer posted earlier this year (has not aired as of 9/4/22). Two top books of the title are Daredevil #131 and #168. The first appearance of Bullseye in Daredevil #131 has over 3,300 copies graded with 132 available for sale. Daredevil #168 has over 5,300 total copies graded, and yet only 119 are available for sale at this time. These issues are constantly being monitored by people to assess the general health of the Bronze Age market because these are key books.
The number of issues for sale is unique. Normally the number of issues for sale for these two books is above the current sales figures. In addition, the first appearance of Elektra is generally higher in sales available than Bullseye. The old MCU mentality for buying books always favored buying the heroes rather than investing in the villain. That may explain the reversal in book totals available for sale.
The rumored Daredevil appearance in She-Hulk and a remote possible appearance in the future Echo series is causing some to experience FOMO for the sale of these books. They fear the bump these books will experience with a deeper tie-in with the MCU than they already have now.
Factual Analysis Part 2
Ultimate Fallout #4 is another book that has seen a declining FMV. At the time I am writing this article, there are 482 copies available for sale. That may seem like a large number until you compare it to the 13,250 graded copies that exist. There are close to 750 fewer graded copies of Incredible Hulk #181, and yet there are 758 copies for sale at the time of this writing.
It may be that sellers need money and that is one book that they can get money quickly, but the question is, then why do you not see more UF #4s for sale? FOMO that the FMV will shoot to the moon if Miles ever enters the MCU is one possible reason for the low total issues available for sale.
Books that were bought as speculation books are now being held by sellers because of FOMO that they will eventually rise to the level that was expected when they were purchased. In a sellers’ market, FOMO infected the buyers. Buyers often expressed remorse that they should have bought an issue sooner to many a seller, but now in a buyers’ market, FOMO has spread to the sellers.
Now, it is the seller who indicates that they fear they will regret selling books to buyers at the FMV and know in the near future those books will rise in value. FOMO is a nasty pest that it seems the hobby will never exterminate.
FOMO has many different forms. When the economy was booming, investors and collectors feared missing out on buying the next hot issue. This would cause the person to pay more to purchase the issue at a later date. FOMO mutated during the downturn in the economy and now sellers are facing the fear of missing out when the FMV bounces back.
4. So what is the point of the article? (Drum Roll)
Many collectors and investors fail to see the why and go to what. That may have been easier to justify before because it was easier to fix mistakes. Now, times are more difficult and mistakes can be harder to ignore. Collectors and investors need to put in the time to find the answers to why something is happening rather than only see what is. This knowledge would better prepare collectors and investors to navigate these troubled waters and to find success where others see only the potential for failure.
“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well.” ~ Jack London