One of my strategies in comic book investing involves spotting undervalued blue chip keys. You might asked: how can well known comics be undervalued? The answer is simple. The comic market doesn’t stay still. A key might be rightly priced at point A. However, when overall market changes, what might be considered the right price can changed to becoming undervalued. In this article, I will use Showcase #22, a fairly recent investment, to show you what I mean. I have repeated what I am going to say here with other keys I have highlighted here like TOD #10, HOS #92, Sandman #8 et al. So, this strategy is definitely repeatable.
Markets ebbs and flows
The most important thing about this strategy is recognizing that the market is not constant. New price ceiling and floors are being created constantly and this changes the dynamics of the books within the market. To keep track of these changes, keep track of the top books in the particular time period. For example, for the silver age, it will be books like Amazing Fantasy #15 or Hulk #1. For bronze age, it will be Hulk #181.
When you see these top books setting new price records, it means the entire market is shifting upwards. Most other keys will then be compared against these new benchmarks. Some of them will follow closely, especially those that are ‘hot’ at the moment due to movie speculation. Some will be left behind.
It is these ‘left behind’ keys that represent investment opportunities.
The value of Showcase #22
To put the above into concrete numbers, let’s look at Showcase #22. Before buying the book, I did an analysis on the price per CGC point for 4.0 and below grades. The point is to see if there is any pricing gaps between books and whether these gaps can be closed over time.
Surely enough, most top 15 silver age books at that time had an average of $600-$1000 per CGC point i.e. a 2.0 book will cost around $2000. However, Showcase #22 had a low price point of only $400 per CGC point. This is probably due to the bad taste left in collectors’ mouth after the horrible Green Lantern movie. By then, we already know there will be a new Green Lantern movie coming. I was sure the bad taste will be removed once fans get more excited about the new movie. Hence, in Nov 2015, I purchased this copy of Showcase #22 at around $850.
Now, in Oct 2017, sales had indeed move closer to the $1000 per CGC point. More specifically, it is now trading around $750-$800 with sales going strong. In other words, it is now moving on par with the rest of the Top 15 silver age mega keys.
This is one of the central characteristic of a blue chip book. Once it lags behind the rest of the pack, the prices tend to recover.
Undervalued silver age mega keys in 2017?
Using the above methodology, can we see any potential undervalued keys in the top 20 of silver age books as determined by Overstreet in 2016? The table will show you the numbers in terms of price per CGC point for grades below 4.0.
|Benchmark Books||Year||Price Per CGC Point||Copies in 4.0 and below|
|Amazing Fantasy #15||1962||USD 7000||1750|
|Hulk #1||1962||USD 3300||870|
|Fantastic Four #1||1961||USD 2200||1150|
|Showcase #4||1956||USD 4500||200|
|Brave and Bold #28||1960||USD 1000||560|
|Journey Into Mystery #83||1962||USD 1000||850|
|Amazing Spider Man #1||1963||USD 1500||2000|
|X-Men #1||1963||USD 800||2300|
|Tales of Suspense #39||1963||USD 1100||920|
|Tales to Astonish #27||1962||USD 750||490|
|Avengers #1||1963||USD 700||1900|
|Showcase #22||1959||USD 800||550|
|Flash #105||1959||USD 500||270|
|Justice League of America #1||1960||USD 350||570|
|Our Army at Wars #83||1959||USD 650||70|
|Adventure Comics #247||1958||USD 600||190|
|Showcase #8||1957||USD 800||125|
|Fantastic Four #5||1962||USD 500||580|
|Action #252||1959||USD 400||410|
|Strange Tales #110||1963||USD 300||530|
Putting the data in this way reveals quite a few interesting observations related to the investing of mega silver age keys.
- There are only a few books that are around the $400 per CGC price point level. They are: Action Comics #252, Strange Tales #110 and JLA #1. They represent books with the highest gain potential. Of course, you need to balance that with the potential of the character. All three books have been exposed to media hype and have somewhat cooled down. The key question is will they rise up again or continue to fade away? My personal bet is that ST #110 will once again go back to the $400-$500 price range when its movie sequel comes about.
- Dc books have much less supply compared to their Marvel counterparts. This means the price hike will be much faster if demand increases. This is what happened in 2014 to Brave and the Bold #28. The movie news spiked the demand and supply couldn’t cope. As a result, it went from the border of the Top 10 in 2013 to becoming a Top 5 book. Similar things will happened to Showcase #22, although not to the same degree due to its greater supply. Overall, I would bet on 1-2 DC keys experiencing such rise in the next 2-3 years.
- The ceiling on most low grade mega keys is $1k per CGC point. One interesting thing to think about is whether another book will smash past the 1k per cgc point. Currently, there are only about 5 books. However, I don’t believe that within the next 5 years, it will remain at these 5. The simple reason is that as these 4 become unattainable, collectors will hunt for the next book. If enough demand concentrates on 1 book, it will likely smash past the $1k per cgc price point. Likely candidates are characters that are now wildly popular like Iron Man or have such small supply that it doesn’t take much to move the prices.
The common perception among many comic investors is that blue chip books are not the best investment vehicles. They can earn a nice small appreciation every year but nothing like a 50% growth. My personal experience says this is not true. As market conditions change, some key books will be left behind temporarily which represents investment opportunities as most blue chip will rebound.
The best part? It is cool to own one of these mega keys 🙂