We're almost to real time now. My recap is winding to a close...I have two more books to show. Here's the first: I bought this book sight unseen from a good friend. I was absolutely stunned to open the box and see this. I knew the grade but that was all. I won't usually pay these kinds of dollars for a book (though I got a great friend-to-friend discount), but this is one that I've thought about buying for a few decades. For the grade, it has everything going for it. Nice centering, white pages, and almost no spine or staple stress.
About this journal
Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this a young collector, who bought bronze items of beauty from the spinner rack...X-men, Conan, Doctor Strange, Defenders. As he collected, he began to realize his sense of worth. He mattered. In time, his comic book collection could not easily be counted. His collecting expanded into other areas and other kinds of comics and at times, he abandoned comics completely for other interests, sometimes selling key books, much to his regret. Now, late in life, he is abandoning the relics of his former collection and has started anew. With children soon to attend college, other collections, and the pressures of modern life, he is building a collection of bronze keys from the ground up, with an eye toward resale value and appreciation. This is a detailed account of his Quest for Bronze.
Entries in this journal
So here's that cheap unappreciated Neal Adams Superman. I was showing this around in the Bronze Comics Forum:
How can you not love this? Superman at the gates of Hell! How'd that happen? Where are those gates? What did the lady do, and should Superman help her?
I'm going to find out and I'll report back!
Edit: OK, I read it. A few things I can say, Curt Swan interior art and a Batman Cameo. But I can't describe the plot without revealing spoilers. I can say that it's a good story!
I bought this beauty at TampaCon
Ordinarily, I would try to buy a nicer book, but this one was in the mid $300 range and my dollar seemed to go just far enough with this. What I mean by that is that I saw a scraggly looking raw Batman 251 (perhaps a VG book) for $250 at the show. It seems you almost have to pay at least $200 just to get a halfway decent raw book. For the extra $100, I could get this. It seems that the extra $100 was money well spent to attain a more presentable copy. And yet, though it's not high grade, I don't really like pushing into the $400 range or more in filling my "box of thirty". At least at this point. Perhaps later when upgrading begins. While this book gets a lot of hype, I have to say that it seems to be well-deserved. Yes, the cover art is amazing. But the entire book was drawn by Adams (not just the cover) and the story was very good,and established the Joker as a serious and dangerous adversary. It's an important book, not just a pretty book.
Note that I intentionally bought a book that has universal appeal. There are a bunch of under-appreciated Neal Adams books, and some seem to come in and out of style, but this one is always a front runner. There is an old expression that goes like this: "The race does not always to go the fleet, nor the battle to the strong, but that's a hell of a good way to bet".
Footnote: I did actually buy one book before this on a lark. A cheap, underappreciated, out of favor, Neal Adams Superman. But this Batman 251 is a serious and calculated addition to my collection instead of an impulse purchase.
Back when I was collecting coins, I was interested in appreciation. Yet I kept making the same mistake over and over. A mistake that collecting Bronze Comics corrects.
Without fail, when presented with a cool looking coin from the early 1800's, vs. a cool looking coin from the modern era for the same price, I would always buy the old coin. But that was a mistake....and here's why:
Imagine a coin made in the year 1800 worth $100. Now compare that to another coin made in the year 2000, also worth $100. Which is a better buy based on appreciation? It's important to realize that the coin made in 1800 took 217 years to appreciate to a value of $100. Yet the coin made in 2000 did it in a scant 17 years! In summary, the newer coin is increasing in value at a much faster rate!
For fun, I played around with a spreadsheet and made some assumptions. If a bronze age comic book is worth about $250 today, then it is roughly appreciating at a rate of 13% a year. That's actually a pretty healthy internal rate of return! Why $250? Well, that's the general price point I've been dabbling in lately. I've fleshed out my collection of CGC 9.4 early X-Men at that price point.
OK, so here's something interesting. A silver age comic book is around 10 years older than a bronze age book. So assuming it's also growing at a rate of 13% a year, it would need grow to about $1,000 since it's publication date 10 years prior to the bronze era. .
What would that $1,000 buy today? To give you an idea, that's the approximate value of a Spider-Man #50 (1st Kingpin) in CGC 8.0. Not too shabby! How many of us would like to jump in a time machine, go back 10 years, and purchase some VF copies of Spidey #50 in VF for around $250? I know I would! I'd stockpile them!
So there you go. Buying higher grade (justified expensive) key bronze is not just fun, but I think it's smart too.
If you are a coin collector, you may be familiar with the Box of Twenty Concept. For those who aren't, you may know that coins also have grading services. Yes, you can send coins off to be slabbed. If you send a bunch of them off, as dealers often do, the grading companies will return them in plastic boxes that hold twenty slabs. Those plastic boxes are desirable as storage boxes for a collection of slabbed coins.
Coin collectors came up with a concept called a "box of twenty". It's a way of collecting. The idea is that the collector must limit themselves to a collection that will fit in one single box. At first, it's not a problem, but over time, it gets harder. The rules for collecting this way is that once the box is full, you're required to swap out coin per coin. So if you want to add a new coin, you have to sell an old one. While this seems restricting, what it forces the collector to do is to collect what is most important to them. And what happens over time is the collection can become spectacular because the proceeds from the sale of an old coin can be used to fund a new one, so lots of upgrading occurs. I'm doing this myself with my own coin collection, but I don't have the box filled yet. However, I am aware that any coin in my collection may be sold at some point, so I try to keep an eye on how much I spend on coins relative to their value. In short, I want to be able to sell it for at least as much as I bought it for (after fees), so I try to find good deals on what I buy.
Well here's the thing. In my safe deposit box, I've figured out that I only have room for 30 comic book slabs. You can see where I'm going with this. If I'm going to collect nicer bronze comics, I'm going to use a "box of 30" collecting style. So I will do a few things:
1. I plan to limit my Bronze Keys to 30 comics. Therefore, I need to be fussy about what I add.
2. Because I may need to sell my acquisitions later so that my newest purchase can fit in the box, I intend to make sure that I get a good price on what I buy.
3. I need to learn to upgrade. For example, my X-men set will top out at nine (9) slots in my 30-slab collection. It will take up a lot of room, but I don't want to break the set. So I will upgrade them here and there. To do that, at any given time, I may put my comics up for sale at a price that makes me happy. When one does sell, I will then add some money to the proceeds to buy and upgrade for the slab I just sold. Makes sense, right? The other thing I may try to do is just take my slab(s) to shows with the idea that I can pay a dealer to take my lower grade comic in trade for a higher grade one. I have only tried this once, without luck, but that was because the dealer had another copy of the same book in a comparable grade that I owned and they didn't want two of them. I understand this because having two different grades provides choices to their customers. Also, this might be difficult depending on how much profit the dealer is trying to make on the upgrade. If they try to get all of their profit in that one transaction, we probably won't be able to make a deal. Please tell me your upgrade stories. Hmm...since nobody reads this thread but me, I might ask that question in the main forums...
So that's it. I intend to have a small collection of kick azz comics that will get more impressive over time. (When I'm not spending money on my coin collection or collector car!)
Any feedback on this method?
Now that I'm almost done with the X-men, I was wondering what to go after next. It was the Master of Quack Fu that showed me the direction:
Yes, the Master of Quack Fu! See, I had this book back from when I was collecting variants. It's in a slab, but from a company ending in "X". Honestly, for some reason, I can't seem to get rid of this book though I've put it up for sale a bunch of times. And yet, every time I look at it, I marvel at the design, the colors, the intricacy. After a while, I began to realize that the reason I like this book so much is because it is that it comes from the era that hooked me on comics. I'm partial to the balance between art and story telling that comes from the Bronze Age. To me, the Bronze age embodies the true golden age of comics. Artists who gravitated to the genre were hired that lovingly put their skills to the test. Not just ad-men or illustrators looking for a job. This was the first generation of fan boys. Same goes for the writers. Guys who grew up reading comic books were given their chance to write them. And the results were great! No extra fluff. Good all-around story telling in bright colors covered with gloss.
I like collecting keys. This book convinced me that I should start chasing bronze in higher grade. Not scruffy looking silver on my sad budget. Copper is interesting, but this was my era.
OK, if you've been reading this blog so far, you're almost caught up on my back story. Next time, I'll tell you about in interesting concept called "The Box of Twenty" and how it's going to make my collection great.
After I made up my mind to work on a mini-run, I had a blast doing it. I have all but one now.
This picture doesn't show my X-men 94 because it's being re-graded. And I'm missing the #100. Two of these books came from the BST area here at a good price. Two came from ebay. The #98 and #101 came from a swap meet. Notice that the X-men 101 is a 9.2. I had planned to buy a lower grade comparable to my GSXM1 and my #94, but I got such a good deal on that 9.2 that I stretched to buy it. Glad I did! What was painful is at the same time, I was given such a good price on the #98 that I couldn't say no to it either, even though it completely tapped me out. Still, I've never regretted stretching to buy a good book. Once you own it, you're glad you did.
One question you might have is, "Why X-men?" Besides the classic story and the fact that I've assembled the set I wanted in my youth, I also wanted to avoid the hype. I don't enjoy buying books that are inflated due to movie hype. I think it's smart to go after classics that aren't hyped. I figure the classics will always be in demand.
After picking up the GSXM 1, a couple shows later I managed to buy this X-men 94 for a good price.
But the thing is, this copy was labeled as a FINE 6.0. I couldn't understand how such a nice looking copy could be graded a 6.0. But on the ride home from TampaCON, I saw it.
There is a long diagonal fold on the book that isn't apparent unless you hold the book a certain way.
So I realized this book would jump with a press. What's your opinion? I'm thinking 8.0, plus or minus. Maybe 7.5? I've looked at a lot of them on Ebay trying to figure it out. The spine is better than most 8.0's, but there is what looks like Marvel Chipping on the right edge. I don't know what they'll deduct for that. The back of the book looks like a NM book.
Regardless, this book cemented my mind on the concept of doing a run of nicer X-men. Fate was steering me toward it.
Right now, this book is at CGC. I sat on this book for a long time, spending my money on comics instead of grading and pressing. I figured I'd send it off for pressing some day. The good news is that I just sent it off on Friday. Hope to get the book back in a couple months.
For the record, IIRC, I bought this for about $240.00 after factoring in a partial trade on a raw book. By dropping it off in person at a show, I guess I'll pay around $70 or so to have it slabbed at the modern tier including pressing and shipping. So I'll have $310 in it. As long as it gets at least a half-point bump, I won't lose anything. My hope is that it goes to 8.0, because I consider a VF book as a "nicer book", and that will satisfy me enough to avoid the feeling I need to upgrade it. Besides, the price jumps about $200 when it moves to 8.5, and I don't know if that's worth it to me when I could use that cash to buy a big chunk of another nice book.
Right now, I'm one book away from completing a "high grade" short set of X-men from Giant Size X-men #1 to X-men 101. First, a word about my definition of "High Grade". When I first started collecting, I lived and breathed by the Overstreet Price guide. I was a fairly experienced coin collector when I first started reading Overstreet, so my first question was, "Why isn't there a grade for Mint"? And it was explained to me that Near Mint was the highest PRACTICAL grade because of the abuse that fragile comic books were exposed to in distribution and delivery. Seeing tons of comic books bent in the middle from abuse in the spinner racks convinced me that Near Mint was as good as it could get!
Ok, I'm dragging this out. Sorry. Here's my point. When I talk about "high grade", keep in mind I'm an old-school kind of guy. To me, high grade is Near Mint and a VF vintage book is plenty nice, with only a few tiny flaws. Once in a while I'll venture into the rarified air of grades like a 9.6, but if I need a magnifying glass to see the things that make difference in grade, then I'm a happy camper. This blog isn't about acquiring 9.8 books. But it is about buying things that are better than most. I'm happy with the kind of grade that stands out relative to other books. To me early Journey in Mystery issues in Fine are "high grade" because they aren't often found like that and they command a premium. Right?
So let's define "high grade" as "commands a premium". I've learned when my collectibles command a premium, they are easier to sell if I need to sell them, and tend to appreciate more.
My first "new" Bronze Key: (Ok, yes, I've had them before, but this became part of a set).
I was at MegaCon a few years ago just looking for something key to buy at a good price. I stumbled across a guy selling a Raw Giant Size X-men #1. It was in an odd state of preservation because the cover was really wrinkled, but the rest of the book looked pretty good. Had a nice spine, no tears etc. But with the wrinkling, it was a 4.5 or a 5.0 at best. I thought that it was a good pressing candidate, but I as concerned that pressing might not work well on a squarebound book. Then I read an article about a guy who pressed his Giant Size X-men #1 with before and after pictures and it inspired me...his book came out really nice. So I thought I'd give it a shot with this one, and here's what I got:
The results surprised me! 4.5 to 7.5! But then again, other than severe cover wrinkles, the book was pretty square and fairly nice. At this point in my education, I honestly believe Squarebound books are perhaps better candidates for pressing than regular issues. Also, I created book equity out of thin air! Why buy high grade books when you can make them?
So suddenly I had a nicer GSXM 1 in nicer grade and this got me thinking about putting together a run of X-men in nicer grade since I already had the key. But it was just a concept at this point. The next book tipped the balance.
Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this a young collector, who bought bronze items of beauty from the spinner rack...X-men, Conan, Doctor Strange, Defenders. As he collected, he began to realize his sense of worth. He mattered. In time, his collecting victories could not easily be counted. His collecting expanded into other areas and other kinds of comics and at times, he abandoned comics completely for other interests much to his regret. Now, late in life, he is abandoning the relics of his former collection and has started anew. With children soon to attend college, other collections, and the pressures of modern life, he is building a collection of bronze keys from the ground up, with an eye toward resale value and appreciation. This is a detailed account of his story.
Hi there! I'm Westy Steve. I've been here a while and I've been collecting all types of "things" for a long time. Over the years, I've honed my skills at collecting. I don't consider myself an expert, more of a student who is always trying to learn. After collecting stuff for a long time, I feel that the best thing for me to collect is Bronze Keys in higher grade. Slabbed copies, ideally. I understand the game and how it works, and hope to use that knowledge to build a good collection. I already have a head start, which I'll discuss in later posts. My intent is to chronicle the struggle of building my collection, mostly just for me. But if you follow along, perhaps you'll enjoy my Quest for Bronze.
Next time: My high grade X-men short set