Silver vs Modern


You never want to start a conversation with, ‘I hope this doesn’t offend you’, so I won’t say that. I will say that what is about to follow WILL offend someone, and I’m ok with that. If you spew venom in the comments, I will not hate you. This is my opinion…I base it on facts & figures, but it is my opinion and you have every right to disagree. Now, let’s move on with it!

I have been attending cons more frequently over the past year. Some are good and some, not so much, but they all have one thing in common–they all have those older dealers who line up their Silver Age books with price tags that have been on the comic bags since the mid 2000’s. If you ask them to see a book, the response is ‘This is a really nice copy!’ You look at the book that is priced 20% over eBay and ask if he is willing to make a deal. ‘Sure’ they say, but their ‘deal’ is still higher than eBay. I am not saying that ALL dealers are this way, but they are very prevalent.

Why are there so many of these guys out there? Well, one line of thought is that Silver’s don’t decrease in value so there is no incentive to give a ‘deal’. These dealers think that moderns will have no future value and are not worth the time or money to deal in them (again, not all dealers think like this). Non-key Silver’s with ‘Classic’ covers will sustain their value while popular Modern covers are over-hyped and are flashes in the pan.

Clearly, a mega-key is a very safe investment. What I am going to try and show is that sometimes, a modern, or modern variant, is a better investment than a pre-modern key. (All census numbers are taken from CGC and all sales amounts via gocollect.com).

HEROES

Pre-Modern: Tales of Suspense #57 1st Hawkeye
CGC Census: 693 Universal; 127 SS.

2678796-talesofsuspense57 hawkeye

Hawkeye has made multiple big screen appearances already but if you look at the sales trends, the book is trending down over the past 12 months, even in the higher grades. Just type in Tales of Suspense 57 on eBay and you will quickly see that this book is not rare.

Modern: Black Widow (Vol. 6) #1 J. Scott Campbell 1:100 Variant
CGC Census: 29 Universal; 25 SS
Appx. Print Run: 538

Black Widow #1 J. Scott Campbel 1:100 Variant blackwidow

Very similar character to Hawkeye and has been in just as many movies. This is a very hard to find variant from a popular artist.

VERDICT: As you can see, albeit from a small sample size on the Black Widow based on the limited number of copies available for sale, your ROI from the Black Widow #1 over the past 12 months was a better choice than the Hawkeye 1st appearance.

GREAT COVER

Pre-Modern: Batman (Vol.1) #227
CGC Census: 454 Universal, 139 SS

Batman #227 batman

Homage to Detective Comics #31 has itself been used as an homage many times. Year over year however, the price has stayed relatively flat or even gone down in value.

Modern: Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #23 Adam Hughes 1:10 Variant
CGC Census: 86 Universal; 57 SS
Appx Print Run: 4153

Supergirl & The Legion of Super-Heroes #23 supergirl

Modern classic cover that is on pretty much everyone’s want list. Has anyone ever actually seen the inside of this book?

VERDICT: While the LOSH print run isn’t what would be considered low in this day and age, most of these copies are hidden in personal collections, never to see the public again. Both are great covers and both are super liquid, but the numbers show that you would have made more profit buying LOSH #23 a year ago.

VILLAINS

Pre-Modern: Amazing Spider-Man #238 1st Hobgoblin
CGC Census: 2970 Universal; 373 SS

Amazing Spider-Man #238 amazing

This is a tougher book to find from this era because of trying to find the tattoos intact. This book has been seeing a steady rise in value over the past 12 months.

Modern: Amazing Spider-Man #361 1st Carnage
CGC Census: 4306 Universal; 620 SS

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #361 carnage

If you are not aware, there are a TON of these books out there. Surprisingly, prices are slowly trending up.

VERDICT: Both villains are very similar and while I like Carnage better, the sheer number of #361’s out there will never allow this book to excel investment-wise. ASM #238 has been the better investment.

CONCLUSION

The point I am trying to make is diversify. Be willing to not be strictly ‘old school’ and at the same time only be ‘new school’. Do not be the old mean guy you see at cons.

There is an abundance of some pre-modern books. Remember that newsstands only had to pay like a nickel or dime to get these as opposed to the sometimes $2-5 per issue today. Admit to yourself that modern variants, even if you hate them, have long term value just based on supply/demand. Look for covers that you think are going to make it into a lot of PC’s. While rarity is sometimes overblown (yes, I am talking to myself here), remember that rarity is a huge factor in value. If New Mutants #98 were printed using today’s numbers it would be a $1000 book raw.

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19 comments

  • Avatar

    Great article and interesting comparisons.
    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mention ROI with that Black Widow variant. When the two covers were released, they were in high demand. Once that demand ceased, prices dropped or book sat stagnant. They are now trending back up, so if you bought like you said in the last 12 months, there is profit to be made because prices were probably at their lowest.

  • Scott Robertson
    Scott Robertson

    Great point of view and perspective…

  • tiredguy

    Great article, and thanks for writing this. It does get tiresome when one is having a discussion about modern books, and their potential, there’s always at least one person who has to chime in about how only the old books are worthy and that THEY don’t chase moderns like the commoners.

  • Ben C

    Great article. I will say we are certainly in a variant age right now. Will prices hold? No one knows. We dont know if value will hold on Silver either but taking a 12 month gain or loss chart is a bit short sighted with Silver Keys, which should certainly be looked at as a long term investment. Honestly I am not a fan of most blue chips or popular variants right now, not expecting a crash but I think there is a solid price and market correction coming.

  • Avatar

    I don’t think you’re going to see that spew of venom you’re expecting. For my money if I want to invest I look to modern books that I expect to increase in value. For my PC I will always buy those silver age books but here is what those dealers need to realize: I will never pay more than or even equal to eBay prices for a book at a show. NEVER. The fact is the return policy and safety I have on eBay make me more comfortable buying there. Some people may laugh at that but the fact is I can even if it takes a long time and a bit of frustration get my money back from eBay. If I buy a great looking book at a con get home and find any problem I didn’t notice at first glance? I’m SOL

  • Avatar

    Great Article. I have 2 questions on it.

    what’s the general consensus on the future value of modern variants that are valuable based solely on the art?

    would that Supergirl variant at 9.8 eventually reach the value of the Batman at a 9.4. Long term the Batman feels like the safer purchase but with a much higher entry point.

    are all of the ratio variants for fairly popular characters good buy and holds?

    Some of these drop significantly after the rush has died down and then slowly start to rise again. the foil BA#12 variant may be a good example, it jumped to near $200 and has since cooled to around $100. Buying now might be a good bet if these will rise again to $200 or above based on popularity, the Suicide Squad movie and the upcoming Harley solo movie.

  • Avatar

    Another great article guys. Myself, I’m mostly done with my MA books, then I move backward to CA, BA and SA to diversify.

    Jerome

  • Avatar

    The problem with high dollar variants is eventually they could be easily counterfeited. In the future consumer printing technology to the masses with the right paper will be able to replicate a cover that’s flawless. So what’s to keep someone from pulling the staples on a regular cover copy and attaching a high dollar incentive cover reproduction. There are no built in anti counterfeit features that differentiate the inside guts of a regular copy and an incentive variant. So if/when consumer printing technology catches up to if it hasn’t already making flawless modern covers modern variants could be in trouble. Also some of these modern 2nd prints that people attach high value to because of print run, I would stay away from. If you like the cover I understand why people want them but it is the 2nd print of a first appearance, it’s not really a first appearance as it has a latter print date. Most 2nd prints have lower print runs then the 1st print does that mean you should value all 2nd prints over 1st prints because there’s less of them. A modern key 1st appearance is just as valuable and special to me and my collection as my SA ones, I just don’t buy into the incentive cover and 2nd print craze of late.

  • Scott Robertson
    Scott Robertson

    Whole home printing has jumped leaps and bounds the current technology lacks the ability to gloss the paper, even if you purchase glossy paper, printing on top of gloss is easily spotted.

    If you gloss after the printing process, you will not be using the same process that they do at the printer, you will be using a spray gloss, which is pretty easy to spot.

    Just my two cents..

  • Avatar

    I had a similar discussion like this with a dealer around 30 years ago. To play the devils advocate the silver age books have stood the test of time and proven themselves to be solid investments, plus they aren’t making them anymore.

    Most of those comics are 50+ years old and it’s unlikely that many more collections with them will be discovered. Most people that bought comics back then didn’t buy multiple copies to flip like modern collectors. People bought them to read, not for the cover art or speculation value.

    Moderns will be valuable as the younger collectors become old collectors and some characters and story lines stand the test of time. The fact is that most of the modern books are just that, modern and new and still readily avaliable for the most part compared to most silver age books.

    It’s really too risky for, IMO, to spend $3,000 on a modern variant that has just came out and hasn’t established itself as a book that people are willing to pay $3,000+ for for the next 20 years compared to a silver age book. Numbers & print runs don’t matter if people aren’t willing to invest money in a book.

    Give the moderns time to establish themselves and see what stands the test of time. Bronze age books are just now starting to get some respect.

  • Drclix

    Great article and the other users points are well taken. I particularly agree with alana above – I don’t get the whole 2nd print craze either. To me, 2nd print means all the 1st prints were gobbled up, so I want that 1st print that everyone else got to buy. I know I sound like a snob, but if I don’t have the 1st print of a book, I don’t want it.

  • merlin

    Lemme just be the guy and say these cover artists are like Elvises in Vegas. They’re good at what they do, but a dime a dozen. It’s important to take into account “artistry” on a sociological level. It’s generally a safe bet to assume most of the greatest talent in a generation is not going to be recognized until society catches up with it to some extent. It didn’t have to be comics, but the medium was topical, new and one of the only options for a type of artist in the 20th century. I think the conditions curated the style of comics and it spoke volumes for the people. I’ve heard a lot more pointed comments on the matter which I don’t care to reiterate.

    Golden age comic books are rare, and tend to have a big price tag associated with them, therefore they’re harder to sell and harder to generate wide interest in. Something being “more valuable” doesn’t make it easy to sell, and I think the same law applies to scarcity. With popularity the rules go out the window. 1st print/2nd print 1st appearance/cameo who cares? If everybody wants it all, scarcity is going to have a huge bearing on market value. I don’t even want to say this in front of everybody on the internet, but contemporary art/collectible trends are the most fickle friends you’ll ever have. Don’t worry, they’ll never go away, they’ll just act and appear differently every year. I don’t think silver age is safe, or even comics (in the short term at all). I’m playing with fire, and it sure is fun.

  • Avatar

    I don’t know how this is news to anyone the swing on silver age books is normally far smaller but, tends to swing towards steady small increases. Modern books make 300% swings easily but, a 300% of $4 is $16 which is nice but if you do moderns you need quantity and a lot of it to make real money or the best picks ever.

    • Khoi Cakes

      You’re not taking into account the hordes of new speculators that have been jumping on. So while it may be old news to those with experience, there are tons of newbies out there who don’t know.

  • Simon Payne

    I have said it before myself, has anyone ever actually read LOSH 23!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Great article, being a modern guy myself I agree with these points, not only are modern actually cheaper to buy initially the returns can be far greater if you get it right & the increase/profit turnover far quicker if a book catches fire

  • Avatar

    While I understand and agree with your point, your cherry picking comparisons damage the overall point your trying to make. Comparing the Campbell variant to ToS 57 is pointless. There’s no correlation between the two. You should have compared it to ToS 52, but that wouldn’t have proved your point.
    Your second selection is better, but still cherry picking. Two totally unrelated covers. You could have just said, “Some modern comics are worth more than some older comics” without giving examples. Context is immensely important.
    Your third comparison throws out consideration of popularity of characters. Carnage is immensely more popular than Hobgoblin so of course his first appearance would be worth more, and I don’t want to leave out the fact that the title of this article is “Silver vs Modern” and Hobgoblin’s first appearance isn’t even in the era next to Silver.
    I agree with your point, but your research doesn’t prove your point at all.

  • Ben Steiniger

    I appreciate all the comments made so far, including the dissenting ones (I prefaced the article knowing there would be some)! Just to respond to a couple of the points as I may have not been as clear as I wanted to be:

    I used a 1 year timeline just to show that if you bought ‘x’ and ‘y’ books 1 year ago, you would have made a better profit on certain variants. And yes, you have to do your homework and take some risk to do that, but it is definitely possible.

    Yes, no more keys are being printed, but neither are any moderns. What is out there is all that will be out there–and there are immensely more keys out there than what people realize. The ones on eBay and sitting on all the longtime dealer walls are just the ones for sale. There are larger numbers that people are just keeping in their PC’s. That is kind of the point–rarity IS a huge factor in future value and quite frankly, modern variants are more rare than silver keys (high grade is a different story).

    For those that want to ignore 2nd print variants just because they came out 1 month later, please continue to do so. I will keep buying them up. The 1st print idea was tied to books and future prints generally were exactly the same other than the indicia. That is ‘old school’ thought. ‘New school’ is that while not all of the 2nd prints will be valuable, you should be looking for ones with different covers that have nicer covers than the 1st print. Again, kind of the point of the article–try a new way of thinking.

    As far as cherry picking books, I tried to find similarities to compare–however it is always going to be unrelated as 1 is a 1st appearance from 50 years ago and 1 is a modern variant. Hawkeye and Black Widow are similar characters which is why i chose to compare them, coupled with the fact that Hawkeye doesn’t really have any good variants.

    The Hobgoblin/Carnage comparison is shown BECAUSE Carnage is more popular than Hobgoblin. The point was to show that overall rarity trumps popularity sometimes (hence the reason to invest in modern variants). 1st Hobgoblin closed, and surpassed, the popularity gap because of rarity (and clearly I am aware that it is not a Silver Age book–that is just a title to the article).

  • Avatar

    The huge issue I have with modern books, specifically the 1: variants, is the value being heavily tied to an ” estimated” print run. There are no rules for how many copies of these books are actually printed, and with the continued rise in price/value for some of these books, there is much more incentive for Marvel and DC to print extra copies. Not for the company to sell on the secondary market, but to give out in-house.

    On top of that, I wonder how many free copies of each variant cover someone like J Scott Campbell gets. 50? 100? 500? He doesn’t have to ” qualify” for them like stores. Does he have an option to ask for an overprint and purchase the extra copies at cost? Who knows what he has in his contracts. Id imagine he can ask for something like this, very easily and get what he wants. We just simply don’t know for sure, and that uncertainty hurts. What about the inker and others?

    To think the comic insiders like artists don’t know some of these variant books sell for hundreds and even thousands is just plain silly. To think they wouldn’t take advantage and get some of these books and slow sell them is ignorant at best.

    On top of all of that, The fact that the most popular covers get singled out and are reprinted by Marvel and DC for Italian and Mexican books takes away some of the demand from the original, which has slowed the increase in value, and if oversaturated enough, could severely affect the longterm value . The ASM 678 Lamole MJ/venom variant comes to mind quickly. DC has done the same for the Hughes Supergirl 23 variant.

    There is no question Moderns, and Modern variants can and do increase in price. I would equate Modern variants more to Penny stocks, much more risky but the potential for a large return is there, and I think the hold time on these should be shorter, I think long term holds on Modern variants is a mistake ( OVERALL, AS A WHOLE ), specifically Modern Variants that were made from 2015 onward. Meanwhile Semi-key, Key and Classic Comics prior to 1975 or so are more like Blue chip stocks that are safe, secure and will typically go up long term.

    I think you cherry picked a few semi key Silver age books that saw a larger than normal price increase from all the recent movies, that are now coming back down a bit as demand has slowed.

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