The Joy of Pricing Comics

Right off the bat, let me say I realize that to many people, pricing your comic collection is a unqualified waste of time, and meaningless to boot. Most collectors, myself included, have no intention of selling their collections, so knowing "what it`s worth" really doesn`t mean alot. And, if you`re collecting comics with the intent of making a fortune by speculating on all the future Amazing Spiderman #1s, I strongly suggest you switch over to soybeans, or cattle futures, or something that might actually work.
 
That being said, it is kind of fun, and can be used as a possible explanation when significant others begin to question the sanity of spending all this money on what some uninformed people might consider a childish hobby.
 
Either way, assuming you have some interest in pricing your comics, you`ll run into a fairly confusing set of often contradictory rules around how to do it.
 
Below are some thoughts on the subject, and some observations. A special thanks to David Riley for digging into the details and coming up with some strange results. I took most of his thoughts verbatim from a discussion we had about the various price guides. Since that original discussion, Dean Johnson set me straight on many of the questions raised in the original discussion.
 
There are 2 primary price guides, as most everyone knows - Wizard and Overstreet . What came as a complete surprise to me is that Overstreet, which publishes 2 different guides - Overstreet`s Fan, the monthly magazine, and the Overstreet Annual price guide - apparantly uses somewhat different rules for pricing comics in the 2 different guides.
 
As it turns out, that is not as true as I once thought (again, thanks to Dean). Each Overstreet publication gives partial information, that I (and I believe many others) may have misinterpreted.
 
Overstreet invented a 100 point rating system for grading comics. This is known as the Overstreet Numerical Equivalent (ONE) grade (devising a 100 point system for the purpose of grading, and therefore, by implication, pricing, comics, and then saying that`s it`s not the same as the percent of book value, seems like overkill to me, but, what do I know).
 
In the 27th edition of Overstreet, which was published in early 1997, in the comic grading section at the beginning, it lists the ONE ranges. Additionally, the header of each and every page has value columns for three conditions each with a subscripted number next to it (GD25, FN65, and NM94). This subscripted number is the ONE grade, not the percent of book value ( you can get more detail about how to actual grade your comics using these grades and ranges by checking out Pricing Your Comics 101). What`s confusing is that these ranges are not the percent of book condition. They are simply a scale to help determine the percent of book condition.
I could find nowhere in Overtreet`s Annual Guide that revealed the percent of mint ranges.
 
In earlier versions of Realms, I made the mistake of assuming these ranges actually represented the percent of book value. If you used the Overstreet Annual guide as your Price Guide setting on the Condition Maintenance window, you may want to change the percent ranges to match those listed in Pricing Your Comics 101. Otherwise, your collection will be slightly over-valued. Of course, if you're just about to submit a huge insurance claim to replace your recently destroyed/stolen collection, I'd strongly suggest ratchetting up those percentages (just kidding).
 
Now, let`s talk about Overstreet`s Fan a bit. The first thing you`ll notice, using the January ` 97 issue as the source, is that Overstreet`s Fan doesn`t make any mention of the ONE grade, but does list percent of book value ranges. They list only the Near Mint value, and they give values based on the percent of Near Mint value. For example, for Near Mint, it says 100% of book (Near Mint) value. Nowhere that I could find, does Fan make any mention of the pre-1970 / post 1970 distinction that both Wizard and Overstreet Annual suggest.
 
The conclusion to be made is that combining the information in both paints the complete Overstreet picture. The ranges listed in fan are the percent of book value ranges to use to price your comics. You can use the ONE ranges from the Annual, as well as the OWL (Overstreet Whiteness Level) grade to more accurately assign the percent of book value.
 
Finally, if we throw Wizard into the pot, where books prior to 1/1/1970 are priced differently than those after 1/1/1970 (NM priced as Mint, Mint priced at 125-150% of book value), we get another little wrinkle. After carefully rereading the Overstreet Annual, I noticed that buried in tiny type, in the middle of the book (first page of the actual issues listed), was the same distinction.
 
Examination of the actual prices listed under said columns in the Overstreet Guide verifies that the values listed have no direct relationship to the percentages in question.
 
Example: Star Wars issue 1 has a listed NM94 value of 60.00. Assuming that post 1970 books should use the NM value, its MT value is actually 60.00.
 
The guide lists FN65 as 22.50 (37.5% of Mint) and GD25 as 7.50 (12.5%). If you check Fan, you`ll see that these percentages are somehat close to the narrowly defined ranges - FN: 41 - 43%, GD: 14 - 16%.
 
Then I checked issue 2... 24.00, 10.00, 3.40, which resulted in 39.2% and 13.3%, also close to the ranges, but, still actually outside them, and no direct formula that I could determine.
 
Here`s another way of looking at the same example:
 
Overstreet Annual values for Star Wars #1
Value Cond ONE Grade Actual % of Book Value Suggested FAN Range Suggested Overstreet Annual Range
60.00 MT 100 100% 100% 100%
60.00 NM 94 100% 100% 90% - 100%
22.50 FN 34 37.5% 41-43% 45% - 55%
7.5 GD 12 12.5% 14-16% 15% - 25%
 
As you can see, the calculated percent of book value falls outside the suggested ranges for the FINE and GOOD values. I don't understand this at all, and actually put in a question to Overstreet about it, but never received an answer.
 
Since Overstreet apparantly makes the same post 1970 distinction as Wizard, where books prior to 1/1/1970 are priced differently than those after 1/1/1970 (NM priced as Mint, Mint priced at 125-150% of book value), the only real difference is that Wizard doesn`t use anything like the ONE system. In addition, the percent of book value ranges are slightly different.
 
Using the May 97 issue of Wizard you`ll see that Wizard says it`s prices represent Near Mint condition.. HOWEVER, if you read page 125 more carefully, you`ll see that`s not entirely true.
 
Under "Pricing Your Comics", it says the books are priced at NM condition. However, if you read below, under the Mint section, it says comics after 1970 should be priced at the NM price, which means (if I understand this correctly) that for issues after 1970, Wizard is really showing the Mint condition, and for issues before 1970, it should be considered the NM. As mentioned above, the Overstreet Annual guide says the same thing. I could find no mention of it in Fan.
 
Also, 2 other categories list different ranges for pre 1970 books (why only 2?).
 
Overall, this whole pricing thing is really up to you. Realms now has the ability to capture all of the relevant information, including the percent of book value, ONE grade and OWL grade. It`s up to you as to how precise you want to be.