Comic Economics Part 3: Comics Today

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There has been a lot of uproar about comic books over the last two decades. Fans have been on a wild ride, especially if you have been riding since the 70s or 80s. No matter how long you have been on the train, speculation has been a part of this world. Let’s take a look at the speculation today.

The Recovery

 

Ever since Marvel began to sell off their movie rights we have seen Marvel comics, and the comic industry, return with a vengeance. Part of this has to do with the Disney/Marvel merger. Disney, in conjunction with Marvel, has created the largest interconnected cinematic universe. Other nerds will note movies such as Star Trek, Star Wars, and even Jay and Silent Bob, but these pale in comparison to the leaps that Disney has made with Marvel Studios.

Disney is continuing to grow with their recent purchase of Fox, which includes a wide variety of valuable charters like the Fantastic Four and X-Men. This success over the last decade has seen a growing demand for comics again. With characters becoming re-envisioned and the characters on screen actually affecting how writers craft modern-day stories, we are seeing some big changes, and we are seeing the growth of comics again.

Some newer comics are shooting up in value like Ultimate Fallout #4, the first appearance of Miles Morales, and Edge of Spider-Verse #2, the first appearance of Spider-Gwen. However, this market today is very different from the market comic collectors had in the 80s and 90s. Many comic connoisseurs are moving into the digital age.

The On-Demand Age of Comics

 

The days of hunting through long boxes for that one issue to complete a story are gone. Many people have moved on to platforms like Comix and Marvel Unlimited to get their comic fix. These are a Netflix-like subscription service, which allows subscribers to have access to a library of comics to read digitally. Even many hardcore collectors will pay for this service and only collect the issues that mean something to them.

Many people are even moving away from the trade paperbacks, which were collections of issues put into one paperback book, in favor of these new digital, on demand comics. With this new move and the undeniable black cloud of the 90s bubble, mass production, and the dreaded foil, hologram, and variant covers we could see an even greater declining market for these modern age books.

Speculation Today

 

Now I know this is merely speculation, and we have seen how that turns out, but with the decline in value, then it could be assumed that many of these comics will eventually be thrown out. So as we have seen, and as we know, supply and demand have an inverse relationship. So as these issues get destroyed, and the market begins to take notice the price will inevitably rise. See, gold and silver age books are valuable not simply because they are old, but rather because they are rare. Now you can get on eBay and find a number Avengers #8, the first appearance of Kang, and think well… it’s not THAT rare, but look up how many copies of X-Men #1 from 1991, the Guinness Book World Record holder for best-selling comic. The price difference may be affected by how old they are, but also comics that were as old is the X-Men comic is now were selling for drastically higher prices. Coupled with inflation, it would be better to purchase that comic today then it would have been in the 90s.

The basic market today is certainly gearing toward collecting key issues. These are first appearances, story arcs, or any other key issues. First appearances can include characters or items. Story arcs have been increasing because of the adaptions, along with the speculation of which story will be adapted next. Today we are seeing the advent of new characters in some modern day issues, which are guaranteeing a spike at some point in the future. Speculation of very obscure characters like Moon Girl, Squirrel Girl, Riri Williams, and others are causing people to look deeper into comic lore, even if it isn’t too far back.

Getting into Comic Collecting

 

So there is a bubble today centered around the Marvel Studios along with DC, and others. The new comic market isn’t a bad place to look, however, there are warning signs. For example, when Marvel was launching the movie Captain America: Civil War, they concurrently released their crossover event Civil War II. This was a great marketing tactic to get speculators to buy comics from them, but us with an eagle eye can see through this tactic.

My dad once told me that “An item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” After that, I threw away my Pokemon card collection, which had about three first edition Charizard holographic cards in it (roughly $9,000 today), along with an array of other holographics in it. However, he did have a great point. This is why we see discrepancies in the market versus the Overstreet Price Guide. Some comics are selling higher or lower on the market. This is why it is just a GUIDE. If I have an issue and I want to sell it for $10, but the most anyone is willing to pay is $8, then by default the issue is only worth $8.

Comics are known to inflate with the release of a character or a story adaptation. Nevertheless, the price doesn’t stay that high. When the price does level out though, it is typically higher than the pre-movie price. If a comic is valued at $100, and there is a movie announced then the price might jump to $200. After they hype of the movie it might settle back to $150, and remain there. However, there is also the flooding of the market. So if a character is coming out in their own movie, or is appearing for the first time in a movie, then their comics are going to be worth more and people are going to be willing to sell them. Just as competition is great for the consumer we can see that here as well. The now $200 comic we used in the last example might get undercut by someone else who is selling for $190, which would mean that if I want to up my chances of selling I might need to come to $185. Still, with other factors to consider, I might be able to keep my price that high.

This happens in a number of markets, and sometimes by surprise.

Look at the recent Bansky painting that was just auctioned off. Bansky rigged the painting to shred itself once it was auctioned off. Before the eyes of all the bidder, the painting went from a beautiful artwork to canvas rags on the ground. However, there is a great market for this painting now because of the attention and historical factors surrounding it. It also is probably going to sell for more than right now, but either way, it may be worth more than its original price in the future just because of the popularity surrounding the controversy.

How to Trade Today

 

There are many ways to collect and trade today. Many comic collectors are fans, and therefore collect what they like, along with issues that have some kind of sentimental value. However, this article is about speculation.

The way to play the game with comics is to be in the know, much like you would be in any other area. You will need to be aware of Easter eggs and characters, along with wordings and story arcs. Plus you will need to be in the know on what studios own the rights to what characters and how they can incorporate them. Some characters even overlap like Quicksilver. Also, it would be in your best interest to be up to date on what new characters are coming out in modern comics, along with staying up to date on toy releases as there are times that somethings may be revealed through the toys before they are released through upcoming movies.

The idea here is to be able to grab a comic well before the movie is announced. I grabbed a Ms. Marvel #1 Graded at an 8.5 for $70. Now that same comic is selling for $300. I don’t plan on selling it, but that is an example. See that comic will probably come to rest at about $200 after all the Ms. Marvel dust settles. The comic game is similar to trading stocks. Buy low, sell high. Know when to get in, and when to get out. Some people know what they’re doing, and some don’t.

What you don’t want to do is grab every comic you can, or grab propaganda like Death of Superman, Civil War II, or anything that has a foil cover to sit on for 30 or 40 years in hops to sell for a fortune. That is not going to play in your favor. However, there is a possibility with the moving towards digital comics that in the future the craze of the 90s may come back as a payoff, but let’s leave that to speculation.

You can read more from Rocky Ferrenburg on Think Liberty here.

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