It was a time of turmoil, a time of greed, a time of comic books, a time of need. It was the 1990s. Speculators were everywhere, including many in the comic book market. They had hoarded tons of New Mutants, Brigade, X-Factor, and X-men ad infinitum to name but a few. These speculators were overflowing with storage units filled with comic books. The end came soon after. Like the dinosaurs before them; the 90s’ speculators looked up in the sky and screamed as one comic book retail establishment after another burst into smoke and disappeared overnight. Much like the prehistoric pterodactyls, they could feel the change in the winds of fate. What catalyst brought speculators back to comic books? Further, what comic book character played a huge role? That’s right. It’s Iron Man.
The end for the 90s speculation crowd came in a frenzy of thousands of storage units being left stuffed with Modern Age books not worth the material they were printed on. Then, the remaining retail establishments rolled in and bought everything for pennies. Speculators scrambled, but most lost their money and saw their investment equity completely evaporate.
This was the first “Age of Comic Speculation” and was snuffed out overnight as the comic book publishers printed insane amounts of unsellable books right up until the bitter end. Though many retailers went under from this speculation bust. The strong ones that survived amassed staggering fortunes well beyond what most comic book stores were ever previously able to achieve. To be clear, when you are able to buy an entire decade of comics for pennies on the dollar, then you have possibly just made a fortune.
The Retail View
How did this destruction of an entire generation of speculators work out for the surviving retailers? Quite simply, the retailers of the time that survived were able to buy Bronze Age books very cheaply, Silver Age books at a huge discount, and Modern Age books for next to nothing. Imagine if you will, Amazing Spider-Man #361 with fifty copies in just one long box that you pay $20 for, if that. Now you are getting the picture. So let’s fast forward to the present day…
“Making a Killing” or “Roast Speculator, Anyone?”
The same retailers that made a killing on the backs of poorly informed speculators have been selling their wares for the top dollar over the years. By top dollar, I mean pure profit. For the last twenty years, the only people buying books have been collectors. So this retail group is used to creating a nice, comfortable atmosphere for a collector class.
Collectors are Sophisticated Knowledgable Buyers
Collectors can be the most sophisticated buyers in the comic book lineup. They usually don’t care that much about price. Even the best is willing to pay market prices, and happily. This led to many retailers getting spoiled by a collector class who mostly was willing to pay top dollar. Imagine a pack of wolves with no known predator in their ecosystem. They would slaughter their prey and, with no challenge, grow fat and happy.
The Coming of Iron Man
Life was good for many years, then everything changed yet again. With the coming of Iron Man in 2008 and a slew of great Marvel movies percolating hype and interest. This popularity aroused the speculators to pounce into the market. As more and more money was paid for Detective Comics #27 and Action Comics #1, the speculators grew and grew well beyond the 1990 population. Finally, much like in the stock market today the internet is equalizing the advantage the retailers once had. This allowed a level playing field that speculators have thrived in. This spike in demand drove prices and garnered more interest and hype which has led to three separate classes of an even larger group of comic book buyers namely collectors, investors, and speculators. What does Iron Man #1 return over the long-term?
|Title||Grade||Last Sale||CGC Census||Return|
|Iron Man #1||9.8||$18,600||36||
Speculators are here to stay, the knowledge base is available to everyone, and the movie catalysts will continue for the next 20 years. To be frank, my generation will never get sick of seeing their heroes on the big screen 4K in their house. I sure won’t.
I believe the future of comic collecting is bright. Essentially there will grow an investor class that is collector, speculator, and realizes the value of a comic book collection as an investment. The future is really for a hybrid of all three. Which is a good omen for those of us that love collecting comic books and don’t want to see this obsession/hobby go the way of Devil Dinosaur.