NostoNews, May 1, 2006
by Tommy Jasmin

The future of collecting?

These are strange times for collecting. The current state of the economy actually bodes well for the high-end markets, but the overall health of coins and comics as long-term hobbies is uncertain.

In the just-released Overstreet 2006 Comic Book Price Guide, while acknowledging all the downsides of 2005 (natural disasters, political bickering, lackluster stock market, etc.), Overstreet hints at the possibility of an economic expansion this year. Good economic times mean more disposable income for hobbies. But really, what are the odds of that? We're looking at record gasoline prices and a record U.S. Budget Deficit, with the National Debt increasing an average of $2 billion dollars a day.

What does this mean for coin and comic collecting? The good news is more investors are coming into these markets with the intent of diversifying their holdings. Just look at the current spot prices for precious metals - clearly more investors are putting their dollars in bullion coins than ever before. This brings more attention to the rare coin market as well, as smart investors realize the potential return on scarce items with ultra-low mintage.

Though it seemed a little strange at first, the same is now happening in the comic book market, primarily a result of the advent of grading services. Professionally graded comic books have finally made it clear to the hobby just how scarce truly high grade Golden Age and Silver Age keys are. As has shown, prices in this area have soared, and investors have taken note.

Now the bad news. The long-term health of these hobbies depends on bringing in not just investors, but new collectors - those in it for the fun more than monetary gain. To do this, we need to come up with new and interesting angles to pull fresh faces in. Coins have done well in this regard. The U.S. Mint has finally made some changes in recent years, from the introduction of high "face value" bullion coins, to shaking up regular coinage with the Statehood Quarter program and redesigned nickels.

Comics have benefitted from the recent successes of a swarm of comic book-based movies, like Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman. These successes help iconify these characters, and that will help comic books with these characters hold long-term value. Even movies like Sin City, Hellboy, and V for Vendetta help the market to a lesser degree. When people find out "that movie started out as a comic book", some of them get pulled back to a hobby they pursued as a youth, or better yet, wander into a comic store for the first time.

The tough part for me is when these hobbies resort to gimmicky stunts as money-making schemes. Like ordinary coins and comic books tagged as a "special" or "signature" series, and professionally graded, i.e., "slabbed". Naive collectors will shell out big bucks for stuff like this. I'm not against it when the buyer knows what they are doing, that is, buying something like this out of true love for the hobby. But when the sellers are trying to dupe them by billing these things as collectibles, that bothers me. Disappointment drives collectors away, and if moms with full books of Statehood Quarters are led to believe they have something worth more than face value, or a kid with a 9.6 "signature series" book thinks he/she can reclaim the $100 dumped on it, they're being wrongly misled.

As for the future? None of us want our hobbies to go away, but they all will eventually. Every hobby is transient, it's just that some (coins) span millennia, and some (Pokemon) span years. If you're one of the many human beings born with the "collecting gene", the best thing you can do is have fun with what interests you. Continue to educate yourself, learning more about collecting all the time. You've found a good place to do both right here at Nosto.


Don't forget, all you have to do is create a single Collection, Wantlist, or Salelist item during the appropriate month to qualify for our sweepstakes. Why not take a look and see what we're giving away (and gave away last month), free as always.

Thanks, we'll see you all next month.

Visit our NostoNews Archive.