BY MATT TUCK
When you have been collecting comics for a decade or more, it’s easy to lose track of what issues you own. You won’t believe what I dug out of my collection.
THE GAME CHANGER
Ever since the MCU claimed the box office as Kevin Feige’s personal sandbox, the comic collecting market has been on the rise. This year - thanks in large part to stimulus money and surprising benefits of pandemic life, which I will discuss in a later blog - the secondary market has experienced a boom the likes of which we have not seen in, well, ever.
Key issues, more specifically Marvel key issues, are earning record-breaking figures week after week, from the holy grails down to even minor first appearances. All it takes is a sprinkle of live-action speculation, and investors and speculators are falling over themselves to beat the inevitable price inflation. No one can blame them. The right key issue can fetch huge numbers overnight. West Coast Avengers #45 comes to mind after White Vision appeared on WandaVision.
THE MCU EFFECT
In the beginning, Marvel Studios mainly pulled from those 1960s Silver Age plots as they brought their classic icons to life. As the MCU grew, Kevin Feige and company have extended their story-farming into the Bronze and Modern Age comics, which has given keys from those eras a major boost in popularity.
Since the MCU has expanded into Disney+ territory and the streaming service’s first live-action foray into Marvel territory proved to be a huge boon for the company, the MCU’s story-farming spectrum will only widen. With all the movies and series being churned out of Marvel’s factory, they will be keeping collectors on their toes as the MCU will undoubtedly introduce new characters left and right beginning this weekend with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
REWARDING LONGTIME COLLECTORS
Due to all of these MCU and, to a lesser extent, DCEU movies and series, the secondary collecting world will stay a seller’s market for the foreseeable future. That is, unless you can get ahead of the curve and predict where the next MCU/DCEU stars will come from.
The biggest winners in all of this are the longtime collectors. I am not referring to astute investors and speculators, but rather the true comic fans who bought comics for the love of comics and (gasp!) actually read the comics. These are the collectors who fell in love with comics decades ago and bought today’s hot key issues off the stands long before movie speculation became the deciding factor of a comic’s status.
When everyone else is scrambling for the next major speculative key, these comic fans can pull it from their longboxes. Even if you have no intention of selling a single issue, the joy of knowing the same issue you bought for sometimes less than $1 is bringing hundreds - and in some cases thousands - is unmatched. If you do decide to part with it, in a way, you were rewarded for being a fan since you didn’t buy it originally thinking it would ever be worth so much.
Once upon a time, I tried my hand at buying and flipping comics. It was fun, sure, but in the end, there were no real profits to speak of. All the major keys were so expensive even then that it kept profit margins razor thin. Looking back, I wish I had never sold a single one. I am a collector, not a dealer (and if I don’t find new places for storage, I may pass for a hoarder). These days, I buy what I enjoy rather than following the market trends. It’s the advice I give to all new collectors: buy what you love, and you will have no regrets.
I started reading comics in the 1980s, but I didn’t begin seriously collecting comics until the 1990s. I was a typical broke teenager, so what little I made from my part-time, minimum wage job went to the newest issues. While my collection is humble compared to many longtime collectors, I have enough that I have forgotten many of them. But that makes rummaging through my long boxes and filing cabinet a treasure hunt. I have stumbled across like-new copies of Incredible Hulk #449, the first appearance of the Thunderbolts, The Boys #2, and even Final Crisis #7. They were comics that I bought for the stories, and have only had any real monetary value up until recent years.
But the biggest forgotten jewel I could ever hope to pull from the collection was only a couple weeks ago.
A few years ago - I can’t recall exactly when and my eBay history doesn’t go back far enough - I bought an Ultimate Fallout #4 for somewhere in the $75-$150 range. Obviously, this was before Miles-mania made prices skyrocket. While I liked the Miles Morales character, I bought it mainly for a Brian Michael Bendis signing at the time. I ended up missing the mail-in deadline, so I filed it away as if it were the closing moments of Raiders of the Lost Ark. After that, I hardly thought twice about that issue; it was just a cool first appearance for a character gaining popularity.
That copy of UF #4 sat in my filing cabinet for years.
When I saw that Miles’ first appearance was breaking the $3k, it dawned on me that, hey, I have one of those. I couldn’t even remember what condition it was in. There it was, still in its window bag for that Bendis signing. Then I put it back in its slot because I wasn’t interested in selling it anyway.
While that was a great find and made my day, there are thousands of UF #4s floating around the internet. So no big deal, right? Not quite.
Do you ever have those moments when an idea just comes to you out of nowhere? You’re in the middle of doing something else, and click! the lightbulb comes to life. I was turning off lights and getting ready for bed when suddenly it hit me. No way, I told myself. I couldn’t possibly be that lucky. And I went about my business, but the idea kept nagging at me. Just before I called it a night, I dug out that copy of Ultimate Fallout #4, and I looked at the UPC code. My jaw dropped.
Newsstand. Right there above the barcode. Newsstand.
According to Key Collector Comics, there are only 50 Ultimate Fallout #4 newsstand editions on record. Of those 50, there has only been one graded at a 9.8. This one is near immaculate with only one tiny blemish that is so small it is hardly noticeable.
Collecting for the sake of collecting paid off for me. I have no plans to sell or trade it (unless you have an Action Comics #1 you’d like to part with); I just love having something so rare. To think it all came from being a Brian Michael Bendis fan. How often do you hear those words?
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.