COMIC RELIEF

LAST, JONATHAN V.

Casual COMIC RELIEF While the fi nancial crisis has gripped the rest of the world, my investments have been doing quite well. Not my traditional investments, mind you. My house is...

...Most of the time, the comic book you buy for $2.99 loses a dollar of value the minute you leave the shop...
...I canít tell you how much Iíve invested in funny books...
...This is a family magazine, and besides, my wife reads it...
...I should have been spending more on comic books all along...
...The biggest and safest investments are issues that mark the fi rst appearance of long-running characters...
...This casual reading became something more serious, and before I knew it I was following a couple dozen titles...
...One of the interesting aspects of the market is that while a variant cover typically costs a couple dollars more than the normal cover, its built-in scarcity helps it hold value...
...Individual sellers typically get only some fraction of the retail or book price when they sell...
...So if you see two copies of, say Project Superpowers #3 and one of them is $2.99 but the other is $9.99, the $10 comic is actually a betteróand saferóplay...
...For instance, I went very long on Joss Whedonís comic-book adaptation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer...
...I had collected comics as a child and started reading them again on a whim...
...Today it fetches at least $60,000...
...As a boy, I dreamed of owning these rare and expensive books, such as Amazing Fantasy #15, which has the fi rst appearance of Spider-Man...
...Again, I bought several copies of issue #1, including all the variant covers...
...Which turns out to have been the smartest fi nancial move Iíve made...
...Itís less likely to lose money and has bigger upside potential...
...And itís a lot more fun to own...
...These comics will never experience explosive growth, but because of the characters involved there will always be demand, while the supply constantly shrinks...
...Those are two of my bigger successes...
...Mile High Comics in Denver, which helps set prices for the industry, sells them for $40 now, although you can get a copy for $20 every once in a while...
...I thought it would find an audience with both comic-book readers and fans of the TV series, so I bought several copies of issue #1 for $2.99 apiece...
...There are all sorts of caveats, mind you...
...JONATHAN V. LAST...
...Only 1,000 of the RRP edition were printed, and they go for between $200 and $400, when you can fi nd them...
...Today they sell for $30 to $50 each...
...While new comics have the biggest growth potential, thereís a lot of volatility in that market...
...As it turns out, Amazing Fantasy #15 sold for about $27,000 when I entered the work force 11 years ago...
...Older classics, such as Action Comics featuring Superman or Detective Comics with Batman, are worth much more and tick upward in value each year...
...Casual COMIC RELIEF While the fi nancial crisis has gripped the rest of the world, my investments have been doing quite well...
...Even so, the average comic book is a sounder investment than a share of GM or AIG...
...I even had the foresight to pick up a particularly rare edition, the #1 RRP cover...
...It may never climb above $3.50...
...If only I hadnít squandered my money on retirement accounts and real estate...
...One of them now sells for $12, the other for $8...
...But through sly purchasing Iíve managed a reasonable ROIómaybe 3 percent in the aggregate...
...My house is worth a fraction of what I paid for it in 2004, and my 401(k) is more like a 201(k) these days...
...My long-term planóI trust my wife has stopped reading by nowóis to diversify my portfolio gradually so that as I near retirement, I transition out of smallcap new issues and into the largecap older books...
...The variant for Project Superpowers #3 now runs about $35, in part because the cover artist, Michael Turner, recently died...
...But most of the time, itís not hard to spot value...
...The real blue chips are old Golden and Silver Age comics...
...It didnít start out as a fi nancial endeavor...
...I picked up a couple dozen copies, splitting my position between the two variant covers...
...Encouraged by the success of my Buffy buys, I went long again when Whedon launched a spin-off title, Angel: After the Fall...
...Many comics these days are published with different covers of varying rarity...
...Sometimes youíll do this on a hunch, as I did with Buffy...
...But I was convinced that spending that sort of money was foolish and irresponsible...
...And comics had their own annus horribilis in 1993, when the collectibles market cratered...
...When Marvel Comics killed Captain America in March 2007, it was an obvious buy...
...The key to playing the comic-book market is using those average purchases to keep a feel for the marketplace while going heavy when you see an issue that should be an investment...
...But four years ago I started putting a bit of money into comic books...
...The fi rst fi ve issues of the original 1960 Justice League of America, for instance, are worth a few thousand dollars apiece...
...But even that meltdown was no worse than what weíve seen in the real world during the last few months...

Vol. 14 • December 2008 • No. 13


 
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