The comic book industry tries its best to predict the buying habits of its customers when determining how many copies of a particular book to print. Print too many, and you have books that gather dust on store shelves. Print too few, and you’ve missed out on a sales opportunity and drive customers to the secondary market for their fix where you make no revenue. It’s a knife-edge kind of business.
There’s always an opportunity when a title sells briskly to take advantage of that demand. Unfortunately, as a speculator, it’s difficult initially to read the tea leaves to spot the real gems in the making. But experience (and hopefully this blog post!) will help you spot the signs of a truly valuable second print.
Second Prints to Satisfy Demand
There is recourse for the latter problem, at least: publishers have the opportunity to follow up on the release of a popular book with a second, or even later print (I’m looking at you, The Killing Joke), to meet demand. These later prints have a smaller print run than the original. These additional print runs are differentiated in some way, usually a different cover or some changes in the color scheme.
For popular comic books, these additional prints have value, sometimes even higher than the original. The third printing of Hulk #377, for example, has a much higher FMV (Fair Market Value) than the original edition, mainly because of its low numbers and unique colors. A 9.8 goes for a staggering $2,800, with a trending increase in the value at 57%; this is in comparison to the first print, which has an FMV of a mere $150. It’s hard to predict these kinds of spikes.
Value that’s Based on A Popular Character
Another example, like Ultimate Fallout #4, has second prints that have a relatively small print run, which drives its desirability but not at first. This book was popular enough to have TWO second-prints, a primary, and a variant. Both have low print runs, about 14,000. While initially these books were overlooked, there’s been a recent spike in interest and a corresponding rise in value with 9.8s up 72% to $130. These books are still available raw for around $10.
There are other examples of titles with high-value second prints. Marvel Comics Presents #6 is the first appearance of Wolverine’s daughter, Rein. The second print variant puts her on the cover, raising the value of that copy above the first print. The first print has an FMV of $160. The second print weighs in at $240, but with a negative trend in the value of 39%.
Not every second print is a goldmine, however. Sometimes further print runs result in saturation of the market with the value remaining with the first print. It’s the nature of collectibles; usually, fans prefer the first edition of a book because of the limited availability. Take New Mutants #87, for example. The first print’s 9.8 FMV is $375, though trending down slightly with a 5.7% loss over time. The second print (identified by a different color background on the cover) demands a mere $60, with a downward trend of 34%. Collectors appreciate the first printing more than they do the second in this example.
Picking the Winning Horse
When looking at a later printing for the purpose of speculation, look to the importance of the comic to the particular series or character. Is it a first appearance? A new costume design? Any significant event in the book can spark additional value for it in the future. Stay away from number milestones like the hundredth issue unless it’s a significant event. These will eventually be supplanted by the next numerical milestone, and will usually slip in value.
Always Be Hunting!
If a title has sufficient interest to warrant a second run, then there’s probable cause to research the potential gains in investing! Use your research and experience, and you might find the next high-dollar second-print to hit the market. Don’t be afraid to invest in second prints that show promise; it’s much easier to sink $10 into an issue early in the cycle than regret missing out on the next high-value reprint.