Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Thoughts, or Original Art Redux

A few months back (January to be exact), I posted an Exfanding Introduction to collecting original comic art. If you missed it, you can check it out right here. Today's post is going to be an addendum, of sorts, to that previous post, so if you found that intro to be mind-numbing and useless...well, this post is going to be even more mind-numbing, and pretty close to the same amount of useless.

But, for those with even a passing interest in collecting original art, this might be of some interest. As I mentioned in Issue 5 of Waiting for Wednesday, I recently purchased this year's Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. And, as I do each year when I buy the Guide, I spend some time happily reading through the pages and pages of "market reports," written up by Overstreet Advisers.

Basically, these Advisers are the top retailers and collectors in the comics industry, and I always find it interesting to find out what they have to say about current market trends. As usual, each Adviser tells about his or her personal experiences throughout the past year, and gives a sense of the overall state of comics, as they see it.

And, while it was no surprise to read that, yet again, the top back issue books are Marvel Silver Age titles (like Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, and Fantastic Four) and anything with covers or interiors by Neal Adams (especially his Batman and Detective Comics runs), it was surprising to find so many Advisers talking about original comics art.

And, just as an aside, according to many of Overstreet's Advisers, despite the global economic recession, comic book back issue sales seem to be booming. My guess as to why this might be boils down to the simple fact that, there will always be people ready and willing to spend insane amounts of money on old comics.

Sure, it's a niche market within a niche market, but by and large, back issue collectors will always exist. And, more importantly to the big name retailers and auction houses, back issue buyers of blue chip product will always exist. And, hey, if you can manage to sell a single copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 and you're pretty much good for the year, right?

Now, getting back to the issue of original art. This is a corner of the comic collecting world that has grown significantly over the past several years, and it has just exploded very recently. Prices for pages that, maybe five or six years back would have cost you $50 to $100 now routinely sell for many multiples of that.

Even art by current, working comics artists commands top dollar on Comic Art Fans, eBay, and other auction sites, such as Heritage and even Sotheby's. A lot of this has to do with the fact (well, I think, anyway) that original pages are a one-of-a-kind collectible.

There's only one page six of the second issue of Watchmen, ya know?

So, the undeniable rarity of each piece certainly has an effect on the premiums folks are paying for pages these days. Let's face it; with print runs of between 50,00 to one million (on the top selling books, anyway), there's plenty of issues of Wolverine to go around. And, instead of paying top dollar for a "rare" variant issue (even though the publishers all seem to think variants are all the rage again), I guess a large group of collectors has decided to gravitate towards the art market.

And current prices certainly reflect that. As an example, I started collecting comics art a little more than a year ago (I know, "buy low, sell high" means nothing to me), but even my modest collection has seen an increase in value over that short period of time.

And I'm not talking about a couple of bucks. There are a handful of pages in my collection that I could easily put up for sale and turn for a handy little profit. Which, from the looks of Comic Art Fans these days, is exactly what many collectors are doing. I've never seen so many pages being put up for sale, and being sold so quickly! It's a strange dichotomy of this economy, I guess.

In any case, I just found it interesting that the Overstreet Advisers, most of whom specialize in back issues, have turned some attention towards original art. I don't think we'll ever get to a point where there are more comic art collectors than there are comic collectors, but I do think the numbers will rise throughout this year.

So, if you're looking to get into collecting art, keep in mind that things are a bit expensive these days, but there's a possibility that your investment will pay off down the road. Personally, I hope I never have to sell even a single page of my collection, so monetary value is something that's not too important to me right now.

But it is nice to know that (fingers crossed) a dozen years from now, some of my pieces will be worth more than pogs.

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