From Anger, To Shame, and Finally Acceptance –My Personal Journey with Comic Speculation

Very proud to have David Bitterbaum writing a post tonight. David approached me about sharing a post on each others site. We both were writing different viewpoints on speculation, or at least, our viewpoints. You can see my perspective at David’s site here.
David Bitterbaum is the writer behind, “The Newest Rant,” a blog about popular-culture such as movies, music, television, video-games, and especially comic-books. He has opinions, so, so many opinions. Here is one of them….
It Was Evil!
I used to think speculation was the devil.
Seriously, when it came to comic books there was little as low-down, as dirty, or as rotten as someone who bought comics with the intent to seal them up with a CGC rating or—even worse—sell them shortly after purchase. I would rail against speculation and those who did it as if they were worse than the kind of folk who steal from the elderly, abuse animals, or call to tell you that you’ve won a discounted vacation but it’s actually a timeshare presentation. And variant covers? Those were just the tools of the devil!
As happens to people who are willing to change their mind when presented with new evidence however, my views shifted. It was pointed out to me now-and-then by people who would see my comics that I had amassed a decent-sized collection, and the follow-up question would generally be as to what I thought they were all worth. I could generally only point out the ones that I knew had some value, but I would always hesitate to think of an exact monetary amount as after all, I wouldn’t sell them like some kind of speculator, would I?
It occurred to me though, if I didn’t plan to sell these comics at some point, what exactly was I thinking I would do with them? I mean, I couldn’t take it with me when I died (I’d need a pyramid like the pharaoh’s of old to fit all that!) and I only had a small number of boxes that held my key comics I would go back and re-read sometimes (as I held great affection for them). I began to think about this even further and considered how if I kept buying comics could my collection get so big I would have to rent a storage unit for it? If I had kids who didn’t actually like comics that much, would a good deal of my collection look boring to them (especially if the way technology is advancing I can picture a future where we all just plug into the internet and books are a distant memory)? I also wondered, if I am truly just reading my comics for joy why not give them away, how come I keep them in such stellar condition as I do?
I was someone who treated their comics with the utmost care, attempted to separate out the ones I would always keep no matter what, put the, “special,” and valuable ones aside. For a person who claimed to despise speculators I was in fact acting like someone who might engage in a bit of
speculating themselves. After all, if those future-kids cost a lot am I not sitting on a decent resource to sell-off at points and get some extra scratch? Perhaps if I get sick? Want to save-up for a vacation?
Coming to Terms
I’ve dabbled in speculation, to a degree. At first it was mostly unintentional. I had some comics lying around that I wasn’t reading and saw online were worth a bit, so I thought why not sell them off and make a profit? The thing is, I felt ashamed when I started doing this because I was engaging in the very practice I had for song long decried. I was selling my comics, for money (the horror)! Then I would buy a comic that looked fun, read it, and absolutely hate it…only to see despite my personal opinion it was a huge hit that everyone wanted to get their hands on. If I sold the comic online and made even a penny of profit was I not engaging in speculation?
I started to think about others who enjoyed comics, after all someone could easily buy two copies of a buzzed-about comic that looked interesting but maybe wasn’t in their budget, sell one copy, and keep the other to enjoy. If they did that did I have any place to judge? Sure, I can still despise those people who go into a store first thing Wednesday morning, buy every single copy of a comic they have zero interest in but heard is popular, and then sell it at a huge mark-up. Still, I was coming to terms with the fact that maybe, just maybe, speculation wasn’t the devil.
Nowadays I would my say my relationship with speculation is evolving. I still have criticisms of variant covers with dumb schemes that hurt retailers—why should a store have to order 500 of something just to be allowed to order one stupid variant cover of it? I also think about how over-speculation resulted in that horrendous comic-industry crash in the late 90’s/early 2000’s that almost utterly destroyed big names such as Marvel, and did in fact spell the end of many publishers. When I see comics boasting about how they have motion-covers or glow in the dark I begin to nervously think back to that era before the crash when all kinds of gimmicks were the norm and everyone was convinced buying 5 copies of some comic that had more than a million copies of it printed was a wise investment (X-Force #1 sits rotting in its polybag decreeing how it is a collector’s item within countless long boxes).
Yes, I am at a point in my life where having looked at things reasonably and logically, I can see that speculation isn’t evil, just perhaps over-speculation, as well as people who do it in a malignant way which harms others. As someone who now has basically engaged in speculation himself, I can’t begrudge those who do it a bit too. I think at the end of the day—as with most things in life—it is all about moderation. As long as speculation doesn’t hurt anyone, what right does anyone have to judge those who do it? I still think those variant-cover schemes that are 1:500 are stupid though, for real.
For another view on comic speculation, check out Anthony’s article on my site at this address!

33 thoughts on “From Anger, To Shame, and Finally Acceptance –My Personal Journey with Comic Speculation”

  1. I visit David’s site every now and then ever since he offered to get me a project nemisis local comic shop day variant, and I got to say thats its a good site. Nice write up David.

  2. Yup just read yours and I got to say you are one smart cookie. I have been in your shoes to be so low and slowly climb up again. In different ways of course lol.

  3. Good article. I went to David’s site and read Anthony’s, and that is another good article. Even though I lean more towards the speculator’s side, I can say that both articles have valid points. I don’t believe in shelf clearing,(the first day) that is why if I have chance I sometimes go to multiple stores to get extra copies of a comic. If I come back to a store the next week and they still have copies of a hot comic on the shelf, then all bets are off.

    1. Yeah, there’s a shelf clearer in my area and he doesn’t even sell, he will grab whatever is hot and spec’d… puts in personal collection to hoard.
      So wrong… wait a few days or week, then clear the shelf.

  4. I always looked at buying extra copy’s of hot comics to sell as a way to make money to buy the comics i will keep and want to read.Comics are not cheap anymore at 3.99 and 4.99.I also agree with the one week rule.

  5. You get to a point as a comic collecting adult where you stop collecting comics and start collecting money. Its a natural progression with all the knowledge of comics, heroes etc amassed over many years of collecting, I find people that have a problem with speculation its like a hater jealousy thing cuz their not getting money, but they change their tune quick once they find a way to hustle some comic money. MONEY changes peoples perspective pretty quick!! Welcome to Grown up comic collecting David Bitterbaum!!!

      1. Kathy Bates is hot.. I framed the About Schmidt scene when she’s getting the the hot tub naked and we get to see her boobs.. good stuff right there! 😉

          1. I was gonna post the pic but figured it’s not safe for work.. and you might get sued after it burns and causes blindness on a bunch of readers eyes. 😉

  6. I was out of comics for several years until an illness forced me to stop working and I needed to generate income, so I went back to what I knew. My early teen years were spent memorizing Marvel Universe handbooks and Overstreet for key 1st appearances but I still needed a refresher course to say the least. (I initially though a 1:25 variant meant there was only 25 copies)
    A friend turned me on to the CGC boards and a wealth of information concerning trends, population of certain grades followed, and by discovering some websites on my own within a few months time I was back in the game.
    It pains me to have to sell certain books that will “one day be worth even more” but I’ve found that anything material is replaceable pretty much. If I can turn a $10 off the rack book into $50 in less than a week, that’s a bill that gets paid on time or meals for a few days. If I can take advantage of a LCS’s lack of knowledge and make thousands of dollars from one book, that’s a car.
    Like any commodity, knowledge is king. The more you know….

      1. Yup. Here’s how I view spec comics and those that sell them above cover price? The buyers are not being forced to buy such comics. Demand is driving the prices in most cases, not the speculators.
        If a speculator gets a comic or comics, lists them at X dollars and people buy them at X dollars, you can’t blame the speculator for selling them. Now if people don’t want to buy them at X dollars, then eventually the seller will drop his prices.
        So, honestly, you can’t blame the sellers. Now, there are times when you can blame the sellers for controlling the market but for those that grab the 1 or 2 comics on release day to sell above cost at the rate people are wiling to spend, it’s all good. Those that clear the shelves… not so good. Those that do other things to control or create fake hype over a book to make more profit, not so good. Those local shops that set a huge premium before they’re even released, not so good.

    1. For every Peter Panzerfaust and Sixth Gun I made a killing off of, which the buyers will never see a decent return on their investment, I have a load of Mercenary Seas, Trees, Bedlams, take your pick of any number of Image tankers from the last few years. (Though I still collect slabbed Bedlams variants because I loved the series.)
      What was it that the football tip guy said in The Simpsons? “When you’re right 60% of the times, you’re wrong 40% of the time?” You can flip successfully without reading the books, but to me that’s like investing in stocks without reading the Wall St Journal or watching any of the cable tv business shows.
      For a quick turnaround and maximum profit from modern slabs, first to market is everything. I live in a city that gets Wizardworld every year and because it’s so half-assed here, CGC does onsite grading. The weekend pass is the best investment you can make. Drop the books off the 1st day, pick ’em up by the end of the weekend.
      Buyers who have to be among the first to own a certain slabbed variant can get a bit nuts, so the uncertainty of how many 9.8’s will turn up is in your favor. Case in point, Batman #41 came out a few days before Wizardworld hit here, I have a damn good eye for spotting 9.8’s on the rack, got 2 1:25 variants, slabbed them onsite, was like the 2nd or 3rd person to list them on ebay and the prices I got were borderline criminal.
      To agree with Agentpoyo’s point, there’s LCS’s around here that jack up the price on certain “hot” new books on Day One, and they now have a buttload of Nowhere Mens and Manifest Destinys in their cheap bins. Shops like that, I take great pleasure in pulling gems from their back issue boxes and dollar bins

        1. There was a dispute between creators and Riley Rossmo dropped off the book. There may have been additional conflict and the book went away. It’s sad it was such a great premise and Madder Red was a fantastic character.

      1. I enjoyed Bedlam but actually started losing interest in the later issues, probably why they started disputing and it just vanished like a fart in the wind.

      2. I miss Mercenary Sea.. When it first came out, I was like.. meh, I’m probably not going to go past issue 1.. read issue 1 and loved it.

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