If you’ve ever endured psychology or behavioral economics class, you’ve likely run across the phrase “endowment effect.” You might have seen it as an “ownership effect” or something similar, but the basic meaning behind the phrase is that we tend to value goods or objects we own more highly than an identical item that we do not own. I recently learned this bias was weighing my collection down and led to an interesting personal story – how to perform a comic purge to get higher valued collectibles.
If I was to compare my CGC 6.5 Hulk Annual #1 with another CGC 6.5 copy, I would subconsciously find more things wrong with the one I don’t own and therefore internally justify that the one I own is actually worth more. This is silly. They are identical items, but one of them seemingly has more value because it’s MINE.
About seven months ago, I caught myself looking through boxes upon boxes of comics I had accumulated over who knows how long. I had these thoughts about the value of my collection.
“I bought this CGC 9.2 New Mutants #98 for $230, but I really think it’s probably worth about $100 more to someone out there.”
“Altogether, I spent about $140 for this entire run of Secret Wars, but actually I think it’s worth about $200. Someone will buy it for that.”
So every once in a while I would try to sell something through Instagram, eBay, or Mercari and I wouldn’t get any bites. Inevitably, I got frustrated and began to wonder how am I going to be able to afford the books I REALLY want but have so far been out of reach.
What I Considered
It wasn’t until I remembered about the endowment effect that I could fully have a series of revelations about my collection:
- How I value these comics are irrelevant. How the buyer-side market values them is the only thing that matters. (Corollary: The price I paid for them could not be more irrelevant)
- What I own in these boxes does have value, maybe even significant value to someone. If it’s not me, how can I use this knowledge to get what I really want?
- Many of the comics I own are keys, some of the major keys. Even more of them are desirable. But do they make me happier with my collection or do I have them because they are “good books to own?”
Buttressed by this epiphany, I began to develop a plan: Turn all of these comics that I am holding for speculation or because you are “supposed” to have them in your collection or people praise you because you grabbed one into the books that I really want. Or more simply, make my collection more complete by purging.
What I Purged
I then began to dig into the GoCollect data on my slabbed books and recently sold data on my raw books and develop prices I thought the market would like, not necessarily what I thought I was right. It became clear that I might not make a profit on every book I wanted to purge, but if the goal of owning a comic is to have X% of a return on your investment, it might not be a hobby for you anymore.
Armed with this information, I ran three claims/BIN sales over the last seven months, had more direct message conversations on social media than I can count, and searched out people looking for the specific books I had to sell. Altogether, I sold more than 150 books including my New Mutants #98, a Spider-Man #50, a Nova #1, a Fantastic Four #52, and countless other minor keys and runs.
Were those all great books and ones I would love to have as part of my collection? Absolutely. Did they make me truly happy sitting in a box waiting for the day when I would do something with them? Not even a little bit. What would make me truly happy came next.
Over the past several weeks, I was able to turn the funds from those 150 books into about 10 books that are on my Grail list:
Daredevil #1 – a CGC 3.5 copy – my ultimate grail
Hulk #5 – a raw GD copy
ASM Annual #1 – a CGC 3.5 copy
Tales to Astonish #35 – a CGC 4.0 copy
Tales to Astonish #59 – raw FN copy
Marvel Premiere #1 – a CGC 8.0 copy
Fantastic Four #67 – raw FN copy
Hulk Annual #1 – a CGC 6.5 copy
X-Men #141 – a CBCS 9.4 copy
A CGC certified Chip Zdarsky signed and sketched Daredevil #1 from his current run
Along the way I have also been able to pick up a few minor things – some Bronze Age Daredevil issues to help with my run, some interesting Hulk books since I collect his keys, and a couple keys recommended by the writers here at GoCollect that look to be some strong speculation books.
At the end of the day, my entire collection is now down to about three short boxes. One for my Daredevil #1-300 run and two more for raw books, plus a small box of slabs. It was frightening at first to cut my entire collection down by about 70%, but the more I began to realize other books would make me truly happy and the books I owned didn’t do that, the more comfortable I became with the decision.
So for me, it is true that less is more. Will the collection build back up over time? Most assuredly, I mean I am addicted after all. But I know in the future my collection won’t exist to make others happy. It will be something that makes me satisfied with what’s in those boxes.
Have you had a similar experience? Does the phrase “less is more” apply to you? Let me know your experience in the comments.