Weekend Update with Nico

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This is your Weekend Update!

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It’s a new day, a new year and it is filled with new opportunities.  This week we are looking towards the future. I want to take the opportunity to think about what books are going to pop in 2020 and in the coming years and think about strategies for speculation in the years to come.  I’ve attempted to organize this weeks article in terms of some healthy resolutions for the coming New Year. I hope they help.

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Support Creator Owned Properties

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Without a doubt, the biggest trend in comics is the massive amount of television and film deals that are being brokered.  While the Marvel Cinematic Universe and to a lesser extent the DC Time Warner properties have received much of the spotlight, it is only a matter of time before we see more creator owned properties getting optioned.  For my money, I am thinking not only about obvious Image comics like East of West #1, Chew #1, Saga #1, Die #1, and Monstress #1, but more about the creators themselves.

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Last year there was news that Universal had licensed both the rights to Brian K. Vaughan and  Ed Brubaker. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I suspect that it is just a matter of time before we see Jonathan Hickman get more attention.  While I’m more of a fan of Manhattan Projects and the Nightly News, I wouldn’t discount A Red Mass for Mars, Secret, the Black Monday Murders if you are grabbing them out of dollar boxes.  I would keep an eye out for creators other works. We’ve made similar observations about Ed Brubaker. While I think Fatale is his work most suitable for television, Criminal, Incognito and Kill or Be Killed are all potential options.
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A Red Mass for Mars #1.jpg
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Studios are more apt to option a series of works from the same author.  Success speaks for itself and creators who have successfully brokered deals in the past.   This is the reason that I have renewed hope for Chew being made as a live action television series. Because AMC optioned Farmhand, I believe that Chew is automatically a more marketable project.  The same can be said for Saga, particularly in the event that Y the Last Man is a commercial hit.

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Buy at least one Truly Rare Scarce Book
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We talk about books in terms of rarity and scarcity and for some reason these terms are used interchangeably.  Something is rare when it is very uncommon. For example, the ebola virus is rare. Something is scarce when the demand is greater than the supply.  Diamonds are an example of something that is scarce. Diamonds are coveted. Not everything that is rare is scarce. This year, I encourage you to invest in at least one book that is truly rare and scarce.

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Make a commitment to examining the CGC census.  Make a commitment to looking up books on GPA to see how many copies sold in a year.  My challenge to you is to choose a few books that are truly rare, that don’t come to market often and when one pops up on Heritage, Comic Link, eBay or you see it on a show floor, make a play at it.  Even if you don’t walk away with it. Make a conscious decision to say now to books of the week, to frivolous spending on things that aren’t smart investments and save some money so that you can buy one truly big book in 2020.  If you’ve been following the live auction results I’ve been sharing you can see that prices are way down around Christmas and deals can be made that may not come around again for another year. You won’t regret it.

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crime suspenstories 22.jpg
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So there’s a lot of obvious choices.  Books like Pre-Code Horror (PCH) classics like Crime Suspenstories #22, Black Cat Mystery #50 and Chamber of Chills #19. Not to mention all of the amazing LB Cole PCH books that have started taking off in the last year. There’s Timely books like Marvel Mystery Comics, Captain America and All Winners that are exquisite in their own right.  There’s some amazing Good Girl Art (GGA) like Spirit #22, Blue Beetle #54, Patsy Walker #1, Hickory #3 and Reform School Girls #nn. There’s Science Fiction classics like Startling Comics #49, Brick Bradford #6, Famous Funnies #210 and #214. There are some amazing romance comics like Daring Love #1, Teen-age Temptations #9, Cinderella Love #25 or any Matt Baker key or LB Cole key.  Remember if you are in the wild, it’s hard to go wrong with St. John Publishing Romance books. Also remember to open up these romance books. Some of the interior artwork is better than almost any interior pencils you’ve ever seen. That much I promise you.

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These are just a few that I like.  The Overstreet price guide publishes lists and I would suggest that you research which of these books are truly rare and at what grade you need to be able to buy in at in order to maximize the appreciation in value over time.

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Smarter Speculation and a Collection of Classics

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There’s always an opportunity to jump on this week’s hot book(s).   Conceited speculators assume I am talking about the modern book(s) of the week.  I’m not. What I’m talking about are the hot back issues of the week. We all know when books like Giant Size Defenders #3 (the 1st Korvak), Namor #1, Silver Surfer #3 (the 1st Mephisto), and Thor #134 (1st High Evolutionary) are getting hot.  These aren’t necessarily bad buys. Often times they are great investments. But these are for all intents and purposes the hot books of the week. What I challenge you to do more of in 2020 is to be really proactive about your speculation.

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Think about what the next Albedo #2 (1st Usagi Yojimbo) is in the marketplace.  The probability of books like Evil Ernie #1 (1991), Fantasy Quarterly #1 (1978) (the 1st Elfquest), Creatures of Id #1 (the first Madman Frank Enstein), Zap Comix #1 (1968), or Cerebus #1 taking off in a comparable trajectory.  Think about what the next Eternals maybe and the probability of books like Rom #1 or Rom #75 taking off sometime in the future. Think about the probability of Akira getting green lit one more time and actually getting made. Is this year the time to stash away a copy of Akira #38.

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Albedo #2.jpg
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Buy books like Warrior Magazine #1 and Miracleman #15 have huge potential upside in the future.  So do books like 100 Bullets #1, Day Tripper #1 and the Wicked and the Divine #1. Any one of these books could be the next Umbrella Academy.

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Daytripper #1

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Again, I love the truly rare like the first appearance of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers in Feds ‘n Heads (1968).  I like books that have minor heat but no one really is up in arms about them like the first appearance of Deathlock in Astonishing Tales #25 and the first appearance of Man-Thing in Savage Tales #1.

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We suggested that you jump on books like Marvel Spotlight #2 and Tomb of Dracula #1 well in advance of the popular comic press boasting about insider information that these characters were going to appear in the Moon Night Disney Plus series.  We did that, not because we had better access, but because they were classic books with very little downside and we believed there was a high probability that these characters would appear in the MCU (whether in a film or a Disney Plus series).  If you didn’t invest in these titles before they popped, you are going to have to wait for the masses to turn their attention to the next shiny object. The key is to get in on titles early and to pay for all of your books by selling your under-copies so you can keep the best copies with a zero dollar investment.  Then if you decide to move some or all of these books when there’s casting news or a trailer you reap the rewards and can move your profit towards an investment in a timeless key.  

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Collaborative Minds  

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Remember time and time again, I give the advice I need to hear.  One of my own personal failings is repeatedly over-estimating the intelligence of the masses while under-estimating the intelligence of the comic elite.  The vast majority of collectors are not shrewd about comics, they like what the like and aren’t concerned with their return on investment. Even those who are concerned about their return on investment often times will ignore smart plays and make frivolous purchases.  I find myself drawn to books after they’ve already spiked like a moth is drawn to a flame.

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On the other hand, don’t underestimate the insights of the top dealers and collectors.  These men and women have weathered tough markets and their fortitude is a testament to their abilities.  There are lessons to be learned from these collectors. Whether its a simple tip on how to spot restoration (color touch, trimming, etc.) or a more elegant lesson on what makes a book a solid investment, these men and women have lessons to teach.  The comic game is one where apprenticeship is still reality and the best students always become the best teachers. Find mentors and be a mentor to less experienced collectors. It will change your comic game forever.

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I’ve said it before and I will say it again, there is nothing more valuable in this hobby than information.  You heard me describe this as this Information Age of comics and that is something I genuinely believe we are experiencing.  Do others the same favor and share the YouTube shows you love with others on social media. Share the Facebook groups, the IG Pages and MeWe groups you belong to with your friends in the comic book community.  Comics are a collaborative effort. There’s too much for any one person to know everything and your comic game is only as strong as your crew of comic friends. Help them grow as collectors, investors and speculators and you will reap the benefits of your shared collective knowledge.
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It’s Never too Late for Second Chances 

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If you are like me and just got back into comics (I was gone for about five years), you may feel like you missed all the best opportunities.  I read all the time people talking about how there’s no books left to spec on and chuckle to myself. Some of the guys that I enjoyed most in this community are moving onto trading cards and others are talking about making major divestments in their collection.  Collectors have been crying about the evils of modern speculation since the collapse in the 1990s and there was a time when I too believed a lot of strawman arguments made to diminish the vitality of the comic market.

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Have no fear, hope for comics springs eternal.  I’m a guy who is the benefactor of many second chances.  Hell I’ve benefited from them in all areas of my life. The key for me is looking for opportunity.  Rather than focusing on worse case scenarios, I manage them by insulating myself from risk while giving myself opportunities for growth.  For example, many of you may not have had the foresight to jump on Giant Size X-Men #1 before the prices exploded following the Disney acquisition of Fox.  That doesn’t mean that there’s not opportunities to make money on X-Men books. In reality you may be able to make more money by buying the minor keys like X-Men #129 (1st Kitty Pryde, White Queen), Avengers Annual #10 (1st Rogue), Ms. Marvel #18, etc.without incurring the risk and capital expenditure required to buy a Giant Size X-Men #1.  It is a lot easier to double or triple your money on a $50 book than it is to do with a $1,500 book. Dealers are not nearly as careful and you can afford to make a couple of mistakes when your profit margins are closer to 500%. This is why modern flippers love flipping new books. The profit margins are potentially enormous and the buy-in is comparable to scratch off lottery ticket.  Please don’t think I’m suggesting that you employ a scratch off ticket investment strategy, I’m not. However, I do believe that making these kinds of purchases and paying for pressing, cleaning and encapsulation is the way to maximize return on investment.

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This kind of thinking presents itself all the time.  For example, Daredevil #1 is a classically undervalued Silver Age key.  However, the buy-in is several thousand dollars. When you consider where you need to be buying in on the grade scale in order to maximize your profit, the buy in can become obscene.  There are other opportunities to make a play on Daredevil. Characters like Electra and Bullsye are beloved characters integral to the Daredevil mythos. Similarly, Kingpin is such an amazing character that it seems almost criminal to not incorporate him in the MCU at some point down the road.  He could appear in a Spider-Man film or as a nemesis of the Punisher or even Ghost Rider. Focusing in on the purchase of an Amazing Spider-man #50 (the 1st Kingpin), Daredevil #168 (1st Elektra), or Daredevil #131 (1st Bullseye) will definitely tie up less money, but in certain circumstances has a much higher return on investment.

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Look no further than Moon Knight #14, the first appearance of Stain Glass Scarlet.  Clearly a second chance play. While the book has cooled down considerably, the initial spike was profound and there was an excellent opportunity to make money on this book.  The same can be said about Tomb of Dracula #1, the book had little to no heat at the time of the announcement of a Blade film and has slowly been heating up as more and more cites are reporting that Dracula will appear in the MCU (apparently initially on the Moon Knight TV series).

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Think about a book like Fantastic Four Annual #2 which is the first time Marvel tells Doctor Dooms origin story.  While this book has seen considerable growth following news regarding a Fantastic Four MCU debut, it isn’t a first appearance and it took a while before the masses appreciated how important this book telling Doctor Doom’s origin story is to the Fantastic Four mythology.  I’ve talked before about how I liked it because it was giant-sized, and won’t belabor the point which is simply that there are almost always second chance opportunities. Often there are second chance books. Often there are downswings in the market. Often these opportunities have as much upside as the initial opportunity, sometimes they are a less costly to buy-in, and often times you can manage the risk more effectively by investing in more probable scenarios.

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You are going to have to crunch the numbers with your own budget and obviously make the final decisions for yourself.  These are also just some ideas to be thinking about as we roll into 2020, but the reality is that there are always opportunities, always speculative investment plays, and new strategies to experiment with in the comic market.  No one strategy is going to always work, but second chance plays are always an option if you do your homework and move quicker than the competition.

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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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 Read more articles from Nico here.

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2 comments

  • Thanks Nico, you really opened up my mind to key collecting, its all ive been able to think about the past week and I have really picked up some great keys for cheap that I would have easily overlooked. You totally changed my perspective on the collecting as i am also new to it.
    If you dont remember, I met you in a store in Hargerstown.
    Thanks bud

  • Evil Ernie 1 has been a top 5 book for me for a very long time, and I also agree on your x-men comment, the minor keys are way undervalued still.

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