The comic market has not only been a roller coaster over the past few years, but it has often been an outright enigma. If you are a collector who believes in the Fair Market Value (FMV), then the current market has been giving some interesting and sometimes frustrating interpretations of value for you. As prices swell and contract there is always the continued struggle looming in the background: “it’s cool”, or “it’s rare”, or “I just want it and this may be my only chance” types of struggles. As a speculator, you want to make sure you get value over time…but the collector in you sees all of your logic and basically throws it out the window with one big fan-boy sweep. Keep your heads cool and don’t overspend!
I recently watched an online auction that had a 9.8 graded copy of Strange Tales #178 listed because I had some interest in trying to gain this book for my collection. This comic features the first appearance of Adam Warlock’s nemesis, Magus, and I figured it would be a popular book for a any collector. On the awesome GoCollect.com (<—– do i get a nickle or something for this?) site I was ready to check out the data collected about this book in its easily readable format. Here are my thoughts.
My first thought was that this is a rare book on the census with only 19 copies at grade 9.8 and it has not been up for sale in a while with 2 years since the last recorded sale. The estimated FMV for this book was calculating at $1050. It is easy to know what a Thor #337 9.8 grade may go for because one is sold every week or so, but when something isn’t sold as frequently the sales data and FMV estimates can be askew because of long gaps in the dates between sales or an infrequency of sales over a long period of time. When it comes to Strange Tales #178, I figured a bit of a premium over FMV would be expected in the final price but I did not expect this auction to end at $5200. Let that soak in…$5200, or 5X the estimated FMV. I can believe a time lag giving some boost in FMV…maybe 2X…but 5X is ridiculous. My first thought is that somebody overpaid significantly on this already expensive book. That happens often, but I personally try to avoid doing so because the value gains over time will take significantly longer to make up that premium. I am also not one to buy 9.6 grade books, but copies of Strange Tales #178 seem to be a great value compared to 9.8’s if you judge the $5200 sale price as “valid” market value.
I keep trying to drive the point home subtly, but I think I may have to just hammer it in. The rarer your book, the more the potential gains. If your book is a key and has not sold in a while, it is probably worth more than FMV. Now…this is not a law of nature or physics, but it is fairly consistent in the graded comic world. Warlock prices in general are increasing and if he does appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) you can expect another pop in value across the scope of the character. However, make sure that you are tracking the rare “buys” on the market because they are the most likely to see additional gains in an inflated market. If Strange Tales #178 was listed more often, it may have sold for closer to a FMV. However, collectors (myself included) also had to wonder if they will have a chance to purchase this book again at a high grade. And if it does come to market, will it be hit with the same inflated premium that this copy was subjected to? So many questions and what ifs in the crazy comic market, the only concrete thing we know is that only time will tell.
What comics have you seen with meteoric rises in prices? Is there a character your are currently banking on for value gains? Drop your comments and join in the speculation.