Beware the Speculator
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Anyone that was collecting comic books in the 90's knows about the comic "boom", which resulted in people over paying for books, variant covers galore, multiple number 1's and more important, the Speculators. Well, it seems as if the comic book industry is heading in that direction once again. While it's not as drastic as it was in the 90's, I'm quickly seeing how the internet can make a book that hasn't even come out yet go for 10 dollars over cover price The influx of new people heading into the LCS to pick up a book hoping to make a quick buck, is almost ridiculous. I started working at my LCS this past month and have already seen this happen up close.
I immediately knew I had to write this article to show how detrimental this can be to the hobby we all love. Not only can it leave you favorite shop with a bunch of extra comics on the shelves (which can be impossible to sell) it also leaves readers (true comic book fans) unable to pick up the latest issue of their favorite comics because "The Speculator" cleaned the shelves of that particular issue.
In this article I'm gonna talk a little about the history of speculating all the way up to as recent as a couple weeks ago with that issue of Batman that had everyone going crazy ot the "top secret" variant of POWERS OF X #3.
A LITTLE HISTORY
What started in the mid 80's, with people realizing that comic books could be a viable investment, hit an all time high in 1992. Which was the height of the comic-book bubble. Within two years, the entire industry was in danger of going belly up. The industry’s, arguably biggest player, Marvel, faced bankruptcy.
In 1985 Marvel published 40 titles a month, and each book cost 60 cents. By 1988 they were putting out 50 titles for $1 apiece. By 1993, they were offering 140 books a month, selling for $1.25 and up.
By expanding their output to hundreds of titles, the publishers had diluted the quality of their books to the point of embarrassment. Combine that with the higher prices, and it drove away customers.
Many of the new comic-book stores could barely afford to stay open and were poorly run. The weakest of them closed up shop, and from their the dominoes began to fall: Publishers saw a rapid and dramatic decline in sales, so they cut back the number of titles they shipped. Which led to less product for the remaining retailers to sell. Which pushed the stores on the precipice of survival out of business.
One of the main culprits.... The Speculator
LET THE SPECULATION BEGIN
One of the major contributors to speculation, was Wizard Magazine. With their articles highlighting what was hot, to their massive promotion of Image Comics when it first launched led to people snatching up multiple copies of the same issue only leading to over saturation on the comic book market.
If you look at the sales numbers of some the highest selling comics of all time, such as SPIDER-MAN #1, X-MEN #1, X-FORCE #1 or any of the original Image books, their value doesn't hold up (With the exception of SAWN #1).
Why is that? Because people thought they were gonna get a good return on their investment only they helped in making sure that these book were overpublished. You can find any of those titles in a dollar bin in your LCS.
Not to mention the multiple printings, variant covers and other gimmicks that were prevalent in the 90's. All of this almost led to the complete collapse of the comic book industry. So, where as many people might not realize it, speculating can have a serious negative impact on the industry we all love.
Like I was saying in the beginning of the article, it seems like "The Speculator" is rearing his ugly head again. This time his number one weapon is... the Internet.
With so many apps (Key Collector), news outlets (Bleeding Cool, CBR, etc.) and worst of all (Ebay), it doesn't take much to get somebody to overpay for a book or believe that "need" to grab a specific issue.
The most recent ones being CAPTAIN MARVEL # 8, BATMAN #77 and RED HOOD: OUTLAW #37.
Either the debut of new characters or the "death" of a certain character, the unfounded hype cause these prices to fluctuate in an inaccurate way. Sometimes forcing comic book stores to increase the price the day of release. All it takes is one article to drive people
People add these books last minute to their pull list or come in and clear the shelves of any remaining copies, only to take them off after getting their "key issue". This can effect the way a store orders in books that aren't as popular as say, BATMAN, which can leave them with an overflow of stock and eventually lose money on the product.
I for one think that speculating, to a point, isn't all bad if it brings more people into the shop. But at the same time it can get way out of hand.
THE EFFECT FROM TV/FILM
One of the biggest contributors to speculating, over the last 10 years or so, has been TV/Film.
All it takes is the announcement of a new show or movie being made at it skyrockets the value of a first appearance or key issue, through the roof. I'm looking at you She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and Eternals.
Where a month ago a book might have been $50, once a show/movie is announced, all of a sudden it's $300. CRAZY!!
While it's awesome for a person that has the book in their collection and wants to capitalize on it, it can suck for someone that just wants to add it to their collection.
SPECULATING, GOOD OR BAD?
So is The Speculator the arch nemesis of our beloved hobby? At times yes, but he can also be helpful in the sense that it drives more business to the stores. But it's not helpful when he/she does so by clearing the shelves leaving nothing behind for anyone else.
It just seems to me, that the speculating is getting to a point of ridiculousness once again. overhyping books that have no business being hyped. Not every "first appearance" is important. Again it's the internet community that is mostly to blame for that. It also doesn't help when Marvel sneaks in "secret" variants of one of the most popular comics without telling retailers.
I think the important thing to do, is be careful not to get caught up in all of this unfounded hype. Don't waste your time or money feeding into the insanity. Most of us comic book fans can see through the bullshit though, it's those random "get rich quick" people that come into the stores that are the major victims.
What's next though? Will there be another bubble busrt in the industry? Only time will tell. So for now, be cautious and... Beware the Speculator.