Sometimes, things that seem to be easy are instead very complex. There is more to a book being valuable than appearing on a hot list. In my previous article, I covered grading, plot elements, and other attributes that can make a book more valuable than others. The final element that needed to be discussed is comic book rarity. This is very important to both collectors and investors. The topic is very complex because there is so much to evaluate to determine if a book is rare. Doing the work, though, is worth it because knowing the rarity component of an issue can help both collectors and investors obtain the best price possible for the issue.
Step #1 Print Runs
Data at your fingertips
Every process has a beginning. The print run is the first place that collectors and investors should start when determining how rare a comic book actually is. This is the total number of copies that the publishers send out to the market. Comichron is a great site to research the print runs of recent issues. These numbers are important because most comics purchased now are preserved by both collectors and investors.
Data from previous generations
Other Internet sites can also be used to research print runs from older books. Those numbers should be scrutinized for accuracy. That does not mean those numbers are not valuable.
Years ago, comic book print runs were not that important to investors or collectors, but now people realize that the more they know about an issue’s population the better equipped they will be to purchase the book. Even partial information is significant in the process to determine the rarity of a book. The print run is the best way to determine if a comic issue was rare right out of the box or if we have to go further in the analysis.
Green Giant Comics #1: This issue was a limited test print run by the publisher only in one city. Fewer than 10 total copies graded.
Step #2 Slabbed Census
GoCollect users know that a nice feature of the site is the ability to track the books in the CGC census. The total figure will include universal and signature books. The total number of books will then be further broken down into grades. High grades may be rare for some books while other books may have only a majority of high grades.
This is important to know because if the high grades are not prevalent then those high-grade books that do exist will sell at a premium. The total of graded issues will also reveal if the entire graded population can be considered rare.
Graded Copies Matter to all
The reason that the total number of graded copies is significant is that these books may one day be sold. One of the main reasons for grading books is to one day sell them. A large print run of an older book with very few copies graded may be an indicator that the book is now rare.
Gold and silver age books do exist that are raw, but many are, in fact, graded. Sadly, many more were lost during the passage of time. The census of graded books is now telling the collector and consumer a good number of how many of those books still exist.
Collectors and investors should realize that there can be other copies that exist that are not graded. An issue may not be valuable or worthy of grading because it is common. Some copies may be purchased for reading and will be held by true collectors.
In addition, some copies may be graded by other companies that are not included in the CGC census. Finally, issues may have been read and destroyed, so they never will be graded. A general rule of thumb is the older the issue the greater the potential that those books are not around to be graded. These issues can affect how rare a book truly is so we account for them too in the next step.
1st Miles Morales: 14,162 total CGC copies graded at the time of this writing. 14,162/73,764= 19.2% of all copies CGC Graded
1st Green Goblin: 4,708 total CGC copies graded at the time of this writing.
Green Giant Comics #1: 4 total CGC copies graded at the time of this writing.
Step #3 Sales data
Significance of the Data
The sales data of an issue is very important to determine how rare a comic book is in the market. Many copies may exist, but if they do not come to the market then this book may be rare. A lack of sales may be indicative of books that are being held by collectors and may hardly ever come on the market. Another reason for low sales numbers is that investors are holding onto the issue for future sales or that the issue is not in demand. Finally, low sales numbers may be indicative that a book is truly rare and there are not that many sales.
GoCollect tracks the sales data for CGC and CBCS graded books. eBay has a way to track the sales of raw books. Both should be evaluated to see how often a book comes to market and is sold. This will assist in determining how truly rare an issue is in the wild.
Impact on the Bottom Line
The fewer the sales, the higher buyers will have to pay for the issue. Higher sales volumes may indicate this issue and grade can be found quite common. An issue that seems rare but has a very high sales rate may be evidence that the rarity of the book is a myth. A book may be perceived to be rare when, in fact, not rare but in high demand, thus impacting the price one would have to pay to obtain the issue. Knowing a book is not really rare may help the buyer pay less or let them know they can walk away from a bad purchase because another sale is potentially right around the corner.
A book with a very low print run and few graded books that are selling may also be an indicator that the book is rare. For those issues, rising sales prices show the book is in demand while plummeting sales prices demonstrate the book may be losing its luster. Even in bad markets, rare books may sell at a premium because of the infrequency they are available.
GoCollect has another feature that lets users determine if that issue is for sale in addition to seeing past sales with original links for verification. Sometimes books that are truly rare may, in fact, be offered for sale. Setting a sale alert can be helpful when watching for specific books.
Other times, users may find that books that have the rarity myth attached to them may in fact have many offerings available, available to view on each comic’s page.
1st Miles Morales: 5,533 past sales at the time of this writing.
1st Green Goblin: 1,938 past sales at the time of this writing.
Green Giant Comics #1: 4 total past sales at the time of this writing.
Final Step Reviewing the data
Still not done?
A careful inspection of all the data can reveal if a book is truly rare or not. A book can be considered rare if the issue had a low print run; has a low number of graded books; and very few sales. All these low numbers are indicative of a rare book. Investors and collectors can also determine that a book may be common, but certain grades may be rare.
Covers like Marvel Spotlight #5 are truly rare to find in high grades because of the black cover. This still is not enough because a good collector and investor will still go further in their evaluation.
Experience in Hobby
Collectors and investors must determine if a valid reason exists why certain numbers are low. Many reasons can be cited for why one of those numbers may be low. Few copies could have been graded because the book is not that valuable. Low sales numbers may be indicative of a high price point. The job of the collector and investor is to use their experience and knowledge of the hobby to make a final determination on if a book is rare or not.
So now what?
Well, is it rare?
The determination of rarity can greatly impact how collectors and investors treat an issue. Rare books may warrant ignoring the FMV because the potential to buy that issue may be few and far between. In contrast, a book may be rare, but the sales data may reveal that when it does come to market the price paid for the issue is not that great. Using all the tools at one’s disposal is very important for collectors and investors.
Impact on Collectors and Investors
Supply and demand is the basis of the comic book marketplace. There may exist a false perception that key comic books are in short supply, and thus, rare. Books that are deemed to be in demand but not rare are an important reveal to collectors and investors. Buyers for Ultimate Fallout #4 and Amazing Spider-Man #14 may have more power than they think.
A review of our selections indicates that two sample books have a robust population with healthy sales numbers. Demand may be high for those issues but a healthy supply may make these books affordable. Only certain grades may be rare and desirable.
Green Giant Comics #1 has very low CGC numbers and sales. A seller will force a bidding frenzy because of the rarity of this issue. Collectors and investors will have to choose how much they want to pay above the FMV because if they do not do so it may be some time before another copy comes to market. The condition of the copies will not even matter because merely owning a copy will be an accomplishment. A truly rare comic book makes buyers throw caution to the wind.
Determining how rare a comic book issue is gives more power to collectors and investors. Many times collectors think with their hearts. Investors think with their wallets. Both groups become infected with FOMO and could be drawn into a bad deal as a result of that fear. Determining the rarity of an issue and/or grade in both the numbers that may exist and how often the book comes to market lets both collectors and investors determine when they should have FOMO or when they should be more patient.
That next 9.8 copy of Ultimate Fallout #4 may be at the next store you visit at a better price while the next 9.8 copy of Batman #181 may never leave the vault of the two collectors who found it, thus leaving only that one person who was willing to sell it of the three to negotiate.
Collectors and investors know that doing what they love or making money is not easy. The work both put in, though, will ultimately lead to better outcomes for both of them.