Lies & Distortions in the Business of Comic Books: Part 7

Are we distorting the Comic Book collecting hobby?

More Random Thoughts on the state of the hobby in 2024 – Distortion #7

 

By now you’ve heard of the record setting price of over $6-Million paid at auction for an Action Comics #1. As I said in my introduction to this series, it’s hard not to get excited about such numbers. But as I’ve tried to demonstrate, there are always unintended consequences. Clearly third party grading and comic related auction houses have radically changed how the hobby functions. I wonder though, does anyone care who’s buying the comics we love to collect?

 

 

Distortion #7 – “Non-Collectors” paying outrageous sums for comics

This is perhaps the most recent activity that has more than anything totally distorted the comic book marketplace, especially on the value side of the equation. You could say that it started with eBay where suddenly the world became your market if you were selling comics. Then came third-party-grading and official online auction sites such as Hakes, Heritage and Comiclink. Suddenly comic books – as an item of value – came to the attention of people with money. This certainly came to a head during the pandemic when these people who may or may not be actual comic collectors started looking for a quick and easy qualified investment purchase.

 

The easiest way to see how much this distorts the market is to compare the prices paid, pre-pandemic (2019) versus those paid during the pandemic. This distortion even acquired a name: “the Covid Bubble.” A cursory examination of the pandemic marketplace will highlight books being purchased well in excess of their historical market value. We know that during the height of the pandemic with businesses locked down individuals were receiving government support with no place to physically spend it, so it’s a safe bet some choose to put those funds toward comics.

 

Of course we have no way of knowing for sure, who was buying up these comics as that information remains private but it seems unlikely that it was mostly actual collectors. I’m suggesting this for two reasons: 1 – Typically collectors understand comic book values. They know when a sale is an outlier. I would suggest until proven otherwise that the mind-bogglingly high prices paid for comics such as Amazing Fantasy #15 or Captain America #1 are from buyers with money rather than comic collections simply because collectors know those comics (and others like them) aren’t “worth” the prices they’re fetching, regardless of the grade. And 2 – Many of the comics purchased are immediately listed for a higher purchase amount. Clearly not someone interested in having the comic in their collection if the money’s right.

 

 

Fortunately we’ve seen a serious market correction, although prices still remain higher than pre-pandemic levels they have certainly fallen. Some say markets are self-correcting…and certainly the prices paid during the Covid Bubble have fallen to be more in line with pre-pandemic trend-lines. None-the-less there undoubtedly are still a few buyers out there who’ve become aware of the value of comic collectibles thanks to the third-party grading companies and the on-line auction houses. They appear prepared to pay whatever it takes to make the purchase because they may not have the expertise to know any better or care. The sellers are certainly happy; the auction houses are as well. Even the buyer is happy; after all they got what they wanted. The only ones unhappy are most other collectors who continue to collect in a distorted comic book market place.

 

This is intended to be a think-piece…some points to consider…to open up a discussion. Next week we’ll sum up. Stay tuned.

 

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Jerry Lucky

Just a normal guy that loves comic books, reading them, and collecting them.

JUST KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON