Is there any point in saving new comic books for the long haul? Should you “slab” them and hold on to fund some future purchase? This question gets thrown around all the time in online forums (along with when will the crash come, but that’s a topic for another day).
My opinion is simple.
Now I think a smart (and lucky) person can make some money in new comic books in the short term, and this can then be parlayed into a better investment, but for the long haul I don’t recommend it. Here are a few of my reasons against new comic books as a long term investment.
A Quick Look at Comic Book Collecting History
Basically, a bunch of old guys (and gals) with disposable income start yearning for the “good old days” and want to pick up some of their favorite childhood comics. This brings back good memories and is fun at the same time. Well, due to WW II paper drives, parents throwing out those old “garbage” comic books and the fact that they read them so many times and carried them folded in their back pockets, there aren’t too many around. If they want one in great shape, well, Mister, you’re going to have to pay. Our wonderful marketplace of supply and demand takes over and prices start to rise. Low supply of Golden Age comics combined with enough demand = $$$$.
You can fast forward to the Silver Age when the next generation had a resurgence in comic book reading, but kept a little better care of their books after seeing the carnage of the Golden Age. Oh, and you weren’t considered unpatriotic for keeping a comic book under your bed, you were just a pack rat and messy. Demand (a lot of Baby Boomers!) plus increasing supply.
Well, the 1970′s comes along and people start realizing these funny books are worth money, so they are kept in better shape and we see the supply increase. Since I grew up in the 1970′s I can point out one critical fact that will be very important in a minute. We, as kids, still read our comic books! Because I was a kid, I didn’t take the best care of all of my comic books. Some were traded away, some were lost, and yes, some were even thrown out.
The important point here is I (and many others) read comic books, and now as adults, we are going back to recapture these memories and enjoy collecting.
Moving to the Present Day
Let’s use the X-men as an example here. In the 1970′s this book moved from a circulation of over 200,000 , dying to just over 115,000 around issue 112 then picking up to the high 180,000 or so when the book became popular again. I was picking these up as a kid/early teenager right off the stands.
Today, we are seeing print runs in the 80,00o range, give or take. But really this doesn’t mean much because we are missing one important point – the average age of the reader. There are several titles and issues that I try to find from my childhood. This is one fun part of the hobby for me and for many others. I do read a couple of new issues for fun, but here is the crux of the matter. The average age of todays comic book reader is around 28 years old.
Think about that. Twenty years from now will this average reader go out to find the books lost in their youth? Fat chance. Even more important is the fact that a 28 year old isn’t rolling up comics and sticking them in their back pocket. They are keeping them bagged and boarded. When they are 48 years old they will just go to their long box and pull out a near perfect copy.
So where will the demand come from? I have no idea. I think investing in new comic books is taking a huge gamble. I have children and they have no interest in comic books, nor do any of their friends. I’m not saying the young comic book reader isn’t out there, but the numbers don’t lie, they are few in number. I will say my kids are interested in many of the comic book characters (and I will talk about this in a future post), but they are getting access to those characters through a different medium.
Now can you make money in new comics? Yes, absolutely. There are several methods that can work, but as an “investment”, that is to put them away and watch them just appreciate on their own, I think is poor strategy. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
My Basic Strategy for New Comics
Anything I do with new comics comes down to this: churn and burn.
Get in, and get out. Use the profits to diversify into something else. In my opinion the “sit and forget”strategy is a loser.
Just Remember Supply and Demand
In the end it comes down to this. There is a plentiful supply of high grade books, but where will the future demand come from? I would love to hear the answer.