Writer Wars Round 3: The “Too Little” and “Too Much” of Spec by Michael O’Brien




If you are reading this, you are likely well-versed in the Comic Book Speculation and Flipping market. For the small chance of a newcomer that may have stumbled onto the CBSI website; let’s review the current scene and some history.

In the past few years there has been a boom of escalating prices in small windows of time on key issues from both a historical and current perspective. Things like first appearances of major & minor characters or twists on existing characters surge in price with the announcement or a new movie/TV show. Iconic covers or solid storytelling have also carried certain issues to financial heights. The hunt for the breakout on these comics has been assisted with the access to a world of constantly updated information from avenues like CBSI or other sources of choice.

The thrill of the hunt is to chase these comics before availability dies and prices rise with the classic Wall Street mentality. “Buy low and sell high”. In the 70s and 80s the Direct Market and Conventions allowed classic comics to rise in a steady but slow place. The 90s brought about he first wave of speculation. This phase would see New Mutants #98 with a popular new character called Deadpool to be placed on the wall for a huge markup to 10 or even *gasp* 15 dollars! The weight of that speculation era was buyers buying multiple copies of the same issues, even by the case, expecting these would become the next Action Comics #1 with everyone putting their kids through college or retiring on the winnings. This mindset crashed the industry in the mid-90s to the point that print runs have never touched the same level in over 25 years.

In today’s speculation world everyone wants to be the person who grabbed Naomi #1 at cover and is now selling for $100. I was someone who sold a few and it absolutely feels great. What too many look down upon is the volume market of moving a few books at cover or lower for a few bucks each. It may not be thrilling to move a dollar book for 4 dollars but from my experience many of these transactions provide a huge value in being a high eBay seller, or other marketplace of choice.

Constant volume of transactions provides more feedback opportunity to grow your store or profile. In addition to growing your footprint in the field keep in mind all those small profits are also adding up! In certain forums there are several jokes about hunting for the Walmart and Target exclusive DC Comics of the last year. These are not huge profit margin books, usually selling for double cover most of the time (not including the rogue weekend of nuclear activity of Lois Lane murders in Superman #7) and are laughed at by most.

If you are someone in suburbia with easy access to these stores without injuring your gas budget these comics have been a huge reward. Though the exclusivity is ending I would recommend more people open the door to these types of opportunities. I made hundreds of individual sales on these books, with many to folks in areas that did not have easy access to these stores. The moral of the story here is there is no “too little” of a yield, every move is a positive one.

The “too much” if the game is another that, yes, many also make great money on – store exclusive and ratio variants. This may have a great feeling to many folks, but I worry about it. This has the feel of the 90s crash that may kill another upswell in the market. There are so many variants to keep track of and properly price and trend that you can see it overwhelm many casual collectors.

Publishers are even going back to the exact same gimmicks from the 90s in foil and other special gimmick covers. I practice trying to avoid this entire segment as much as possible and would push others to as well. I know many are making money off these but the price to get in is hefty. Brick and Mortar or Online stores must justify ordering so many of either an exclusive or standard to meet a ratio that their initial price is exorbitant.

This is the “too much” of the current landscape. Every major comic has 50 exclusive store variants, and ones available right from the artist, or the midnight cover. I believe within the year we will see the clogged arteries of selling from this glut.

The challenge with swearing off the “too much” of variants is the same struggle with giving up desserts or soda or any worse vice…Some of the variants are just too damn good to pass up. I fall victim to this myself. I have avoided these for a while, except for you know that Batman Who Laughs “Batman 424 McFarlane Variant is too sweet because it reminds me of when that original came out, or the Anniversary cover Alex Ross pops out..or the..where was I again? You get the drift here. We all fall to the cool cover, but the key on mine is if I do break down it is for one I am KEEPING in the Personal Collection. What I wish for the publisher, retailer, and collector is that they realize making an amazing ONE cover could result in better overall sales

Thanks for reading my entry on this Writer’s Wars contest. Until next time (hopefully) keep two feet in the LCS and one eye on the CBSI Top 10!


Michael O’Brien/Converge 241


About the author: Hopelessly reading and collecting comics for almost 40 years. A former manager of 2 stores and a current eBay store the author cannot escape the comics world. He can only hope the next snap of the Infinity Gems (yes gems not stones) ashes away half his collection to appease the wife. His three boys have been forced into the next generation of comics servitude as well.


One comment

  • Avatar

    Great article! I don’t have a problem with variants or store exclusive variants but I do think that Diamond is unfairly making stores buy 50 to 100 or more copies of a book for one cover. Something does need to change in that aspect. I know many comic stores who end up with a lot of books they can’t move just to appease their customers. However, I don’t think the market is headed to a crash again and I see the market ending on a high in 2019. Overall, solid investing advice!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.