Comic books and bubble markets

Forbes has an article on bubbles in collecting hobbies — certainly recalling what I used to see in my years at Krause Publications, where with our magazines in various collecting fields we were able to follow the speculator craze from sportscards, to comics, to Magic cards, to Beanie Babies, to action figures, to Pokémon cards — in about that order, I would guess. That was an occasion to be glad you were diversified; interestingly, we often saw some of the same dealers migrating from one advertising list to another, following the money. David Serchuk’s article gets into several of these, including some I had no idea about — like crazes in collecting fossils and meteorites. (I guess we just didn’t have any magazines for them!)

Joe Koch is interviewed and lays out some examples — and the article gets into April 1993, which is the month when Superman returned from the dead and comics orders hit a modern peak — 48 million copies in a month. It wasn’t apparent for a while that the market had peaked for good, as my recent Newsarama column gets into — but it was clearly seen as an important moment.

Not really many historical quibbles — though I think maybe the mention that the boom period “started in the mid-1980s” might be conflating the Black and White Glut with the later, bigger color comics boom of 1989-1993 — there was a crash in between, big enough to take down distributors. (The multiple variant covers phenomenon mentioned was definitely a little later, following Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1 in 1989.) I also wonder if that Amazing Fantasy #15 price might be for one of the big Golden Age books, unless there’s some monster sale I haven’t seen.

But that’s only of note to the us in the hobby; this article is a really useful piece to have out there for the general public. We used to say that speculators were like locusts — wait long enough, and they’ll come back. But now, with the Internet spreading information — including what supply is really like, both on places like eBay and, in another sense, The Comics Chronicles — hopefully whatever wave comes won’t be as destructive.

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