The Impact of Changing Demographics: Comic Book Investing

by Joseph Overaitis

111021B_2-1-300x157 The Impact of Changing Demographics: Comic Book InvestingMy field editor made an interesting observation at the 2021 Motor City Comic Con (“MC3”).  He is a former comic book buyer who recently returned to the hobby.  He noted that fewer young people were attending the show for the comics than compared to shows held several years ago. This observation should concern everyone who invests in comic books. Comic book buyers are getting older with very few young readers replacing those that are aging.  The demographics of comic book investing are changing.

Facebook’s concerns should be our readers’

Facebook is known throughout the world.  The company is a trailblazer who exploited a market that was previously ignored.  Mark Zuckerberg saw trends before others and profited from those observations.  Facebook now has seen a potential problem that threatens the long-term viability of the company.

Facebook’s users are getting older.  In addition, another concern for Zuckerberg is that younger users who were using the platform started to deactivate their Facebook accounts. Furthermore, younger users were not signing up for Facebook.  Instead, younger consumers were migrating to other social media platforms and bypassing Facebook.  An aging consumer base is problematic for the long-term growth of a company.  Facebook saw the problem.  Comic book investors should be aware of this problem as well.

Testing the waters

An informal testimages-7 The Impact of Changing Demographics: Comic Book Investing

My personal observation at MC3 was that the majority of comic book buyers were older.  This issue was further exacerbated by the fact that there were very few buyers under the age of 20.  This age group is the future of comic investing. I wanted to see if this observation was repeatable through a sampling test.

I asked comic book investors and collectors on the Internet how old they were and what the typical age of comic book fans they see in the store or where they buy comics. My request even produced a few responses from LCS owners who gave me their observations based upon store-driven data.  The results are what I expected and that concerns me.

Results

The majority of respondents were 35 years old and older.  Very few said they were in their twenties.  Almost everyone indicated that the average age of comic book fans was older than thirty years and very few young fans were seen in the stores or buying comic books.  Very few teens and younger fans visit comic book shops anymore.  My personal observations at live auctions and in stores are that the majority of comic book buyers are in their thirties or older.  The older the buyer, the more they spend on their books.  Finally, comic book collectors may bring their children to the stores, but very few are staying in the hobby when they hit their teens. These types of numbers scared Facebook and they should scare you too.

Interpreting the Results

Coming to market

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Many comic book collections have recently come to market. Divorce and death are prevailing reasons that these books are sold. The buyers of these books are usually the same age or older than the seller.  In addition, some of the respondents interviewed at MC3 said the same age demographic is buying new comics.

The fact that older buyers are purchasing these collections means that these very same books may come to market again.  An aging consumer base scared Facebook so badly that they are changing their name in an attempt to shed the appearance of being a retirement home platform. Rather than trying to appeal to younger readers, comic books are targeting their base fans, and those fans are older.  This may be a problem in the future.

LCS, Comic Cons, and beyond

Local comic book stores now cannot survive selling only old and new comics.  These stores have re-invented themselves to fit the age demographic and customer base that shops at their store.  New product lines are introduced in hopes to bring in younger customers to replace those older customers that have died or retired from the hobby.  Stores are doing everything to survive but you rarely see new comic book sores opening up. Shrinking age demographics makes opening a new comic book store difficult.

Comic cons have also been affected. Decades ago, the MC3 was dominated by vendors who came to the shows to sell their comic books.  Those that did attend the show this year saw record sales.  Fewer vendors attended the show because of thriving Internet sales, but again most of those sales are to an older base.  eBay and Facebook have many auctions, but most hobbyists who use these platforms are again  middle aged

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Locating the lost generation

A week’s worth of comic books years ago was not as expensive as it is now.  Younger collectors have limited resources and the price of comic books has gone up.  Collectors could buy a comic book for the same price as a bottle of cola but now that is not possible.  Younger consumers are buying things for their phones.  Children have also gone into different areas for their entertainment.  Anime trade paperbacks now fill book store racks that were once the location of comic books.  This has caused print runs to go down for even successful books.

Comics are still selling but you have to dive deeper than merely looking at revenue. Sales figures may be high but print runs are down.  That means they are selling fewer books, but the books companies are selling cost more.  Young collectors cannot afford these higher prices when their dollars are being spent on apps, video game systems, and phones. These fans may see the movies and television shows, but this does not necessarily translate to them being converted to comic book collectors.

How this impacts investing in comic books

Investor analysis

Comic book investors must know their client base.  Investors are not collectors.  The investor buys books to make money rather than spending on books they like. The person reading this must look in the mirror and then at their customer base to make an informed decision on what books to invest in.

Comic book publishers know their consumers and make plans based upon that knowledge to sell books. Comic book investors NEED to start looking at their consumer base now and extrapolate that data for the future to make sound investments. Investors must also look to their investment strategy to best plan for a good Return on Investment (“ROI”). Long and short-term investment plans must be made now rather than left for a later date. People do not plan to fail, they fail to plan. m40_02-300x300 The Impact of Changing Demographics: Comic Book Investing

Aging Gracefully

Older comic books have very low supply.  Golden Age books were not kept in Mylar bags with acid-free backer boards after consumers read them, nor were these books encapsulated by a third-party grader to keep them pristine and preserved.

Golden, Silver, and Bronze age books were read and used, sometimes even abused.  These books have low numbers on the GoCollect CGC census reports.  The supply is limited and thus the demand for these books is high.

Even non-key Golden, Silver, and Bronze age books sell for a premium compared to Copper and new books. Your dollars should be here if you are looking for books to hold for the long term.

A broken model

Newer-age comics may have a shorter shelf life if the consumer base is shrinking.  Short-term investment gains may be wiped out if you hold a book for the long term.  Lower print runs for newer books may decrease the supply, but if there are fewer buyers for that book then the demand will be low as well. Some of the younger investors indicated that they are already turning to older books to protect against potential losses.

Investors seem to assume that the model that has worked in past will work in the future.  The number of comic book investors and collectors is numerous, thus it will stay numerous.  That is what Facebook thought in the past.  Hal Jordan was the Green Lantern for their parents, and Kyle Rayner may be the GL for them does not necessarily mean that the first appearance of Jessica Cruz will be a good investment if there are not enough comic book collectors buying this book,  even with a low print run.

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Miles Morales is the Peter Parker for the next generation.  His book will be worth a lot more once he makes it in the MCU and will be a key for years to come.  This has been the argument made by many for investing in Ultimate Fallout #4.  The question no one bothers to ask is, What if the next generation does not collect and invest in comics like we do today? Does this book have good long-term investment potential like Golden, Silver, and Bronze age keys?

The population is aging and fewer younger people are collecting based upon respondents and interviewees. Fewer buyers mean possibly less of a demand.  Then there is a supply issue. In a previous article, I said that there were 73,764 total first print copies produced with 8,636 in the CGC census (11.7% CGC Graded).  Ten months later, the census now has 11,426 books at the time I write this article (15.5% CGC Graded).  This does not even include the graded CBCS and PGX copies.

Amazing Spider-Man keys are valuable because they are in demand and because of the limited number of books to choose from.  If the number of comic book collectors and investors plummets, even these books may experience a drop in value.  What then could be the fate of Ultimate Fallout #4 when the number of collectors and investors decreases while more books come to market? This is a question you need to know before you invest heavily in this or any book.

Kirby-Kid-600px-210x300 The Impact of Changing Demographics: Comic Book InvestingFinal Thoughts

I am not suggesting that comic book collectors and investors will cease to exist tomorrow.  Instead, I am suggesting that investors must re-evaluate the long-term viability of books to invest in.  Demand will be lowered if comic book collectors and investors age and their numbers are not replenished by the same number of younger investors.  People can not assume that what happened in the past is a guarantee of what will happen in the future. Investors should never let their own biases and love of collectibles get in the way of producing a healthy ROI.

Numbers do not lie.  CGC and the new CBCS censuses should be studied with print runs of current books.  Sales data should be examined to determine the short and long term investment potential of books.  Facebook is successful because they are proactive rather than reactive. Investors must realize that collectors and investors are getting older.  If comic book investors do not review the changing age demographics of comic book  investing then in the future they may be the ones with the largest collection of newer comic books and no potential buyers. That is one game of musical chairs that you do not want to win when everyone else has left the room.

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52 comments

Mark Oldroyd November 21, 2021 - 11:57 am

I have been collecting comics on and off for 50 years, and have been attending comic conventions for 30 to 40 years, the most recent last week. Are comic colllectors getting older as a group, maybe, however I was definitely one of the oldest at the convention last week, I would have said the average age was about thirty. What has changed dramatically is the diversity of people attending comic conventions. Back in the 80’s the attendees were 98% white, male and apparently heterosexual. At the convention last week at least 50% attending were female, and there was a good mix of skin colours and sexual orientations. This is a huge changes for the better and increases the number of people collecting comics, more than compensating for a shift in the average age

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 12:34 pm

Mark

Welcome to the boards. We seen the same at our comic con but what we noticed were that many of the younger people attending seemed more interested in the anime items, cosplay, and other non-comic book items. For my observations I spent the my time at the con noting who was buying comics and most of the people who were buying books were mid 30 and above.

I love the diversity of the group but you have to target younger people as well. What amazed me was watched the lines for anime voice actors and for Jim Starlin and Greg Capullo and those lines never matched the anime lines. Diversity is great and I welcome it but you also have to focus that diversity on ages as well. I have handled estates for clients where the items they collected appealed to older fans (regardless of race, gender, or sexual identity) and those items dropped in price because of the decrease in the overall population collecting those items.

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Steven Moore November 21, 2021 - 12:02 pm

I agree that demographics will have an effect on what is collected and why. But I don’t see any reason for the doom and gloom. Few people under the age of 30 buy Rembrandt paintings. But prices for Rembrandts are doing fine!

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 12:26 pm

Steven

That is correct that Rembrandts have stood the test of time. Now we have NFTs that sell for the prices of the great masters. Other antiques though have not done as well
because the markets have dried up. I have handled estates before where I could contact a dealer and let them know a person had passed away and they would be interested in all their antiques. Now those very same antiques have very little interest and as a result the prices and offers have dried up. What the article is saying is that you have to constantly monitor the demographics and buying patterns of the hobbyists. I was amazed that many of the younger fans I talked with were looking to trade up their Miles books for Peter Parkers because they wanted to have more certainty with their collections.

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Steven Moore November 22, 2021 - 9:59 am

Joseph,

Great points. Certainly, some areas of the market are frothy.

I mostly collect Silver Age comics. I’ve observed that: 1) This market largely consists of a small group of deep-pocketed collectors; 2) Many of them came to this late (it was not an extension of silver age collecting earlier in life); and 3) These collectors like hunting pop-culture trophies (it’s not about reading the comics).

Based on these observations, my thesis is the total number of comic book readers/collectors has only a modest effect on prices of Silver and even Bronze age comics (which is probably most of the comic market by total value!). Instead, the more relevant factors are 1) the number of deep-pocketed investors in the market (whose involvement largely relates to the advent of standardized grading, i.e. CGC, etc, and not because of any life-long attachment to comics); 2) the development of online comic culture (which helps clarify terms and trends, allowing more deep-pocketed investors to enter the market and increasing their expenditures); and 3) the overall pop culture cache of the characters (which is largely determined outside the comic book realm).

With these countervailing trends, the market can survive and even thrive with very few total investors.

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 10:11 am

Steven

Great comments as always. My fear though was further deepened by your post that I have to watch the market even more carefully. that is again because I respect opinions of all the people posting on these boards. Those deep pockets that you mentioned are who I am seeing at live auctions and who LCS are saying are buying from them. The problem though is that they are older. These people sadly are leaving the markets quicker than the newer ones are coming to replace them. I think the market will survive but it will also evolve and we must be ready for that evolution.

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Steven Moore November 22, 2021 - 11:05 am

It’s funny but I think we’re mostly agreeing. I collected from ages 12-14 (1990-1992). My friends and I focused on buying modern keys with great covers off the wall for $20-30 (e.g. Hulk 340). I started again in my 30s and came back a different collector, focusing on Silver Age issues and a very few moderns (e.g. UF4, IIM 9 variants). And those kids buying comics off the wall–they don’t even exist any more. So the question is whether a market focused on just the deep pockets and comics as luxury goods is sustainable. I’m not sure any of us have a definite answer to that, but the best analogy I can draw is to other luxury goods markets–fine arts, Ferrari’s, even handbags . Most of these markets have been thriving, though with exceptions. Antiques, for example, did indeed fall out of fashion, with major collateral damage to dealers.

To me, the biggest risk is if Marvel movies go out of fashion, just like the Western did after the 1960s. If the Marvel formula starts to seem hokey or dated or laughable, then the trophy hunters are going to disappear.

Patrick Eugenio November 21, 2021 - 4:10 pm

what percentage of buyers are below age 35? Below age 30? I agree that less young people seem to be buying comic books at LCS. But many seem,to purchase trades instead at bookstores. also it’s easy to access pirated material today unlike before.

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 7:37 pm

Patrick

Welcome to the boards. I had a person tell me they love reading comic books ONLINE!!! ugh. Comic books are a medium that needs to be in your hands to be appreciated. Sadly I am afraid kids do not see it like I do.

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Patrick Eugenio November 21, 2021 - 8:13 pm

Yes people need to support the creators by buying comics. If you look at a pirated website a title like Walking Dead has 27M views, Scott Pilgrim has over 6M. And that’s just a single site.I’m from southeast Asia, I noticed that in some countries like Thailand,Vietnam I’ve not seen a single comic shop.but the bookstores carry them. And lots of merchandise everywhere.

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 7:42 am

Patrick

I love your post because it brings up a new thought…could the comic book markets increase not from attracting younger readers but by targeting a world wide audience. May I ask you…are there a lot of new readers of comics where you are at and might that be where the publishers are going for increasing their customer base? Maybe they are not going younger here in the states but trying to go younger overseas and thus maybe too where more attention should be studied on older book sales. I value your opinion on the topic because it might educate some of our fellow board readers.

Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 12:47 pm

A PART OF THE ARTICLE THAT DID NOT MAKE IT TO PRINT WAS WHAT A YOUNGER COLLECTOR SAID ABOUT ULTIMATE FALLOUT #4. THIS PERSON BELIEVED THE BOOK COULD RISE MORE IN VALUE BUT WAS TRYING TO SELL WHAT THEY HAD TO GET OLDER PETER PARKER KEYS. WHEN I ASKED WHY THEY SAID THAT THEY WANTED MORE CERTAINTY AND THE OLDER BOOKS WERE PROBABLY LESS VOLATILE. THIS WAS A 20 SOMETHING COLLECTOR. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE STUDY THIS MARKET PLACE BECAUSE IT IS EVER CHANGING. I BELIEVE COMIC MARKETPLACE WILL BE AROUND FOR A LONG TIME BUT THAT DOES NOT MAKE ALL BOOKS SAFE FROM VOLATILITY.

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kevinmonkey6 November 21, 2021 - 1:48 pm

I stopped buying new comics (or any newer than early copper) about 15 years ago for this very reason. This same ageing demo issue affected the antiques market as well. I watched my wife not be able to sell her antiques a few years ago and realized that a part of the issue is that younger people don’t place value on “things”. Especially things that are “old”. I believe the one hope we collector-investors have is the huge world wide popularity of superhero movies (the MCU in particular). When the kids who love these movies get into their 30’s and start to have disposable income nostalgia will kick in and that may drive a new generation of collectors. By then the Hollywood cycle of remakes and reboots might be starting an all-new MCU to keep it going… fingers crossed.

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 6:53 pm

Kevin

You hit it on the head. I hope you are right too about comics still being in vogue and people looking for them later on.

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Walter DeJean November 23, 2021 - 12:27 pm

Kevin,

you made a super important point. I think saying people below the age of 30 are not collecting expensive books leans more on the fact that they dont have the disposable income. When these same kids who love Mile Morales and the Avengers movies ect get to be 35 you will have an influx into the market of new buyers with fat wallets. I remember when I was a 12 year old kid in the late 70″s and I would go to the comic conventions with a whopping 20 bucks….. now I spend $5 grand or more on a book regularly………I see the comic future as being super bright….. the doom and gloom stories will always be around and the old books just keep exploding in price…..

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Joseph Overaitis November 23, 2021 - 2:20 pm

Walter

Welcome to the boards. In asking LCS and other collectors the problem they are saying exists is that there are not enough of those 30 year old and below buying books that one day can migrate to more expensive purchases. When I asked I had hoped that there was the same group of people that existed just like you in the 70s. I did not see them at the con and wanted to know if they exist at LCS or are online. Many vendors keep records of their customer base and very few said those 20 year old exist. The expensive market for books is dominated by people like you and I. In addition, the people buying the lower tier book are again more advanced in age. I have to ask you do you see those young 10-19 year old fans buying books like you did back in the day? If a younger customer base does not come into the hobby and the population ages what will the long term viability of the hobby and market look like? I have seen other antiques lose their value in the long term where the market was once healthy and strong. Markets change and you have to always be aware of what is happening. I thus ask you what does it look like out there were you are in the market as it relates to the age demographic.

Remember too Facebook has record profits but still is concerned about the long term viability of their success and so should we. That is why I asked the question, researched the issue, and then posted the article.

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TT November 21, 2021 - 2:54 pm

Seeing less young people at conventions could also be a sign that young people don’t see the need to go to conventions to buy comics. There are literally thousands of people using social media sites to sell comics. I don’t think it’s mostly 50+ year olds selling comics on Instagram. Why would a young person pay to attend a convention to buy comics when they have thousands of comics to look at online to purchase without having to pay to access them like they would when attending a con?
Back issues and keys are getting more expensive. It makes sense that the people with the money to attend cons and pay for bigger ticket books would be older. There probably aren’t too many young people with a significant amount of disposable income to be spending on comics so it makes since that older people attend cons to have access to these books and some of the bigger convention sellers.
And yes, there are dollar bin boxes and cheap back issues at conventions but paying $30-$50 to attend a convention to have access to dollar bin books doesn’t make much sense.

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 7:47 pm

TT

I think you misunderstood the article. My field editor made the observation at the con but the data I pulled from local comic book store owners and personal interviews was not. We asked people at the cons how the sales were doing at the show and they were hitting record numbers but we asked at the con the ages of their patrons. We then asked if this was the same age demographic that shopped at their stores. Other stores provided their information on other social media platforms. Many fans in different social media groups and platforms were asked ….what is your age? What is the average age that you see buying comics where you shop? What is the youngest shoppers you see with any frequency (ie one ten year old one time a year does not count!). Most of our responses was that it was mid 30s with the older the buyer the more they spent on books. I attend live auctions and most of the attendees are again mid 30s or older. Very few are younger even for recent books and variants. At these very same auctions Pokemon, Anime, and other collectibles attendees are younger. Coin Collectors and stamps are the oldest attendees.

May I ask you though how old are you? and when did you get started? Many I see are not getting started when I did at 12 years old as a regular comic book buyer.

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T La RossTT November 22, 2021 - 9:58 am

I was in 4th grade when I started. Maybe 10-11 and I’m in my 40s now. I haven’t attended a convention since pre-pandemic but the last one I was at had a lot of young adults and a bunch of kids dressed up. From my experience, cheap entrance fees and/or free events have more young people than ones with a $40 door charge.

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 10:17 am

Do you purchase books at Local comic book stores? That is where I am also seeing older buyers and very few younger ones and where I conducted my informal study and gathered data. Those that do come in are buying non comic book items. At live auctions for pop culture items the younger fans again come but it is more for other things. I see Ultimate Fallout #4 selling not to younger fans but those that are in their 40s and above.

In regards to comic cons, in the past there were younger buyers but now they are going to anime and cosplay like you said. Like you said though even at the low admission comic conventions I attended there were still the older age collectors. Not many started like the both of us in our grade school years. Those that do love the online versions but only because it is free. Sadly you and I are the age demographic that dominate the market and that is what scared Facebook too, they need to start to attract younger readers and fans.

I want you to keep reading and commenting on the blogs. Each person’s unique perspective helps us further understand the comic book marketplace. I look forward to your comments so keep them coming!!!

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Patrick Bain November 21, 2021 - 2:56 pm

Very worthwhile topic, Joe. My conservative self thinks it’s good to reign in the exuberance every once in a while. Do we know the demographic of GoCollect readers? Maybe they’re all 50+? In that case, the collecting community 20 years behind will be around to support their collection sales. (But perhaps not their heirs.) I just noted as a follow up to my Doctor Strange Art Indeed article that a Frank Brunner cover sold for $400K+. Over four times its nearest HA sale. I think it all illustrates that collector enthusiasm is going to need to pull back and plateau for a while so that reasonable valuations can return to the market. And I agree with your thesis that items that are truly rare will be more resilient in the long run. Oddly enough, this article came out on a day that my pastor talked about whether we own our treasures or they own us. So, collectors may want to ask themselves, “how will I feel if I miss selling my copy of ‘insert beloved treasure here’ at the peak”?

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 7:40 pm

Patrick

Always love your comments. I tried to not be biased by the GoCollect reader data. When I posted the question on Facebook, twitter, and asked LCS if they would comment on their in store data I was hoping I was wrong and people were younger. I was disappointed.

I also wish more fans were into original art. I love holding it in my hands and just knowing that even the most insignificant piece was still a part of comic book history!!!

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Fred November 21, 2021 - 4:25 pm

My experience has been that people begin to collect when they have disposable income to do so. I think most come into hard core collecting in their thirties especially with the price of keys now. My local lcs just opened a second successful store, I had my best ebay month ever and my community is putting together the first Pittsburgh Comic Book Swap Meet scheduled for January 2. The community in my area seems to be stronger than ever. One thing my lcs has done to bring in young clientele is to also sell toys. I think younger people who grew up on the movies someday will want the print copies. You would basically have to discount the power of nostalgia for the gloom and doom scenario. I for one am not betting against this all to human trait.

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 7:35 pm

Fred

I hope so and glad that you are in an area that opened up a store. You said that hardcore collecting begins in the 30s but we have to get them younger. Many things pull people’s time and money and if you do not get them younger this could be a problem.

Can I ask you though a question….When did you start collecting? When I posted this question on boards for another article most had in their teens and 20s. I am concerned that the numbers of people starting in this age group are dwindling and I want to keep an eye on it because I am see less and less people I knew our here. Free comic book day was brought in to attract younger readers and I remember books geared to bring them in. Recently I seen older fans pick up these copies because these young fans were not coming in anymore.

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Fred November 23, 2021 - 12:11 am

I started “collecting” at 10 but it was really just buying and reading. But I bagged them, no board, and kept them. I was lucky, Eides comic shop was on my dads mail route. Probably one of the first pure comic shops in USA starting in early 70’s and still in business today. I got back into it hard as a collector at 48. It was nostalgia but also some investing when I saw the prices. I retired at 52 and started an ebay store, havent looked back and books are beating my ira returns by a mile. My lcs does a costume contest for young kids on fcbd. They get a good turnout of youngsters and parents.

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Redskydigger November 21, 2021 - 5:53 pm

Hi Joseph, once again you hit the proverbial nail on the head. You are 100% correct in your observations. Please keep writing these type of insights.

Thanks,

Mitch

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 7:29 pm

Mitch

I am a study the data and always try to break down things as much as possible to understand them. The observation my field editor made at the con forced me to study the issue more in depth. I will keep trying to produce these type of articles because I love looking into the hobby I love.

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Ruben Rivera November 21, 2021 - 6:00 pm

This is a helpful article. Overall I think it is wise to follow the data, among them, demographic changes related to who will be the big collectors and investors of comic books, comic book art, and related items, of the future. I very much relate to Steven Moore’s comment about how Rembrandts are not on the wish list of the young, but “are doing fine” with regard to escalating value. The comparison is a bit apples and oranges (a one of a kind Rembrandt vs thousands of Ultimate Fallout #4 in CGC 9.8?). It is best to keep comic book comparisons within the comic book world, not, say Rembrandts.

The question regarding copper age and modern age comics (and whatever the next ages will be called, which are long overdue) for me is, which of them has the potential to be the future demand and value of say silver age ones? My guess is, not a lot.

It used to be said that nothing could be beat Golden and Silver age as best investments. Then came the Bronze Age. Now there are Bronze age Keys worth more than many Golden and Silver Age keys. Today there are Modern Age keys like the first Mile Morales, Kamala Kahn and others that have surpassed in value some Silver Age keys from a half-century before. If their popularity remains solid and grows for newer generations, those keys will turn out to be the “grails” of the modern age for those living in the later 21st century and beyond. The strong about point the diversity component is that now more than ever there are superheroes who come from ethnic and cultural communities formerly not represented at all, or if they were, were sidekicks and stereotypes. As a person who grew up entirely invisible in the public school curriculum of my day, a Miles Morales was a revelation.

What I appreciated most about your post is that I need to be cautious in FOMO chasing every current “hot” book that might be good for a quick flip but not so much for investment. There is constant hype based on new characters that come out like water from fire hose today (I mean you can’t keep up with them), or the latest hot cover or artist, or possible Netflix deal. The Rembrandt comparison only applies if new comics coming out today hit a level of popularity that a Spider-Man, or Batman, or Fantastic Four, or X-Men have in the distant past, and while some Bronze and Modern Age have skyrocketed, they will never keep up with AF#15, which at the time people bought and then folded in their back pocket or threw them under their bed along with their other toys. Now everyone regrets they didn’t keep their FF#1 or at least treat with kid gloves.

It is for this reason that COLLECTORS should buy/collect what they love without the requirement that their new comics become retirement goldmines. I collected what I loved for years. Some of those have indeed become gold, but many others have not. I have a ton of stuff from the bloated 90s that sell for pennies on the dollar. On the other hand, I am watching some 90s comics with a million print run all of a sudden become popular again. Go figure.

All the best.

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Joseph Overaitis November 21, 2021 - 8:01 pm

Ruben

I love your comment so you better keep them coming. I love the diversity of characters because it attracts a much more diverse group of readers. The question I wonder though is did it attract NEW people. I have watched who has been buying Miles Morales 1st appearances and it is the 30 to 50 year old investor. I then watched as fans that are cashing out are younger fans who view this as a ticket to get more established book. That is not because of their affinity for a character, but rather because of investment strategies.

The fear that I have is that comics can be written to be a reflection of their readers. That is great but you always need to attract new readers.

I wanted to ask you a few questions though if I can…

When did you start to buy comics regularly?
How long have you been with the hobby?

PS

On a side note….
Your 90s stuff is valuable if you know how to move it. I have been researching another topic for an article and found there are ways to make some money on them. Copper though may be the next big thing!!!

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Aaron November 21, 2021 - 11:25 pm

Part of the problem that I have always had the impact value has on the hobby. The talk is always value and grade and glorification of it. I got into the hobby in 1979 at the age of 10 and while I knew that there was money to be made in collecting I love the media. I have a fair share of old book and I find entertainment in the old books and I have always been so amazed at any book surviving decades in nice shape. My favourite era has always been “modern era” because the content is relevant to my time. Over these decades the most common complaints that I have heard are “modern books suck”, all old book are better because…, and the books cost too much. Its really frustrating because few will give a care to many books that don’t have a history behind them. By this I mean if you don’t have modern releases of a character it’s probably never going to go very far or at least very fast investment-wise. They do nothing but complain about the big two but that’s pretty much all they buy. 99% of what has been and will be released is always going to be a slow in appreciation because nothing substantial happened or they are genres that few are interested in. It’s also hard to break barriers now the last one that was broken is probably one of the things that people feel moderns are not worth the value and that is they don’t take long to get through.

What people never took into account was that this was introduced in the late 90’s with the rise of McFarlane, Lee, etc. they changed the style of books so that the art was better at telling the story and setting the flow so writers didn’t have to be as verbose. They also changed the business of how creators were paid and treated. It now cost more on the front end and that means we have to pay on the back end.

You also have the issue that companies would probably love to cut costs more and just go digital but they know that that would probably be their death knell because few people would want that because they can’t make money on digital copies. It has worried me for decades how the numbers just haven’t grown the way the hobby needs. However, I don’t worry about that it may cost me investment but the media that I have always loved and appreciated. It sucks to no end when someone is always criticizing modern books either directly or backhandedly when really it’s largely voicing their objections about Marvel and DC. Yet they keep buying it and they pretty much won’t buy anything else unless it has the “investment” value behind it. They criticize the modern content and refer nostalgically to all these old groundbreaking or awesome story arcs and how much these old books are but they also never acknowledge that there was a huge pile of drek as well.

You can’t be oblivious to all of this. Eventually, people just buy in and start putting their money in older books and refer to anyone spending money on modern books as speculators and referring to all this as something ultimately bad. We basically drive people away in our lust to invest or we criticized moves to try and attract more modern readers by complaining about “woke” content or changes to characters. Can you just imagine how frustrating it is to Marvel DC whose investment is trying to entertain and that’s it they have to try and attract new readers but aren’t allowed to change the status quo? It’s lose-lose for them.

I love that my books could be worth more than I bought them for but to me what more important is that we love and enjoy the books in and of themselves first. In the end I have ALWAYS benefitted fiscally buying based on what I like or interests me than worrying about value, earning potential, scarcity, etc. If I don’t like something I don’t buy it. If you like something I don’t it’s no skin off my back. So, please don’t always slam my preferred reading choices. Let people find what they like not just what you think they should.

Finally, I want to state that here while the bulk of who spends lots of money on comics are older there are WAAAAAY more kids and better yet parent coming in with their kids to buy comics. It’s seems to have gotten more acceptance as a valid art form that wasn’t done by investors or collectors that was largely done on the backs of a wide variety of movie companies taking a chance on a wide variety of comics (usually modern era books I might add). It’s time we do our part to try and make the media more than what it can make for us. Make it about what it has done for us. Why does it mean so much to us that we would spend so much money on it. It shouldn’t be all about the money or what we want.

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 7:38 am

Aaron

Your post was spot on. I have to say that while grading and the evaluation of comic book investment potential has been around because the time you started reading was also the time when variants came into existence and thus instant price appreciation. The problem I see it is that the big two had such a large consumer base for comics that they realized the profit was going after them. Young humor books and other titles geared to the youngest of fans were discontinued. Then the big two went into diversity. Nothing wrong with that unless those people you were trying to attract were ALREADY buying comics. Many readers say how comics now had characters who looked like them and that is a noble goal that maybe kept them reading, but you have to bring in new readers as a customer base to survive. Did those characters bring in many readers is a good question but the more important question is did they bring in YOUNGER new readers.

Aaron, comics can be both about the money but it also can be about a good read as well. Many books I buy at auction are not for investment. The question I will ask you though is….Did the big two fail in following that principle and go for the booming market and fail to attract younger readers with simple books that may have not sold as well?

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Chris November 22, 2021 - 1:58 am

I completely agree with you! We did a weekend show in Grand Rapids a few months back. There was tons of young people, but they wanted nothing to do comic books. All cosplay, movie poster, funko pops and the booth next me sold so many of those anime books I was in shock. I even thought about starting to sell them after. Every comic book vendor there was mighty pissed off at the end they barely did any sales. We sold a ASM 129 CGC 7.0 for $2,600 to a really nice guy in his late 40s early 50s, if it wasn’t for that, it would of been a total bust. We had a lot silver/bronze/copper keys and tons of newer indie titles there too, all priced cheaper than eBay’s lowest. No action. The younger teens that did stop by damaged the books when they held them and took a bunch of free stickers, that was about it. I was extremely annoyed anytime they came near the booth by day 3.

My buddy sold over 5k in funkos, teens and adults were lining up for that. We bought mini lego figs to sell with the comics next time and we will keep adapting if we can make money on it.

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 7:27 am

Chris

Welcome to the boards. Your experience is what others have been telling me is happening out there at cons and in their stores. You have to follow the market trends. When I was a kid there was a used book store that sold new and old comics in the corner. Eventually it sold more comics, so it shrunk the used book store because you have to go where the market tells you to survive. Right now the younger generations are not into comic books like previous generations. People who invest in selling books have to watch and make sure your investment is safe and knowing the market is more important than picking the hot comic of the week!

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Jeff Pickens November 22, 2021 - 2:30 am

Help Please: We are Looking for some assistance, we are trying to see how I go about getting my Dad’s comic books graded, has pretty nice collection. Please explain the process how a collector obtains a CGC certification grading on comic books and what is the typical cost involved? Thank you

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 7:21 am

Jeff

Can you wait a bit..i might have something coming in the NEXT FEW WEEKS that is BIG on this topic..WINK WINK!!!

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Kenloi November 22, 2021 - 9:48 am

After going back into comic stores from the pandemic i have noticed plenty of late teen early 20 somethings buying comics being influenced from web sites like yourself , social media and word of mouth. Plenty of women.These young people will at some point stop buying books to collect just like we all have at times. But i cant see any reason why they wont get back into collecting again when older. S**t happens to us all!. Loss of income, change of circumstances, different circle of friends, illness but the collecting bug is addictive and nostalgic.When todays youth eventually realise that most social media sites only want their free data to target for monetary gain they become irrelevant and leave a bad taste in the mouth.We should be charging the likes of these sites for the use of our data and what they can use about us. If we wish NO personal data about us to be used when accessing their product that is our right and if.social media agreed to this they wouldnt have a product. Entertainment markets are worth billions and by pushing characters at us all on a daily basis it gets into our subconsiousness long term creating FOMO.If managed it can be fun seeking out a cheap back issue comic. Many people today dont have a decent pension and lousy wages won’t contribute towards it. The thought alone of obtaining something cheap with the belief of long term value is important to many people. It is a physical product.Yes the new comic market has slowed but make no mistake these new comics will be in demand later on when Marvel / DC push these story lines and characters and delve deeper into diversity and are now attempting to break into Asian markets.They will be (ARE) targeting all age markets. Hopefully with success. I suspect at the end of the day we all worry too much because of the thought of monetary gain and loss on everything due to our economies and governments need our money to be able to manage its populations.Another point we have to address at some point ,one commentator didnt like teens touching his books due to damaging them. How are people meant to inspect a book worth $10000.’s ?. Maybe an assistant could have helped and explained about old paper and worth of the books. Teenagers always want something for nothing i was the same but the seed has been set in their heads that these books are worth a possible pension in many years. So you never know if they are a future buyer or timewaster. If planet Earth survives this critical generation i think we will all do okay…

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 10:33 am

As always great comments. I have to admit I did see younger fans who did damage the condition of books upon their inspection, but I see that with older individuals as well. The lack of respect to other people’s items though is quite common so it is not unique among comic book buyers. I do hope that you are right but my fear is that the volume of buyers will shrink thus impacting the markets. You always need at least two bidder to drive up prices and if there are fewer bidders you have issues.

The irony of something you said was the Asian market. I now see anime products where once comic book products existed at many stores. Anime companies maybe understood the approach of targeting younger fans and keeping them more with sophisticated products when these fans grow older. I again value the diversity approach because it does help expand the markets but I like to believe that if a product is great it will bring fans in rather than to cheaply target an inferior product to a group just because of the race, sexual orientation, or other diversity component. Anime products tend to attract fans when they are younger and keep them hooked with great content for older fans.

I always like to ask questions to increase the knowledge of everyone reading these boards so may i ask you…do you think anime companies are better at attracting a more diverse age demographic than comic book companies? I see very few good attempts to bring in younger fans with good content, but I value your opinion because you mentioned the Asian markets that I must admit I do not have great insight in. Expanding in the Asian markets may be great but are companies going after younger or older fans in those markets? Again I trust your opinions and I believe it would provide great information for everyone here on these boards.

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Patrick Eugenio November 22, 2021 - 4:12 pm

I’m from the Philippines. I noticed most of the comic buyers here are 20s and 30s. Mostly buy trades.Comic shops were huge here back in the 80s and early 90s. Nowadays it’s a niche market. But it’s still here.I noticed at signings most of the crowd belong to the 20s-30s age group. The older collectors (like me) are still around and they tend to buy the higher end stuff like comic keys, CGC and original art. Will ask my comic shop owner friend about the subject of demographics.

While the market for comic books is smaller nowadays, superheroes have never been bigger here thru TV, Films, funko, collectible toys, merchandise at malls. It’s an evolving market and comic books are just one part of it.

In other neighboring countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand, you will find comic trades at the large bookstores.Usually the main branch is where you will find a large selection. People who browse there usually belong to the age group 20s-30s. But superhero merchandise there you will find everywhere.

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Joseph Overaitis November 22, 2021 - 4:16 pm

Patrick

Thank you for the post. I wonder if trade paperbacks that were meant to be an additional stream of income have instead hurt the market…Why buy books when you can just buy the TPB. Younger fans need to save a dollar and this is a way to do so.

i hate that word niche because it makes me realize the comic book marketplace has contracted even in your area. I wish we got beyond that and attracted a younger group of collectors. It is sad that even where you are the pattern is the same. Keep posting because your input lets us see the global impact so thank you for your comments.

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Kenloi November 23, 2021 - 9:28 am

Joeseph, you are correct their is a lack of respect in most parts of our cultures. We are all guilty of, which is slowly eating away at its very fabric and is getting worse. The constant need for money which governments are creating is not helping. Our planet is now overpopulated and cannot sustain us for much longer as it is. Anyway regarding the smaller picture my belief is shops that are changing from comics to sell majority merchandise are confusing buyers. I saw stores 4 or 5 years ago that removed most of their new and back issue comics and just sold wall to wall Funkos for about 2 years then bang the bubble burst and that particular craze was over. People were just buying at inflated prices and reselling at silly prices. Funkos are still collected but never in my household. People know comic stores as comic stores as the main product. The stores need better reputations for buying collections at good and not rip off prices. I am generalising as there are many amazing comic shops around with hardworking people. The usual argument made that they will have the issues for years in stock before they sell to make any profit. Inventory is good to entice people into their stores. Open it all up to everyone. I know stores that keep the cream only for their older elite buyers. Everyone else never gets a sniff and prices are kept high for these people. Alienating everyone else. By all means sidelines are good extra monies but comics must remain the main selling point and not watered down too much. I know ebay and the like try to undercut on pricing but recently i would say this site is massively over inflating prices. Manga is seen as an exotic graphic comic culture. I dont generally read it but loved Akira the graphic novels and cartoon animation movie years ago.It is a sub-culture that a young generation love because their belief is its for them and inclusive. Superhero comics these days have to be for everyone apparently. The companies have got too large for their own good and are finding it difficult to keep these levels ongoing. Mentioned before maybe DC and Marvel amalgamation could be good. Movie wise it would blow everyones minds completely. Past comic projects werent always successful though. Recently i have been trying to find out more about Trese and i believe the artists did a story crossover with Wolverine and Batman. Available free online to read.” Night at the museum” .Trese is now on Netflix. Tried to read Manga when younger but most of it did’nt excite me..Manga and anime have a certain feel and twisted relevance in their stories that are very adult yet appeal to youth and are not watered down like superhero stories. It usually goes for the kill and achieves it. I am no expert on Manga but i do wonder if DC and Marvel is seen as exotic and different in Asian countries as Manga is in USA and Europe. Another point, Manga graphic novels and stories do not need to be in mint condition like comics all the time. The stories are read then discarded and the next novel is read. Much like it was in the silver and golden age. Where many comics were not required to be kept in a zen like condition. I have a feeling that Miles Morales may be a magic ingredient to bring back the youth along with Kamala Kahn as long as the companies tread carefully and correctly and go on instinct not artificially hyping all the time. Maybe in the comic and movie world carefully managed diversity is one of the ways forward to capture a younger market but they need to keep the oldies on board as well. A balancing point.or a knives edge. They have the resources, skills and knowledge to achieve this as long as they do not bottle out long term.

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Joseph Overaitis November 23, 2021 - 2:22 pm

As always…you bring us much to ponder and evaluate. Thank you for the post.

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Ian Andersen November 23, 2021 - 12:30 pm

Been a comic book reader and collector since I was ten years old when G.I. Joe #1 from Marvel showed up on the spinner rack at the neighborhood 7-11. Comic book access at retail outlets in the 1980s was a thing, and today, well, not so much. Is this a chicken-and-egg conundrum that LCS operators have benefitted from over the past 20 years? Probably not – those comic book customers never migrated their shopping habits from the 7-11s and drug stores to the LCS. We all need to come to grips with a dwindling base of readers. The LCS cannot continue to keep the faded black bed sheets over the storefront windows, store operators need to understand the message that the dusty messy stacks of BRZRKR #1 behind the counter portrays to customers, and while no one likes to infringe upon our First Amendment rights, store operators need to understand that content like Saga in which characters engage in oral sex in the opening pages of a new issue is going to turn away the gatekeepers of the readers of tomorrow. That’s right, the LCS needs to know the key role that mom or dad plays in providing access to entertainment to the readers of tomorrow. Right now, mom and dad are surveying the entertainment landscape of the 21st Century, and right now, they like trusty brands like Nintendo or Scholastic or Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I am not saying that brand trust is the only heuristic that mom and dad rely on to determine on how to spend monies on their children; what I am saying, though, is that the LCS needs to level up and make their stores inviting, unique, and a fun place to discover new adventures. It also helps to have knowledgeable and friendly staff to help out mom and dad so they are not afraid to ask the store operator, “What do you recommended for my ten year old who loves (fill in the blank)?” Imagine getting that parent in your store and you get them to not only come in to drop some coin on Dog Man, Bone, and/or Star Wars High Republic Adventures, but also to come back on a regular basis. And imagine your store being so unique and good that they are not afraid to tell their friends that they went into an actual comic book store!

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Joseph Overaitis November 23, 2021 - 2:06 pm

Ian

Welcome to the boards. I have to ask though is there more to it though than poor LCS to choose from that has caused younger readers to abandon comics. I agree content has changed but have publishers also abandoned those markets. You may have oral sex in comics but are there a lot of books that are specifically geared to really young fans?

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Ian Andersen November 23, 2021 - 2:28 pm

First of all, people and businesses that are interested in selling comic books need to stop calling readers “fans” – we’re not fans, we’re readers. Second, yes, there is more to it than poor LCS, however, people live in towns/cities/communities and the LCS needs to understand that they are more than just a storefront, more than a peddler of printed content (or more cynically, peddlers of slabbed “collectibles” or other unreadable garbage), that they are (or can be) a pillar of their community. And if you want to be part of a community, you can’t get away with reflexively racking Saga next to Thor or She-Hulk (unless you are in Las Vegas, or whatever). LCS operators need to think and understand how to interact and be a part of their market (community) and be contributors.

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James Houston November 25, 2021 - 3:37 pm

Maybe reading comics on line will bring in more fans and collectors. Some fans “listen” to comic stories on line too. This is how my oldest son stays current without buying the actual comics. This may be really good for the industry so creators can continue to write and draw new stories.
Buyers of graded comics cannot read the stories encased in plastic. But maybe they will still want to own the original comic they read or heard on line.

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Joseph Overaitis November 25, 2021 - 11:21 pm

James

You hope so but it will change the fabric of the hobby. LCS would disappear unless they really focus on older books and other merchandise. I really wish we saw more younger fans in it.

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JPaul November 25, 2021 - 6:28 pm

The future of comics is the death of the single issue floppy, it’s only a matter of time. Back when I was collecting comics in the 80s and early 90s it was because that was the only way to read the stories I wanted to read, the big 2 were only just starting to release reprint volumes and they were only doing it for the absolute top sellers or important stories from the past, otherwise you had to hunt down back issues at comic shops or cons.

These days everything is different, TBPs and Hardcover collections are everywhere, and we’re 10+ years into the modern tablet computer revolution that makes reading digitally a good experience. Subscription services exist that let a new generation read as much as they want for a single low monthly price. The usefulness of single issue floppies has never been lower.

James Tynion IV is the current superstar writer of the comics world thanks to Something is Killing the Children and Department of Truth, and he just turned his back on mainstream comics and the established collector model by signing with Substack where his comics will be released digitally initially, then eventually as TPB or collected hardcovers. The writing is on the wall, we know that increasingly digital is where the money is being made by comic book companies.

In the future it’s likely that single issue floppies will be viewed as a strange curiosity of the 20th and early 21st century, relics of the olden days before improving technology made digital look as good as top end print. There will still be comic collectors and speculators, but it will be more niche and the market won’t be anywhere near the size it is now.

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Joseph Overaitis November 25, 2021 - 11:20 pm

JPaul

I hope you are wrong, I really do, but in the end only time will tell

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kevinmonkey6 November 26, 2021 - 12:16 am

While I agree that digital is the eventual death of ALL print media, I doubt back issues will ever be considered as “strange curiosity” or “relics of the olden days” any more than any other artforms.
In fact the demise of newly issued physical comics insure back issues future rarity, by virtue of “they don’t make ’em anymore”.

I also hate the use of the term “floppy” in this context.

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Joseph Overaitis November 26, 2021 - 10:33 am

Kevin

JPaul may be right though in that certain tier of books may be more vulnerable than others and thus the reason for my article and why I suggest people be on top of these trends. The fact that something is rare does not mean that it is valuable if there is not a market for it. Again this article does not suggest that the comic book market is going to collapse tomorrow. Rather it suggests that certain books might be more vulnerable than others and it is up to the investor to monitor the market for both the short and long term prognosis of the market that do not rely upon the older model we have used in the past.

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Wilf77 November 26, 2021 - 7:19 am

The thought that collecting comics will somehow die out or wither on the vine as the younger generation is not buying new comics or investing in keys makes me laugh. How many young people have the disposable income to buy GS1 or Hulk 181? As in previous generations they will come into collecting side of the hobby later on in life as these characters are ‘cultural icons’ not comic book stories. According to this logic I will wait around 10 years and pick up my Action #1 as less young people are not buying DC

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Joseph Overaitis November 26, 2021 - 10:29 am

Wilf

Thank you for posting. Many antiques that sold items at various price points have now saw decrease in values based upon a declining age of collectors and investors. You can also see this in the baseball card market where years ago most cards were selling for high end money. Now only the top tier is selling for those prices.

The gag you will see will not be in the Action Comics #1 or even the Hulk #181s, but rather in the lower tier books. I was a hard working teen and I managed to purchase a Hulk 181 and GS1. I know many other teens and 20 year olds who did that as well either for those books or other affordable keys. There though is not enough younger fans doing that now and thus you have to watch the markets. Your point though about coming into the hobby later in life though is one of the main points though of the article. When people were coming into comic books there was ALREADY a robust younger generation that was reading these books. Print runs are down now. Not as many comic book stores exist only as comic book stores because of market constraints. The market thus has to be looked at with this changing age demographics constantly. Collecting Record Albums of cultural icons was once a good hobby that people would pay good money for albums. Now only a few albums are returning good ROI for investors. One reason for this is because the younger fans left the hobby when digital forms of these releases became popular. Owning a physical album was not in vogue even when they displayed cultural figures with iconic images.

You can joke if you want but talk to many antique, baseball card, and stamp collectors/investors and they will tell you similar stories of how younger investors are the lifeblood to the market and if you do not sustain those markets you will see the results in the FMV of certain tier of items. It may not be the mega priced items but instead be the lower tier items that are much more vulnerable to market migrations.

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