A Common Collector Mistake – Emotional Value

Do comic book collectors know the true value of their books or are they in denial?

The truth is, there is a little of both going around.  The most common value mistake I’ve seen among collectors is to over-value their books!

It only makes sense.  A collector looks at their books as more than dollars and cents, there is an emotional attachment.  In their heads they attach a dollar value to this emotional attachment.  Unfortunately this emotional dollar value doesn’t translate very well into the real world.

But is this all bad?

Not really.  I have books in my collection that carry the same emotional baggage.  We could probably come up with an equation for collector value:

CV = MV + EV

CV = Collector Value
MV = Market Value
EV = Enjoyment/Emotional Value

The big variable here is EV.  There is a dollar amount out their for most of us that will overcome EV.  Let’s be honest and admit that it is different for every book we have in our collections.

The first Mile High book I ever bought:  very high EV, life altering EV, as in if you offer me an amount of money that would make a significant financial change in my life I will sell, short of that, sorry…

The X-men #1 I picked up several years ago in not so great condition:  less EV.  I like it because I have a collection of X-men and I probably need better than current market price, but not that much!

Depending on your life situation EV may actually be negative.  Let me share an example.

A few years back I decided to significantly reduce my collection and sales books.  I was just sick of having the long boxes around (and so was my wife).  I went to two conventions, sold what I could, dealt like a maniac, and in the last hour of the con announced I was selling out.  Fellow convention dealers came in droves.  I could have gotten more out of these books if I wanted to take more time to sell them, but I was through.  I wanted them out of my life.  I sold them just above cost, but below market.

My EV was actually negative!

I tell you what.  I walked out of that con with a smile on my face and one short box tucked under my arm. What a relief!

As a buyer you need to be on the lookout for positive EVs.  I see this all the time at conventions where there are part-time dealer/collectors.  There are books way above market value on their “attention getting wall.”  These books are there to lure you in but the seller has no intention of selling them – they have a high EV!  I don’t even try to negotiate for these books, it’s not worth the effort.  I recommend you don’t waste your time either.

There is a danger to having too high an EV on your books.  The time may come when you have to sell.  At this point your EV could turn negative and you may wish you had taken higher offers in the past.  There is a saying:

“Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered”

If you are selling or are willing to sell, is your EV too high?  Are you willing to just be a pig?  Only you know the reality of your situation.

My advice to collectors out there is this:  always know the market value of your books, not just the collector value.  Keep your “EV” in mind and don’t be blinded by it!

2 Responses to “A Common Collector Mistake – Emotional Value”

  1. Dave Lathrop says:

    Great topic Sean, and one that every collector (especially the novice) should read!

    How about an expansion to this topic, in particular the determination of market price for a particular book? I think that’s just as high of a variable as EV, and frequently a lot harder to overcome. Overcoming a market price variable is tough, and even though the comics industry has no Alan Greenspan, there are informative sources such as Overstreet, Wizard Magazine, and Comic Buyers’ Guide.

    You may think that it may be easy to determine a true market value, however there are many dealers who add in a speculative factor when determining a market value, the way some dealers sell real estate, stocks and bonds, and SuperBowl tickets. Today’s hot comic may be tomorrow’s trash, so collectors need to be aware how expensive it may be to speculate.

    Of course, market value shouldn’t include a speculative factor. InvestorWords.com defines fair market value as “the price that an interested but not desperate buyer would be willing to pay and an interested but not desperate seller would be willing to accept on the open market assuming a reasonable period of time for an agreement to arise.”

    I was in a comic store (and this is in the days of the “sixty centers”), where the dealer was trying to sell to a kid, probably no more that twelve or thirteen, a complete run of Devil Dinosaur for the ungodly sum of $25. “There were only nine issues of this comic ever printed! The value of this run can only increase!” The kid seriously considered it, and ultimately decided against it, to his credit.

    That kind of speculation is disgusting. And yet there are many people who will fall for it.

    Like you’ve said over and over Sean… buy what you like, and only what you like.

  2. admin says:

    I think market value is a very fluid thing. Like you said, today’s treasure is tomorrow’s trash. I have seen many collectors and dealers hold on to books because they are so “valuable” only to eventually sell them for much less. Why? The market changed and they needed the money. When you have to sell, you have no choice but to accept whatever the market is paying at that moment. It is a harsh reality.

    That’s why I think every collector should really think about what the books in their collection are worth – to them. If they get a good offer on a book they may not be too attached to, it may be time to sell. Knowing the current market value (or price) of the book will help with that decision.

    Also, I think a person should make a decision about whether they are a collector/reader only, or a collector/investor. If they are just reading, buy books that are inexpensive and stay away from what dealers are pawning off as “investments.” That is why I don’t like the “buy the best condition you can afford” comment. For a reader, don’t waste the money.

    If you are a collector/investor you will be looking at a completely different group of books in different condition.

    Because of the varying market price of comic books there will always be a certain amount of speculation for the “investor.” The trick is to minimize the speculative factor and try to get the “best of it.” That is a concept I discussed in the January 2008 newsletter.

    Thanks for you comments Dave! You bring up great points.

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