The Disturbing Trend: Retail Comic Pricing

by Norman Robinson III

142771_f0655e9dcb15bdeb34c33ff5c14af087dd6ea3db-196x300 The Disturbing Trend: Retail Comic PricingI have noticed a disturbing trend among retailers: overpricing. Apparently, not happy with the sales prices from the Overstreet Price Guide many have abandoned it altogether. Where have they gone for their new pricing models? Mostly to eBay by studying the last several sales figures they use these as current pricing in their retail shops. Now, that would be understandable if they just limited their pricing to trends but instead; these folks have decided to price raw copies, at, wait for it. Yep, you guessed it slabbed graded comic book prices. Now, this has two major impacts on the market:

#1 Prices Skyrocket

#2 Formation of a Bubble

 

Retail Comics: Overpriced?

Two years ago most retail establishments used the latest Overstreet Guide for value pricing. This would always give the speculators a 20%-30% roughly lower price as the Overstreet Guide is about 18 months behind actual pricing. Two years later and most of the retail establishment has begun using other services like GPA that data crunch the numbers. In order to get in on the current pricing, they are charging slab prices for raw books.

How can you tell that a comic book is overpriced? I look at a raw copy and then add the shipping and CGC costs to confirm the actual price I am paying for a comic book. Let’s focus on brick and mortar here. The following example shows the danger of paying too much for a raw comic priced as if it were CGC slabbed:

Comparing Slab vs. Raw Copy

CGC ASM #300 in grade 9.0 the average price is $350. The total cost to buy CGC book= $350

vs.

Raw copy ASM #300 in grade 9.0 the retail price may look like a good deal at $325 in raw format, but watch out. Retail Cost $325 + Shipping $20 + CGC Modern $20 + CSC press $12 = $377

169116_b7475ebe59fa3df7a74e9f8eb181742ec0a33248-201x300 The Disturbing Trend: Retail Comic PricingLet’s do a Bronze Age example too. How about something with a Mike Zeck cover, sound good? Well, Secret Wars #1  is still relatively cheap and marks the end of the Bronze Age for some. Hypothetically if we were to enter a retail shop and purchase a raw copy, supposedly in 9.2 at $48; then this purchase is a straight-up market purchase. You are literally purchasing at the market for a near mint minus 9.2 grade.

CGC copy Secret Wars #1 in grade 9.2 the average price is $48 FMV. Therefore, the total cost to buy a Bronze Age CGC slabbed book = $48

vs.

Raw copy Secret Wars #1 in grade 9.2 with the same price point as above $48 + shipping ($20) +CGC ($27) + pressing ($27) = $122

When you buy a raw copy it is so important that you pay below the current market price with adjustments for getting it slabbed; otherwise, you will be in the red for quite a while. The two examples above make it imperative that you try to negotiate and leverage your local retailer in order to get a fair price.

Grading: Another Hurdle

The pricing problem is big but the grading problem is giant-size! How many retailers are starting to fudge the line between near mint minus and fine plus? With bad grading and overpriced raw comics; the environment for speculators is like hopping through a minefield to get a good deal. It is much tougher than years past. My advice is to hold off on big purchases and bundle your purchases to leverage the largest discount when purchasing. Every speculator should be developing leads and looking for alternative places to purchase comics, in addition to your local retailer.

 

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28 comments

Joshua Clark July 27, 2019 - 2:39 am

Not to mention, also marking up slabbed books based on speculation. I am glad that you addressed this concern in thia post, because I noticed it too in a few of my LCS! Here are some recent examples of prices on books in my LCS:

Moon knight 55 raw nm+ – $150

Captain Marvel 26 raw vf+ -$125

Avengers 684 graded 9.6 – $90

Reply
Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 3:42 am

Thanks, Joshua I noticed some of the retailer readers were not happy with my choice of topic. In their defense, I am not claiming all retailers, merely a trend. From a speculator perspective, it gets harder and harder to buy good books. I believe intuitively that speculators are a larger and larger part of the comic book market. I hope we don’t get to bubble territory but I fear we might. Purchase with prudence…

Regards,
Norman

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Radys July 27, 2019 - 4:05 am

I totally agree with you. To there is usually an additional premium for a book already graded and slabbed to account for convenience and risk mitigation(book comes back lower grade). My rule of thumb for a book over $100 is raw = no more than 50% graded and I assume one grade less.
When I see retailers charging graded prices I assume greed or ignorance on their part.

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Lawrence Balanag July 27, 2019 - 5:44 am

What is going on with skyrocketing price of a raw Strange Tales 180 in contrast to the stagnant price of a raw Avengers 257?

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Just another comic guy July 27, 2019 - 8:38 am

The thing is comic retailers are not in this business to make comic speculators money. Comic shops also take care of their regulars and could have those price tags on them to keep speculators at bay…my guess is if a regular of theirs who they knew were not a speculator would ask for said book they would discount it for them (at least that’s how my shop does it). Speculators are brutal at the shop I get my subs at. They try to get there when the doors first open and snag all the “hot books” trying to leave none for anyone else. I’m glad my shop puts the curtails to this.They are the brick and mortar store who have business expenses and are not making heaps of money in the industry as it is. So using ebay is the right guideline because that is what the market shows the value is. I believe that speculators will get bubbled out because it’s such a difficult market selling comics and there are apps and the internet to let retailers know what book is going for $20 on release day.

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 7:14 pm

The article was specifically about graded vs raw not pricing vs speculators. I think looking at customers and judging who is a speculator and who isn’t is insane. Simply price your books at reasonable market prices even using eBay is fine.

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skip melton July 27, 2019 - 8:41 am

This trend would appear to diminish the value of grading a comic.The financial reward
for a graded comic vs a raw one becomes more narrow.In a somewhat unrelated matter
are most all books purchased at cover price candidates for grading?

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 7:06 pm

yeah, I agree. Good point.

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Brian July 27, 2019 - 8:59 am

Have you ever taken a business class? You’re an idiot.

Go cry in a corner about not being able to rip off your local store any more and go take advantage of someone else you big baby.

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 7:05 pm

Yes, I have taken a business class, several. But I always preferred economics and one term that jumps to mind is “economies of scale.” Does suggesting that overpricing raw books at slab prices a bad trend, really make me an idiot? I don’t rip off my local store, I bring them business $1000’s worth. I look for fair pricing, reasonable pricing and I purchase. Instead of seeing the world as zero-sum, someone has to win and someone has to lose; perhaps you should look at your “speculators” as a network that moves books? That would be a ton more productive instead of pricing consistent buyers out of the market, use them as a network and resource to move more books.

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Some guy in NYC July 27, 2019 - 11:28 am

Similarly, many retailers (especially in NYC) are stickering raw books at up to DOUBLE the recent raw eBay prices, to create the artificial perception of a vast discount upon haggling them down to FMV.

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 6:44 pm

interesting…

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Richard Evans July 27, 2019 - 11:43 am

So if a store prices at Overstreet, which is “about 18 months behind actual pricing” (your quote), that is acceptable…but if a store prices at “actual pricing” – the prices realized through venues such as auctions, eBay, etc. as reflected by GPA – that is unacceptable? That doesn’t seem very fair to the many retailers out there who are working very hard to keep the doors open so that speculators can have a place to buy stuff.

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 6:43 pm

Let’s be honest here, the article clearly states pricing at a trend is fine, but pricing at slab prices is not.

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Alan July 27, 2019 - 1:57 pm

On the other hand, don’t forget that GPA and gocollect price data collection from eBay does not include shipping for CGC graded books. Don’t the prices between the two are a little bit closer than they seem.

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 6:41 pm

Whoa, good point Alan.

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Dena Brooke July 27, 2019 - 3:20 pm

Ha ha ha! Obviously written by someone who does not understand what causes comic prices to go up or down. And why do you think that actual businesses owe anything to speculators. Why should someone who is taking a chance buying a book, paying rent, utilities and labor costs subsidize the cost of books someone is buying to flip? If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it but please quit whining about how the big bad business man is infringing on your right to be the only guy to mark up books!

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Whoa, lots of emotion in the responses to this trend. Nope, retailers owe nothing to speculators but without customers, they can’t stay in business.

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Todd July 27, 2019 - 3:41 pm

Where did you gather the data? Is this strictly based on shops in your area?

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Norman Robinson III July 27, 2019 - 6:38 pm

Shops in area, cons, but more importantly about ten speculators who are seeing the same thing in the market.

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Adam July 28, 2019 - 12:13 am

Another thing that should be mentioned about buying raw is the risk. If I buy raw and have it graded I take all the risk of loss or damage on top of the costs of grading. This is why raw prices should be substantially lower than graded. Nice article and clearly some people don’t understand what you’re saying.

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Norman Robinson III July 28, 2019 - 11:31 am

Yeah, I touched on this aspect of raw comics, but perhaps I should have gone into more detail. There is a lot involved with buying raw and risk is a big factor. Thanks for the input.

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Tom Vera July 28, 2019 - 12:25 pm

I have seen that here in my small town. One will use the Overstreet but bump his grade a few points. The other shop will literally log into Ebay and change prices when you go to check out. And his grading is way off. Saw a What If? Jane Foster was Thor priced at 25 bucks for about a 4.5 raw copy. At least the first guy does cut me deals since I bring him bottles of wine occasionally 🙂

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Norman Robinson III July 29, 2019 - 9:51 pm

Sounds like the Overstreeter is the way to go of the two. The retailers have to make money to stay in business and I think an Overstreet book grade is a good deal for both, even if he bumps a grade or so.

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#Justin time (@whoisjustinm) July 29, 2019 - 1:31 am

My LCS knows I Spec all the time and I have my own regular customers, he is my friend and knows I scratch his back he scratches mine. I move many big books for him fast, and we all win! Where is harm if everyone is making money?

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Norman Robinson III July 29, 2019 - 2:52 am

Agreed Justin, amazing how the speculators are the reasonable ones in the debate on prices.

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Joe August 3, 2019 - 4:31 am

You should be upset that CGC graded books no longer command value over raw books in most grades, not that retailers price raw books at graded prices. Consumer demand drives the market, not the other way around. Everyone, speculators included, price things the way they do because they believe someone will pay. What you’re saying is that you only like the market when it favors you. The market doesn’t play favorites, it just is. Consider reevaluating what you think you should be grading to make sure it adds enough value to your comic to be worth the fee because it’s no one’s responsibility to sell you a comic for what you perceive to be market value less the fees you may choose to pay to have an item graded. If your concern is that you don’t think you can make any quick money that way then put your money somewhere else.

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Norman Robinson III August 6, 2019 - 11:53 am

I am not upset. I merely noticed a “trend” and by the reaction to my work, I obviously hit a nerve. The warning was really for speculators but it is interesting how many retailers have responded.

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