How do we figure out what comics are good investments? Amazing Spider-Man #300? It’s a buy. Incredible Hulk #181? Grab it. Strange Academy #1? Definitely. These are all Key Investments in the comic world based on my CDA formula – Character, Demand, and Art.

A Key Investment book doesn’t have to have all of these elements, but evaluating each element will point us in the direction of which books are worth your speculation budget dollars.

Character, Demand, and Art

When these elements converge, return on investment can boom.  Strange Academy #1 ranks high on every scale.  There are lots of debates around what makes a Key book.  There are Key books that are $50, $500, and $50,000. To evaluate what Modern Age books have the potential to become considered any level of Key for collecting and investing, the CDA formula is a quick way to evaluate a book when deciding to shell out your hard-earned money.

Character is King.

One of the easiest Key elements to spot is the first appearance of a character. Other than being the first appearance of Wolverine, Incredible Hulk #181 is a pretty boring book.  There can even be debates over what constitutes a ‘first appearance,’ but Strange Academy #1 gives us a plethora of new characters in the tried and true formula of a school for gifted youngsters.

With the tie of popular characters like Dr. Strange, The Scarlet Witch, and Magik as teachers, the odds of one or many of these new characters taking off justifies this book as a solid investment.  The storylines of Strange Academy have been more character development than epic battles in the first year of existence. However, rarely is a book a Key because of the story (exceptions being things like the famous drug use or alcohol issues ).

Final grade Character and Story: A

Demand is Critical, but Check Volume.

No one wanted Van Gogh paintings (except his brother) for a very long time.  Those paintings were worthless until there was demand for the work. The easiest way for the average collector to see the evidence of large-scale demand is the fact that Strange Academy #1 went to a 5th printing. Why? because people love it.

But scarcity is also an element of value. Volume printing is part of what has worked against some books, such as New Mutants #1, from being a better investment.

How can we know demand? Often, we look to triggers like a new movie or Disney+ series coming to market. Books previously left for rubbish can spring to life, like the explosion of Moon Knight as tastes change or a little loved mini-series Secret Wars, which just happens to show off a new black-costumed Spider-Man. It is hard for the average collector to see those triggers coming. While the demand for Strange Academy #1 is obvious, it is possible the volume will kill the possibility of an astronomical return on investment.

Final grade for Demand: B- because high demand is impacted by five print runs.

Great Art Creates Value

One can argue that great art is not a requirement for a Key Investment.  As collectors, investors and readers, we want to own great art.  It is easy to see how McFarlane, Byrne, Adams, and Kirby art have added value and interest to the books they draw. The interior art by Ramos is excellent making it an easy book to love.

In the era of graded books that are slabbed, never to be read again, cover art is critical to investment. The Modern Age of comics is unlike any other time because of the huge number of variant covers.  The argument over the benefits of variant covers to collectors and investors continues.  Fellow blogger Harry Stone and I debated this very point here.

While I miss the days when I knew what a book was by quickly glancing at the cover, I love that variant covers are celebrating even more great artists. I also believe that if you are buying art, you should buy what you love, slab it and then put it up somewhere you can enjoy it.  If you are investing, it is harder to figure out which of the 10 variant covers of Strange Academy #1 should you buy.

[caption id="attachment_144126" align="alignright" width="400"] Opena Variant Sales Trends - GoCollect[/caption]

On one hand, it doesn’t matter – every first edition variant has seen significant increases in value. The two most expensive variants are the Ramos Variant (FMV of 9.8 - $475) and the Opena Variant (FMV of 9.8 - $700), the latter is the cover that mimics the Breakfast Club poster.

It is still an open question if, over time, variants will hold their value just because of their cover art.  The Opena Variant has steadily climbed in value over the past year.

Final grade for Art and Cover Variants: A for universally acclaimed artwork that will stand the test of time and great variant options, giving an investor good options of buying the regular book or high-end variants.

Buy it Now

Early hype doesn’t always equal good investments, but Strange Academy #1 is one that merits buying. It has all the hallmarks of becoming a Key book, with Art, Characters, and Demand all pointing positively. If you don’t have an issue yet, it is ok. Not everyone can catch an initial stock offering. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good investment, even at the current values. Buy the best quality book you can with the art you love; this is a Modern Age Key to own.

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