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Your Comics Aren’t Worth That Much (ft. Vintage Phoenix Comic Books) | [Indi]android Ep. 9

Now in life, there aren’t many certainties:
death, taxes. But, for a comic book lover, there’s one more:
A relative handing you a big, dusty box of comics and saying, “Go see if these are worth
something.” But not every issue is gonna be a pristine
Action Comics #1 that goes for $3 million on eBay. It’s gonna be more along the lines of… Ok, maybe the thing is a, is a fake. [bleep] That’s why we’re here at Vintage Phoenix in downtown Bloomington, where we’re gonna find
out: What’s that stack of comics really worth? Today, on [Indi]android. One thing that’s pretty easy is that most
of the comics that are brought in are worth very very little. [Narrator:] This optimist is Matt Traughber,
who’s been with the store since the early 2000s and appraises between five and 10 comic
collections a week. He’s also right. Most of your comics aren’t worth anything. But why? Most of the comics we see are from the 80s
or 90s to present, especially from the 90s speculation boom. Without getting into the whole history of
comics, there was a massive speculation boom in the first half of the 90s. [Narrator:] Let’s get into the whole history. From the mid-80s to the early 90s, big name
comics like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were grabbing mainstream attention. On top of that, news kept breaking of old,
Golden Age comics like Action Comics #1 selling for thousands of dollars. So the notion of comics as collectibles grew. People start buying into this collectability
aspect, like they’re automatically collectible, they’re automatically valuable, simply because
they’re comics – which is not true. The old ones are valuable because they’re
rare. And once most people are treating them as
collectibles and keeping them and storing them, then it’s the exact opposite of what
it used to be. The supply is simply too plentiful. [Narrator:] The gold rush had started. But in this case, the mine was printing more
gold than anyone actually asked for. Traditionally, a successful comic prints about
100,000 copies total. In the speculation boom, they were printing
millions. And the extreme example is that X-Men #1 by
Chris Claremont and Jim Lee. There are 8 million copies of that comic. And there’s nothing, there’s nothing that
sells – in the last 20 years there’s been one or two comics that have sold a million
copies. One million. So, you were selling 8 million copies of that. So it’s supply and demand. There are so many copies of those books that
for every person looking, there are, in some cases, thousands of copies. [Narrator:] For instance, let’s take a look
at The Death of Superman. This book was manufactured to be big. But now you can get a copy of Superman #75,
sealed in that melodramatic black bag, for around 15 bucks on eBay. [Matt:] Oh, six months or a year ago, someone,
as we’ve been talking, came in the front door with a box of comics and took the lid off,
and it was 160 copies of that issue. That’s all it was. The old ones that you hear stories that they’re
worth a million dollars, that’s because there’s 10 copies in existence, not millions. [Newscast:] “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” It’s a corpse! Come mid-November, Superman will be flying,
alright – to heaven! [Narrator:] Ok, so the 90s kind of broke comic
collecting. But what do you do if you really think you’ve
got something special? When you bring in your collection to somebody
like Matt, he’ll look for a few things. [Matt:] Anybody who’s into comics knows some
of the key issues. They’re gonna recognize them on the spot. But not all of them. So, I will – I’ll go through every single
book and make sure I’m not overlooking something. We had that recently with the collection I
said we bought with a couple thousand comics. There’s a long run of Hulk. Whole box full of Hulk comics. I wanted to double-check I wasn’t missing
something so I pulled out our price guide and I’m looking for, kind of just in the column
there, a spike, a number that maybe shoots up. And I found it, and I go across and I read
why, and it was the second appearance of Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy. So that issue – the one before it, nothing. It’s worth a couple bucks. The one after it? A couple bucks. That issue is worth like a hundred bucks. I both know what I’m looking for a lot of
the time, but I also know that I don’t know it all. [Narrator:] Then, if he sees a few choice
nuggets, there’s more to consider. Condition: No one wants your Dark Knight Returns
if it’s been flavor-blasted with nacho dust. The market: What sells well in this area? And lastly: What’s the hype around it? [Matt:] And there are comics that used to
be worthless, and then something happens and a character catches on and suddenly people
want that again. A book like Marvel Super-Heroes Winter Special
from 90…something. It’s the first appearance of Squirrel Girl. But no one cared about that for about 20 years. It was in our bargain boxes if we had it,
or, you know, all the comic shops. And then Squirrel Girl takes off and everyone’s
going through the boxes trying to find copies that haven’t been destroyed by being in bargain
boxes for 20 years. [Narrator:] If all of the above goes right,
you might have a bona fide moneymaker on your hands. But again, the real diamonds in the rough
have one big thing in common: There just aren’t that many of them. Yes, the supply is back down to normal, but
there’s plenty of them, basically. For the number of active collectors looking
for anything, there’s plenty of copies. It takes time. And frankly, modern comics are very unlikely
to ever be worth the type of prices you see from Action #1, or Detective #27, or Amazing
Fantasy #15, the first appearance of these key characters from the past. Primarily because there are so few copies
of those comics that still exist, because comics were pretty much considered disposable
entertainment. They were a few collectors, but most were
kids and people who just kinda read them. And not to mention, with comics from the Golden
Age, the 30s and 40s, you have things like paper drives during World War II that destroyed
some, you have the scare of people trying to say that comics are corrupting youth so
some comics are burned in the 50s. So you have things that really make some of
those earlier 50s and earlier comics pretty rare. [Narrator:] So the comics you got in the 90s
aren’t worth anything, and the comics you buy today won’t be worth anything. Then what’s a comic collector to do? I dunno, man. Have fun? Enjoy them? That’s what they’re for. I always tell people this: If your comics
end up being worth, you know, some great money, great. But you just got lucky. That’s not what they’re for. Comic books are entertainment. So you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth
if you’re buying them and reading them and enjoying them. So where should you start if you want to be
a collector? Start with something you’re interested in. All you care about, though, you’re just like,
‘I don’t want that, I gotta collect.’ Then you’re better off buying books that are
already worth something. Buying some of these older books and watching
them go up, because some of them have gone up tremendously. I tell people over and over, pick out something
you’ve got some interest in. If you’ve never read a comic, we can steer
you toward something, but I tell people to trust themselves. I’ll ask you what at least are you generally
interested in, point you in that direction and tell you, the right one to start with
is the one that looks cool to you.

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