Speculation is the mother’s milk of most industries, especially in the comic book retail space. The newbie speculator can and indeed should bet on comics and collectibles. It keeps the market expanding, and provides retailer profits. You should buy comics you already like to read. You can bet on Modern, Bronze, Silver and Golden Age comics. There are a couple of tools you need in your mental toolbox to begin: grading techniques for comics, knowledge of what to collect, the storage environment for your comics, and finally owning the correct comic book archival bags and boards. It is essential for you to have a positive relationship with local comic shops, especially if your speculative focus is modern variants.
What to look for when buying a comic? What grade is the comic? Take a realistic appraisal, and contrary to popular belief you don’t own all near mint comics, you might have 10 out of 100 if you are lucky. The safest bet is to follow the Overstreet guide for grading comics. This book is considered by many to be the bible of all things comic book related. Overstreet is cautious and provides a basic range from (2.0 to 9.2) which is a readable copy (2.0) to near mint (9.2). These guys helped create comic collecting and made it what we enjoy today. Follow their grade range, and you should fare well and even profit. To quote Overstreet, they have “a cautious and conservative approach to pricing comics.” (Overstreet Guide 47th Edition)
Visual Inspection: Amazing Spider-Man #238
Most of the comics in existence fall somewhere between (6.0) fine and (8.0) very fine on the grading scale. Before purchase have the seller remove it from the bag so you can inspect it. Does it meet or exceed the following criteria? Is the paper quality white to off-white? Is there any damage to book? Many things can lower comic value; corners blunted, graffiti damage, spine creases, missing pages, holes or tears in the comic. Take the time to look at every page of the comic. In the past, I have been burned on not inspecting the comic thoroughly. For instance, Amazing Spider-Man #238A was not complete because I did not have the Lakeside Skin Tattooz insert. Apparently, I purchased ASM #238B instead of A, it did not have the tattooz inserts. This significantly reduced the price and eliminated any profit. Always visually inspect the comics before purchase.
What to Collect
The number one rule is “only collect what you like in comics.” That way if you don’t profit from speculation you can still enjoy ownership. There are many aspects of collecting and speculating on comics. You can buy a specific publisher, artist, or even a genre. In my opinion, newbies should focus on a comic book age, like the Silver Age of comics or the Modern Age. This will allow you to focus your knowledge and develop as a speculator by narrowing your scope to one or two time periods.
Where to Buy?
The collectible and comic book market is vast. You can buy from auction houses, eBay, online comic resellers, your local comic shop, at a garage sale, or also from a friend. This is a little-known factoid; you can even buy comics through GoCollect’s website.
Storage Environment for Moon Knight #1
When you collect comics; you must store them properly. You will need archival bags and boards. The bags and boards need to fit comics you own; Silver is different from Golden Age and so forth. Check with your local comic shop on the right size bags and boards. Where to store the comics? No, your garage is a bad idea. You should keep them in a climate controlled environment, preferably in your house. Remind your mother, wife, or girlfriend they have value and don’t throw them out! Hey, you laugh? I have a dozen different anecdotal accounts of mom, or wife tossing out collectible comics, or giving them to the sanitation worker. You want to make sure that pristine copy of Moon Knight #1 stays in your possession.
Local Comic Store
This is everyone’s little treasure and part of the fun of collecting and speculating in comic books. The treasure hunt is finding deals that no one else can see. Where to start looking for comics? First thing, go to your local comic store and start building a working relationship with the pros. These guys live and breath comic books. They can identify comics that are hot coming out in the future. Most of the people that work in comic retail are fans. They are familiar with every inch of their store (usually) and can direct you to the good stuff. While you are at your local comic book store: check out their back issue bins, look for sales or discounted books, and ask if they have a reward program to join. This last one can get you as much as 20% off or maybe a free back issue. Bottom line, you can learn a ton from the people that live this stuff every day. Knowledge and friendship go hand and hand in the comic community, even for the dreaded money hungry comic book speculators.