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Bloomberg Article Claims Your Comics Are Probably Worthless Options
The_Valiant_One
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 10:58:53 AM

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Bloomberg wrote:
From an article found at this link

Barry T. Smith, 44, spent most of his life collecting comic books. And he always considered them an investment. “These books would someday be college tuition, or a house down payment,” Smith remembers thinking. “I would lay them all out in my parents’ living room, sorting them, cataloging them, writing down entries on graph paper while cross-referencing them against the Overstreet Price Guide.”

After college he landed a tech job in Silicon Valley but held on to all 1,200 of his comics, including several hundred early issues of Marvel’s (DIS) X-Men, which his research suggested had grown in value every year. The comics sat in a storage unit, boarded and bagged, for close to two decades. When Smith found himself unemployed and in need of money to support his wife and two daughters, he decided the time was right to cash in on his investment.

The entire collection sold for about $500. “I’m not too proud to admit, I cried a bit,” Smith says.

He’s not the only would-be investor who’s discovered in recent years that his comic collection isn’t worth nearly as much as he’d hoped. Kevin J. Maroney, 47, of Yonkers, N.Y., decided to sell 10,000 comics, roughly a third of his collection, on consignment with various comic book stores in Manhattan. Thus far, fewer than 300 have sold for a total of about $800. He’s not surprised by the lack of interest. “A lot of people my age, who grew up collecting comics, are trying to sell their collections now,” says Maroney, who works in IT support for Piper Jaffray. “But there just aren’t any buyers anymore.”

Frank Santoro, a columnist for the Comics Journal and an avid collector himself, has noticed the same trend. “More and more of these types of collections are showing up for sale,” he says. “And they’re becoming more and more devalued. The prices are dropping.” He recently had to break the bad news to a friend’s uncle, who was convinced his comic collection—about 3,000 books—was worth at least $23,000. “I told him it was probably more like $500,” Santoro says. “And a comic book store would probably only offer him $200.”

Stories like these are a stark contrast to what’s typically reported. To go by media accounts, 2013 has been a huge year for the vintage comic market. A Minnesota man found a copy of Action Comics No. 1—the first appearance of Superman, published in 1938—in a wall of his house and sold it for $175,000 in June. Three decades ago a different copy of the same comic sold for about $5,000, a record at the time. In August, meanwhile, Heritage Auctions hosted a comic-oriented event in Dallas where a highly-graded copy of the 1940 comic Batman No. 1 sold for a staggering $567,625. A recent piece on the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch website was especially enthusiastic about comics as an investment strategy, calling them “more predictable than stocks” and “recession-proof.” Old comics, the author suggested, could even save your home from foreclosure.

Outlandish claims and tales of amazing windfalls elicit only groans from Rob Salkowitz, a business analyst and author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture. He also happens to be, in his own words, “a guy in his 40s with a basement full of old comics.” He warns that too many people have been deluded into thinking they are sitting on a comic book gold mine.

“There are two markets for comic books,” Salkowitz says. “There’s the market for gold-plated issues with megawatt cultural significance, which sell for hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars. But that’s a very, very, very limited market. If a Saudi sheik decides he needs Action Comics No. 1, there are only a few people out there who have a copy.” And then there’s the other market, where most comics change hands for pennies and nobody is getting rich or even breaking even. “The entire back-issues market is essentially a Ponzi scheme,” Salkowitz says. “It’s been managed and run that way for 35 years.”

Bill Boichel, the owner of Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics, argues that transactions involving high-profile vintage comics happen in an entirely separate market. “Ultra-high-grade books sell for as much or more than ever to doctors, lawyers, brokers, and bankers,” he says. Comics like The Amazing Spider-Man No. 1—an Ohio man recently auctioned a copy for $7,900 to help pay for his daughter’s wedding—are considered a “blue chip stock of high liquidity, in that there is always a ready buyer for it.”


On the other end of the spectrum, almost any comic book store owner can supply eye-opening tales of depreciation. Walter Durajlija, an adviser for Overstreet and owner of Big B Comics in Hamilton, Ont., sold a copy of Uncanny X-Men No. 94 in 2010 for a record $26,500. Last year, that same comic sold in his store for only $12,000. “[My] last two sales [of X-Men No. 94] were $9,501 in February of 2013 and $8,089 three short days later,” he says. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Incredible Hulk No. 181 was getting $20,000; they now trade for $8,000.”

Todd McDevitt, who owns a chain of five comic book stores in Pennsylvania, remembers when Superman No. 75, published in 1992 and featuring the death of the hero, was selling for $75. Today, collectors are lucky to get $8. “I still get calls from folks who think they can retire after buying what they thought was the ‘last’ Superman,” McDevitt says. (Death, of course, proved only a temporary setback for the Man of Steel and his comics.)

Even investors buying rare comics don’t always make a profit. Steve Geppi, the Baltimore comic book magnate, agreed in 2006 to pay $1 million for a collection of original Archie Comics artwork from the 1940s and ’50s. But when Geppi tried to sell some of his newly acquired pieces, he realized they weren’t nearly as valuable as he had believed. By 2010, Geppi was claiming he couldn’t afford to pay the remaining half-million he still owed the Archie artist’s estate.

There are many theories for why comic collectibles have stopped being valuable. Some blame readily available reprints. “What drove the collectibility of the old comics was that they were once genuinely rare,” says Salkowitz. Others point to the grading system, which now requires that comics be encased in plastic polymer. “It really is a shady process that’s completely changed the marketplace,” says Santoro. And there’s reason to suspect that the Internet era has yet again worked its magic on prices: “In the ’60s, the only way to read these stories was to own the original issues,” says Salkowitz. “Now you can go on Pirate Bay and download a torrent of anything you want for free.”

Opinions are equally mixed on whether the comic collecting bubble has permanently burst. McDevitt alternates between stories that are hopeless and optimistic. He jokes that after a year of turning down collectors trying to sell their worthless comics, he’s realized he would make a great doctor: “I’m apparently very good at giving people bad news.” But he also has a fondness for the rags-to-riches stories that built up the myth of comics’ value. Just ask him about the elderly widow who brought in her late husband’s comic collection and “was literally car shopping the next day.” Or the couple who paid for the adoption of their first child with profits from the husband’s old comics.

As for Barry T. Smith, he’s now gainfully employed as a senior product manager at Milyoni, and he still has one comic from the collection he sold for a pittance: Alien Legion No. 1. “It was the comic book that started me on my path to collecting,” he says.

According to the Overstreet Price Guide, today it’s worth approximately $3.


Thought I'd post this to get everyone's opinion before I chimed in with my own.

Opinions?

Xylob
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 12:04:46 PM

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Nothing surprising here - all info I've known for years.
Yet I still see that same jack-ass in the LCS every week getting in everybody's way while he intimately fondles every single book on the rack to ensure he gets the "very best" copy because he's gonna send his kids to college with his collection one day.
I buy funny books to read, I know they're (monetarily) worthless and I have no delusions of getting rich off my collection.
For me, they value is sentimental.

I've been slowly dumping the comics I don't want/need anymore for trade credit at 2nd & Charles (Books A Million) and TradeSmart (Hastings) and buying books, CDs, video games, and DVDs/BluRays for my "worthless" comics because I'm still getting way more for them than I ever would at an LCS.

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SwiftMann
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 1:06:28 PM

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The overall point of the story is valid - People who have horded their comic collection for 20 years thinking volume would equal riches are misguided.

I do have problems with the comments that 3,000 books are worth only $250-$500. That's 8-16 cents a piece. That's understating any comic unless you're selling in bulk to a comic shop.

Of course, they don't bother to explicitly point out that comic shops only pay pennies on the dollar so that they can get max profit out of buying in bulk. Or that selling in bulk is stupid.

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CrossbowComics
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 2:22:06 PM

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I just drove cross-country & hit about 30 comic shops, the market has never been healthier. Lots of bins are half wiped out & for the old stuff you mostly find overgraded/overpriced beaters. I mostly stuck to the $1 bins because the stuff in the display cases was just too steep.

As with any investment you have to pick & choose, stick to the stuff that's in lower supply like pre-1980 and 1996-2002, everything else is still pretty plentiful. I doesn't help that Overstreet lists everything at $3 and up & gives people false hopes.




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4saken1
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 2:30:21 PM

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People that don't really know much about comics often suffer from the same misconception that ALL comics are valuable especially WRT 'older' comics, thinking that those massively printed editions from the early '90s are now 'vintage'.

Like any investment, I wouldn't suggest anybody that isn't familiar with the market to purchase them with the sole intent for profit. How many wealthy people are there walking around that made their riches from buying and selling comics? Those rare stories you hear in the news are the exceptions, not the rule! If it was an easy thing to become rich off buying comics cheap and selling them for a fortune, virtually every comic store owner would be driving around in a Ferrari!

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SwiftMann
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 2:39:39 PM

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Oh, and who is this Ontario comic store guy selling Uncanny X-Men #94 for $26,500 or Incredible Hulk #181 for $20,000?!?

When were those ever demanding a fraction of those prices?

Or Superman #75 pushing $75? When?

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CrossbowComics
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 4:07:44 PM

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Funny thing is the article is quoting collectors in their 40's, just like me. That means they spent their teenage years in the 1980's which was the biggest comic glut ever except perhaps the 1990's Valiants.

The article omits the fact that you'll get a small fraction of market value taking your books to a dealer. A better article would have included the dealers flipping those collections with a 300-400% markup.




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Xylob
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 4:32:50 PM

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SwiftMann wrote:
...Or Superman #75 pushing $75? When?
HA! Right before the 2nd print came out... then the price spriraled down to jack-squat.

4saken1 wrote:
People that don't really know much about comics often suffer from the same misconception that ALL comics are valuable especially WRT 'older' comics, thinking that those massively printed editions from the early '90s are now 'vintage'.
'zactly! Amazing Fantasy #15 in decent shape is worth a bazillion dollars because NOBODY HAS ONE.
Those 10 copies of AwesomeDude EXTREME #0 that you have in Gem Mint+ condition are worth nothing because everybody else also has 10 copies in GM+ condition.

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padreglcc
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 6:59:43 PM

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This article has been picked up by Yahoo! Finance is was just one of the top 5 stories in my Yahoo! feed.

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JimmmKelly
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 8:18:23 PM
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I'm sad about this for two reasons.

One is that I really like my comics and I think they do have a lot of value, so it's sad that other people don't see how valuable they are and can't appreciate them like I do--some day I'm not going to be around and I'd like to believe that future generations will see the value in this medium. Sure, I don't have to have monetary validation for what I love, but it is one way to measure how much stock the public puts in these books--and it's nice to share what you love with other people. It would be sad if my entire collection ended up on a junk heap rather than in the hands of a fellow collector and reader.

The other is that, I've had to have a thick skin against all the criticisms from family and friends who thought I was wasting my money and my time on these comics. The one card I had was that maybe one day I could sell a few of my comics for a lot of money and rub it in their face. In the end all those people who thought I was an idiot have turned out to be right.

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KingZombie
Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 8:51:00 PM

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The article lost it's credibility the moment it was published by Bloomberg.

Alright, I'll admit there is some merit to it, but like Swiftmann said, the values they've reported for some books are way out of proportion. Therefore, it's just mere speculation on their part.

Who cares what they think anyway, they really know nothing about the industry.
The_Valiant_One
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 9:21:14 AM

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SwiftMann wrote:
Or Superman #75 pushing $75? When?


That was the standout statement for me. With the exception of the Platinum Edition or a signed copy, I've never seen a SUPERMAN #75 sell for more than $10-$20 each.

The ironic part of the article is that it's a story about how you can't sell your comics for more than a pittance, but sellers are making bank on Superman #75 apparently. lol

The_Valiant_One
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 9:23:53 AM

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JimmmKelly wrote:
I'm sad about this for two reasons.

One is that I really like my comics and I think they do have a lot of value, so it's sad that other people don't see how valuable they are and can't appreciate them like I do--some day I'm not going to be around and I'd like to believe that future generations will see the value in this medium. Sure, I don't have to have monetary validation for what I love, but it is one way to measure how much stock the public puts in these books--and it's nice to share what you love with other people. It would be sad if my entire collection ended up on a junk heap rather than in the hands of a fellow collector and reader.

The other is that, I've had to have a thick skin against all the criticisms from family and friends who thought I was wasting my money and my time on these comics. The one card I had was that maybe one day I could sell a few of my comics for a lot of money and rub it in their face. In the end all those people who thought I was an idiot have turned out to be right.


I wouldn't put too much faith in this article, man. To me, it's like getting advice on how to fix your car from your dentist. Just because it's a BLOOMBERG article, doesn't mean it's entirely accurate.

In short, don't sign off on your collection just yet. ALIEN LEGION #1 has never to my knowledge, been particularly valuable.

Cool
JimmmKelly
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 10:04:14 AM
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Monetary investment was rarely if ever my first priority--otherwise I would have bought a lot of comics that I didn't like but I knew were collectible and I would have passed up a lot of comics that I enjoyed but were undervalued by collectors. But I did think, at the end of the day, whenever I wanted to get rid of my comics, I would be able to do so without much problem.

I first came to the realization that wasn't going to be so easy when I took some comics into the Comicshop in the mid-'80s when I was low on funds and needing cash, but the guy at the shop turned down most of the comics I had and only offered a low amount for others. I refused to sell my comics for such a low amount and left and have never again tried to sell my comics.

At some point, though, either before I die or after, my collection has to be gotten rid of--and I'd hope that would be easily done, without my comics being hauled to the junkyard.

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The_Valiant_One
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 11:26:39 AM

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JimmmKelly wrote:
Monetary investment was rarely if ever my first priority--otherwise I would have bought a lot of comics that I didn't like but I knew were collectible and I would have passed up a lot of comics that I enjoyed but were undervalued by collectors. But I did think, at the end of the day, whenever I wanted to get rid of my comics, I would be able to do so without much problem.

I first came to the realization that wasn't going to be so easy when I took some comics into the Comicshop in the mid-'80s when I was low on funds and needing cash, but the guy at the shop turned down most of the comics I had and only offered a low amount for others. I refused to sell my comics for such a low amount and left and have never again tried to sell my comics.

At some point, though, either before I die or after, my collection has to be gotten rid of--and I'd hope that would be easily done, without my comics being hauled to the junkyard.


You'd be shocked how many people call our offices merely to ask collecting questions in general...including what is my stuff worth and how much can I sell it for. Generally, I almost always tell people the same thing when selling a small private collection.

Educate yourself. Spend some time learning about what you have and what you have is worth. If you're collecting for fun, then part of this doesn't matter...but if you're collecting for investment, you want to know what you have and if it's worth your time to collect. It's like stocks...you don't just walk into a broker and say "GIVE ME 100 STOCKS!" You educate, diversify and learn what will be good short term investments and good long term investments.

Thundercron
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 12:53:08 PM

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I've been thinking about this article. To me, owning a large comic collection is akin to owning a department store of goods (sporting good store, hardware store, general merchandise store--take your pick). All of the products in your store has a retail value, a price above the wholesale price that you paid for the items. So on paper, you've got a store with perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise. But all of that product isn't going to sell today. Or tomorrow. Or even next month or next year. Because the instant demand isn't there.

But if push came to shove, and you had to liquidate all those products--would you get full retail value for everything? Of course not. You'd have to hold a fire sale, mark everything to a steep discount, start liquidating even below your cost, and bulk out the remaining stock. So that little experience brings us back to the original question--what's the actual value of the items in that store? It's really hard to say. The same analogy holds true for comics.

This is also where the quote comes into play about the comic industry being a large Ponzi scheme going back 35 years. I totally agree with that. The Overstreet Price Guide exists to justify comic dealers' practice of charging high prices for books. When Overstreet refuses to list books for less than cover price--that's a big problem in creating a false market. Can you imagine if Kelly Blue Book had the practice of never valuing a car for less than it's original MSRP??? It's totally ridiculous. But if Overstreet started reporting that most books from the last 25 years are only worth, say, a dollar, then the market would totally collapse on itself.

BurningDoom
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 12:56:44 PM

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It really depends on what you have. Like anything else that's collectible, there's a whole lot of really common stuff that is practically worthless, and then there's the extremely old and/or rare that worth a bit.

If you're collection mostly consists of Copper Age and Modern Age stuff (like mine) it's mostly worthless (barring some rare exceptions). But if you're collection is full of Golden Age and early Silver Age stuff, then you're likely sitting on a gold mine.

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JimmmKelly
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 6:38:40 PM
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In recent years, I've thought about selling off some of my collection, just for the sake of convenience, as it takes up space--but when I looked at it and saw that I wasn't likely to get much for a lot of the books I'm willing to get rid of--I decided that my situation isn't urgent. In my current circumstances, I could hold onto my collection for another thiry or forty years, no problem. And maybe by then things will have changed. Right now, I'd probably only sell or give away some of the books I don't value to make space for other books I want to buy.

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Flagwaver
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 6:47:40 PM

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Wait ... so the five X-Force #1s I have CGCed at 9.2 aren't going to pay for my retirement? Crying
Thundercron
Posted: Friday, November 01, 2013 8:14:00 PM

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BurningDoom wrote:
It really depends on what you have. Like anything else that's collectible, there's a whole lot of really common stuff that is practically worthless, and then there's the extremely old and/or rare that worth a bit.


But that's where the whole Overstreet thing comes into play. Those worthless comics are still valued at three to four dollars a piece according to "The Guide". People view that as gospel, when in reality they only sell for $1 or less, on average. Overstreet has really screwed with people's perceptions.
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