Weekend Update with Nico
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This is your Weekend Update!
Today marks my one year anniversary back in comics. I’m getting nostalgic about it too. A little more than a year ago, on April 29, 2018, my younger brother David died at the age of 37. I was still in shock about his death a little more than 90 days later and my friends made every effort to get me out of the house. One of my friends, Zach L., who probably missed his calling as a male model gets excited about everything in a Derek Zoolander sort of way called me and was like, “You want to go to Comic-Con!” I assumed he meant SDCC the following year and promptly rejected his offer. He then explained, he meant “Pittsburgh Comic Con” and I immediately knew he nothing about comics and he was trying to take me with him on a date so he didn’t sound dumb when he talked about comics to some Instagram cosplay model he met online. Suffice to say, I begrudgingly went, and the rest, as they say, is history!
We are smack dab in the middle of the dog days of Summer and the comic market is smoldering hot fresh off a wealth of announcements at SDCC. Remember comics are a war of attrition, a game played in inches and if you have successfully avoided impulsive purchases following SDCC news long enough that other buyers are starting to regain their senses – you are ahead of the curve.
Last week we discussed in detail a small fraction of the wealth of opportunities that exist and/or will begin to emerge as more and more buyers come into the vintage comic market spending money on the next shiny object that arises from any number of sources. Again, what I want to do is help our readers think about the broader trends and market forces that are moving prices in the short and long term. Some may be critical of the heavy focus on Hollywood media deals, but at this juncture it is the number one driving force propelling sales of new comics and bringing new collectors and new money into the market.
Mouse House Earnings in Anticipation of D23
The Disney 3rd quarter earnings call transcript is an interesting read. Expect for there to be some misinformation that continues to arise from this call. Some news outlets and buy/sell groups are reporting that Disney sold its Netflix related properties. This is not what was said in the call. Rather, the statement was made, “Sections such as their TV division are also being hit in the pocket, such as ABC, who sold shows such as Iron Fist and Daredevil to Netflix last year, but this year haven’t been able to do so, due to Disney’s streaming plans.” (Emphasis added). The implication is not that the rights to these properties were “sold” in perpetuity. Rather, the dialogue indicates the licensing deal was profitable for Disney in the past but that such a licensing deal is not happening now or in the foreseeable future because of Disney Plus.
The major news that was confirmed by Bob Iger in my mind is Disney’s plan to bundle Disney Plus with Hulu and ESPN. This is a major development in my mind for a couple different reasons. First is that the inclusion of ESPN in the bundle is a game changer. The lack of sports on streaming services is the traditional criticism that keeps most from going down the streaming road. I expect this to be a big development that will only improve Disney’s market share in the years to come.
Hulu and Disney after Dark
The bundling of Hulu with traditional Disney streaming means that shows like Helstrum and, Ghost Rider have a serious future. I was excited but reserved about these series in the past, but the bundling of these programs with traditional Disney streaming makes these shows essentially a dark Disney imprint. This is a major development and is big news for those of us who are hoping for more Marvel adult content comparable to the adult themes characteristic of Marvel’s Netflix shows.
What does this mean for the price of comics? It means that I would keep buying those Glyph first appearances (Howling Commandos of Shield #1 and/or #2 both have variants) and I wouldn’t get nervous about selling Daimon Helstrom and Satana keys. In fact, I would look for an opportunity to buy them from dealers who do get nervous holding onto them. These books have a future beyond the collector value of the books themselves. We will see interest in these books when these shows happen and Marvel is risking the reputation of Feige’s MCU on the success of Disney Plus.
That being said, before the trailers for these shows are released I would think about securing a copy of Ghost Rider #1 (1973), Ghost Rider #2 (1973), and/or Marvel Spotlight #12. There are still a bunch of copies of Ghost Rider #2 and Marvel Spotlight #12 in high grade condition that are unslabbed and will sell for a ton of money after they are slabbed. It’s going to be much more difficult to find a copy of Ghost Rider #1 (1973) that isn’t overpriced, doesn’t have amateur color touched and/or some kind of emotional attachment to the owner. You are certainly safer buying this book already slabbed and generally going to get a better deal online than at a convention.
Copies of Vampire Tales #2 (the first appearance of Satanna) are insanely difficult to find. My friend Keith (who was a guest on the comic book wars podcast several weeks ago) was kind enough to point one out for me at a local convention, but this is only the third copy of this book I’ve seen in the wild in more than a year. High grade copies of this book are pricey and rare. If you don’t secure a copy before the show hits the streaming service, I imagine you won’t find one without paying an arm and a leg for it. The hardest Satana cover of them all is El Sorprendente Hombre Arana #137 which is a non-cannon Mexican Spider-Man Gwen Stacey issue. The only copy that I’ve seen sold this year moved for close to $500.00 in a live auction on Mexican eBay. Good luck finding a copy of that book in any condition.
As far as Robbie Reyes and the forthcoming Ghost Rider television series, there has already been some TV hype that has propped up prices on this book thanks to this iteration of the character appearing on Agents of Shield. For me it is always interesting trying to determine which cover is this best one to be buying for the value in anticipation of a price spike. For Thor #1 (2014) the A cover saw the biggest spike followed by the Ross variants.
I don’t have a hard or fast opinion about whether the 1:50 Tradd Moore variant or the #1 A cover is a better book to be buying but, there are certainly a lot more opportunities to be buying the A cover which is a small fraction of the price of the 1:50 variant. Although the Moore variant is already expensive it is also incredibly hard to find. I’ve never seen the book in person and when copies do appear online they disappear with haste.
Because of the bundling of the Hulu platform and Disney Plus, I firmly believe there will be an opportunity to make money on books related to the Hulu animated projects that were green lit. Namely, ‘MODOK,’ ‘Hit-Money,’ ‘Tigra & Dazzler’ and ‘Howard the Duck.’ All of this stuff is stone cold right now and all of this stuff is basically a pilot project for live action iterations of these characters down the road. As we’ve seen with TV shows like Rick and Morty, we can’t underestimate the resolve of millennials to watch mature animated content. Pick your poison with these series based upon the creative teams and hunches, but don’t be surprised if one or more of these series take off.
Tipsters, Tricksters and Hollywood hanger ons
It is increasingly difficult to discern rumor and innuendo from leaks and thoughtful speculation. The problem with an unregulated market that is based upon the emotional decision making of often irrational players is that rumor and innuendo move prices. Obviously, you’ve got to be careful not to fall prey to pseudo sources, fluff leads and weak players trying to push prices on books or inflate the number of clicks on their fledgling webpage. For the love of God, believe none of what you hear, half of what you see. Our experiences and preferences make self-deception one of the speculators biggest enemies.
Last week we talked at length about rumors circulating around Tyrant, Gladiator, Galactus, Adam the Blue Marvel, Moon Knight, Sentry, Ms. Marvel and a half a dozen other characters. This week we’ve had a number of news outlets report a number of different rumors. For example, some sites are reporting that Giancarlo Esposito (a/k/a “Gus Fringe” from Breaking Bad) will be playing “the benefactor” which is fanning the flames of speculation surrounding Norman Osborn (who first appears in Amazing Spider-Man #37). Other sites are suggesting that Andrew Garfield and Joseph Gordon Levitt are being looked at to star in a Moon Knight project. Still other sites are speculating wildly regarding a forthcoming ABC Marvel TV series that is apparently going to be focusing on a “mostly brand-new” female super-hero. Suggestions have ranged from Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Moon Girl and Devil Dinasaur (which was reportedly being developed by the production team behind the TV show Blackish) and/or some iteration of A-Force. None of these rumors are confirmed and no one can provide solid details about where any of these alleged “leaks.”
If I can give you any solid advise or counsel about buying and selling comics in the age of 24 hour news cycles and shiny object spec plays, it is this – make hay while the sun shines. In other words, take full advantage of the opportunity to move copies of books while the opportunity lasts. If there is an opportunity to buy books for less than market price ahead of rumors that will invariably cause the price of the book to spike – take it. If here is an opportunity to unload a book, make profit and avoid risk associated with holding books when you are less than confident about a book’s future value – take it. Take full advantage of opportunities in this market, they tend to be short lived.
Comic Books and Behavioral Science
I’m certainly not the first person to make analogies between the stock market and the comic book market and I won’t be the last. If you’ve been doing comics for any significant amount of time then you’ve heard “the comic book market out performs the stock market” or some similar claim. I have no idea how anyone would measure this fact, but in a market that is essentially unregulated – it’s certainly a nice claim to try and hook an unsophisticated buyer into sinking mountains of cash in comics. Since it’s a slow news week and I’m making an effort to talk about things I think are interesting, I’m going to talk about some of the science behind investment strategies and some of the psychological reasons why people buy and sell comics and when it is objectively a good idea to buy and sell comics.
The first thing I want to discuss is what behavioral economists call Investor Regret Theory (“IRT”). IRT is one of the reasons why comic prices stay high and explains why many collectors refuse to sell books for less than they paid for them even after the books tank. We often hear self proclaimed comic book speculation gurus talk about FOMO (the fear of missing out) and how it drives people to make hasty purchases. What I want you to think about is the fear of regret and how it keeps you locked into books that are bad investments. Psychologists who study financial investment are acutely aware that the emotional reaction people experience after realizing they’ve made an error in judgment can be paralyzing.
We’ve all seen friends, loved ones, co-workers and associates get stuck on a fixed idea, the need to be right. Faced with the prospect of admitting to ourselves that a comic (an investment) is no longer a smart investment, there is a real rick that we become emotionally attached to the price at which we purchased the book. This causes collectors to hold onto books that are bad investments rather than mitigating losses.
What collectors/investors should really ask themselves is this: “what are the consequences of repeating the same purchase today?” If you wouldn’t buy that book for the same price that you paid for it when you purchased it, it’s time to sell.”
This is a radical concept, but it is well accepted in financial markets. The conclusion drawn by behavioral economists is that if your buying and selling behavior isn’t congruent with this rule, the result is regret of buying a losing investment. Investor regret theorists indicate that the regret of not selling when it became clear that a poor investment decision was made is dangerous because as a matter of psychology we risk falling into a vicious cycle where we hold onto losing investments avoiding the regret of selling books that were bad picks and this leads to more regretful speculation decisions where we are afraid to take risks and end up with stagnate investments with little upside because we perceive them to have little downside.
Regret theorists also explain why comic speculators are so obsessed with saying “I was first to speculate on that book” or my personal favorite “you stole my spec.” Many comic investors avoiding feelings of regret will not buy a book when it starts to appreciate in value and miss out on future gains and bad mouth a title they once secretly thought was a good purchase simply because they didn’t actually purchase the book. This is particularly important when we first discover that a book we had only considered buying has started to increase in value, but hasn’t hit a peak value.
Still other buyers will avoid the possibility of feeling regret by following the conventional wisdom of top ten lists or collectors they perceive as more “experienced” and basically only buy books that everyone else is buying, so they can subconsciously rationalize their choice with the idea that “everyone else made the same decision/mistake.” Many people feel much less embarrassed about losing money on a popular spec book that half the collector community owns than about losing money on an unknown or unpopular comic because of a reasoned decision made out of our own wealth of experience. While it is important to share opinions and value other buyers perspective, more than anything else it is essential that you take ownership of your speculation decisions rather than blindly following perceived leader(s) in the community, jumping on every news alert and/or shiny object that comes into your field of vision. Be the captain of your own ship because you will ultimately brave rough and clear financial waters alone.
The End is Nigh or I’m scared of Losing my Ass in the Comic Market
As long as there’s been markets, there have been predictions about market collapses. The reality is that we are not in a healthy market, the comparisons made to the 90’s comic market are generally true and I don’t see any kind of market collapse any time in the near future. How can all of these things be true?
Lets compare and contrast the recent cryptocurrency mania with the comic market. Many investors, emboldened by fear of missing out (others are going “get rich quick” and I want to “get rich”) chased crypto currency stocks they knew little to nothing about with business models they didn’t understand and drove prices on cryptocurrency through the roof. As rational players and big money investors began to conform to disciplined investment practices, crypto stocks plummeted, inexperienced and undisciplined investors were left holding the bag and seasoned shrewd investors cashed in on others misfortune.
The reality is that much of the conventional comic book market looks like the cryptocurrency market did a few years ago. The main differences are (1) that there are far fewer shrewd investors in the comic book market than there are in the financial market; (2) there’s less money in comics; and (3) nostalgia and Hollywood are driving new players and new money into the comic book market in a way that is far more natural than it was for cryptocurrency (for whatever reason when people talk about cryptocurrency it sounds like a guy trying to sell me on a time share in Mexico). What is the impact of these differences? I believe there’s a bigger opportunity to make an impact in the comic market.
Sure all of the comparisons between holofoil, polybagged covers and the manufactured rarity of store variants and 2nd print incentive covers are fair and to a real extent they are frightening. Nevertheless, true rarity, intersection of multimedia and print media and most importantly the influx of new collectors who are embracing comic collecting as a life style and long term investment opportunity helps insulate our current market from the fragility of the “get rich quick” comic market of the 90’s. Ultimately, I believe that it would be delusional to ignore the reality that the decade long bull comic book market is not in store for a price correction. As such, I encourage you take profit when you can, to focus on blue chip books with long term price stability more than the volatile flash in the pan hot comic(s) of the week. It is one of the major reasons I discuss the vintage comic market and try and give serious attention to Golden Age books rather than focusing on characters like the Batman-Who-Laughs, Cosmic Ghost Rider and Star. There is no shame in collecting modern comics. I love modern comics, but there is safety and security in rare key vintage comic books.
I hope you enjoyed this installment of Weekend Update. That’s all for this week. I’ll be back next week with more news. In the interim, “Happy hunting You bunch of savages!”
– Nico, Esq.
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