When I was in college, I learned a simple plan for money management: give 10%, save 10%, and spend the other 80% wisely. I think I have done fine on the first two. At times, the process broke down for the other 80%. Today, I want to propose a simple plan for original art investment. I will also share my regrets about not having such a plan thirty plus years ago when I was in college! Finally, I will exhort readers to consider my original comic art investment plan. I believe it can offer significant long term returns.
Back in college, I bought all the mainstream DC titles and several titles featuring the secondary characters. Action Comics, Superman, Batman, Brave and the Bold, Justice League–yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. However, as so many of us can be, I felt that “completist” need. At that time I would buy comics for secondary characters like the Red Tornado mini-series, or Jemm, Son of Saturn.
Buyer’s remorse for Red Tornado and Jemm, Son of Saturn?
Red Tornado fascinated me as a Justice League character. Growing up in the Midwest, tornado powers blew me away. Plus, he was a machine with empathy. On the other hand, Carmine Infantino’s art from the mid-eighties couldn’t match his works from the sixties and early seventies. So, in the end, would I have missed out by missing the series?
Red Tornado 2 – Was it worth my hobby money?
Red Tornado #1 in graded 9.8 sold for $50 a few months ago on eBay. A copy graded 9.6 sold in January 2019 for only $10. I assume the 9.8 guy made a little money after slabbing costs, but there’s no way the 9.6 guy came out ahead. In a similar vein, issue 1 of Gene Colan’s Jemm Son of Saturn averaged $45 on five sales in graded 9.8 condition. I still have that comic in a mylite bag, but it’s probably not 9.8. Again, if slabbed, would I break even? If I don’t slab it, would I go back and read the series? If you were born ten years after these comics came out, would you have ANY desire at all to buy them? I doubt it.
So you said something about an Original Art Investment Plan
I like Carmine Infantino and Gene Colan art. They are meaningful in my fan experience. But I hope the point I am making is clear. I spent money on comics I still fondly recall today, and I also spent money on some duds. If you consider your buying habits, how would you categorize the comics you buy? Perhaps, you identify a few titles that you can’t wait to read each month! Then, some you buy for completeness. Finally, you have a group that you are purely speculating on. Maybe there’s some that you bring home, pull them out of the bag, and immediately say–oh, that was a waste of $3.99.
Here’s the plan, take Joseph from the Bible as a model for a wise investment. Back thousands of years ago, Joseph told Pharaoh that there would be seven years of amazing bounty. That would be followed by seven years of a terrible famine. Joseph advised Pharaoh to save off 20% of the grain and produce of the land during the time of bounty. Pharaoh did it. Then during the time of famine, Pharaoh and Egypt had plenty for themselves and prospered selling to neighbors who needed the grain.
The Action Plan – especially for young collectors
First Step: Identify the 20% of what you buy that you could really do without. Ask yourself, “would I really miss this?”
Second Step: Instead of spending 100% of your hobby money, start setting aside 20% for original art purchases.
Third Step: Identify newer artists working on series you really like. Presumably, less established artists may be selling art at reasonable prices.
Fourth Step: Buy some inexpensive art with the hobby money you set aside.
Final Step: Check out the Comic Art Trends Price Guide as a tool for understanding the original comic art market.
My Regrets and Your Original Art Investment Opportunity
I’ve seen advertisements from back in the day that makes me shudder now. What I COULD have bought if I was savvier… or maybe if someone had made the simple suggestion to set aside some of my hobby money. In twenty years, you may cull your collection like I did and put comics you don’t want anymore in a box. Think about how much more you may have enjoyed a page of art by one of your favorites hanging on your wall. I’ll leave you with an image from one of my missed opportunities. Then, I’ll urge you, young collectors, to not make the same mistake!