If you have been conscious over the last few years, you know - comic books are hot! But are they a “hot” investment? Or as an investment, are they even a good one?
First, what defines a good investment? Investment goals need to be determined: are you looking for something short or long term? In full disclosure, I am NOT an investment broker or financial adviser, but rather, an average consumer investor in the market and in comics books. Relating to comic book investments, I’ve been asked questions and I’ve asked myself. With any investment, how much money are you looking to make, or maybe more importantly, how much money are you willing to lose?
Notice that at the end of stock/mutual fund market advertisements there is a disclaimer about losing money. There is a reason for that.
I think that there are two main reasons why people come into buying comic books. One is that people love comics books, the characters and their story arcs, that we identify with individual characters and see ourselves (moreso now than ever) in them, and then these stories and characters are made into movies and T.V. shows we can continue to enjoy. We can literally be surrounded by comic books (reading, as framed art) and by other cultural products (movies, statues, toys) made about them. These characters and story lines may be fun, mirror certain aspects of society at large, elicit fantasies about escaping aspects of society, and for many people (including myself) emote memories of the past, childhood. Many readers of comics who have been reading them for a long time came into comics as children, as I had, when I was around ten or eleven years old, and although I read a lot fewer now (because of time), I still read a few of them (mainly Conan!).
The other interest many people have in comics books is as a way to make money. This segment (and the two groups are not exclusive of one another) of people buy comic books with the intention of making money; many of this group are newbies and since the prices of comics are at an all time high, many people are allured with the possibility of profit. You can sense the excitement about making money by buying and selling comics books by a casual browsing of discussions at Comic Book forums, Comic Book conventions, or Facebook groups, for instance. By the way, the idea of finding a treasure trove of extraordinarily expensive books from a seller who found them in their attic is basically OVER. Most people, if they don’t have some idea of what their comic books are worth, have access to find out (ummm, the internet). Expect to pay a lot of money for key books or large collections, which means it takes longer to get a return on investment. Browse Craigslist for “Comic Book Collections.” No one is selling and all the ads are for people buying.
So, are comics books a good investment? The answer: in my opinion, not really. But to unpack that further, like any other investment, you have to identify what your investment goals are.
First, are you looking for a long term or short term investment? There is money to be made on long term investments if, like a mutual fund, you are willing to spend money on a variety of comic books, mostly “slabbed” books and hold them for years. (It is amazing to me how many slabbed books are for sale that someone spent more money on getting them slabbed than they can be sold for.)
Like stocks, there are solid investment books that have historically continued to rise in value, for instance, Amazing Spiderman 1, Journey Into Mystery 83, X-men 1, Iron Man 1, Conan the Barbarian 1, Nyx 3, Detective comics 359, and the like. Expect to pay a lot of money for many of these - not just thousands, but tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands. If you survey sold prices from Heritage comics, Comiclink or major newspapers, these often highlight record sums for many key books. Buy and hold - for a long, long time. First appearances, variant covers, beautiful art, awesome story lines - these books are not just a regular checking of your Robinhood account, but combine all sorts of emotional attachment, aesthetic reflection, and investment hopes that take years to recover if you plan on ever selling them. Realistically, if you purchased a nice copy of Star Wars 42, the first appearance of Boba Fett, slabbed at 9.8, and you loved Boba Fett, would you actually ever sell it? There are no dividends paid on a comic book purchase.
There are a myriad of resources - videos, podcasts, and internet articles - that discuss mid-range books for expected long term increases in value such as Hulk 181, Batman Adventures 12, and Amazing Spider-man 129. If you have the extra money, buy them. Hold them. (I once sold a Hulk 181 7.5 for $3500! Yikes!!!!). These might be the best investments. If the goal is to appreciate value, then these might be the best investments. If the goal is to make money, these comics might increase in value, but also a consideration, these become hard for many owners to sell them! Not too hard to sell a Fidelity Mutual Fund or a Healthcare stock; there is no emotional attachment to them.
However, comic book investments should be like any other investment and part of a larger investment strategy: diversification. Aside from your love of owning a beloved book, if for investment, would a $5,000 purchase of a Hulk 181 CGC 5.5, outpace a highly rated mutual fund? Probably not. If you own other investments in stocks or mutual funds or even real estate, more than likely, those other investments will perform better than an investment in a comic book, especially, the wrong comic book. In just a quick internet search, it appears the “average” mutual fund over the long term does 6% - 10% each year.
Short term investing, in comics books or otherwise, is of course, risky. Trying to speculate on hot books, buying multiple copies, getting them graded - we’ve seen that movie before. How about the 1990s? How many copies of various comic books with different covers, variants, hologram covers, bagged and sealed books or sets, or restarted titles (over and over again), from the 1990s do you own? When Marvel (although DC had some of their own problems - red and blue Superman? And how many copies of Robin II 1-5 in plastic do you own?) was in trouble in the 1990s, they tried to spark more interest in comic books to drive up sales with variant covers of various comics books: X-Men, Spider-man, for instance. This failed because people weren’t reading the comics, but speculating on them - buying multiple copies and keeping them as collectors. Well, if everyone kept their comic books pristine, along with fairly large print runs, the comic definitely does not go up in value, and many of these books, 30 years later, are in dollar bins. Where are all the Skottie Young or J. Scott Campbell variants going to end up? Hard to say. Some are really nice!
The comic book market is hot today, and prices are at their top, so is it a good time to buy expensive comics? Financial advisors say that buy steady whether the market is hot or cold because one’s sights are on the long term. But be prepared, at some point, for some portion of the comic book market to decline. Like the economy, it is cyclical to a certain degree, and unlike mutual funds that mitigate against individual stock losses, you could be stuck with comic books that are not worth what you paid for.
So are comic books a good investment? Love them, read them, and admire them, but if you are looking for return on investment dollars, spread your investment dollars around. You could end up with a bunch of big dollar winners, and dollar bin filler. When all else fails, don’t forget you love comics and read them, and remember you own a long box full of Youngblood 1 as a cautionary tale.
If you are ready to sell your comics feel free to reach out to me at https://theshirecomics.com/index.php/sell-your-comic-collection. I will provide fair and up front pricing.