Weekend Update with Nico
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This is your Weekend Update!
Lemmings off a cliff
Part of me wants to give a special thanks to all of the people who mindlessly purchase books after they appear on Top Ten lists or all over the comic book speculation groups, websites and/or on YouTube shows. Those guys are the real MVPs and I appreciate it when they buy my books for full/top market value. Another part of me worries that if too many people are buying the wrong books at the wrong time, they will become resentful of the boom market and comics generally and leave the hobby because they feel like they were taken advantage of by slick mouth snake oil salesmen.
This week we are seeing tons of speculators, collectors, investors and flippers grabbing up copies of Spider-Girl #59 (the first appearance of Benjy Parker). This follows the release of the J.J. Abrams co-written Spider-Man #1 mini series set in a non-cannon universe which features Ben Paker (the son of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson Parker) take up the mantle of Spider-Man. Let me be very clear about this, Spider-girl #59 is a cool book to be selling, but I would not pay market price for this book under any circumstances whatsoever. Ben Parker is portrayed as a baby. That’s trash spec.
That being said, while everyone is paying attention to that trash book, I hope you are looking in a different direction at some of the key books that you feel have a future in the Sony Spider-verse. I can’t get my hands on a reasonably priced copy of the newsstand edition of : Ultimate Fallout #4 but I’ll keep looking. I got a feeling that we will all regret not having more copies of Edge of Spider-Verse #2 when Spider-Gwen is introduced in live action.
Similarly, if Sony decides to do anything with Miguel O’Hara, sky’s the limit for that characters key books. You can still pull copies out of dollar bins of Spider-Man 2099 #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #365. I pass on any copy with color breaking spine tics, but I already have a ton of copies. I continue to buy the ToyBiz toy when I see it in the wild at comic book toy shows. Toy dealers know that the toy sells for money, but many don’t know why and when I explain to them that I am going to cut the book out, I can sometimes negotiate a lower price by agreeing to do that onsite and give them the loose toy which is often what they perceive as valuable.
I personally wish I could read the contractual agreements that sold entertainment rights to Spider-Man to Sony, but I don’t have access to these documents. What makes the least sense to me is this – how did Marvel utilize Kingpin in the Daredevil show on Netflix and then Sony used him in the Into the Spider-verse animated film.
Is Kingpin a specifically authorized character in the initial deal, was he particularly excluded, there language which excludes any character who has a dual plot and/or purpose and appears in multiple storylines, series, etc. What does this mean for Harry Osborne whose Iron Patriot iteration is unique and distinct from the Green Goblin. The point is that I have a ton of questions and I’d like to formulate some decisions about what all of this means to the market, but I don’t have any way of securing the information necessary to make those decisions.
Nevertheless, this is a great time to be buying Spider-Man. The possibilities are everywhere and far more substantial than the books we’ve discussed above. For example, it is more probable than not that we will one day see an Agent Venom iteration of Venom on screen. I do not suspect that Tom Hardy will do more than a trilogy and he probably won’t do a film beyond the sequel that Woody Harlson is slated to co-star in. Regardless, we’re probably going to see a Flash Thompson story. Those are great books that no one is thinking about right now. I would keep an eye out for cheap copies of Secret Avengers #23 (1st and 2nd prints) as well as high grade copies of the incredibly coveted 2nd print of Amazing Spider-Man #654. .
I suspect that we will see a lot of sellers unloading Spider-Man related spec books at shows and online in the coming months. The slower Sony is to roll out news, the better the buying opportunities. If you’ve been thinking about investing in Spider-Man books, keep your eyes peeled.
I’m team Silk when it comes to female iterations of Spider-Man. She’s the one and the book I like is one I don’t have in my PC- the comicspro variant of Silk #1. No one is paying attention to this book right now which means we should ask ourselves if we should be. There are a ton of female Spide-Verse characters. They are all potential investments. I principally like Silk, Jessica Drews and of course Spider-Gwen, but they all have potential. In my estimation, the first appearance of Spider-Woman (Jessica Drews, Julia Carpenter), Spider-Girl (Mayday Parker), Araya (Anya Corazon),Spiderline (Annie Parker) are all smart buys. Jessica Drews first appears in Marvel Spotlight #32, Julia Carpenter first appears in Secret Wars #7. Mayday Parker first appears in What If …? #105. Araya (Anya Corazon) first appears in Amazing Fantasy #1. I like Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4 for Annie Parker (although she first appears in the first issue she does not become Spiderline until issue #4). All of these books are really inexpensive right now and they are all books that sell with relative ease because they are Spider-Man books which sell better than almost anything else.
Similarly, now is the time to snag books like the first appearance of Spider-Ham before he gets his own animated series, as well as the first appearances of Spider-Man Noir, Penni Parker, Spider-Punk and other Spider-Verse related characters. The first appearance of supporting characters like Man Wolf are still dirt cheap online and on Ebay.
Kraven books are so expensive right now it’s hard to get a deal. Most are already anticipating that he will be the villain in the next film and even high grade copies of Kraven’s last hunt have popped up in price. These books sell particularly well for me at shows, but I would be careful about your buy in. All bets are off on the future of Kraven and Spider-Man and the risk associated with the future of Sony films has kept me from paying top dollar for Kraven books.
I do however like books like Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (the first appearance of the Sinister Six) which transcends film speculation and is a nightmare to find in high grade. This book has and always will be highly desired by series collectors and it appears that it may be slowing down in price before it ever began to go really crazy on the secondary market.
(And now an interruption from Jimmy Linguini: Many of the key spider-man books have rare Canadian variants – identified by blank back covers and no interior advertisements on the inside covers. The Canadian Variant for Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is one to be looking for)
Similarly, the probability of a Silver Sable film or television has gone way up in my opinion. Siver Sable is a character who has long been rumored to get her own film and/or a film where she co-stars with the Black Cat. While the first appearance of the Black Cat in Amazing Spider-Man #194 can be a big dollar book in high grade, the first appearance of Silver Sable in Amazing Spider-Man #265 is not.
The rumors of the death of comic books have been greatly exaggerated
I am increasing the recipient of the message that the comic book market is about to crash. Some of my most insightful and thoughtful comic book friends have a new theory about what will bring about the end of this bull market. I must admit that from time to time I too get scared that things are too good to be true.
This week I noticed that 17 copies of Incredible Hulk #181 sold on eBay. I was astonished. I appreciate that the human condition is very much characterized by the phenomenon that we often “see exactly what we are looking for.” In other words, if I am looking for reasons why the comic market is healthy, I’ll find them. Conversely, if I’m looking for reasons why the comic bull market is going to crash, I will tend to find indicators of them. In other words, it is hard to be objective when you are emotionally invested.
Nevertheless, this is not a situation where sellers were dumping their Hulk #181s. To the contrary, this is a scenario where comic collectors are investing thousands of dollars buying almost dozen and half copies of the biggest book of the Bronze Age. To me, under any analysis, that is a healthy market. That’s about as healthy as a market as I can possibly imagine.
Does that mean I’m going to tell you to but every modern book you can find, or that I’m going to suggest that you stop selling books or stop buying books? Of course not. I think those kinds of simplistic sweeping statements about the comic market lack insight and are generally dangerous.
My message has always been that you can buy and sell books, take profit, reinvest and repeat in and improve your collection. Similarly, I continue to suggest that the move we should all be making is towards truly rare books. The kind of books that I suggest you aim for are not available to be purchased at the rate the rate of 17 copies a week. In fact, I don’t suggest that you invest in a book that has 17 copies for sale in a year.
Does that mean that Incredible Hulk #181 is a bad investment. Of course not. Does that mean that I think it is bad book to own or to buy or that I’m suggesting that it won’t appreciate in value. Absolutely not. What I am trying to say is that if you want a comic book recession proof investment book, you should think about focusing on rare Golden Age books that when they disappear into a private collection, the buyer gets to name their price. Obviously these aren’t the only books that I think you should be investing in, but they are to me a solid additional to your comic portfolio that you will never regret owning.
And then there was one
One book that I really like is Tomb of Terror #16. Although GPA prefers Tomb of Terror #15, the exploding face cover (a/k/a the poor man’s Black Cat #50), I prefer Tomb of Terror #16, the Lee Elias illustrated zombie drowning/strangulation cover. Both covers are beautiful, but I have found it more difficult to secure a nice copy of Tomb of Terror #16 than I ever would have imagined.
Some of you have heard me discuss my poor decision to post a rare Golden Age book on the CGC Boards “Want to Buy” list. What I didn’t realize that some of you may not realize is that this is under certain circumstances a rallying cry for overpriced copies of books and on other occasions a rallying cry for shrewd speculators to determine what books are ghosts. About six months ago, I made the poor decision to place a WTB advertisement on the CGC Boards for Tomb of Terror #16. What resulted was a brutal series of events that saw every collector holding a mangled low grade copy of this book sell them on eBay for a small fortune and any reasonably priced copy disappear online.
One particular copy that caught my eye was a CGC 7.0 original blue label copy in the possession of @redhoodcomics. I went rounds with @redhoodcomics who indicated that they valued the book in the $2000.00 range and expressed their unwillingness to sell this book for that amount which they felt was too law because they believed that the book was under-graded by CGC and that if it was regraded it would grade higher. Eventually, I threw my hands up and gave up. I appreciated that the CGC 7.0 copy was not the book for me, not at the price which was an undetermined amount but certainly more valuable than $2,000.
I reached out to some trusted mentors and each of them helped me resist my impulse to overspend. Whether @redhoodcomics knew it or now, he was pushing all the right buttons. A couple weeks past and I had given up. Then I got a response from a private seller on Instagram whose collection I have always admired. He indicated that he would sell my his undercopy which was a gorgeous CGC 5.5 for a very reasonable price (the price the book cost before I ran my mouth on the CGC Boards “Want to Buy” thread) and the deal was done.
Why am I telling this story? This week marked the final sale of the final copy of Tomb of Terror #16 on eBay. A VG- 3.5 raw copy was sold by @mycomicshop for $800.00. There is only one remaining copy on eBay, the copy owned by @redhoodcomics. The copy that had me salivating from the moment I saw it. That copy was in fact cracked, re-graded and returned a CGC 7.0. Redhoodcomics is asking $3,000 for this book. He is the only game in town and he got to name his price. I have no doubt that they will get every penny when the next prospective buyer sees this amazing cover and learns about the rarity of this book.
I am in no way trying to suggest that this copy is overpriced (or appropriately priced) or anything of the sort. This is a no-judgment observation. I actually had already purchased my copy when Redhoodcomics was resubmitting their copy and never had a real opportunity to purchase it. So part of my reasons for telling this story is that I’m nostalgic.
The more important reason; however, that I am sharing this story is that I want to stress the importance of waiting for the right copy of the right book in the right grade. Opportunities come and opportunities go. It is very, very rare that we see golden age books sold in live auctions unless you are on comiclink or comicconnect. Even there, you see the same copy of same traditional big books that get passed from one collector to the next. In a BIN game, you need to be patient. Reach out to like minded collectors on IG, facebook and where ever else you spend time talking to people in our community. I’ve been thinking about moving a big book that is in my PC for the last six months, and keep deciding to hold onto the book. One way I would absolutely feel better about letting go of that book, is if I knew it was going to a collector who would appreciate it and enjoy owning it as much as I have.
While I can’t necessarily identify with guys who get angry at people who flip books, I certainly understand wanting to give special consideration to collectors who treasure big books in a manner comparable to me. I get that and I think most do. My point is that if there is a big book you are saving for, be judicious about your purchase. Wait for the right copy at the right price from the right dealer. You won’t be disappointed by your decision.
Marvel / Netflix
Some may be confused by the headline, but those who are adept at reading the tea leaves of the comic speculation market will see immediately where I’m going with this line of thinking. Now is the time to begin thinking about making a play on some or all of the Marvel Netflix characters. While I do not suspect to see these characters in phase 5 anymore than I suspected a Blade announcement at the San Diego Comic Con panel, the reality is that these characters could start popping up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at any time. Because there television series are dead, the vast majority of speculators and many collectors have moved onto other books. I would think long and hard about these characters as an investment.
Daredevil #1 is one of the last Silver Age books that has yet to go nuclear. Similarly, the first appearance of Electra and Bullseye remain reasonably priced books compared to other characters of their caliber. While CGC 9.8 copies of Daredevil #168 continue to sell for more than a thousand dollars, there are a ton of reasonably priced high grade copies of this character. High grade raw copies of this book are trading at little more than a hundred dollars on eBay. The last slabbed copy of the first appearance of Bullseye in Daredevil #131 was a CGC 9.2 that sold for about $250.00 shipped.
Under no circumstances should you forget about Kingpin’s first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #50 remains an incredibly sought after book. High grade copies are nearly impossible to find. This is one of those books that you want to think about in terms of the spread on the CGC census and GPA prices. For my money, I suggest getting in at the low grade or a high grade. I personally tend to shy away from mid grade copies of this book because of my fear of undercutting. That being said, Silver Age Spider-Man has one of the best long term investment track records. I believe there is a lot of potential that this character will replace Norman Osborn as the street level “big boss” villain in the MCU. If that happens, it’s game over on the price of this book.
The other major character that I think we should all be thinking about right now is the Punisher. The willingness of Marvel to tell the stories of characters like Moon Knight and Blade is indicative of the fact that there is potential that we will finally see a Frank Castle story told in a captivating way on the big screen. Amazing Spider-Man #129 is a book that has not skyrocketed in price in a way that is commensurate with the explosive growth of books like Hulk #181 and Giant Size X-Men #1. If you are looking to make a play on this book the market price for these books is about a thousand dollars for a CGC 7.5 about two thousand for a CGC 9.2 and a little less than three-thousand for a CGC 9.4. This is one of those books like the first appearance of Wolverine in Incredible Hulk #181 where place holder copies on the low end are already disproportionately expensive. Hulk #181, I would think about trying to pay for a higher grade book if you can afford it.
The last Netflix/Marvel character that I love as a longer term spec play is Luke Cage. This book is super tough in high grade and affordable copies are available now. Three recent sales in the last fourteen days tell the story for Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1: a CGC 6.0 sold for $150.50; a CGC 6.5 sold for $209.99; and a CGC 7.5 sold for $278.33. This book is dirt cheap in the upper mid-grade level. Certainly, higher grade copies demand a premium, e.g., a CGC 9.0 will run you more than $800.00, but all in all these books are affordable.
There is certainly something to be said for the roots that a character like Jessica Jones has in the Avengers, but for my money – the character is dead on arrival. Barring some re-imagining of her character by Donny Cates or Jonathan Hickman, I don’t see her coming back. Similarly, I think it is a safe bet that Iron First isn’t coming back any time soon. While the character may have a rabid fan base and may even be re-launched in a film if Shang Chi is immensely successful, I do not see these books as having growth potential any time in the next five years. If you want copies for your PC, I understand, but as far as investment dollars go – I’m going to be spending my money elsewhere.
Xpectations are often premeditated resentments
Sometimes, I wish I had a crystal ball, but deep in my heart, I know it would take all the fun out of this stuff. Many speculators are jumping on books like Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 #1 (2013) because of the character Goldballs first appearance or Uncanny X-Men #125 (1979) because it is the first appearance of Proteus. Obviously these books are going to spike and it’s becoming more and more clear to me that this story is too epic in scale to be anything other than a story board for a prospective film franchise. So I get why speculators are jumping on books like New Mutants vol. 2 #5 (2003) the first appearance of Elixer and All-New X-Men #1 (2013) the first appearance of Eva Bell. All of these characters are identified by Jonathan Hickman as integral parts of the re-spawning process, but they are supporting characters at best. Characters that some of my friends have suggested are no more than background noise. If you are able to pick these books up in dollar bins or for cover price, I would not dissuade you from doing that. If you really want to focus on one of these characters, I would focus in on Hope Summers. She is a character who is integral to the x-men cannon. Her first appearance in X-Men #205 has a gorgeous black cover and the ratio variant with the White Queen on it may not be J. Scott Campbell’s best work, but it’s still a great cover.
Rather than chasing C and D list characters, I would think about looking long and hard at a character like Sabertooth. His first appearance is one of the few Marvel Price Variants that I would love to add to my personal collection. His first appearance is a classic book that has been stone cold for a long time. I also think that it is just as probable that we see a Wolverine v. Sabertooth movie as it is that we see a Wolverine v. Hulk film. Perhaps even more probable. While I love Liev Schreiber as much as anyone, I do not think his iteration of Sabertooth did justice to the character. There simply was not enough material (plot or screen time) to work with and the character faded into the background of the X-Men rogues gallery.
I believe that these books have yet to see there full appreciation in value and that Hickman’s work on the X-Men is going to inspire other major creative teams to work on the X-Men. I think there is still a lot of room for books like X-Men #129 (the first appearance of Emma Frost and Kitty Pride). Most people look at that book because of their affinity for Emma Frost, but remember that there was a time when Kitty Pride was one of the biggest female characters in the x-universe. I suspect that we will see her father daughter dynamic with Wolverine play out one day on the big or small screen.
I’m someone who similarly sees the value in picking up copies of the first appearance of Apocalypse (buy X-Factor #6 not X-Factor #5), Mr. Sinister (slabbed 9.8’s of X-Men #221 are available for a little more than $225.00) and (believe it or not) Nimrod which I think you can still pull out of dollar bins.
I for one believe that there are only a few major plays left as far as MCU spec goes. The X-Men are one of them. I would think about the long term plays; however, it is going to take more than six months of amazing comics for Hickman’s books to completely resuscitate these characters. Nevertheless, that is what I think we are seeing. The reincarnation of the x-men universe, and I for one am delighted to see it.
There was a time when there were just as many X-Men run collectors as Spider-Man run collectors. I do not necessarily believe that we will return to that level of commitment to these characters, but there is definitely an opportunity to have fun and make some money on these books.
Pro Tips for hitting a comic retail shop (and/or convention)
Ideally you would look at every single book in a shop. The reality is this is sometimes impractical and others times, impossible. When I go into a store I look at the wall last or first and that generally depends on my mood and the shop. If I’ve never been to the shop before, I look at the wall first because it gives me a flavor for the kinds of books I should be looking for in the back issue boxes. Some dealers are hip to newer books others are hip to independents others are Silver Age junkies and so forth. Figure out who the owner/manager of the shop is before you start digging.
Next, I look for low hanging fruit. I look at kids comics (Archie, Betty, Veronica, Darkwing Duck, etc.), Magazine size books and sets (I’ve purchased sets of books for a fraction of the price that the individual comic is selling for because when books get hot few retailers have the discipline to go back and reprice sets. I also skim through the back issues. Sometimes I look at every book other times I skim. It really depends on how much time I have and whether I want to apportion time to dig through dollar books.
There are always a handful of back issues that I am aware of that most retailers have but don’t appreciate their value. These books obviously change but we all kind of know what these books are for us. This also depends on the kind of shop you are in. A shop owner who has tons of independent issues on the wall is the wrong place to be looking to pull independent books out of bins at a deal.
This is not the only way to do this. This is just how I do it. I am really interested in what others do and why. If you’ve made it this far, please share your style for hunting for books. The last thing I do when I leave a shop is ask the people who work there where there are other shops in the area. Lots of comic shops are not online or their online presence is so small that I miss them. Even when I don’t have time to visit the other shops, I still try and locate them so I can go back and find them later.
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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Great write up! As for Amazing Spider-Man #365 and Spider-Man 2099 #1, high grade newsstand copies are a very good way to go. Also, for 2099 fans the Marvel 1991 annual report (magazine size) has a preview of the 2099 line-up shown before any of the launch issues came out as well as ASM #365. Something to look out for.
Great write up. It was very insightful. I cant agree more with the future specs on SM, X-Men and the Netflix crew. Punisher, DD and I feel even Iron Fist will make a return. Iron fist being the best bang for your buck right now may even come sooner than later with the Shang Chi film(s). Thanks again!