If you’ve ever tried to sell comics; especially on the internet, you’ve probably realized it’s a buyer’s market. That means getting people excited about hundreds, if not thousands, of existing titles is like getting water out of a stone. Then, periodically, a moment arrives when everybody wants issue X. Inevitably, a predictable pattern unfolds. Issue X (whatever it may be) surges in price.
Should you sell at that point?
One thing is certain, the eye of the ‘hype storm’ is definitely a bad time to buy.
However, the question I’m focusing on in this post is: when do you sell a comic?
To be more precise, when is the best time to sell and how can you know whether or not a book has peaked?
The short answer is: it depends. The long answer is: it’s complicated.
A real problem seller’s face is that a price surge on any given comic may be a one-time thing, or, it might be a brief rise in value signaling a future, even higher, price surge.
This best time to sell, of course, is at the peak. The problem is nobody can determine the absolute peak price with accuracy. If I could do it, I wouldn’t be blogging about comics, I’d be buying and selling on the stock market.
That said, a seller always wants to wait until interest for a given book is strong. This, in turn, will allow the book to obtain a higher price.
The pattern I’ve noticed (see here) is that for many modern books, the peak price is reached when an announcement is made or when a teaser or first trailer for a movie or show is released. This is the time when sales reach their pinnacle and just before prices (along with enthusiasm) begin to recede.
How can you know if a book will remain high in price or just drop?
While the above problem seems to pose a difficult dilemma to anyone who’s ever had to sell comics, there is data you can consult to better inform yourself about
what’s happening in the market.
At present we find ourselves in such a crazy market atmosphere; especially as regards sales on back-issues affected by strong price surges (i.e. surges connected to alternative media representation like super-hero/comic book films, streaming shows, tv programs, etc), that knowing when to sell is especially tricky.
Here are some useful tools to help determine whether to sell or hold.
First: ascertain demand. Enthusiasm and the desire on the part of buyers to own a book will almost guarantee that your comic will sell. How to gauge enthusiasm is a challenge, but some of the factors you should consider are the following: Popularity of a given character/title. For example: it’s almost always easier to sell Spider-man back issues than Warlord comics.
Spider-man is one of the most popular characters on the planet. There’s rarely a period when pop culture presence is not strong. Selling Spider-man #301 for example is not hard to do. Current FMV on a 9.2 copy of this comic is $70.00. Moreover, the CGC census has a total of 2, 378 copies. Compare this to:
Mike Grell’s Warlord, even if you love him, is a far less popular character. Add to that the fact that his comics (in the ‘Sword and Sorcery’ action genre), are also less popular today than in the 1980s; and you’ll find it a lot harder to sell Warlord #130 on eBay than Spider-man #301.
Does it matter that the supply is much lower for Warlord #130? Currently no CGC copies are registered and, since it was published near the end of the title’s run, it also had a low print run.
None of this affects the fact that this is a dollar bin comic.
Second: quantity. If demand is strong, then supply is what you should turn to in order to help determine if prices will rise long term. If a comic is hard to find, or difficult to find in high grade -like a lot of Silver Age keys – it is almost certain that the few copies available will see prices surges. Nonetheless, quantity, as noted, is almost always secondary to demand.
A rare or scarce comic with no demand will not fetch a high price.
One more thing, eventually the forces of economic gravity will pull any book back to the ground from its highest peaks. In future posts, I’ll take a look at examples of comics that peaked quickly versus comics that were slow to climb in value, as well as comics that sustain value versus decline in the long run.