When I first got back into comics after many years of absence, I noticed one thing right off the bat. That some of the local comic shops outright refused to talk about speculation in comics at all. In fact, the more I brought it up, the more I got cold-shouldered. It was as if I were talking about some truly embarrassing social situation. Then I realized that some of these retail operations simply despise comic book speculators. I thought that was just so weird. Here we have people buying and selling to make money. Truly, what is the difference between online and brick and mortar; a sale is a sale?

Free Market

I am a huge believer in a truly free market. Not crony capitalism, but a truly free and open market that everyone can participate in. Why are speculators so hated by some establishments? Further, are there exceptions to this rule? What drives this animosity?

What is a Speculator?

Speculator Stock Illustrations – 227 Speculator Stock Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - Dreamstime

Put quite simply, a speculator in comic books is anyone that buys a comic and then decides to flip it. I think the time the comic is held denotes investment vs. speculation. Anything under one year, in my book, is speculation. Investment is 1-5 years and collecting is well beyond that and can even be a lifetime.  For the purist collectors, the speculators are kind of like an unwashed mob. You hold your nose from the smell but still do business with them. Even though, deep down, you hate them for their barbaric desecration of the comic book temple that is true collecting.

What does this all mean? It means that speculators buy to sell for short-term gain. That collectors buy to hold indefinitely, for the love of the hobby. Finally, investors buy to hold over 1-5 years for long-term gain.  There is a fourth option, namely collectors that dip their toes in speculation, but I will save that subject for another article.  For this article, a speculator is indeed a flipper!

What is a collector?

Collectors are some of the savviest and most knowledgeable folks on any particular subject matter in comics. The comic book world that we all know and love is so vast, with so much inane detail that almost everyone specializes in. One collector might have a thing for bondage covers, and another might only collect Bronze Age comic books. The multitude of collectors is as vast as the number of people on the planet, almost.

What does a collector do differently from a speculator? Well, usually they almost always buy and hold. Also, I have known several "completist" collectors that will collect an entire "run" of comics, say Amazing Spider-Man first series and so on. Because the focus is on the collection and not the pursuit of the cash, collectors become the most knowledgable people in their comic book specialization. Collectors are savvy and ahead of most speculators, especially Modern Age speculators who chase hot books. The prime motivation for the collector is the love of comics; nothing more is needed.

20th Century Comic Resellers

Animosity towards speculators is palpable, especially among collectors. Most of the people working in LCS shops are usually, themselves, collectors.  The shops that tend to treat the speculators as villains are usually run by an older crowd. These older folks are holding onto the age of collecting from the late 20th Century. By this I mean a time when "collectors" were their primary clients buying books like Fantastic Four #49, a big key and at full price. Now, that is no longer the case.

Modern Comic LCS

I think comic book speculation, Disney blockbuster superhero movies, and the internet full of sales, have truly changed the market dynamic.  I do find savvy collectors in the younger shops and they are actively selling to speculators. They cater to their needs and try to guess the hot books and have them available.

But the market is changed you're not going to see a +1000% upside without a speculative element. Truth be told, the speculators are giving us unheard-of prices for comics. Perhaps even the beginning of a new period, when comic books take their rightful place as investments.


It strikes me that the retail establishment is really nothing more than a sophisticated speculation operation with slightly longer time horizons. Essentially, private collections come in the front door and are purchased at a significant discount to market. 

One small collection with the right books can literally make the LCS profitable for a year. Bravo to the LCS who manage to get a great deal out of walk-ins. How is this any different from me purchasing and speculating on a comic book from the back issue bins and selling it online for 4 x times what I paid? There is no difference!

Want more market breakdowns?

*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.