Saturday, October 16, 2010

Market Spotlight: Q & A!

I got this from the Killyrcomics podcast regarding my last market analysis nonsense:

"As you've stated in the past, the secondary tpb market is a reader's market, and, in my opinion, that is mostly all that is left in the single issues world, as well. With the advent of almost everything available in collected editions and now digital, do the current issues of comic books have any value 6 months from now?"

Well, Brave & The Bold # 33 sure does. That came out roughly six months ago, I still maintain it's the best single issue I've read all year, and I just watched somebody pay about $10 for it in VF condition on eBay.

That's a reader's market situation, and granted, it's a rare exception and nowhere near the rule. But it does happen. Usually when you see a modern book pop quickly, it's one of two things:

A) An event tie-in book that was under-ordered
B) An indy book with a small print that catches fire

I don't have much interest in A. The second print is going to kill most of the action, the trade is going to murder some more, and a year later when nobody can remember the event or feel so much as a ripple from it, that tie-in book is stone dead. Is anybody paying up for She-Hulk # 8 these days? No, didn't think so. So that doesn't impress me.

B is very real provided the series in question has legs. There are always going to be more people who want a copy of Y The Last Man # 1 than copies available. It's a classic that is never going out of style. No matter how many trades get printed, and there are a metric ton of them out there, some people are going to prefer to have that original artifact, because it is a portable piece of important comics history.

I think it's correct to avoid chasing gimmicks. I'm not in love with chase variant covers or any of that rot. I think it's correct to recognize that most (not all) material these days gets collected, that the comics audience receives those trades favorably, and that collected availability has affected the floppy market significantly. All of that is true and good and pure.

But I'll add a couple points to consider on that front:

1) There is a collectible element already baked into the trade market
2) The idea of comics as collectibles is not dying, but is in fact is flourishing

I can demonstrate 1 fairly easily. Here's your first edition of "Birds of Prey":

And here's your second edition:

Same contents, same ISBN, same book. The only difference is that the top book is a first edition, and most importantly a first edition with a different cover to easily separate itself. I can make money with either book, but I get a noticeable premium for the first edition. And as the book market matures, that premium gets bigger.

Admittedly, the trade market is reader-centric. Most purchase because they prefer a permanent bound book, and only pay up because the item they want is out of print and not readily available. But even inside of that, there is a distinct, quantifiable element of collectibility.

2 is also easy to see in practice. While the real estate market tanks and stocks have been plunging, comic books, particularly Silver Age comic books, are in full boom. We're seeing a steady climb on all material from that era, and staggering multiples on key high-grade books. If you look at what Green Lantern # 76 has done in the past 12 months, it will melt your brain.

Yes, the comics audience still remembers the mid 90s implosion, and we're wisely skeptical about speculation and chasing instant gains based upon hype. Yet in the aftermath, the secondary market has seen more money go into it, not less. It's just getting funnelled disproportiantely into ultra-high grade key books. (and leaving lots of bargains on lesser grade material for those who just want a copy to own or read)

Yeah, there's definitely a shift away from hype and glitz and "get rich quick" thinking, and that's a good thing. But I think there's a pervading myth among folks that modern comics shouldn't be or can't be collectible, and I think that's just dead wrong. Things being what they are, we're reading some of the rarest issues ever printed. It's possible that most in the comics game don't primarily perceive the books as valuable artifacts...but what's there is really powerful.

I don't think I'm comfortable predicting huge gains for DCs "Magog" just because it had embarassingly microscopic print runs. He's just not important enough. But if somebody were to take that character and energize some interest, I wouldn't be surprised if those took off, either.

I think what you have to ask yourself is - "Thirty years from now, will people still care about characters like Spider-Man, Hulk, Superman, or Batman?" If you answer that question "yes", the floppies coming out for those icons are not only a legitimate part of that tradition, but potentially special because of their comparative scarcity. The traditional chain of collectibility continues with the floppies, and I think that it continues meaningfully until there are no more floppies. At that point the remaining collectors are really going to scramble for those last ones, because there won't be many by necessity.

If I'm right, I should honestly just shut up about it and reap the benefits myself. If I'm wrong, I should probably just shut up about it, period. Why do go on about this stuff? Forget everything I just said, please.

- Ryan

1 comment:

Killyrcomics said...

Hey Ryan,
thanks for the follow-up editorial. You make some really good points, and I think you have mostly convinced me. The thing I agree about most emphatically is the existence of the silver age market, and I don't think it is going away anytime soon. The thing I can't wrap my head around is paying large sums of money for things like Walking Dead #1 or Y: The Last Man #1. They are some of my favorite books, but I would be much more interested in investing my money in some nice hardcovers or deluxe editions of these titles than a "floppy" first issue. I just don't know who these people are and what their motivations are. Which is odd since I have 40 some long boxes of bags and boarded single issues.