Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Making the Grade: Comics As Investments

Recently I’ve been selling some of my other hobby collections (classic video game consoles and magic the gathering cards) to make some money for my one true passion, comics.  I want to spend the money I’ve gotten from selling the other things on comics ill both enjoy owning and in the long term, should I ever need to, be able to sell again for cash. When I start down this path, there are several things I’ve come across when thinking about "investing" in comics that leave me confused and concerned.

Issue 1 - Graded comics. I like the idea of having my key comics graded because it would leave me with a feeling that their value is somehow "set" by a third party. While this is arbitrary and I understand that, I can’t help but feel that it’s the closest to a real "value" for a comic. On the other hand I’ve now locked that comic away, it’s no longer something to be enjoyed, and it’s more like a bond or coin that you stick in a vault. Does that pervert the joy of comics? I'm not sure.

Issue 2 - Collecting for the sake of collecting. I enjoy comics, I love comics. I don't read all the comics I buy, some I buy with the intention of reading and have yet to, some purely to complete runs of series I have nearly complete. The purist in me thinks that if you buy a comic, it should be to read, not to just own. Comics should be for your enjoyment and when you hoard them you take away from what makes them great. Another part of me thinks that like any collection, it will grow, it can be an investment and part of the joy of collecting is to collect.

Issue 3 - Original Art. I have also been thinking about buying either original pages or doing artist commission. I like the idea of paying artists to do work for me, and I have in the past, I've also bought some original pages of books I love as well. I'm not sure that if I had to, I would be able to sell them again. It’s that line where I want to own this art by artists I love, but not being a rich man, sometimes you need to sell things you have bought to cover an unforeseen expense. It hasn't happened yet to me, but I am the kind of person who thinks about what could happen.

What are your feelings on comics’ investments? Do you buy original comics pages, original art? Have you sold comics or art you bought? Was it bought with the purpose of investing?


  1. no.
    That's the short and long answer. To be more cheeky - a few years back i contacted a comic shop with a list of my comics for possible sale. I was offered $50.
    I had about 3000 at the time.

    I also (on purpose) did not but the Image launch titles, spawn 1, youngblood 1 as protest! lol kind of silly NOW that I think back. Not because I didn't buy those issues, I don't know what they're worth but no one is going to retire off Spawn #1.

    1. Unless you are doing it for a living, I think buying modern age comics is probably a bad investment. 90s comics on the average are worthless. If I was going to buy something expensive it would be bronze or silver age where the availability and interest in those comics is fairly stabilized. But I'm far from an expert in them either.

    2. Yeah and I'm really not into comics for any monetary investment. All the power to anyone who does to that.

      Here's a question - would buying/selling comics be less profitable then say buying/selling classical art or antiques?

  2. So. Here's where I am at. All the long boxes in my closet have become a burden. I was thinking of selling them, but instead have donated them to the High School at which I teach, and have been selling them as a fundraiser for the Class of 2015 -- 50 cents a comic. 3 for a dollar. It has been a wonderful experience seeing kids grabbing and reading all those old books. Good cause, good feelings, tax write-off, spreading the love -- it's a win/win all around.

    1. I think thats awesome. I hope someday my kids want to read my comics and have fun digging through the long boxes. If they dont, im probably going to do something similar. But my Hulk 181? im not selling that for .25. you probably arent either right?

  3. Yea. And my Byrne/Claremont X-men either.

  4. As an actual professor of business and finance, I tell my students that collectibles are 100% NOT investments. The chance of making significant money from a collectible that is worth the time and effort, is microscopic. And the market for most collectibles collapsed more than a decade ago, and have not bounced back significantly.

    Like real estate or the stock market, there are profits available in trading, but you need to do it almost as a separate business (not an "on-the-side" hobby), and even then profits are not guaranteed. And consider profits to be benefits, in addition to the enjoyment you get from the item itself (comics, toys, stamps, antiques).

    I love Daniel's idea of selling them at school fundraisers, and may look into that myself.

    The last time I was active in selling my comics was '96-'99, and I actually got decent prices for some of that stuff. I sold because we were moving, and the space and weight made it worthwhile to try to pare the collection down rather than ship the whole thing 600 miles.

    I now consider myself, in regards to my comics hobby, to be:
    1% investor
    14% collector
    85% reader

    1. Its so true Alan, trying to play the investment gave with Comics is probably a bad idea. I think you can be a smart buyer of back issues to where you shouldn't lose much money though if you ever had to sell them. With modern comics its way to volatile, with Bronze age or older I think there is more of a set price point with a lot of issues. You can certainly make more of an investment in other stuff if the idea was pure profit but you are totally right that they should be enjoyed first and foremost, return on investment is the love of the comics, not their resale value, at least for the fan.

  5. Ernest Becker posits that we attach ourselves to spiritual, political, philosophical beliefs to gather as a group and create some delusion of immortality. I think this is the base for the obsessive or casual collector (if there is such a thing). Comic Collecting > existential abyss. It's my church. It's my gods. And my community. The more I possess the greater I believe the link is. The stronger my immortality will be.

    Also I like stories, & art.

    Peter Parker doesn't really age, does he? (or more specifically he stopped aging after adolescent. frozen agelessly in what most of us would consider our prime - )

    Sure there is a value to comics. But I never sold any. And like a lot of adults who have lost their stash (via fires, floods, or divorce) I am rebuilding my collection. Aaron, you seen my list. And its still growing. Just today I added jack of Hearts Miniseries. My mind has all these wonderful memories attached to panels, arcs, artist, and writers. Its snapshots. But I would be just as happy getting these issues in collected formats as opposed to single issues, even though there may be greater investment in single issues.

    Great question Aaron, and great answers thus far.

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