Collectables: How toys, coins and comics hold more value than you think
On this episode, you’ll discover how collectables like toys, coins, comics and yes — even sneakers — have more value than you think. While few would recommend collectables as a primary investment, they no doubt have a fun element to them and are a solid way to diversify your investment strategy.
Remember: All investing involves risk. The content of the podcast is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. Please always use caution and diversify.
Hello! And welcome to the 14th episode of Alternative investing. I’m your host, Trevor Kraus, Communications Manager at MyConstant and with me today is…no one.
If you tuned in two weeks ago, you learned that Chris Roper, our Head of Communications, has left MyConstant. However, Chris and or our new Community Manager, George, might join me on the podcast in upcoming episodes, I’m just not sure when they’ll pop by. But I think you all would look forward to that.
On today’s episode we’re continuing our series on alternative investments with a focus on collectables — in particular, comic books. What are collectables exactly? What kind of returns can they give you? And how do you know if what you’re investing in will be collectable in the future.
Collectables are any physical objects that have the potential to appreciate in value over time. The most classic collectables being stamps, rare coins, toys, fine art, sneakers, baseball cards and comic books.
Now, I’d like to say. While collectables can certainly hold their value, and increase in value, most people get involved in collectables first, because they have a love of whatever it is they’re collecting.
When I was growing up, my fathers best friend, Robert Kuneth, had a passion for old toy trains. And these trains were not simply collected and put on a shelf for display.
Mr. Kuneth had a basement that had train tracks and villages all over the place and the trains worked. It was remarkable going down there and seeing the detail and countless hours that he devoted to making villages and having the trains go through them.
And he would go to trade shows that featured only toy trains, and some of these old trains from the 20’s and 30’s would sell for thousands of dollars. So it was definitely something he could make money off of. There’s a market.
But my point is, is that Mr. Kuneth loved these trains. The value they possessed was secondary. So I would say, if you’re going to get involved in collectables, make sure it’s something you’re interested in. Much like the wine investing we discussed a few weeks back, collecting has a fun element to it because enjoyment is at the root.
Now, you might be wondering — what kind of money can be made with collectables and how is the value of a particular collectible assessed.
The top three most popular things to collect are, as you might guess, comic books, stamps and rare coins. The market for these kinds of collectables is very high.
I remember once ten years ago I visited a ritzy Philadelphia suburb and I was walking downtown and smack in the middle of jewelry stores and clothing boutiques was a comic book store. And I walked in and quickly browsed some of the comic books behind the glass cases and many had price tags of well over $1,000. In fact many were over $10,000. It was really jaw dropping.
Actually, while we’re on the topic of comics, there was a rare edition of what is called the Action comic from 1938 that was the first comic book to feature Superman. And in 2014, that action comic sold at auction for a staggering 3.2 million USD. I’m not sure how much it was purchased for in 1938, but it’s safe to say it was probably quite cheap at the time. Keep in mind though, that a comic this expensive is the exception. Most people are not holding these in their collection.
Now, you might be thinking, oh, comic books — they have to be really old to have any value. But that’s not true. For example, the first comic of The Walking Dead which was published in 2003 and is currently valued at over $2,000 today. This makes investing in comic books a potentially lucrative investment choice. Who knows what that comic will be worth in 20 or 30 years.
Where to start?
If you like comics, you might be wondering, where do I start?
When it comes to comic book investments, those likely to provide the best return are from the Golden Age (1938 – 1956) and Silver Age (1956 – 1970) of comics, plus the artwork of Frank Miller. Additionally, there are some issues of popular characters or artwork from different eras that also sell well.
Golden Age Action Comics are the most likely to be in high demand, with a pristine condition Action Comics #1 — featuring the first appearance of Superman — selling for $3.2 million on Ebay. On the other hand, in 2020 it was more common to see popular issues in good condition selling in the range of $55,000 to $83,000. There are also stories of comic book investors selling entire collections, with a mish-mash of issues across years, for as much as $3.5 million.
In general, comic books are likely to go up in value if the characters are popular and issues are scarce — once again, we have scarcity. As a result, the older comics, which are harder to find in good condition, are more likely to increase in value over time.
Depending on the comic book involved, it could be possible for comic book speculators to beat the average market return by quite a lot. But, much like investing in artwork, comic books can be illiquid (hard to sell) and you often have to get lucky to see market-beating returns.
How to find the best comic books
When looking for the best comic books for investing, it’s important to have an idea of what makes a comic book valuable. In general, your best bet is to pick up comics that were published before 1985, although looking for new comics could pay off down the road. It’s also worth noting that individual pages from comic books and artwork related to comic books could also provide you with a valuable return on your investment.
Some of the things to consider when evaluating comic books include:
Issue significance: First issues are generally considered more desirable and are more likely to offer a return. However, issues that feature a turnover in writer or artist, or mark a significant story arc, could also become more valuable over time.
Popularity of the artist or writer: If a writer or artist is well-known and popular, the comic books that contain their artistry can be valuable. Frank Miller is a good example of a popular artist. Similarly, the rising profile of Neil Gaiman has helped increase the value of the Sandman comic books, which he wrote.
Rarity of the comic book: One of the reasons older comics are more valuable is due to their rarity. There are fewer of them around. More recent comic books, especially those from the modern era, are more likely to be saved, so they aren’t as rare and may not be as valuable.
Comic book condition: The condition of the comic book matters. A comic book in good condition is more valuable than one in poor condition.
If you’re trying to get an idea of what the fair market value of a comic book might be, one resource is GoCollect. GoCollect is a comic book price guide that aggregates data on recent sales and comes up with a fair market value for comic books.
For example, If I bought a copy of Sandman #1 several years ago for $50. Today, the fair market value is $625, according to GoCollect. It’s not as dramatic as selling for thousands of dollars, but that’s a pretty decent return. At the end of 2020, if you bought a copy of Batman: Three Jokers #1 for $15. Even though it’s a new release, if you have the right cover variant, it could already be worth more.
One thing to keep in mind is comic book grading. Two comic book grading services are Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) and Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS). These services review comic books and generally grade them on a scale of 1 to 10.
When purchasing comic books for investment, your best bet is to look for purchases that are rated very fine, near mint, or mint. While you can sometimes see a good return for comic books that are fine or very good, they usually need to be rarer in order to make a good investment.
In the end, though, a comic book is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
How to resell your comic books
There are a number of places to resell your comic books, including in-person and online. Here are a few suggestions for selling your comic books:
eBay: If you have a large collection of comic books that aren’t particularly valuable, or if you have individual issues that aren’t in mint condition or very popular, eBay can be a good choice.
Heritage Auctions: One of the go-to places to sell more valuable comic books. If you have Golden Age or Silver Age comics, this could be one of your best choices. Do note, you should have an idea of your actual grade and the value of the book before heading to a site like this.
Local comic book store: Some comic book and game shops will buy used comic books. You might also be able to sell them at pawn shops and other places that resell collectibles.
When selling a comic book that you believe is valuable, it might be worth the time and cost to have it properly graded and certified. Consider doing a cursory search at GoCollect to get a feel for the potential fair market value. Grading can cost up to $1,000, depending on the value of the item in question. However, if you can get an “official” grade, you might be able to sell your item for more.
If you decide to list a comic book online, make sure you take good pictures that show the condition of the comic book, and be accurate in your description. When shipping the comic book, be sure to carefully package the book to avoid damage. Expect that selling on a site like eBay or Craigslist will mean you might not get as much as you’d like.
Finally, it’s also possible to donate your comic books for a tax deduction. If you itemize your deductions, Comix Relief and Superheroes for Hospice will take your comic books and issue you a receipt with the value. You can then claim that value as a tax deduction.
An easier way to invest in comic books, If you don’t want to go through the trouble of putting together a tangible comic book collection, you can actually buy shares in famous comic books through the investment platform Otis Wealth.
Otis allows you to buy an interest in culturally significant items, ranging from sneakers to comic books. Rather than having to buy an expensive item in its entirety, you can purchase a share of the item, similar to buying fractional shares of stock. Later, if you want to sell your interest, you can do so by accepting an offer from someone else.
For example, Daredevil #1 from Marvel is currently available as an IPO for $10 a share. If you buy shares now, you could then sell them to other Otis members once trading opens up on the item.
You can get started with Otis by downloading the app and connecting your Otis account with your bank account. You can put money in your Otis cash account to expedite share purchases or buy with money in your linked bank account.
Otis could be a smart option for those who like the idea of investing in comic books, but can’t afford thousands of dollars to purchase Golden or Silver Age editions.
If you want to invest in comic books, it’s important to remember that the market for collectibles is highly volatile, and there’s a good chance you could lose your money, especially if the hype around a character decreases or if interest in comic books drops.
Additionally, some comic books are already so highly-priced that it would be hard to make a return.
1. Learn Everything You Can About Comic Books
The first step is to learn everything you can. Talk to experts. Follow auctions on sites like ebay and ComicConnect to see what’s selling and for how much. Study the trends, such as a surge in popularity due to a character being featured in a new movie or TV show.
And, most importantly, know your superheroes. Comic books are about more than the “blue chip” superheroes: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the like. Expanding your knowledge beyond the big names can make you a savvier investor. For example, some heroes from the Golden Age (1930s-1950s), such as Catman, Black Terror, The Destroyer and Phantom Lady are very popular, despite the fact that they’re no longer in publication.
2. Decide Your Budget
The next step in investing is to decide on your budget. There’s room in the market for small and large investors alike, and that can mean anything from $10 to $3 million.
When figuring out your budget, determine how many comic books you want to buy per year, and how long you want to hold onto them. I recommend putting together a “want list” of the comics you want to buy and grades you want them in. You can then look at current market prices by using the Overstreet Price Guide, gpanalysis.com and gocollect.com.
I also like to leave about 10% of my budget for something that catches my eye — and something always catches my eye!
3. Start Buying — But Do Your Due Diligence
Before the pandemic, I would have suggested attending comic conventions to find comics for your collection, but now your best option is to check out dealer and auction sites.
For instance, my company ComicConnect holds four event auctions a year, featuring a wide range of vintage comics, original art and other collectibles. We also host monthly auctions, where you can find more great comics.
Many other sites sell comics, but it’s important to find reputable sources that will stand behind what they are selling. Accurate grading and a return policy are important.
And if you’re considering getting into selling your comic books, be prepared to answer a lot of questions from seasoned collectors.
Is This a Long-Term vs. Short-Term Investment?
Consider whether you want to invest for the long or short-term. Long-term investors should select comics that have traditionally shown slow, steady growth. For example, people who bought a copy of “Amazing Fantasy 15” (the first appearance of Spider-Man) for $3,000 in 2010 own a comic book that’s worth $10,000 today.
For long-term investors, pre-1985 books are the best choice. These comics have shown they have legs to them, and by the time they’ve been around that long, they’ll have hit vintage status. There are plenty of modern comics from the last 20 years to read, collect and invest in, but the market for those books can be a bit more volatile.
For short-term investors, it’s all about timing. Try to buy books when they just start to get hot with the intention of selling them quickly before interest wanes. There are comics that have only been out for a few months that are selling for anywhere from $50 to $100.
But remember, the short-term market can be very volatile. For example, investors who bought “Green Lantern 7” a year before the “Green Lantern” movie came out saw huge profits if they sold within a few months. But if they waited until too close to the premiere of the movie — which totally flopped — they probably lost money.
Nobody wins all the time — not even experts.
Since I’m speaking solo to your guys, I don’t want you to tire of my voice. I’m going to wrap up this episode by emphasizing one point of collectables.
I want to emphasize that investing in collectables — comics for example — is an investment to have on the side. Consider it a fun investment. Unless you’re flush with cash and / or have been collecting comics for many years, comic book collecting full time is expensive and of course, the market is volatile.
While you can earn lots of money with a mint condition comic, they’re far and few in between. If you are starting out, when you buy a comic, keep it in plastic and store it somewhere safe. Mint condition is always what collectors are looking for.
I want to say thank you to everyone who listened today. If you have any topic ideas or want to tell me how I did solo, definitely send me an email at [email protected].
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