YEAR IN REVIEW
The first quarter of 2004 was the best quarter Metropolis has had during my tenure as COO over the last five years. In fact, quarters 2-4 were exceptionally strong as well. The beginning of the year started where 2003 left off with very high demand on Silver Age Marvel keys. However, 2004 has seen it’s share of sales running the gamut from every decade of comic history. Sales were heavy on Pedigrees from every era, Golden Age keys as well as non-key issues, 1950s comics, Silver, Bronze and the few Modern Age comics we sold. Grades also ranged very heavily, with the only weak spots being mid-grade Golden and Silver Age comics. They are not priced cheap enough for collectors and do not hit the grade requirements for investors. Unlike previous years, this end of the market was not super slow, it just lagged behind the other grades. While not a huge surprise later Disneys, most Westerns, and Classics did not fair very well either.
Golden Age was red hot this past year. Not unlike 2003, I was able to move many keys. In 2004, I sold 3 copies of Detective #27 ranging in grade from 2.5, 3.5 CGC and a raw, restored copy in 6.0. Batman #1s also moved well. I sold 5 copies of this perennial favorite including the highest graded copy a CGC graded 9.0 unrestored, a CGC graded 4.0, and three restored copies. I sold 3 copies of Superman #1, a FN- and 2 FR/GD copies as well as a restored copy of Action #1 and an unrestored copy of Marvel Comics #1.
My company is capable of achieving these types of sales due to our rock-solid reputation as an industry leader with over 40 years of experience combined, a vast inventory of vintage comic books, a state of the art website and an intricate network of customer relationships allowing us to find and sell even the rarest comic book.
In general, Pep Comics sold very well, one sale in particular is quite memorable as a savvy, long time customer picked up a run from 1-34 in low grade. Other strong sellers were Action, Batman, Captain America, Leading, Detectives, Young Allies and Archie Comics. Sales included All Star Comics #8 CGC 7.5 VF- $19,500.00, Batman #9 CGC 9.4 NM $16,800, #11 CGC 9.0 VF/NM $9,250.00, Captain America #7 CGC 9.4 NM $16,000.00, Catman #1 CGC 9.4 NM Denver Copy $12,980.00, Detective #168 CGC 9.2 NM- $11,500.00, Superworld #1 VF++ $7,500.00 and a Vault of Horror #12 CGC 9.4 NM Northford Copy $27,500.00.
Although many people associate Metropolis with Golden Age, we do have the largest selection of low, mid and high-grade Silver Age comics on the market. Silver Age Marvel keys were fast movers the entire year. However, toward the end of 2004, they began to plateau. I expect this trend to continue into early 2005 until the new Guide you are holding in your hands debuts. Afterward, I expect many of the Marvels to continue to increase in value although at a slower pace.
Spider-Man, the most popular character in the Marvel pantheon, is also the most highly collected title (making up almost 20% of CGC submissions). In April of 2004, I sold the Ohio Copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 CGC graded VF+ 8.5 for a record-breaking $29,500 and a few days later an Amazing Spider-Man #1 CGC graded NM- 9.2 for a record-breaking $33,000. A few weeks later, I sold an Incredible Hulk #1 CGC VF+ 8.5 for a record-breaking $31,000.00. Other record breaking Silver Age Marvel sales include Amazing Spider-Man #3 CGC 9.4 NM $20,000.00, #16 CGC 9.6 NM+ $11,000.00, Fantastic Four #3 CGC 9.2 NM- $14,600, Fantastic Four #12 CGC 9.4 NM $22,000, Journey into Mystery #83 CGC 9.0 VF/NM $18,500, Tales of Suspense #39 CGC 9.2 NM- $18,000 and X-Men #4 CGC 9.0 VF/NM $1,350.
DC Silver Age comics are scarcer than their Marvel counterparts, yet more affordable. 2004 witnessed several record prices realized for DC keys, but I still believe everything goes in cycles, and it is only a matter of time until DCs hit the same multiple levels as their Marvel counterparts. This may occur when DC launches it’s new super-hero movies. With Batman premiering this summer and Superman moving into pre-production, now might be the right time to purchase certain keys!
The Gold Key market is moving. This is the first year since the early 90s that I am seeing a very noticeable increase in demand for Gold Key titles. Green Hornet, Doctor Solar, Magnus and Star Trek are titles in which I have noticed the most interest. Grades desired vary from collector to collector but I believe a lot of this has to do with the moderate pricing on these books even in high grade.
The big 3 of the Bronze Age, X-Men 94, Hulk 181 and Giant Size X-Men #1, are still doing well but prices have leveled. Standouts from this time period are Ghost Rider #1, Marvel Spotlight #5, Hero For Hire #1, Tomb of Dracula #1 and #10, Green Lantern #76, Batman #232 and Detective #400.
I was very fortunate to purchase a large collection of Charlton comics this past year. It was quite a fun experience for me as there were many covers and titles I was not intimately familiar with. Some of the art was mediocre, but there were many downright impressive covers with interior art to match. Check out great art by Ditko, Sutton, Wood, Newton, Aparo, Staton, Montes, Giordano, Larson, Howard, Bache, Morisi and Glanzman on comics like Haunted, Green Planet, Ghostly Haunts, Fightin’ Air Force, Army Attack, Hot Rods and Racing Cars, Love Diary, Magilla Gorilla, Outer Space, Out of this World, Konga, Gorgo, Quick Draw Mcgraw, Teen-Age Love, Ghost Manor, Haunted Love and Blue Beetle. My favorite cover is Ghostly Haunts #41 by Sutton(anybody know where this cover is?)
I still love buying and reading new comic books. My favorite shop in NYC is Cosmic Comics followed closely by Forbidden Planet. Both stores are situated near my gallery, are well-stocked, well-lit and fun to hang out in. Many store owners I have spoken to told me they have had a stellar year. This is extremely reassuring, as I do believe there is a connection between readers of new comics and collectors and investors of vintage comics.
My favorite comic book series this year were the Loki mini-series by writer Robert Rodi and painter extraordinaire Essad Ribic, and Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord’s Conan. Ribic captures the visceral nature of Frazetta while infusing the lighting dynamics of Ross, bringing to life an Asgardian tale seldom seen. Loki is truly one of the prettiest painted books of the year! On Conan, Busiek masterfully spins tales of a young Conan, and Nord brings them to life in an exciting and pulse-pounding manner. The digital color enhances Nord’s strong pencils, creating a near oil painted effect that is visually captivating.
Avengers Disassembled, Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Hard Time, Walking Dead, Books of Magic: Life During Wartime, Ultimates II, Secret War, Wanted, Superman/Batman, Identity Crisis, Astonishing X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four were just several of the truly exceptional comics I had the opportunity to read. I must also mention I was dazzled by every cover Michael Turner rendered for DC this year.
As far as collecting goes, there are many really great comics being produced. Read as many as you can. However, Modern Age investors must be very careful. Even with CGC’s added on value, sometimes buying a modern book at the heights of its popularity can be a bad idea, as many can simply be the flavor of the month. Ultimate Spiderman, however, is a tremendous exception to the rule - I still cannot believe the prices this book is trading at on a regular basis. Colossuscomics.com offers a very intriguing service for those of you who want a 9.8 CGC graded copy, as well as a raw copy to read-check it out at their site.
EDGAR CHURCH/MILE HIGH MARKET
2004 was the year of Mile High madness. Over the last three years, I have made it a personal quest to amass a massive stockpile of Golden Age from the Edgar Church/Mile High Collection. This collection of approximately 20,000 Golden Age comics in ultra high grade with exceptional page quality is the finest collection of comics ever known to exist. In most cases the copies I purchased were either the highest graded copies known or close to it. I always tell my customers there are comics…and then there are Mile Highs. Church copies that found their way into collectors’ hands this past year include issues from these runs: Blue Bolt, Detective, Exotic Romances, Fight, Girls in Love, Heroic, Jumbo, Jungle, Military, More Fun, Romantic Hearts, Smash, Speed, Terry Toons, Weird, Wings and Wow Comics. Grades ranged from VF+ to NM/MT with multiples of 3-10x Guide realized depending on titles and conditions. If you collect Golden Age and you don’t have a Church copy, you don’t know what you are missing!
MOVIE RELATED COMICS
The upcoming Fantastic Four and Batman movies will be premiering this summer. I truly expect an increase in interest in both titles. FF will have to be a really, really good movie, as the general public will make comparisons with the Pixar blockbuster The Incredibles. The Fantastic Four, already very popular amongst collectors and investors alike, will see increased demand on key issues and first appearances as the premier date gets closer. In fact, at the time of this writing, I am down to my last two copies of FF #1…I usually have 5-10 copies in stock.
I have been screaming for years that Ra’s al Ghul should be the villain of a Batman movie, and I think someone in Hollywood heard me. Only one problem, as with the previous three Batman movies the powers that be seem to think one great villain is not enough, so they had to throw in the Scarecrow too. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the Scarecrow is a cool villain, but unnecessary when you have such an iconic villain like Ra’s al Ghul. Regardless, watch as there is a surge in demand for the first appearance of Ra’s al Ghul (Batman #232) and Scarecrow (GA 1st appearance in World’s Finest #3 and SA 1st appearance in Batman #189). The hype for this movie will not reach the heights of the 1989 Tim Burton/Jack Nicholson/Michael Keaton Classic, but it will be hot - don’t miss it!
The Metropolis convention circuit for 2004 was very rewarding and productive. The cons were not only successful for selling but also for buying. The highlight as usual was the San Diego Comic Convention, but the most exciting show of the year had to be the National Comic Convention in New York City. There was an energy in the room I have not felt in years at a convention. There were tons of great books on the dealer floor, as about a half dozen dealers had purchased brand new collections in the previous few weeks leading up to the National. I was pleased as punch to make several great purchases as well as sales. The coolest part of the convention had to be Frank Miller interviewing Neal Adams for over an hour and a half. There was also a very funny moment when a group of fans dressed up like Storm Troopers made their way out onto 7th Ave. across from the Garden and attempted to keep order with the huge line of fans trying to get into the con. It is really great to see the show Mike Carbonaro and I started in 1997 grow into what it is today. Keep up the great work Carbo!
I am also impressed with the way Wizard shows keep sprouting up all over the country. Gareb Shamus and his staff started with the Chicago Con and have expanded to Philadelphia, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Long Beach (CA) and Boston. The shows have something for everybody, with a great line up of celebrities, super star artists and writers and of course a dealer line-up any promoter would die to have.
I am not trying to take anything away from conventions, but it does seem they continue to be less important for those collectors and investors trying to find really scarce or high-grade books. Most really great comics are sold to want list customers over the phone or through the Internet. However, the one thing you can’t beat by going to a con is actually being able to inspect each and every nook and cranny (love that term-thanks Thomas’ English Muffins) of a comic.
THE COMIC ZONE
Every collector and investor should educate themselves and enjoy what they are doing. Over the last year I have hosted a radio show about comic books and pop culture on the Internet called The Comic Zone. Every Monday from 3-4pm EST "The Comic Zone" is broadcast live onto your computer. I believe the show can be a valuable tool to better educate yourself about the state of the marketplace, learn about current trends, history of our hobby and of course to listen to creators from the past and the present. The show attracts thousands of listeners per week. The beauty of the show is that not only can people listen to it live, but in case you miss the live broadcast, every show can be listened to in the archives section. The live shows and the archives can be accessed by going to www.metropoliscomics.com and clicking on The Comic Zone icon at the top of the home page.
Past guests have included a veritable list of the who’s who of the comic world including Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, John Byrne, Terry Austin, George Perez, Gene Colan, John Romita Sr., Sal Buscema, Dick Ayers, Joe Kubert, Murphy Anderson, Irwin Hasen, Al Feldstein, Jack Kamen, Jack Davis, Alex Ross, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Billy Tucci, Erik Larsen, John Romita Jr., Howard Chaykin, Jim Starlin, James O’Barr, Jae Lee, Arthur Adams, Buzz, Darrick Robertson, Eric Shanower, Sean Chen, Mark Bagley, Walt Simonson, Marshall Rogers, Mark Bode, Frank Cho, Mike Mignola, Ron Garney, Howard Porter, Norm Breyfogle, Larry Hama, John Jackson Miller, writers Denny O’Neil, JC Vaughn, Danny Fingeroth, Brian Pulido, Roy Thomas, Jim Shooter, Peter David, Mike San Giacomo, sculptor Randy Bowen, comic historians Arlen Schumer and Jerry Weist, Batman Dead End director Sandy Collora, actors David Carradine and Thomas Jane, writer/director David Mandel (Seinfeld, Euro Trip), Producer Danny Simmons (Def Poetry Jam), Diamond Galleries President John Snyder, CGC President Steve Borock, CGC graders Mark Haspel and Paul Litch, restoration experts Matt Nelson and Susan Cicconi and GP Analysis President George Pantela. You can listen to all of these interviews and more for free on The Comic Zone-enjoy!
PROMOTING THE HOBBY
Metropolis and the comic book market received a great deal of media attention during the course of the last year in financial publications and news services such as Forbes Magazine, Barrons, Bloomberg, Institutional Investor, Reuters, CBSMarketWatch and Yahoo!Finance, as well as traditional venues like USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Travel Channel, Bravo, MTV, ABC and CBS. Tie this in with the advent and overwhelming acceptance of CGC 3rd party grading over the last five years, and the road is being paved for the comic book hobby to be a tremendous collectible investment market (still in its infancy). click here for a peek at Metropolis in the press.
While my wife will not allow me to use her crystal ball, I will tell you this about the future -for collectors, the sky’s the limit. There will continue to be great deals offered on low and mid grade comics from the Golden, Silver and Bronze Age. On my web site alone, there are over 39,000 discounted vintage comic books as well as thousands of group lot items at up to 50% off.
For the avid investors I would advise you to look into certain segments of the comic market that are under priced compared to others. Sure, it is still great to invest in high grade Silver Age Marvels and Timelys, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Areas I would look into are less expensive Golden Age titles like Captain Marvel Jr., Red Dragon, Ghost Rider, Green Lama, America’s Best Comics, Exciting Comics, King Comics, Popular Comics and Target Comics. Of particular note are MLJ Magazines (named after the founders Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater) titles like Blue Ribbon, Pep, Top Notch, Archie and Zip Comics. Not every issue in these runs is cheap but plenty of them are. Pick up a Gerber Photo Journal and study it like you were getting ready for the SATs. You will find a multitude of comics with dynamic and incredible covers.
Another area I would invest in is high grade Bronze Age, like any Archie title, Marvel, DC or Charlton super hero, horror or war title. These comics are so cheap, even with the augmented values achieved by CGC graded copies. Remember these same titles were a fraction of the price just a few years ago. Even at their current values, a serious investor could put entire runs, a first issue or even a classic cover collection together without draining their bank accounts and having their spouses ready to throw them out the window.
On the Harvey front, titles like Hot Stuff, Casper, Dotty Dripple, Little Dot, Wendy the Witch, Little Lotta, Little Max, Little Audrey, Spooky, and everybody's favorite poor little rich boy Richie Rich are in high demand. These issues are scarce and cheap in the Guide. Simply put, they have great upside investment potential.
With every movie made, and every article written in a newspaper, comic books draw themselves closer and closer into the mainstream consciousness as collectible and investment items. Furthermore, the general public doesn’t see comic collecting solely as a hobby. Each and every day more collectors are coming into the market seeking comic books as an investment vehicle for their finances. Do your research, find several titles you like, a dealer you trust and get started.
As I grow older, I have come to appreciate how much I have been blessed with. From my wife, family and friends to my career, I really have a lot to feel good about and be grateful for. I thank all of you who have helped to make my life so fulfilling both personally and professionally. I wish you the best and hope 2005 is as good to you as 2004 was to me!
Metropolis Collectibles, Inc.