Weekend Update with Nico: End of Year Special

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This is your Weekend Update!

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In a few short days, 2019 will be in the bag and we will have closed the book on another amazing year in comics.  This week, I’m going to attempt to identify in a very non-exhaustive way, some of the winners, losers and wannabe’s that were in the headlines in 2019 and look forward to the next year in comics.

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There have been many descriptions of the next age of comics.  Some have described our current/modern age as the Chromium Age while others have remarked that we are in the Digital Age of comics.  I am not hell-bent on any one descriptor, but I do believe that we are in an information age. It is an honor to be part of this website, if for no other reason, than it is a venerable part of the Information Age of comics.

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Many of us grew up in a rather unsophisticated comic market.  If you had an opportunity totune into my discussion with T-Vo from the Lords of the Longbox you heard us discuss the days before social media, comic buy/sell groups, MeWe pages, patreon subscription services, Instagram fan pages, facebook groups, YouTube shows and dedicated comic book web sources.  There was a time, in the not to distant past, when there was no KeyCollector App, no GPA, no CLZ and no sold listings database on eBay.

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We had Wizard Magazine and were grateful for it, Comic Buyers Guide and were grateful for it, and we still belly ached because the Overstreet “wasn’t up to date.”  Today’s collectors get up to the minute pricing, news and information in a manner that is truly remarkable. We hear news about products, media deals, and developments in real time in a way that few of us could have dreamed about in what now seems like the stone ages of comics.  Allow me to say it first, the Chromium Age is over. Welcome to the Information Age.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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The sheer volume of media deals that came to fruition in 2019 is overwhelming.  2019 saw the birth of, Disney Plus, a ton of successful comic related television shows on Netflix and network television, the launch of DC Streaming and the re-imagining of DC on TV with HBO Max.  2019 also saw the end of Marvel Television (at least the Jeff Loeb version of Marvel TV), the end of Marvel on Netflix and culmination of a decade of film making with Avengers: Endgame and the return of major properties like the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and the X-Men.

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This year Disney announced a solid dozen new major projects including major surprises Blade and Moon Knight.  Warner Media announced a forthcoming Green Lantern television series.

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I want to take a quick look at some of the major winners in 2019 that saw record GPA prices at least in part as a result of Hollywood development deals:

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Fantastic Four

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Fantastic Four #1
saw record growth with a CGC 5.0 copy selling this month for a whopping $21,500.  That figure is up from the 12 month average of $18,000. To give you some indication of how hot this book is, a CGC 2.5 copy sold for $6,666 this month.  The average price in 2017 for this grade was $3,749. These price increases are not limited to issue #1 of the series. The first appearance of Doctor Doom in issue #5 is also a super hot book right now.  A CGC 4.5 copy sold in a live auction this month for $6,700. The average price of this book in 2018 was $3,623 in CGC 4.5 condition which was double the average price for this book in this condition in 2017 when the figure was $1,873.

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ff5

 

Silver Surfer  

 

Another benefactor of Disney’s acquisition of Fox was the Silver Surfer.  A CGC 8.0 copy of the first appearance of the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four #48 sold in a live auction for $3,100 this month.  The average price for this book in this condition back in 2017 was a mere $1,159.00. Silver Surfer #1 has seen comparable growth.  For example, a CGC 8.0 sold in a live auction for $1,325 in December. Back in 2017 the average price for sold listings in this condition was  a mere $682.00.
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X-Men 

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Another major benefactor of the acquisition of Fox is X-Men #1.  A CGC 4.5 copy of this book sold in a live auction this month for $6,290.  This figure is up from the average price in 2017 of $3,493. As I generally suggest, you see the major growth at the bottom and at the top.  These clarity of these numbers is even more substantial when you examine copies in CGC 3.0 condition. The last 3.0 sale was $5,300 and happened in December.  The average price for a CGC 3.0 copy back in 2017 was $2,317.

x-men1

 
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Moon Knight 

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Werewolf by Knight #32 is another major benefactor of Hollywood buzz.  While this book has been an enormous fan favorite in recent years, it has still seen significant gains as a result of movie related buzz.  The 12 month average in 2019 for a CGC 9.0 copy was $2,114. The 12 month average in 2018 was $1,5111 and the 12 month average back in 2017 was $1207.  What is interesting is that we’ve seen some recent lower priced live auction results for this book. The December sales are down for this book. The last sale in CGC 9.0 condition was $1,701 in a live auction.  Comparable down results occurred in CGC 8.5 condition with a live auction ending at $1,400 (down from the 12 month average of $1,660), in CGC 8.0 condition a live auction ended at $1126 (down from the 12 month average of $1,380) and in CGC 7.5 condition a live auction ended $791 (down from the 12 month average of $1,066).  Perhaps this is a function of the December price lulls, perhaps fair-weather fans of this book lost faith in the television project following rumors about the potential casting of Daniel Radcliffe, perhaps there is one last chance to buy this book. Only time will tell.
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Blade

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The first appearance of Blade, Tomb of Dracula #10, has doubled in price in most grades over the course of last year or two.  For example, the 12 month average of CGC 9.2 copies is $1,622 this is double the price tag in 2017 when this book traded hands in this condition at a $781 average.  CGC 9.4 copies have a 12 month average of $2,387 with the last sale at $2,500. The average price back in 2017 was $1,216. Again, you see the trends more and more clearly as you approach the top of the food chain.  The last recorded sale of a CGC 9.6 copy was in August when that book moved in excess of $5,000. Last year the average price was $2,614 up from the 2017 average price of $1,782.

 

Everything Else

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There were dozens other TV and film projects that happened or were announced.  There may have been a hundred projects that were optioned and that is not hyperbole on my part.  Some of the big winners were Umbrella Academy and the Boys. TV shows like the Watchmen and the litany of failed Sci-Fi network shows had a less impressive impact on the collector market, but were nevertheless quality entertainment.  This doesn’t begin to deconstruct the impact of DC Streaming shows like Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol and Titans on the back issue market for each of these respective titles. If anything, I think this year demonstrates that there is a clear case by case analysis that needs performed if you are investing in any one or more of these titles.

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We also had a plethora of films that impacted sales figures and collector’s valuation of key books.  Alita Battle Angel #1 is a great example of a book that is very difficult to find, but has lost much of its luster now that the film has hit screens.  There are not a lot of collectors running around looking for copies of this book. In fact, many collectors have already forgotten about highly anticipated projects like Hellboy (even though the poor schlubs who paid a premium for a picture of something that arguably resembles the character on a poster will never forget getting suckered into that purchase) and are utterly unresponsive to inquiries regarding films like the Kitchen.

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Bull Market

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Of course there are countless books I could have discussed other than these, but I thought they were a couple good choices to analyze the flavor of the market. The rumors of the demise of the comic market have been greatly exaggerated.  As you can see from a quick glance at the numbers, the comic market is booming. GPA recorded sales data is astronomical.

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All one has to do is look at the monthly totals of recorded slab sales to appreciate the gravity of the comic market.  There were than $13,500,000 in sales in November alone, and well more than 125,000,000 in projected sales for the calendar year.  This number is not inclusive of private party transactions in comic shops, convention floors and private transactions which are occurring almost every moment of every day all across the globe.

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Of course everyone has a narrative and most of the time it is intended to support the way in which they see the world.  What I would suggest is taking a hard look at what books you are interested in collecting and determining which books have the potential for growth and which books will be long forgotten in the mythos of comic lore before you invest your hard earned money.

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But what about Moderns

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If you love reading modern comics like me, it is sometimes hard to not be discouraged by all the naysayers and upset from the guys who don’t read comics anymore.  If you are one of those guys, I’m sorry your Dad didn’t watch your little league games or whatever childhood hurt that still haunts you heals. If you are like me and love comics as a matter of principle, then I hope you were able to find some solace in the amazing year of modern books.

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When I asked Jimmy about 2019 modern comics, he described it as “the year of the irrelevant first appearance.”  There’s some truth to that description. While the top characters of 2018, cosmic ghost rider and the Batman-Who-Laughs, don’t appear to be going anywhere, many collectors have discounted them as amalgamation of established characters that are the product of the big two’s refusal to take risks (see e.g., Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Lady Thor, etc.).

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2019 seemed to be more of the same in many respects.  Top of the list is characters like Jenika (the female addition to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Wolverine’s daughter Reign, and a female Batman Beyond.  More original female characters like Star, and Naomi were also introduced to substantial fanfare which has seemingly died back down as we close the book on 2019.  It will be interesting to see which of these characters are standing strong in 2019 and which have faded into comic obscurity.

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For me 2019 was more about a celebration of modern storytelling and a commitment to cover art.  I think half the reason that people love Spawn is the sequential art is so amazing and that is something that is sadly increasingly rare.  Cover artists get paid more and it pays to be a standout cover artist. Nevertheless, we say big name writers like Al Ewing, Donnie Cates, Jonathan Hickman, Brian Michael Bendis, Jeff Lemire and Kieron Gillen shine.  There books were standouts because of their amazing writing.

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We saw gimmick ratio incentive variants for second prints and short prints for subsequent printings and all sorts of non-sense from publishers in an effort to drive up sales of new books.  It is increasingly difficult to make money doing the Wednesday Warrior thing, but I, for one, think that as less and less people participate, there is going to be more and more opportunity.  I suggest taking a hard look at some of these late announced ratio variants and incentive variants, particularly for late printings. Mark my word, we will see one of these books take off in the next few years because of gorgeous cover art and a low distribution.  It is a matter of time before that is the perfect storm.
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Emerging Trends

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The biggest emerging trend of 2019 was the growth of the foreign language comic market.  Certainly there has always been a niche audience for these kinds of books and more broad based appeal for beautiful cover art from Michael Turner’s Supergirl to Gabriel DellO’tto’s Batman/Joker cover.  This year we really witnessed a ton of eyes moving towards this market. We saw buyers spend considerable money on the La Presna Mexican non-cannon Spider-Man Gwen Stacey stories and experienced collectors spend serious money on foreign language books.  I have surmised that as collectors transition from age to age, genre to genre, and continue to search for oddities and rarities (be sure to check out the new column from Brian Beck focused on this exact phenomenon) things like foreign language comics become increasingly fascinating.

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Another major trend that emerged in 2019 was the rise of ComicTom101 and the KeyCollector top ten list.  No one can claim ignorance of the impact made by Tom Garcia and Nick Coglianese on the comic market. These guys have made a real impact on what books collectors are looking for and it would be irresponsible of me to do a year in review without discussing these two men.  Congratulations on your success.

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Golden goodness Atomic crushes and all that is especially Timely

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What an amazing year for vintage books.  Buyers of Pre-Code Horror comics set records with monstrous high marks for coveted classic books.  This year was the year of L.B. Cole. His books saw figures that were sometimes 4-5 times Overstreet guide.  The true classic covers like Mask Comics #1 and #2, Punch Comics #12, Chamber of Chills #19 and Black Cat Mystery #50 setting record highs.  The truly rare Golden Age books are almost non-existent on showroom floors and quietly exchanged in deals that look so secretive they should be investigated and monitored by the FBI.

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Golden Age superheroes realized breathtaking highs.  With a books like Sub-Mariner #1 moving on eBay in CGC 5.0 condition for $20,000.  World War II anti-nazi and other propaganda books continued to be incredibly sought after with Marvel Mystery Comics, Captain America and All-Winners leading the charge.  However, books like Mystic Comics and Red Dragon Comics #7 which straddle the PCH and anti-fascist propoganda genres also did incredibly well this year.

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This year also saw renewed interest in Golden Age Batman books with key Golden Age Joker books firmly ahead of the pack (Detective #168 and Batman #11 in particular).  Expect Riddler keys like his first appearance in Detective Comics #140 to do really well in the year to come as we approach Matt Reeves the Batman and new money enters the market looking to invest.  Another huge winner this year was Marvel Family #1. This book was hot all year long and has not slowed down following confirmation that Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson will be playing Black Adam in a forthcoming film.

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Maybe the biggest winner in the Gold/Atomic back issue market were Romance books.  Cinderella Love #25 and other Matt Baker classics saw huge growth with traditional Good Girl Art classic covers moving at a slower pace than PCH, Timelys and others.  I’ve said this in prior Weekend Updates, but it is probably a great time to be negotiating deals on key GGA books.

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I could go on for days about these markets because I find there growth truly remarkable and the level of interest in these books fascinating.   Before I wrap up, we should talk about the biggest sale of 2019. The Windy City pedigree copy of Marvel Comics #1 (1939) sold for $1.26 million in a Heritage Auction.  This book is particularly awesome to me as it was purchased at a newsstand little more than an hour from my home in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

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I hope you enjoyed this installment of the 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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