Clints Corner



Do print runs really play into comic value?


Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI members. This week I thought we would look into the validity of print run size making a difference over time in the value of a comic. In addition, is there really such a thing as today’s modern keys?

As the popularity of comics continues to rise, more and more people are looking to get into the hobby. Is this a factor of today’s social media platforms and 24/7 news coverage? Sure. Is it that the only real bankable movies from Hollywood right now are Superhero flicks? Yes. So, with all of this people want in and are looking how and where to make the plunge. As with life, many of us don’t have a bunch of expendable income to buy the older key issues. Sure, we can flip and move up in value rinse, recycle, repeat however let's face it, the majority of the population does not do this via eBay or other outlets.



If you look at any list of “Modern Keys”, you will see the same books for the most part not including variants –

this will be discussed later. We all know these books: ASM 300 & 361, New Mutants 87 & 98, Spawn 1, BA 12, NYX 3, etc, etc. These are all valid keys in most comic collectors eyes. One of the common bonds they all share is the print runs are not small relatively speaking. Uncanny 266, UF 4, CM 14 are other examples. Does the scarcity of a key really play into the fact of print run size? No, not really. These are proven characters over time that have found their market and popularity. Sure, there are some outliers like WD, but that is lighting in a bottle. Here is some math for you: On average 250 new books come out on any given week. So that’s roughly 2K/month or 24K/year. How many true keys come out of this? The answer is we really don’t know for quite some time. The characters need to develop their own lore which only occurs via stories within the panels.

Below is a set of data that lists books going back to 15 years ago. There is some good takeaways from this data as it is a good example of the limit of blue chip modern books.

*There are two main ways online lists of key comics are presented by year: (1) personalized lists based upon judgment calls of what is “key” (thereby omitting any comics the particular writer doesn’t happen to consider key — or doesn’t know about), and (2) lists based upon high sales price data (also a flawed method because high prices can just as easily be caused by a non-key book happening to grade a 10 at CGC). , the lists below is essentially “crowd-sourced”… by the crowd of collectors sending comics to CGC. All that is done here is ranking the universe of comic books according to how many copies of each issue have passed through CGC’s doors to date to reveal the comics with the highest census counts — that’s it!


15 years ago – 2004


10 years ago – 2009


5 years ago – 2014


As you read that list of comics in full transparency ask yourself how many of these books do you know? In addition, how many are Modern keys? The way I interpreted the data was – NYX 3 and EOSV 2. Perhaps Chew # 1 too for a smaller publisher. These are all proven, as ASM 4 has yet to be cemented with any kind of legacy in all actuality.


Est print runs per comichron:

NYX 3 40K

EOSV 2 54K


Alright so what does all this mean? Two things: 1) The volume of true “modern keys” is really scarce. We all are guilty of throwing around this term, when in all reality there just are not that many. 2) These are not 3K print runs or really that rare. I know “well the 90s and back had 100K+ runs” That’s just further proving this analogy that print runs don’t matter with key books. The exchange data tells the ultimate truth. The books such as Spawn 1, ASM 300, etc are consistently the books that are bought/sold at the highest clip via internet sales. Yet these books have HUGE runs and it doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the book, not the quantity that matters in overall true value.



Let’s now look at the variant market and its impact on the comic economy. I will start with this – I like variants just as much as anyone. This data is based on actuality, not my personal opinion. Ah, ASM 667, ASM 678 – Venom, Batman 608 RRP, Wolverine 1 – Campbell, etc, etc. These all send shivers down the spines of those who own them, or have had the opportunity. In fact if you look at the “Top 100 Modern Variants” by insiders many of these aforementioned and others make that list.

Yet the problem with these books is they are some finite in quantity, it makes it impossible to obtain for many of the general collectors. Furthermore, the price point cuts out most buyers as these are just too expensive. Then you get to the next tier of books, Detective Comics 880 and Losh 23s of the world. These are amazing books in their own right no doubt. The issue is the volatility creates skepticism. These books have a true yo-yo effect throughout a given period of time – Gamora 2 anyone?

They are great when you buy low, however the possibility of the market dropping is always a concern. How many of these variants really hold value or show an increase over time? Very few. Yes if you can get them great! Just don’t be fooled by the latest and greatest books. There are so many keen to what’s coming out each week that the game is not how it used to be. It is rare to see a ratio variant not have a ton of listings on any given Wednesday.

If there are, the book dies over a few weeks and you are left holding 1:25 ratio maybe worth $35. Then after eBay and PayPal fees you make next to nothing or you sit on the book.

So what does this all mean. Well, the variant market including store covers is a hot potato game. In reality, we buy these books for the monetary gain in many cases. Sure, some are PC, but what’s the first thing we look at? Print runs. What’s the second thing we factor in? How long will it take to move it and how much is this transaction going to profit me. It’s a glass house 95% of the time. Want another example – Bulletproof Pink HQ. What has that book done now? Ugh not pretty. Just be cautious when thinking of long term holds with these books. These are not the greatest stocks in the world.



Okay so let’s put a bow around this topic. The question of this article is do print runs really play into comic value? There are some arguments for both sides, but at the end of the day the tortoise beats the hare 9 times out of 10. The exercise and research to me reveals the biggest factor in ROI and long term sustained success is simple – Time. Time is what determines the fate of these books. Why are other books such as Copper hot right now even though print runs were large? Well, because these comics are settling in and giving investors a solid window of opportunity that has passed to really make a good judgment call.

At the end of the day, always buy what you like. However, this myth that print runs determine value only happens in such small quantities that it cannot be thought of with absolute certainty. In fact it’s quite the opposite. How many NM 98 were in dollar bins and good God how high was that print run? Yet because of the character, and time to make his mark the book is a modern key, The lines have really blurred with this due to mynute runs in store and ratio variants.

In addition, the instant gratification so many are looking for to only throw in a dark box and be forgotten about quickly. In this world today, everything is consumed in excess. Our hobby is no different, nor are we. Sadly, this is further perpetuated by today’s market and sheer volume of covers/titles each week.

FOMO is real folks, and is becoming the grim reaper watching over us with amusement.

If you are building a portfolio, it’s important to be diversified and have some conservative options that are less volatile. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I think the rabbit finally learned his lesson from the turtle about this subject! So should all of us…


Quality over quantity.

Scarcity does NOT mean rarity.

Faster is fatal, slower is safe.


Talk soon,



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    A much needed article Clint. Some great points here that will leave any collector with something to reflect on. FOMO and “don’t get caught holding the rock” are some serious causes of anxiety for those who buy and those who flip. Great job man!

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    Great write-up. Its amazing how the comic book market beginning to reflect the stock market in a lot of ways. Its becoming as efficient and many of the same adages are beginning to apply: “Time in the Market Beats Timing the Market”, “Know what you own, and know why you own it”. One of the best insights I think you make is in the need to diversify. I’ve gotten out of the habit of putting too much into a single book. I’d rather get a 9.6 than a 9.8 and use the difference to get another book in a 9.6. Sure, that caps my upside, but also caps my downside. Its not the best strategy for getting rich, but it will preserve capital if the first book crashes. I think the idea of really looking at the underlying quality of the book is important too. In the stock world we call that the fundamentals. You invest in the stock of a business based on its fundamentals: its financial position, its core business, its growth plan, its ability to meet that plan etc. Comic books have fundamentals too: art quality, story quality, story line significance, physical condition of the book itself, etc. If they want a collection of lasting value and steady appreciation I think those are the attributes a PC collector should base their purchase decision on.

    Short-term holders might have different considerations, of course, like which potato will get hot and how do I make sure I don’t get stuck with it. Its a fun a game to play occasionally, but I was born and raised in Las Vegas and I know a casino when I see one.

    My one criticisms is that the title is a bit of a misnomer. Value is a function of both supply and demand, so of course print runs play into value as they are the best indicators of supply. The value of even the most heavily demanded book will be constrained by its supply, hence why a Spawn 1 doesn’t command a very high price even though it is heavily bought and sold. The conclusion I came away from this article is that print runs don’t play into comic “demand”. People want a Spawn 1 because its a historically significant book and the art and story are fantastic. Print run has almost nothing to do with it. I say “almost” only because, again, our friend the flipper might shy away from this book as a heavily supplied book would have enough availability to squash a sudden demand spike killing the rapid appreciation they are typically after.

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