'Investing' in high grade comic books...

As a graduate of business school and a collector of many things; I am often surprised when I hear someone talking about 'investing' in comic books. When you buy a comic book, you are actually doing the opposite of investing! You are spending money on an item that pays no dividends, can easily be damaged, incurs transaction costs (both when buying and selling), and is bought and sold on an UNREGULATED secondary market. Now anyone who has read my other eBay 'guides' knows that I am not saying that it is not possible to 'invest' in collectibles; I am merely saying that one must be careful not to believe all the hype; especially in the world of comic books!

It started in the year 2000; as a company called CGC (Comics Guaranty Corporation) came on the scene and revolutionized the way comic books could be bought and sold. CGC is a third party company that grades and encapsulates (or 'slabs') comic books. They also check the book for any amount of restoration; thus documenting this on the CGC label. CGC truly changed the way comic books are bought and sold. There is no question about that. They also made comic book buying much safer and even made some books, much more 'liquid' when it comes time to sell. This in turn caused a lot of collectors (and 'investors') to take notice and low and behold a new market was created; the buying and selling of high grade comic books! Most dealers and auctioneers fell in love with CGC. They could now claim that the average collector could 'invest' in comic books and that the market had only one way to go; up!

In the beginning, the sky was the limit. The CGC census, which charts how many books in which grade were readily available, showed that many books were not available in high grade. Books that were listed as $200 in the Overstreet Price Guide were now selling at huge premiums! Paying $400 or $600 for a $200 Bronze Age book in CGC 9.4 was not uncommon. I fondly remember refusing to buy Tomb of Dracula #1 CGC 9.4 for $500 five years ago; when a dealer told me that this comic "would easily be a $1,000 comic book within five years." This same comic book in CGC 9.4 recently sold on Comic Link for less than $275 in the last sixty days! Sorry, but I am happy with the gains I made by buying mutual funds when the DIJA (stock market) was at 7,600 and everyone told me that the 'sky was falling!' 

Here are some other examples as to why I personally dislike the word 'investment' when talking about comic books. Looking back at older Overstreet Comic Book Price Guides, Comics Buyer's Guide (magazine), and comic collecting websites and forums; a lot of dealers write market reports based on what they think about the 'investment' potential of certain comic books. When I look back at some of these reports I can't help but laugh. Most of my favorite Bronze Age horror comics are selling well below what they sold for just years ago; and some dealers claimed they would be some of the best 'investments' one could make. Monster of Frankenstein #1 CGC 9.4+; Tomb of Dracula #1 CGC 9.4+; Werewolf by Night #1 CGC 9.4+; Ghost Rider #1 CGC 9.2+; were all supposed to be great 'investments.' Amazingly, had you of put that money in other collectibles, you would be doing much better right now! Even Giant Size X-Men #1 and Hulk Annual #1 (a comic that a lot of dealers and sellers claim is undervalued) and many other gems from the Bronze Age; haven't made any money at all! While I really can't talk much about the Silver Age of comic collecting, because I personally only collect first issues; most of the comic books that aren't a true key issue in high grade; haven't made any gains at all, if modest amounts to say the least.

So does this mean I am against 'investing' in high grade comic books for profit? Absolutely not! I have made money in this market and right now is a good time to buy (in my opinion), as the 'bubble' has somewhat burst. I got lucky with Luke Cage Hero for Hire because I bought it at $400 in CGC 9.4; I got lucky with Iron Man & Sub-Mariner #1 in CGC 9.2 and 9.4 because they were always undervalued. I also got lucky with Night Nurse #1 in CGC 9.6 because no one thought it would go up in value. It's Night Nurse for crying out loud! There is money to be made as long as you don't listen to the so called 'dealers.' My other advice is that just like coins (which in my opinion are a much better investment than comic books); amateurs should not be entering this field spending more than they can afford to lose. The tide is turning and we were (and possible still are) in a volatile market. Caution is required. Be careful who you trust. That being said, there still are some honest dealers out there, but most will tell you to buy what you love and caution you not to buy for profit (the good ones will anyway). In my years of comic book collecting (and yes, 'investing') I have met a lot of good honest dealers. Some of these dealers actually do write market reports for various publications, so please don't think that everyone who writes a market report is dishonest; that is entirely not true, as most of the highly respected dealers in this industry write some kind of report. My problem lies with the dealers who bend the truth, overgrade (if you choose to buy an ungraded comic), and who flat out lie to obtain business. You as a buyer must do your own research on who you are comfortable with doing business with. There are some dealers that I may like, that you would not be comfortable with. There are certain auctioneers that I avoid like the plague, while others in this hobby have nothing but praise for. It is sometimes a matter of personal preference and taste.

In conclusion, money can be made in this field. However, I just get saddened by a lot of buyers, collectors, and even some sellers, coming to me asking me why some dealer or seller told them that this book is an 'investment grade comic book' and in eight years it went nowhere but down. It is best to never take advice from a seller of anything! If you ask a real estate agent what the best investments are, chances are he or she will advise real estate. The collectibles market is no different, and worse still, it is highly unregulated! Always buy low and sell high. That is the key. Or...just buy what you love and if it goes up in value, good for you!  

Disclaimer: I am not liable for anything written in this 'guide.' Always consult an expert before buying or selling anything and only spend any amount of money you are willing to lose. Buy what you love and you can never go wrong, as you can always enjoy what you bought. 'Investing' in comic books is very hard for an amatuer and even an experienced collector, as this is a highly UNREGULATED market. Any antique and collectible can go up or down in price, as prices change daily and tastes change as well. My best advice is to check out GP Analysis ('google' GP Analysis), as they track the sales of CGC graded comic books! Thank you!

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