Saturday, January 26, 2008

Buying CGC Bronze/Silver/Gold

Time for a guest columnist and today, that guest is Greg Buls and he weighs in on buying older CGC graded books. Greg Buls has been a dealer-collector for more than 20 years. He found the pedigree Circle 8 collection in 1991. Greg operates S&V Collectibles on eBay - some really nice stuff you gotta check out!

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There's more to be said about this than can easily be fit into one article, so I'll make a hodge-podge of notes, hopefully you'll find something useful. We'll define bronze age in the traditional way, 1970-1980.

As always, what you buy will depend on your goals. Do you want a complete run of Iron Man in nice condition? Then a nice 7.0 #1 and 8.0s on most of the rest of the 12-20 centers is probably great – many 7.0s and most 8.0s have nice eye appeal, and a full run in these kinds of grades and up would be formidable, and would make a nice looking collection. But many 12 and most 15-20 cent Iron Mans are abundant in 8.0, so unless you find them cheap or want them just to have them, turnover (and thus investment potential) is limited in these kinds of grades. One month you may find someone willing to pay $40 for an Iron Man #11 in 8.0, other months the same book will sell for $20 (not enough to cover encapsulation).

Bronze age books can be divided into two general periods in terms of scarcity, 1970-1974 (20 centers) and 1975-1980 (25-40 centers). The latter are considerably easier to find, as a rule. Really old comics are valuable because they are scarce. Most collections ended up at the dump or the recycler. That said, in the late 1960s, a degree of speculation began. It first manifest with the relaunch of the secondary Marvel characters in 1968, with Hulk 102, Cap 100, Sub-Mariner #1, Captain Marvel #1, and Iron Man #1. All of these books, and late silver/bronze age in general, are more common than issues from the 1966-1967 period. Books from 1964 and 1965 are scarcer still, and books from the early 1960s are very tough, particularly in high grade. So the minimum grade for investment depends upon the age of the books. Here's a very general guide for dates/cover prices and minimum investment grades:

1930s - late 1950s: 10 cents, 6.0. Many 6.0s (fines) are very appealing, and for many books of this era, around 6.0 is the best you can do without getting into really big money. It would seem logical that 1950s books would be easier to find in 6.0 and up than 40s books, but 50s books are often harder to find than their 1940s counterparts.

1961-1963: 10-12 cents, 6.5-7.0

1964-1965: 12 cents, 7.5

1966-1967: 12 cents, 8.0

1968-1970: 12-15 cents, 8.5

1971-1974: 20 cents, 9.0

1975-1977: 25-30 cents, 9.2-9.4

1978-1980: 35-40 cents, 9.4-9.6

Regarding page quality, Anything off white or better is generally acceptable, insofar as there is little resistance from buyers with pages in this range. Cream and worse will depend on the book. Some books, particularly from the 1950s and early 1960s, are more common with cream pages than with off white pages. In some cases, for some 50s and 60s key books, cream to off white is the best page quality available. If you're intent upon putting together a complete collection of these older books, you may wait forever for an off white to white or white book.

DC vs Marvel: Marvel has always been the big boy on the block for silver and bronze, and continues to be. Unless you branch into Timelys, you can't pursue the Marvel super heroes before 1961. While there are many more Marvel than DC collectors, there are also many more Marvel silver and bronze books than there are D.C.s. This is true in virtually all grades, so as a result, higher grades on D.C.s are scarcer than their Marvel counterparts, so there can be fierce competition for the DC plums, even if you are bidding against a smaller pool of collectors. What to buy depends largely on taste. If it's a decision based on mainly financial considerations, go with Marvels, they've always been more broadly collected than D.C.s, so are probably safer overall.

Picking an era: Again, this is a matter of taste, but there are many more collectors of silver and bronze than there are of gold. High grade mainstream gold (8s and up) will always be easy to sell because it's so scarce, but lower grades (6-7.5) may have to wait for a buyer. This isn't so true of the minimum investment grade silver age books. You may have to wait for the right buyer for an Adventure #59 in 6.0, but there's a line around the block for 1963 Ffs and Spideys in 7.0.

The census is a key determinant of good investments when you're looking at bigger books. With low census issues, if there are a few dozen or more submissions, a pattern has been set. If there's only one 9.6 among 50 submissions, a 9.8 is unlikely, and it's unlikely that there will be half a dozen 9.6s once 100 copies have been graded. Paying a premium for the sole top census copy can be worth doing when there's a decent number of submissions, otherwise it's risky on anything from the late 1960s on, and riskier the later you get into the bronze age.

www.gpanalysis.com has valuable sales tracking data and should be used by anyone buying expensive books.

As a general rule, CGC was looser with grades and tougher with page quality in their first few years. You'll see CGC serial numbers into two ranges: those starting with 00-02, and 06 and up. These are also the ranges for the two types of holders, small print and large print. With many, many exceptions, they were generally a little harder on page quality and easier on grading in the old holder period. When sellers don't provide good scans, it's a good idea to ask for them, particularly if the book is in an old holder. I will always prefer a book in a new holder to a book in an older one. However, there are some new holders with low invoice numbers. In some cases, these are books that have been re-encapsulated because a holder was scratched or otherwise damaged, or the owner wanted a page quality check, in hopes of an upgrade. In other cases, dealers simply had an old invoice that they used for submission. The only way to know for sure is to get a good scan.

Scarcity and demand are the driving elements in the investment end of things. A good example: I was watching the sole 9.6 (no 9.8s) copy of Strange Adventures #205, 1st Deadman, 1968 (oww). I expected the book to close between $2500 and $3000. It closed just over $4000. That same month, somewhere in the world, a Hulk 181 (1974) in 9.6 was trading for around the same price. There are 117 Hulk 9.6s (and 11 9.8s and one 9.9). But there are also about 100 times as many Wolverine fans as there are Deadman fans. This is an extreme example on both ends – supply and demand. Here are three general rules that can actually be applied with some consistency: First, if a title or character has consistently been in demand, that will probably continue to be the case. Second, at least from the silver and golden age, if an issue has always been scarce it will probably continue to be scarce. Third, except perhaps in extreme cases like the one mentioned above, dollar for dollar you're probably better off investing in high demand, more common books (Amazing Spiderman) than lower demand, scarce books (Tales to Astonish).

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Thanks Greg! Again remember to check out Greg's offerings on eBay - great stuff every week.
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