The Inevitable Variant Bubble Collapse

Posted on July 19, 2019

Dreck Check Opinion Written by Ankur

Wow what a market right? I can’t remember in almost 30 years of collecting comics when the market was so strong and hungry for more. But honestly, it worries me. What I am not so worried about are big key books maintaining their value. They have stood the test of time and will likely to continue to do so even if a market correction is seen. What does concern me, is the modern variant craze/market.

Variants are cool, no doubt. They bring many new artists into comics and are a great venue for exposing new talent. The problem with variants that comes up is when they are sold at drastic high prices and as “limited editions”. For many of us, we remember the pain of the 1990’s comic bust. Comic shops which were flourishing for so many years had to close up shop. The comics once thought to be so rare and valuable turned out to be worth pennies. Collectors and speculators both left, and the comic shops were unable to survive. I see signs of this happening in our hobby again. And while 2019 is leaps different than 1995, I have some concerns.

A drop in water can cause a ripple effect which is felt far past the impact. When a new collector comes to the hobby, say after watching any movie you choose, they may be attracted to variant covers. Now as I said, variants are cool, but people buying them expecting to resell for a huge profit may be in for a surprise. Not many variants that were released over the last 5 years have held their value. Some have, no doubt, but the majority have dropped off significantly. An example of this is the Death of Wolverine Joe Quesada sketch variant. In 2014 when it was a hot new release, CGC 9.8 copies topped over $1000! This year and after Wolverine is alive again (are you surprised?), the book has been selling for under $300 in CGC 9.8. Another more recent example is Detective Comics 1000, the Alex Ross variant. It sold quickly on the website and flipping started quickly. Initially copies were selling for close to $400, and two months later they can be had for around $200.

My concern is this. That new collector who paid a large sum for a graded 9.8 artist exclusive, now realizes what he or she purchased is worth half or less the original price. Will that collector be soured? Very likely. Will he or she stop going to shows? Very possible as well. Comic shows have never been so packed and so vast in numbers. Every weekend, there are a handful of shows somewhere in the US and most are large in size. But can the variant market hurt the seemingly Iron-Man suit wearing comic show circuit? I sure think it can.

When the variant bubble bursts, and I can guarantee you, it will, what will go with it? If comic stores who had to order 200 copies of a popular title to obtain a single exclusive variant are unable to sell those extra copies, what will happen? Losses will pile up, and there will be dead weight inventory which will have to be sold for pennies. If the comic shop doesn’t have enough alternate revenue streams, it may have to close its doors. When a comic shop closes, it puts every collector who frequented it at risk of falling out of the hobby. Less collectors reading comics to me means less collectors attending shows. The ripple effect can grow quite quickly from there. If enough comic shops close, and publishers see a decline in orders, it will affect how many comics are published. This in turn will affect the demand for artists both old and new. While some may say that comics can be read digitally, a very small percentage of collectors obtain their comics through this route. Eventually, it will affect everyone involved in the hobby.

And yes, this is a doomsday type prophecy on my part and many may feel, it can’t happen. The problem is, it has happened before. But what can we do to stop it from destroying the hobby we love so much? I would love to hear others thoughts on this topic, both for and against. Please note, these are my opinions and observations.

If you’ve got a few of these stored away, you’re sitting pretty. It’s probably a good idea to hold on to them for at least a little longer to see how things play out in the Universe. If you’ve got them in your cross-hairs, stay on top of any latest news coming out of the MCU. If you’re comfortable with the profits you’ve realized thus far, you’ll have no problem moving them. In the end, you have to follow your gut.

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