How to Lose Big Money in Comic Books

A recent thread on the CGC forums culminated in a multi-thousand dollar loss for an amateur comic book investor. This story is a word of caution to anyone who thinks they can make big money on old funny books without doing their due diligence.

The Background

An auction in rural Indiana brought robust bidding on several Golden Age comic books, the highlight probably being a copy of Detective Comics #1. Some experienced collectors/dealers were on hand to witness the bidding, and gracefully exited when they noticed the bids getting out of control.

The end game – a low grade copy Detective Comics #1 sold for 18,000 plus tax, for a grand total of $19,260 out of pocket.

This may seem great, but a quick due diligence check of this book in a similar grade would show the previous high price was $18,300 for a higher grade copy.

Fast forward to this week, the comic finally sold for $14,000, a loss of $5,260 before CGC grading and E-bay fees.

Lessons Learned

Looking at the seller’s past auctions he has very little history in comic books. At first glance it looks like he was caught out of his element.

This story also highlights the importance of researching past actual sales and knowing how to grade.

You can’t believe what a book (price guide) tells you. You must try to find actual sales and trend information for these comics. If you are serious about investing or collecting rare, expensive comics, you must get a subscription to GP Analysis. The loss this guy took would pay for a lifetime of membership.

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to grading. The buyer may have known some of the previous prices, but if so he made a grievous error in grading. When in doubt, go a little lower! When this type of money is changing hands, personally I rather err on the conservative side and have a nice little surprise to the upside versus taking a $5,000+ bath.

So fellow collectors and investors, let this story be a lesson. Don’t get caught like this gentleman did, and if you are not armed with enough knowledge, please don’t jump in on a large comics and learn the hard way.

Best of Luck and Happy Collecting!

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