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The Comic Speculator – Back Issue Report 02/28/2012

by Matt Baum (02/28/12).

The Comic Speculator is a blog written by WorthPoint Comic Book “Worthologist” Matt Baum that takes a look at each week’s hot new comics and back issues and the comic market place in general. Prices discussed here are taken from the Overstreet Guide to Comics (OVST), Comicspriceguide.com (CPG) and current online auction sales. Sales numbers and rankings are courtesy of ICV2.com. The codes under the prices of new titles discussed are Diamond Comics order codes that can be used to help your local comic retailer in ordering the issues discussed. If you want to hear what this nerd sounds like you can catch him on his podcast, the Two-Headed Nerd Comicast, where he and his friend Joe discuss the latest comic news, review some new comics, and answer your questions.

The Back Issue Report

Welcome back true believers. It’s time again to set sail for the treacherous, icy waters of comic book back-issue marketplace in search of the catch of the month (today’s writing soundtrack was “A New Town” by Field Music).

Gold and Silver News

“Collectors don’t care about graded comics under 9.6 condition.”

The above is a quote I hear often and one I heard just today while talking to a fellow collector that hates graded comics. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that most of the graded comics I discuss in this blog are very high-dollar sellers and those tend to be the highest-graded but really, “Crappy Copy of Alpha Flight #15 sells for $1.75” doesn’t make for much of a headline. So maybe I’m part of the problem and, while I do agree that some collectors out there tend to pay stupid amounts of money for high-grade, blue-chip comics and thereby skewing the perception of what they are worth, it’s important to remember that those stupid-high numbers still reflect what someone was willing to pay. So there’s a reality there.

It’s a reality that isn’t reflected in the Overstreet Guide or by most dealers that want to buy your grandfather’s collection of funny books, though. If there was truth to the statement that no one cares about back issues in less than 9.6 condition, then it should be reflected in the prices of lower-graded comics, right? So that’s what we’re doing today; looking at some back issue in lower conditions to find out if there’s anything to this hypothesis. I’m going to specifically look at some comics in CGC 6.0 condition and we start with a big one.

Amazing Fantasy #15 (Marvel, 1962, 1st Spider-Man)

Amazing Fantasy #15 (Marvel, 1962, 1st Spider-Man) CGC 6.0 condition.

This one sold on eBay on Feb. 19, 2012 for $17,533 after receiving 34 bids. Seventeen grand is nothing to sneeze, at but when we go to the price guides, CPG lists this one at $21,000 for an example graded 6.0 (approx) and OVST puts it at $14,500 in 6.0 condition. Keep in mind that Overstreet values are notoriously low and the guide is almost a year old as of today. I was only able to find a few others in this condition that sold in the last four years, the lowest for $8,810 back in March of 2008 and the highest going for $14,000 in May of 2010. At north of $17,000, I’m giving this sale the record, but it’s still relatively low according to CPG and high according to Overstreet. Now, if you look at the historic sales, Amazing Fantasy #15 in CGC 6.0 has been steadily going up in price, raising $3,033 in just two years. I’m saying this sale busts the hypothesis.

Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel, 1961, 1st FF) CGC 6.0 condition.

Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel, 1961, 1st FF) CGC 6.0 condition.

This is another eBay sale from Jan. 24, 2012, that sold for $8,000. Unlike the Amazing Fantasy auction, this one sold for a “Best Offer” price. CPG lists FF #1 in 6.0 condition at $12,000, while OVST has it at $7,500. So, while eight-grand might sound like a steal for this comic—or right about where it should be, depending on the person—what’s important is to look at the history of the comic. I couldn’t find much on eBay for FF #1s in 6.0, but Heritage Auctions had quite a few.

Back in 2002, copies of FF #1 in CGC 6.0 were selling for just under $3,500. That’s a more than $4,000 jump in price in just short of 10 years. So again, hypothesis busted.

But what about DC comics in similar condition?

Showcase #22 (DC, 1959, 1st Silver-Age Green Lantern; Hal Jordan) CGC 6.0.

Showcase #22 (DC, 1959, 1st Silver-Age Green Lantern; Hal Jordan) CGC 6.0.

This one sold last November on eBay for $6,200 with 33 bids. CPG has this issue guiding at $3750 in 6.0, while OVST lists it at $1,900. This one is weird . . . really weird. Back in 2008, Heritage Auctions had one sell for as little as $1,434.00 in 6.0 condition. Then two of these in the same condition sold last year—one in May and one in July—both for a little more than $3,200. Suddenly, mere months later, Showcase #22 in 6.0 is selling for double that. What is that about? Sure, there was a Green Lantern movie that came out between then, but it certainly wasn’t great and didn’t exactly smash box office records. Regardless: hypothesis 0; null hypothesis 3 (thank you statistics course).

Superman #4 (DC, 1940, 2nd app Lex Luthor, 1st in Superman title) CGC 6.0

Superman #4 (DC, 1940, 2nd app Lex Luthor, 1st in Superman title) CGC 6.0

This issue sold on eBay for $1,850.09 back in December of 2011, with 24 bids. CPG lists this issue at $3,000 in 6.0 and OVST has it at $2,190. Both prices just seem amazingly low to me for any comic from the 1940s, let alone a Superman comic, but that’s another discussion entirely. So, here we finally seem to have an example that jibes with the hypothesis and it happens to be a very old Superman comic. I don’t get it. Weirder still is the fact that CGC only lists three copies in 6.0 condition in its census. This is an extremely rare comic and it’s only selling for a little less than two grand. I understand that the second appearance of Lex isn’t exactly a key issue but this just seems grossly under-priced, even by OVST’s conservative pricing. Mark one up for the hypothesis.

Now, I understand this wasn’t exactly a scientific process, and three of the issues I looked at were definitely key issues, but the data here does make an interesting point. Key graded comics, regardless of lower grades, seem to be selling for more than their guide value. I didn’t even really dig for this info or pick comics to suit this blog. I just went to eBay and searched “CGC 6.0” and plucked out some Gold- and Silver-Age comics. And, it seems, getting your comics graded, even if they’re not in the best of condition, is still to your benefit when it comes to selling.

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Matt Baum is WorthPoint’s comic book Worthologist. If you have any questions about these books or anything else in the comic book world feel free to contact Matt or post your question below in the Comic Book Forum in the WorthPoint Forums, located in the Community tab. You can also reply to this article in the “leave a reply box below. If you need more comic-nerd in your life, you can follow Matt on Twitter, where he’s always screaming about something nerd-related. Thanks to all Matt’s new followers and keep the comments coming!

Want to know what your comics are worth? Join WorthPoint to search its database or use its “Ask A Worthologist” feature. Remember to post the title, issue number and cover price.

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3 Responses to “The Comic Speculator – Back Issue Report 02/28/2012”

  1. Spider34 says:

    The Superman 4 is a restored copy so it’s going to sell well below a non-restored copy.

  2. Matt Baum Matt Baum says:

    I think I grabbed the wrong pic. The Superman #4 I was writing about was not restored and the drop off in price happens across the board in both price guides. Sorry about the confusion.

  3. Mot Yrreb says:

    If you are the type that is only buying high grade comics for resale at a profit the hypothesis would true in most cases; particularly concerning “Modern” books. However, if the buyer is not into buying books only for resale value, buying a lower grade would be desirable because the high-grade books are way overpriced.
    Let the speculators drive the high-end market over the cliff if they want, hope they lose their @$$, then maybe a little sanity can be restored to the back issue market.

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