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I got a lot of questions on how I pick modern books to invest in. On the surface, it can be seen to be rather random. For example, why did I hoard Gwenpool but show no interest in Riri. To answer these questions in public, this article will explain why I buy the modern comic books that I do.
It is all in the demand
Comic book characters die and live by the demand. As such, comic book prices are affected by it as well. When a character is new, it is difficult to forecast how strong the demand will be, which means any speculation is actually a roll of the dice. You can read all the previews and spec sites you want but none as a clue on whether a character will truly break out.
Think about it. Marvel comics, with its years of sales data and experience, couldn’t predict which character can succeed and had to experiment with different themes and books to come up with winners. Do you think spec sites know any better before anything is even published?
To be successful in modern book investing, we need to gather as much info about potential demand as possible but the source can’t be from comic speculation places. It needs to come from real readers. People who will spend money to support a character’s monthly series. That is true demand and is something hard to gauge but we need to in order to better our investing chances.
Demand lead vs push
Taking the above point and applying to the Gwenpool vs Riri scenario, you can see why I choose the former and not the latter.
Gwenpool happened because fans demanded for it. In other words, it is demand lead. The character started no more than a random design on a cover that comic folks fell in love with and started to cosplay in. This lead to more awareness and more fan showing their positive affiliation for the character. Marvel noticed this and decided to publish the character, which is a pretty bold move but it paid off. The #1 issue broke the 100k sales mark (due to the many variants and hence is not a true indication of demand) and #2 isn’t too bad with a $38k sales, comparable to the likes of X-23 and higher than Carol Danvers.
Before buying the book, I research a lot into the demand of this character by going to comic forums like those in CBR as well as using Twitter to see what people are saying. Although there were many naysayers, there is an equal number of comic readers who really love her. This was the same reactions I saw when I was researching into Kamale Khan in 2014 which prompted me to hoard copies of Captain Marvel #17, 2nd print (a $5 book at that time). Due to this similarity, I decided to put my money into Gwenpool as well.
In contrast, Riri isn’t demanded by fans. It is a character forced upon us by Marvel comics and currently being hyped to be the next big thing via the speculation sites. I went to the same channels as above and couldn’t find a single trace of comic readers who are excited by Riri. As such, I knew the demand wasn’t that and it is pretty much a mini bubble in the making.
Having said that, I didn’t say you couldn’t make money with her first appearances. In the very short term, hype does move prices and as long as you move in fast enough, you can be rewarded. This is however not a model for me. I prefer my comic investments to be like wine i.e. value increases with age, not decline.
Understand the supply
While demand is important, understanding the supply will let you know whether this will be a $100 book or just $20-40 book. In the case of Gwenpool, the Howard the Duck Ron Lim variant is limited due to
- Last minute release of this variant which caught many retailers off guard. As a result, most stores didn’t order enough of the normal copies to qualify for the incentive cover
- Slipping under the radar of spec sites. Without the hype, most flippers couldn’t preorder this in time thus limiting the flow of this book into the market
Due to the above, this book manage to retain its high value despite the lack of speculators talking about it. Without too much supply, it is easy for this book to appreciate if the fan base keeps on growing.
In contrast, Riri’s cameo and full appearance in Invincible Iron Man #7 and #9 have plenty of copies available. This means a larger fan base is required to support that price level in the long term but as I have explained above, there is currently very little interest from real readers. The only ones buying this book now are the flippers and speculators who have read the spec sites. So, a large supply + a lack of a fan base make the foundations of these 2 books very weak. If there is any mass dumping, the book will crash.
What new characters on my radar
After rumbling above, here is what I am keeping an eye out for. I am not 100% sold on these characters so don’t take these as a seal of approval from yours truly:
- Gwenom: I know many will roll their eyes on this but Gwenom seems to be on the same path as Gwen Pool. Go to Twitter and search for this character. You will see folks already starting to cosplay it. Go to Deviantart and do the same. You will see artist starting to draw this character. All these are good signs indicating a connection between the character and fans. This connection is vital to any successful character launch. The current book to get is the Guardians of Knowhere #1 variant (See Ebay listings). However, it will probably be a $40-50 book at best. I am keeping my eye out on her full appearance and see whether there is a 1:50 variant to go for.
- Moon Girl: This character didn’t get much spec hype, which is a good thing IMHO. It is already out for a couple of issues and current sales is now around 12k per month. It is definitely not as high as say, Spider Gwen, but for a new series which doesn’t tie to previous titles, it is doing ok. The 1:25 variant is currently very affordable which makes the investment more attempting. (Check Ebay listings)
To invest into modern comics that have legs, look no further than real fan reaction and demand using whatever means at your disposal. Avoid characters that don’t resonate well with readers but are hot due to spec sites. These characters typically die an early death. I have seen so many repeated examples from 2013 to current that the pattern is as clear as day (Blue bird, Joker’s daughter, Mania to name a few). They can be good flip candidates though but you have to clear what is your buy sell strategy.