The Art of Speculation: Part 2 – The Rare and the Shiny
I want clarify a few of the points I was trying to make in Part 1…
First, though, thanks for coming back for Part 2. Yeah!
Speculation is not just a “professional” pastime. This is something practiced by almost every single comic book collector, or collector of any object, at some point in their lives. You see something that someone else may want. You are in the “right place at the right time” and you seize the opportunity to purchase something you may not normally, or purchase two or more of something in anticipation of them being more valuable at some future point in time. This is what I am talking about in this series of articles.
Last episode, it was Popularity. Yes, this can come from a number of sources, from a character or title to an artist or crossover appearance. Movie and TV tie-ins and rumors can drive a lot of this popularity. are they all worth buying? NO! Just ask all the people with piles and piles of the comics from the 1990s with the Wolverine or Batman showing up in every single issue of every book published.
Marvel has been doing a lot of this sort of push with their themed variant covers. Several months ago, nearly every comic released for the month had a Venomized variant, then there was the Cosmic Ghost Rider variant, of course the Deadpool variants, and even Fantastic Four variants as the group returned to the Marvel Universe. There were some very classy Stan Lee memoriam variants last month. It all has to do with the current popular thing or major event.
This next key to speculation is all about scarcity, rarity, limited editions, and exclusivity. We are going to expand a bit beyond comic books in this episode, so stick with me. I want to go through a few scenarios with you, a few examples of failed attempts, and some truly unexplainable events in the history of comic book values related to scarcity and value.
I must say that I cringe every time I see the words “limited edition”, “short print”, “exclusive”, or “special edition”, I just think “CASH GRAB”. Now, that may be a little too generalized, but many times, these gimmicks are nothing more than that, just gimmicks to simulate scarcity and push values. Bagged books, foil covers, numbered editions, special signings, inserts, variants, connecting covers… The list is infinite. Well, not really, but you get the picture.
Books with multiple printings can be deceiving when it comes to estimating value. The rule of thumb, at least usually, is “First is best”. However, with comics, the companies want people to purchase these latter printings and have to find a way to incentivize the consumer. What about a variant cover? Sure! second printings are usually smaller printings than the first, so there is a minor impact to rarity, and the addition of variants can improve the value. Third, fourth, fifth, and so on, sketch covers, negative covers, special artist covers, all of these things can be used to entice the consumer to purchase these later printings.
There have been times when a later printing of a book is worth way more than the original. take, for example, Batman 457. This issue includes a new costume for Tim Drake as he steps out as the new Robin. Current copies of the first printing on eBay go for around $5 to $12 while graded copies can be found in the $80 to $90 range for 9.6 or 9.8. This book is special because a later printing (third, I think) had a header in red on the front of the book announcing the new Robin. This book, in the newsstand edition, is very rare and I have seen it sell upwards of $1,200 in higher grades. In between these two values lie the elusive “Triple Zero” error issues. These show in the indicia “Batman 000” instead of “Batman 457”. These can range from $5 to $35 and beyond depending on grade.
This same sort of example can be found with scarcer variant cover second and third printings for many books. This can sometimes double or triple the normal value. You just have to be discerning when shopping. Also, buy what you like. That is the true key.
Special editions do not always payoff for the company or the collector. this can be seen with some of the mass produced books from Image in the 1990s. There were collector’s edition sealed packages, numbered and everything, collecting things like the first few issues of Spawn, Youngblood, and others. These were sold at department stores and hold very little extra value compared to the regular issues.
Now, we are seeing more value from some books that are “convention exclusives”, such as the foil variants that DC is putting out in limited numbers. Pick up Catwoman #1, Batman #50, or Batman Adventures #12 with a shiny cover for a pretty penny.
Marvel has their own list of short run books that turned out to be gems. The latest in this list looks to be Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1. Short printed and now there is an animated movie or series in the works. That is all a book needs to be a specualtor’s dream… or nightmare.
What did we learn today? Shiny is not always better, but it sometimes is. Rare does not always mean first printing. And numbered collector’s edition is not always a guarantee of extra value.
Like I said before, buy what you like. Be discerning. Be aware. Know a little bit about all the books and a lot about the books you love.
Next time, we will talk about autographs, authenticity, and auto-erotic asphyxiation. Not really.