Dollar Bin Gems in the Internet Era
Although the world of comic book collection has seen remarkable transformations through its history, there is one single event, or series of events, that continues to define the collector’s marketplace even to this day. This is of course the summer of 1994, colloquially known as “The Summer of Blood.” This was the summer that short-sighted comic book companies of the time, who had been openly manipulating the collectors market for enormous short-term gain, completely destroying the comic book store system that had been so successful up to that time. Comic book collecting values were frozen after the Summer of Blood like the shadows on the wall after a nuclear bomb. if a comic book was valuable before 1994, it is still valuable to this day. If a comic book was published after 1994, it is very likely that it is not even worth its cover price to a collector.
However, more than two decades have passed since 1994, and an entire new generation of comics fans has come of age. The industry has finally begun to emerge from the wreckage of the Summer of Blood. Entire new genres, completely unrelated to the superheroes of yesteryear, have come to the fore. Comics like Acme Novelty Library, Blankets, Scott Pilgrim versus the World, Bone, and Dykes to Watch Out For now command large collector prices. Perhaps most intriguing of all, comic books that had been forgotten as valueless have begun to emerge with a new cachet of their own. In some cases, a few comic books that spent the long years since the Summer of Blood in that old standby of the traditional comic book store, the quarter bin, have begun to take on an appreciable value of their own. Perhaps the best-known example of this is the Rocket Raccoon mini-series.
The Rocket Raccoon mini-series was a four-issue Marvel throw-off that was slightly popular when it was released, then instantly forgotten. Chronicling the whimsical adventures of an anthropomorphic raccoon as he used a spaceship to travel through a bunch of Beatles puns, it was thought of as a mid-80s industry peccadillo, produced by competent professionals and telling a story that was neither offensive nor remarkable. Because of its minor initial popularity followed by its long senescence, Rocket Raccoon has been a staple of the quarter bin. Any comic book collector who remembers the days before the internet has a vivid memory of thumbing past dozens of copies of it in search of something new.
Now times have changed. By strange alchemy of coincidence, the character has been exuberantly renovated in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The creators, who were all minor hard-working professionals at the time, have all become incredibly revered as creators and industry icons in their own individual ways. So a mint copy edition of the first issue of the Rocket Raccoon mini-series, which could have been purchased at any point since 1986 for a dollar or less, has skyrocketed in value to $15. This is a stunning increase of 2000% from its original cover price.
The lesson here is obvious, though possibly a bit difficult to internalize. One simply never knows what comics will be valuable to the future. Those who maintain extensive stocks of old comic books in excellent condition may very well find themselves rewarded in unexpected ways. The challenges involved in maintaining such a stock and bringing it to market at the proper time are not to be underestimated, but the rewards can be real.