Comic De-SPEC-tive v1.6
So usually when you hear the term scraping the bottom of the barrel, it means that you’ve hit the mark of desperation, resorting to actually scraping the remnants of food that cling to the inner surface of said barrel. However in the comic spec business, the bottom of the barrel is where there is some tidy profit to be made if you’re willing to scratch just a bit beneath the surface.
If you’ve been keeping up with this site lately, you know that the other writers have been killing it and Clint Joslin’s recent think piece in particular had a lot of collectors sitting up and taking notice about the volatile state of the variant market.
If there are books that have 6-figure print runs, it stands to reason that even the higher-ratio variants are going to have significantly high numbers. The fact that these covers (or at least the cover artists) are often revealed so far in advance makes it very difficult for anything to sneak up on savvy collectors.
I have moved away from the chase mentality on a lot of these books especially as both of the Big 2 continue to cancel titles and systematically churn out new first issues (I see you Legacy numbering and I fart in your general direction.)
I liken it to the Baccarat table where high rollers put in a lot of cash to make a lot of cash; if you have the stakes to cover yourself, it can be highly rewarding but I imagine the majority of readers are doing this as a hobby to supplement an existing income. As for me, I’ve always been more of a slots guy– put in a little, get a little back and occasionally, hit a mid-size jackpot, then repeat.
I’m going to highlight a few books in the bottom half of Comichron’s recent print runs to demonstrate that instead of jumping at high-priced limited variants of overprinted books from the big companies you can work the overlooked fringes and reap the benefits. Before I do so, let’s rewind a few months to what was the unequivocal early spec-cess story of 2018.
Lightning rarely strikes the same place twice. Back in January of this year, Popeye 65 came out with a variant cover for the ages– a horrific mash-up of zombified pop culture icons. This particular issue, which was available for pre-order on some sites at cover price started to fetch raw prices of up to $600.
When the numbers were released, the run on the book was revealed to by 1,287. That put the 1:10 around roughly 130 copies. Predictably, an all Popeye variant issue run started with all copies that had been sitting at or around cover disappearing from online sites and appearing on eBay at jacked-up prices.
Looking back at issue 65 in particular, 9.8 copies recently sold in the $400-$450 range with raws dropping to $200. So, while it didn’t retain the rarified air of its early sales, for a cover price book that nobody (except for a few in the know who picked up early on the avant garde 1:10 cover artists) collected, this was a certified, bonafide Cinderella story.
The bleedover to some of the previous issues of Popeye has seen them continue to sell in the $75-$95 range as well so this is still certainly a viable title on which to profit.
While this may be the exception to the rule, there are definite lessons to be learned and insight to be gleaned for future buying opportunities.
Using this book as our template, we can isolate the following characteristics:
- A desirable or unique cover
- Existing collector-base for concept or creator (important if a book is to retain value)
- Low print-run/limited ratio variant
- Under the speculator radar
- First issue
Recent examples of other books under 10,000 total copies that followed a similar formula and were successful albeit to a lesser extent were ‘Bloodborne’, ‘Ducktales’ (1:10 Blueprint), ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’, ‘Stabbity Bunny’ ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ (Mercado variant)s, ‘Legenderry Red Sonja’ (virgin variants), and ‘Go Go Power Rangers’.
The most recent example was last week’s Aftershock title, Garth Ennis’ ‘A Walk Through Hell’ 1 which ticked off most of the boxes above. (Speculator Rule #3: All predominantly black or yellow covers are worth purchasing.)
So, using this information we can start to use Comichron to reverse engineer the formula to identify books that may potentially breakout. Looking through the rest of May (and one from the first week of June), here are 12 books currently in my sights that meet at least 2 of the categories above.
Delta 13 1 (Sketch)
Executive Assistant: Iris 1 (Choi Variant)
Wasted Space 1 (Gooden 2nd print variant)
Wasted Space 1 (Robertson 2nd print variant)
2021: Lost Children 1 (Stokoe B&W)
Pink Panther 1 (55th Anniversary Vintage Variant-350)
Cosmo 1 (Gamebox Variant)
Cosmo 1 (Retro Variant)
Kong of Skull Island 2018 Special 1 (10-copy McDaid variant)
Grimm Fairy Tales: Dance of the Dead 6 of 6 (Last of the Meguro variant set)
Blackwood 1 (Cloonan variant/Evan Dorkin, Veronica Fish-80’s inspired horror)
Garfield: Homecoming 1 (Sakai variant)
So in a classic case of biting the hand that feeds it, comic speculators are finally starting to catch on to the fact that the over-proliferation of variants may not be a good thing for the long-term health of the hobby.
As with any industry that is profitable and more importantly, growing, everybody wants a piece hence the fact that we now have Marvel putting out so many variant covers of Iron Man 1 that Midtown almost ran out of letters of the alphabet to label them fresh on the heels of DC’s recent Action Comics decade-centric extravaganza.
Now add in the glut of store variants which are often reproductions of existing previously scarce variants or mediocre rush jobs by overworked artists. I find it easier now more than ever to save money by passing up $25 ‘bargains’ based on falsely manufactured demand and instead hit up my LCS and back issue online dealers to grab regular covers by artists whose work I collect or images that I want to own for my personal collection.
I continue to read and collect books weekly but I also regularly slab books with the intent of displaying them. With that in mind, why would anyone ever purchase a virgin store variant at a premium of a cover that doesn’t even have any aesthetic appeal?
So inspired by my fellow columnist Mike and his banging Cover Tunes, I pulled out 40 or so of my favorite covers from my PC long box that aren’t variants but regular or ‘A’ covers which feature art by such talents as Granov, Dell’otto, Dodson, Alex Ross, Frank Cho and Mattina. (In fact, one of Mike’s recently featured covers also made my list as well as one variant that somehow snuck into that photo.) And all of them should be readily available or at least found with minimal searching for cover or sometimes less.
Check back next week in my new regular Monday slot with a look ahead at spec books you should have on hand throughout the rest of this calendar year.
Powered by WPeMatico