I’m going to outline my strategy for comic book speculation, especially online, given our current situation. These maxims can apply to all comic book collecting as well, regardless of an intent to sell. Given that speculation should be approached as a business, take these rules as ways to maximize your profits while minimizing your effort.
#1: You Don’t Need to Own Every Book
Sometimes the price for a book at an auction will exceed your budget or the margin of comfort you need to make a profit. If this occurs, let it go. Fortunately, in the comic book hobby, unlike fine art, there are other copies out there to find. Don’t get caught up too much in a specific book. There are exceptions, of course, for rarer Golden Age books, or really hard to find variants. In those cases use your discretion. It’s sometimes better to break this rule if you come across that once-in-a-year opportunity.
I once made the mistake of traveling to a seller who had 16 long boxes full of comics for sale. I glanced through the boxes and thought I saw some potentially valuable titles (on reflection that was “titles,” not significant issues), so I was considering. The seller named a price and convinced me to take a chance. I was afraid of Missing Out. I bought the long boxes, which turned out to be full of primarily 90s junk. They now decorate my basement and remind me of this maxim every day.
#2: Stay In Your Budget
It’s essential to have a budget going into the speculation trade. That means setting aside money for purchasing comics, and not exceeding that budget at any time. Don’t sneak a couple of hundred dollars from the bill-paying funds to cover a purchase. If it’s not in the budget, see rule #1.
The budget rule is something I’m still learning to follow. I fund my collection and speculator hobby partially through book sales, which makes things a bit easier. When you know you have to sell books to buy new ones, it helps keep the inventory low and makes the process self-funding.
#3: Research Will Make You Money
Every purchase should begin by knowing your prey. Fortunately, there are plenty of sources of research for comic books, on both collectibility and fair market value. GoCollect, for example, is an excellent place to start when figuring out what’s a good deal and what’s something better to skip.
There are plenty of examples of me finding all kinds of incredible deals in dollar bins because I was able to spot valuable books. She-Hulk #1, Transformers #1, Wolverine’s first mini-series, are all examples of books I’ve bought for less than $5 apiece because I knew more than the seller.
#4: Timing Is Everything
Another title for this point could be “Patience is everything.” Having the right amount of money available to make a targeted offer just as a book becomes available can make the difference between a purchase and a pass. You are waiting for that moment, and the right opportunity beats making snap decisions in the heat of the bidding. Remember, you’re approaching speculation as a business. Maximizing your opportunities means that you need to wait until things are most favorable for you, not the seller.
I have specific eBay queries for comics set up to send alerts when new entries pop up; this is a great way to find books newly for sale with potentially motivated sellers out for a quick sale. An Amazing Spider-Man #129 showed up in an alert, and I investigated. The book was raw but looked solid (the yellow cover can hide a world of issues for the unprepared, see #3). I messaged the seller with a lower-than-average offer, even though the book was an auction, which he accepted. I sent payment immediately, and the book arrived later that week.
#5: Skate to Where the Puck Will Be
Seemingly contradictory to the previous point, don’t be afraid to make smart purchases that are ahead of the curve for the current market. Buy books before they become desirable, or before that movie deal. The comic book market can be very focused, and anything not directly in the sights of the current trend can fall in value. This lull is the perfect time to make an informed purchase on an out-of-favor title that has the potential to increase in value.
I’m a big fan of Doctor Doom, as many people who follow me on Instagram will agree. One book I’ve always felt was underrated is Marvel Super-Heroes #20, Doctor Doom’s first solo title. When I first began looking into this book, it was selling for about $40 to $100, depending on condition. I started researching the book, learning the flaws and potential issues. Soon I was able to spot the diamonds in the rough and plucked several high-quality copies out of the mix. Now those copies go for $100 to $250 raw, with no increase in quality. I’m sitting happily on several copies I managed to snag over a year.
Stay Focused and Have a Plan
These are the rules I’ve set for myself that help me keep focused and make sure every purchase has a purpose. They also help me keep things on track as far as spending. It’s easy to overspend if you don’t have the proper mindset.
I’m interested in hearing from you, dear reader. Are there other maxims you follow when speculating? What helps you keep a separation between comic book collecting and comic book speculation? Please respond in the comments below.