27th Jan2021

eBuying Comics: Week 50

by Ian Wells

Are we in the new age of a second speculator boom?

Immediately I would say yes. But there are a lot of caveats to go with that answer. It is not a heat of the moment answer. It is something I have believed has been coming for a number of years, possibly even longer than I actually remember. I could have written this piece any day from the last five years. But now I am armed with a better understanding of the first speculator boom that I can tackle the answer to my question with more distinction. Firstly I have to say comics have done an amazing job of re-establishing themselves after the 90’s crash. When you say its 30 years ago it seems a long time but it has been a hard fought battle and we should all be grateful we are in a Golden Age of comics. Consider the fact the trading card industry collapsed around the same time, they have never recovered.

The most recent issue on the stands that has drawn big attention and replanted the seed of writing this piece is Daredevil #25. Already we are talking five times the cover price and nearly double cover price for the second printing. I understand it is a pretty big plot twist but in the grand scheme of things that have happened in Daredevil over the years what puts this above those? I don’t want to spoil the plot still even after all these weeks. But is it that big a deal? Hasn’t something like this happened before?

Variant covers were in a way the first stepping stone to the market crash and surprisingly they never really went away. In the last five or so years (maybe longer) they seems to be about more then ever. I understand their appeal. The chance to get certain artists on books they wouldn’t otherwise be on is a good deal. I am all for a variant cover or two on a milestone issue, it just seems every issue now comes with at least three variants. When “The New 52” started Justice League #1 famously had 52 variant covers! When Marvel got the rights to Star Wars back, the first issue had well over 50 variant covers! Compare that to two 90’s darlings in Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man and Rob Liefeld’s X-Force. In the combined 27 issues they worked on their respective books between them they had 5 variants (all of them for Spider-Man #1)! Is the amount of variants today making them sought after or does all the blame lie on with the secondary market? It is sort of a chicken and the egg scenario.

While it would be completely unfair to say the new age of speculators is purely due to the success of comic book franchises on big and small screens it is a huge part of the argument. Perhaps I can a bit of a comic snob when I see certain issues gaining attention for very little connectivity to a movie. Lets face it the movies are very much their own beast now and very rarely are they doing out right adaptations of the comics. Which makes it annoying seeing a certain issue go up stupidly in value for its loose connection to a movie. Equally I can find it frustrating for a issue that isn’t that old to gain attention from a current story arc. A current example would be all the King in Black stuff boosting Venom’s fan base and back issue prices. Frustrating because Venom to me is still a newish character, again perhaps this is the comic snob in me thinking characters have to wait a certain decade to appreciate in value. However it could have more to do with me turning into a grumpy old man. don’t get me wrong I love the MCU so whenever any character I follow gets involved I am equal parts very happy and anxious to how it will effect my collecting. I equate it to when your favour indie band release a song that catches in the mainstream and even your Mum is singing it! From a personal point of view I started collecting Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu when talk of his introduction to the MCU were no more than murmurings. The oldest issue I have currently is #52. I picked this up for £3.50 and it is described as NM by the seller. The lowest price on eBay I found for the same grade was £4 and the highest price was £22. comicspriceguide.com has a raw NM valued at £8.75. I don’t think many elements from Master of Kung Fu are going to make it into the movie as it is very much a product of its time. Therefore as a collector I face having to pay a premium just on MCU name recognition.

As a seller you need to know how to read the landscape. When I first started selling comics on eBay my thinking was “comics are popular I will be able to break even.” In the early days my pricing was a little all over the map because of my desire to at least break even. Also the issues I was selling weren’t top end when it comes to grades. Luckily I only really do it for fun now. I see so many people on social media going out searching for hot books, paying a premium and turning a profit. I don’t have the graft for that anymore. If I happen to come across anything on the cheap I will take a chance on selling it on for profit. But buying and selling comics is like shark infested waters. I do still feel thought I have the insight to spot trends and declare a comic hot or not. A good case in point is when I tried to sell some issues of Tomb of Dracula. For the four issues in question I had paid between £10-£16, like I said earlier I would be happy breaking even. I would say the comics were top end grade of reader copies, so 6.5 (F+) to 8.0 (VF). I thought I would get some interest in some old school Marvel horror even if it had been a number of years since the last Blade movie. I got nothing! I probably relisted them once like I always do and now I am sitting on them until we get closer to the MCU incarnation of Blade. Then I can put all I am talking about here into practice. Sitting on comics until the TV or movie comes along doesn’t always work. I had a few random issues of Teen Titans I held back till the Titans TV series aired. Sold one, still have the other one. They were good issues too. Part 2 of ‘The Judas Contract’ and the last appearance of Dick Grayson as Robin. Nothing!

We are without doubt in the era of fan fiction. I mean that in the nicest sense. Today’s comic creators were fans in the 90s. It is fun to see them pushing the characters they grew up on front and center. A lot of these same characters had become by words for the industries darkest moment. Maybe it is just the dark side of my brain that sees editors seeing how far they can push this current 90s love. I mean it only takes one of them to try chromium covers again and the goal posts shift. After Covid the industry needs to be smarter. The pandemic itself has contributed to the increased speculation around certain issues as there have been smaller print runs, inadvertently making those issues more desirable on the secondary market.

So do I really believe a second ‘Speculator Boom’ is coming if it’s not here already? Without sitting on the fence my answer is yes and no. Hopefully today’s important people within publishing and editing have learnt from the past. I think it helps now that comics are so much more readily available. So many people are reading trades and digitally now that it is leaving the floppies only for people who want the floppies. The plot twist in Daredevil #25 is still going to hit as well if you read it in floppies, trades or digitally. So if people want to jack up the price on the secondary market, readers as opposed to collectors aren’t getting priced out of the experience. With buying and selling online if you are lucky enough to turn an issue for a profit good for you. If you are lucky enough to score a bargain on a desirable comic then equally good for you. The important thing to remember is that comics are there for our entertainment. Everything else connected to them is an after thought and I think the majority of people count themselves as readers first, collectors second. If you are in comics for one or the other good for you. Nowadays you can check in and out of either one as and when you wish. Mainly I see the people trying to create the boom as coming from the movies. So if anything it will only be a whimper.




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