Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Rarity of Comic Books

If you have ever attend a comic convention, been to your local comic shop or searched for comics on-line then you have surely heard the word "rarity" used more often then you would expect. As a comic book hunter rarity plays a key role in our search for pieces to add to our collection. But what does it mean when you hear the word rare, rarity or some other related word. To me it has always meant that particular comic I just can't seem to find ( right now it's The Flash #1 variant cover). 

What makes a comic book rare? Everyone who is involved in the comic book industry will tell you that Rarity is ultimately what determines a comic's value, it is a fact of supply and demand. This is why Walking Dead #1 has sky rocketed in price and those "rare" comics from the early 1990's are worth near nothing (but still fun to read). 

If there is more demand for a particular comic and a lower supply price goes up and it becomes rare or less available to everyone. Back to the Walking Dead #1, there were only about 7,000 copies made, once it became popular everyone wanted a copy so prices went upwards of $1,200, which is usually heard of for a recent comic. The market demand determined the price increase. When it first came out not a rare comic but as demand went up became rare.

Lets define rarity as applies to comics using Webster's Dictionary  1. rarity (noun) Object or event: Something that happens rarely or that is particularly interesting or valuable because it is so unusual. 
Now lets define scarcity 
  • n.noun 1. Insufficiency of amount or supply; shortage 2. Rarity of Appearance or occurrence, comics are valued for their scarcity.
    I would say that these two words are interchangeable when it comes to comic books.

    There are other factors that help determine the rarity/scarcity of a comic book. As we mentioned in the Walking Dead example the print run was 7,000, that is the number of copies that was initially printed. By today's standards that is really low. So demand also plays a role. If I printed 2 copies of a comic it doesn't mean it would be worth anything because who would want it.

    Condition has continued to become important in regards to rarity, especially since grading of comics has grown. If you just want to read a particular comic it isn't that hard to find a readable copy but mint copies are harder to find because people read comics. Also note the older the comic the harder it is to find in better condition. This is because people before the 1970's didn't see comics as valuable, they were like magazines read them , toss them around, carry in your back pocket, lend them to friends. So this leads to age being a factor many older comic which may have had huge print runs, Action Comics was selling over a million copies in the early 1940's but issues from that time still sell for thousands of dollars. Had every kid saved the they wouldn't be worth as much as they are.
    Action Comics #23
    One of the biggest determining factors regarding rarity/ scarcity is what actually happens in the comic. Is an important ever occurring,  first appearance of a major character comes to mind. Most of the time when a character first appeares they do not have a fan following yet, over time it grows as the characters popularity grows. The example that comes to mind is New Mutants #98, all the issues near #98 are easy to find and not expensive ($2 to $4 ) while #98 is about $150 and not readily available. This issues has the first appearance of everyone's favorite anti-hero, the merc with a mouth, Deadpool. His popularity has gone up, up and up. Wait until his movie comes out. This goes back to definition of rarity. Something that happens rarely or that is particularly interesting or valuable because it is so unusual.

So what does this all mean when it comes to hunting comics to gather into your collection. Well the ones that are hard to find are considered rare. They are rare because of a number of factors all of which contribute to the scarcity of the particular comic. 

Bottom line is what makes hunting comics fun is that there are some that are rare, we should all have             
Issues on our want lists that are rare, that we have spent some time and effort hunting for. It is this aspect of collecting which keeps up connecting to our pre-historic ancestors.

Good luck on your hunt no matter how rare the prize may be!

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