While collectors almost always have a bucket list of the specific books they want to acquire, investors are less tethered to the psychological malady of “oneitis.” Is buying in bulk the best strategy for building an incredible collection?
Instant Bragging Rights
While the prices realized in Heritage Auctions’ Anime & Everything Cool II this past November fell short of most high-end consignors’ expectations, it still generated enough capital for me to buy a massive Silver & Bronze Age comic book collection.
After a house and a car, this was the most expensive thing I have ever purchased –and a bargain by almost any metric. This collection had a run of Amazing Spider-Man from #7 to #122 (missing only a few of the major Key Issues in between), and similar runs of Fantastic Four (#9 up), Avengers (#21 to #100), Strange Tales (including #110), Journey into Mystery (#84+), X-Men (#94 to #200) and two dozen or so key issues from Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish.
There were pivotal keys missing from all of them (like ASM #50 & 51, Avengers #57, and Fantastic Four #12), but there were also near-complete runs of Daredevil and Conan (including the first issues of each). Also to be found? Almost every single Shang-Chi appearance –from Special Marvel Edition #15 through Master of Kung Fu #125 and all his guest appearances, including Marvel Two-in-One #29 (the 2nd appearance of Spider-Woman). While not much of the collection was high-grade, most of it was at least Fine to Very Fine and (as mentioned) absolutely loaded with keys.
Like most of my fellow collectors, I have a shortlist of comics that I never thought I’d be able to own at current prices. Many of those are listed above. The benefit of buying in bulk is that you get to aggregate cost across hundreds (or in this case, thousands) of comics.
This particular collection included some of the most sought-after keys in the hobby right now. Aside from the aforementioned, there was a Fantastic Four #49 and a Thor #165, but also two dozen boxes of other great comics. When you add up the individual values of these milestone issues, it’s easy to spend $50K without even considering the complete set of Silver Surfer Vol. 1, and Hulk #102, the high-value minor keys and non-keys that comprise most of the era before and after the big boy books, nor the additional 20 boxes of modern comics that came with all that Silver and Bonze Age goodness.
Some might call that a steal.
So why did I choose to immediately flip it rather than keep it?
It’s Always a Buyer’s Market
While this seems like a once-in-a-lifetime haul, it’s not.
I’ve bought and sold many collections over the years. This one was particularly sweet, but a major purchase like this comes with a lot of work. Aside from the tens of thousands of dollars spent on the comics, I was looking at thousands more in cleaning, pressing, and submitting – not to mention a turnaround time approaching a year, which would put me almost six bills out-of-pocket before ever recouping a single cent.
I chose instead to double my money and move on. I got to walk away with a few spoils from my conquest, but I wish to stress that there are opportunities like this available at every level of investment if you are willing to take on more inventory than you necessarily wanted. There is no reason why you can’t turn a profit and satisfy the collecting bug at the same time.
A mere week after I sold the collection that inspired this column, I picked up a Star Wars collection that had every issue of the original Marvel series (including #1) and important recent keys like Darth Vader #1 (Scottie Young Variant) & Darth Vader #3, Star Wars V2 #1 ComicXposure (the John Tyler Christopher color negative variant). This was a treasure trove of high-grade Bronze & Modern comics with high potential for massive up-tick as new series continue to populate the Disney+ app and placate Gen-X nostalgia.
Two days after that, I scored another (albeit smaller) collection of classic Marvel and DC Silver Age keys and some original comic art that was probably worth more than the comic collection but was included as an add-on. When you buy in bulk, individual comics can wind up costing a dollar or less each. But even if you work out a deal to purchase only the keys, you are generally going to get a significant discount that leaves plenty of meat on the bone to clean, press, grade, and still make a LOT of money reselling them.
What have you scored in bulk purchases? Comment below!