What happened to Nic Cage? The actor went from Con Air and National Treasure to being in a D-list made-for-TV movie a week. The reason is he ran out of money, having squandered his acting millions on imprudent purchases, including what at the time was one of the largest private comic book collections in history.
Put a pin in that Nic Cage thought because we’ll come back to it.
The Financial Realities of Comic Book Collecting
Comic book collecting is on the rise, even as we are in a retail environment that presents a multitude of challenges for comic book shops, publishers, and distributors. But back issue collecting is hotter than ever, with key issues seemingly setting a new sales record each month.
I’ve written on this before, so I’ll send you there for the details. The short story goes that digital consumers are wanting something tactile to go along with their fandom and are reaching for old school dead trees as a result. And apps like Key Collector are making it easier to identify which old comics will scratch that nostalgia itch.
So, a Star Wars fan might watch the Mandalorian on Disney+ and be delighted by a reappearance of Baba Fett. But watch does this fan do to continue to marinade in that goodness? Many are looking to old comic book appearances of Boba Fett, a purchase that allows them to have a physical object. And that pattern is driving the price on those key Boba Fett appearances, which catches the attention of speculators, driving the prices up even further.
This is driving a virtuous cycle that is making comic shops happy, particularly if they had heavy stock in back issues. Business for them is booming, but we need to get clear about the details: Not every old comic book is suddenly so valuable that your kid is going to college off the proceeds.
First, it’s a Marvelous time for Marvel movies.
Speculation is driven by movie appearances or even rumors of movie appearances. And just like at the box office office, most attention is on Marvel. So, if a minor character is even rumored to appear in a Marvel movie or series, fans are rushing out to grab key issues of that character like first appearance.
While it used to be that well known long-tail books like Giant-Size X-Men #1 set pricing standards because it was the appearance of the new X-Men team, previously overlooked books like Fantastic Four #94 are red hot because that comic features the first appearance of Agatha Harkness, a fan-favorite from WandaVision.
The Eternals don’t hold up in terms of enjoyable reading, but darned if the comics aren’t skyrocketing in price, fueled by the upcoming release of the movie, sight unseen. You probably didn’t own an Eternals book before but be honest, you kinda want one now, don’t you?
It’s the same story with Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Shang-Chi and others. If the character is appears in a Marvel movie or show for even a second, then you can bet their key books have been scavenged out of dollar bin longboxes like a vulture cleaning a carcass.
Second, a narrow set of issues are receiving intense attention.
I mentioned the Key Collector app. Key Collector is a great little app that has lists of hot, trending comics. Users glom onto these lists and think those are the only comics that matter, creating a narrow set of comics that receive the most attention.
The aforementioned Fantastic Four #94 is listed in the Key Collector app. That’s because Key Collector just lists out the individual issues where something of importance happens. For Fantastic Four #94, that’s the first appearance of Agatha Harkness, but a comic could be “key” because a team was formed or a popular new costume was introduced or what have you.
Some collectors criticize Key Collector because of this, but the reality is people always wanted the key issues anyway. Key Collector simply makes it easier to identify the issues which are key and why.
But the critics are right about one thing: The final outcome is the value of keys are being driving up while the non-notable issues continue to languish in obscurity in a dollar box.
Third, only one other bidder needs to exist.
With a narrow set of key receiving more and more attention, prices are going up on those particular issues. Fantastic Four #94 was previously a $5-10 comic, but the hordes of WandaVision fans means it sets sells records overnight.
Part of the thrill is the hunt, but local comic shops sold out of their only comic probably immediately, only to sit in regret as they watched the value continue to rise. So the hunt has to go to a site like eBay at that point, but that means the number of eyes on the comic increase, further driving up the price.
But what does it mean hypothetically if one of the bidders is Nic Cage? Well, if not Nic Cage, one of the other bidders very well may have similar finances resources, so if a seller sets a crazy high price just to see who takes the bait, don’t be surprised if it sells at that.
Suddenly the masses are seeing comics go for those much higher prices and it gets locked into their heads that those are reasonable prices, when they very well just may be Nic Cage prices.
Finally, prices don’t go up forever.
The good news for buyers is that prices seem to be plateauing, even if that brings a tear to the eye of sellers. To be clear, prices are still high and climbing but now it is no longer at the astronomical rate we were seeing in early 2021 where a new sales record seemed to happen every day as prices were jumping 40% seemingly by the hour.
We want to see reasonable, sustainable growth in the comic book market! So if we continue to see steady growth without shocking spikes I think most people will be pleased. Besides, those few keys driven by Marvel appearances have just recently changed hands in the last year or two, so it’s pretty likely the new owner won’t want to simply sell right away and will want to hold on to them for a while.
Hopefully this will drive collectors to seek a broader set of issues and not feel constrained to only the key issues that highlight Marvel show appearances. Like, what about Fantastic Four #93? It’s not a key but it’s got a cool cover that features the Ever-lovin’ Thing, so why not add it to your collection at a price that isn’t being driven by movie speculation.
Too late! I’ve already searched it up on eBay and put in a bid. You better hope I don’t have Nic Cage money.