Sunday, August 25, 2013

Are Your Bronze Age Comics Worthless?

Last week there was a story on entitled Why your Bronze Age comics collection ain't worth squat!

The story quoted one of the stars of American Pickers (Frank Santoro) as he explained why Bronze Age comics aren't worth much nowadays...
It’s a typical collection that you see floating around now. Classic Bronze Age. A run of Marvel Two-In-One. A run of Micronauts. A run of Alpha Flight. A run of Camelot 3000. Badger. Nexus. Web of Spider-Man. A good selection of valuable X-Men. A good selection of worthless Cloak and Dagger. But nothing interesting like Elektra: Assassin or Slash Maraud. You know the drill.
“How old is Tommy?” I asked.
“42,” sayeth Uncle Louie.
“Yeah, that makes sense. See, what’s happening is all the guys your son’s age are dumping their collections now. They all had the same books. So the market is flooded.”
Note: As fellow fan of the Bronze Age Trey Causey pointed out, a lot of the comics he mentions aren't really Bronze Age at all, but the question remains.

As one might imagine, the comments section quickly filled with other Bronze Age fans sharing stories to confirm the notion. I thought I would share my experiences in this area over the years as from time to time, I've dabbled in flipping old comics and runs.

Back in the early 2000's, when I was self-employed, I had the time to scour ebay in search of cheap comics with which to put together complete runs. (Which sold very well at the time.) With a little work, you could scoop up issues of, say, Batman and the Outsiders or Freedom Fighters in separate auctions for about a quarter a piece. (You always had to watch out for people who gouged on shipping.)

Once assembled, you could then turn around and sell the complete set for anywhere from one to two dollars an issue. (Or in some cases, like a complete set of FOOM, which took forever to acquire, I might charge more than that.)

However, around 2005, I started to notice that I was getting less and less watchers on my ebay auctions. As the years progressed, it became even harder for an auction to complete all the way. On the flipside, it was becoming easier and easier to pick up the single issues in what I would call "dump" auctions (auctions with lots of random comics.)

I think part of the problem is that people can now pick up old comics so easily in all sorts of Collected Editions.

The other problem is as people transistion to reading their comics digitally, it is becoming much harder for them to justify buying old paper issues (especially if a large portion of their house is already devoted to a storing their collection.) In some cases, when inspired to read older stories, the newly converted digital fans are looking for them not in musty long boxes but on torrent sites instead.

I've even noticed ebayers picking up on this trend by offering digital collections of old comics on DVD. (In the screenshot from ebay below, the Spider-man DVD Rom might be legit, but the Phantom and Green Lantern collections aren't.)

Even with all those odds against them, a casual search of ebay will reveal that quite a number of ebay auctions where Bronze Age comics still sell at respectable prices.

So, in answer to the question posed by today's post title, I would say while calling Bronze Age comics worthless is quite an exaggeration, they have definitely lost some value among some potential buyers.

With all that in mind, here are a few tips for getting the best price for your old Bronze Age Comics:

Shoot a picture of your item on either a clean background (like a white sheet) or on bubble wrap. It sounds silly, but a picture on bubble wrap sends a buyer the subliminal message that the item is ready to ship and will get to them very quickly.

If you are selling a complete run of comics, scan and show buyers each and every cover. This is good for two reasons. One, the cover art will help entice them into making the decision to buy the issues and two, it will help you field complaints if one of the covers is not in perfect condition.

Always offer free shipping. If that sounds extreme, remember than media mail usually only runs about $5.00. If you aren't making enough profit in your auction to cover that cost, you need to up the number of comics you are selling in the auction.

Try to capitalize on any current trends in current comics. Like for instance, right now, with of an Inhumans movie and their prominent appearances in Marvel Infinity, this would be a great time to try and move a complete run of some older runs of the Inhumans.

Those are my tips. If you have other suggestions, please feel free to suggest them in the comments section below.

- Jim


MattComix said...

I agree about the ease of access to the material digitally. I also think another part of it is that the Bronze Age in general seems kind of under-rated by modern comic book fandom.

cash_gorman said...

The companies themselves aren't helping. Look at DC and Marvel, how much of the history of that era has been dumped? Even though Marvel hasn't done a massive reboot, the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy not only has little to nothing to do with the originals of that time, characters like Starlord, Drax, Gamorra are radically different. The companies aren't interested in doing anything that fuels interest in back issues because that doesn't add money DIRECTLY to their bankbook. Sure, you'd think they would want to help the stores who order and sell their product out and see that a healthier marketplace is better for them as well as rewarding their older fans, but they don't think that way.

JP Cote said...

How many of the 'Bronze Age' comics are worth collecting anyways? Like most things, there are a few gems and a lot of mediocrity. I had a lot of fond memories of some series but when I read them again 20 years later, man, I had some low standards back then. I'm surprised somethings even got published. So it's not just that the market is flooded but the product is not that good in the first place. Micronauts was neat when I was 10 or 12 years old but now? It's 60 some issues of product placement.

GACN said...

I put together three runs recently!

All-Star Squadron, Young All-Stars, and Infinity Inc. -- for about $150 for the three versus the crazy prices on Ebay for just All-Star Squadron alone!

Oh, and I even netted a run of Malibu's The Protectors just for fun, along with the side issues of Ferret, Arrow, Airman, Manowar, and Gravestone.

So my total is roughly $200 for all of the retro-golden age goodness, with a healthy start to a run of Marvel's The Invaders.

I gotta get the heck off of Ebay.

MattComix said...

Sorry JP but I'll take the Bronze Age on it's worst month over most anything DC or Marvel is putting out right now. I'd rather read a Spidey issue with Rocket Racer in it than one where Doc Ock is wearing Peter Parker as a body-sock.

JP Cote said...

Matt, please, my statement is in no way an endorsement of the crap that comes out now. Mediocre though is still mediocre. There is some spectacular stuff but just looking at the first pic in this entry and the list below . . . Karate Kid? Micronauts? Cloak and Dagger? There is a whole lot that just isn't good. Comics like those look more like cash grabs than legit attempts to create solid series. The cream of the 80s (Clairmont, Miller, Byrne, etc) are still worth something to collectors but I don't think anyone is going to give me a whole lot for my complete collection of Shogun Warriors. I mean really, Marvel's GI Joe vs The Superior Spider-Man? Is one really better than the other? Hocking toys vs desperate, lazy writing?

Jim Shelley said...

@Comments - I usually try to respond to comments by Tuesdays (to give people enough time to post one) but somehow the week got away from me.

@MattComix and JP Cote - I think it's less about "How Good" were Bronze Age comics and more about 1) Are those characters still relevant today and 2) How good are those comics perceived to be because our tastes have changed.

For instance, yeah, Karate Kid was an attempt to make some money off a trend. Same with Shogun Warriors. However, if Karate Kid had a series today, it would help the value of old series. Look at the interest in old Roms since the Space Knights appeared in Marvel Infinity.

Jim Shelley said...

@Cash_Gorman - yeah, that Guardians of the Galaxy series is so different from the original that they could actually publish a completely new series with the the old characters and call it something else (but maybe it's better if they don't, y'know?)

Jim Shelley said...

@GACN - I love putting together runs of old comics. It's a fun challenge. Plus, once you get that Invaders run together, it will be easy to flip it after you have read it. (I always used to consider ebay as just a lending library in some ways.)

Kid said...

You probably know, but you've only shown 21 covers out of FOOM's 22. Go on, show the full set.

Jim Shelley said...

Good catch Kid! I was missing the Jack's Back! Issue!

Islamic Comics said...

The modern era artistic work is also drawn from the Bronze Age comics.

Unknown said...

Do you still have your collection of FOOD? I have been trying to track down an article in #10 which supposedly states that Howard the Duck's companion Bev was originally going to be called Mercedes Bent. I love to see if this is real. Can you help? Nick

Unknown said...

Damn my phone. That should say FOOM of course

LOBO777 said...
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