Overstreet Market Report – December 2018 OSPG #49

The following post contains the Overstreet Market Report supplied to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #49, published in July 2019.



Despite the increasing attention placed upon slabs (third party professionally graded and encapsulated comic books), it is the raw (ungraded, non-slabbed) comic books which remain the overwhelming majority of comic books in existence, available for purchase, and sold each year. Price guides such as this one remain extremely important to the market by providing accurate listings and values for raw comics, if for no other reason than the immense size of the raw comic market this guide serves. Slabs represent a very small percentage of all comic books in existence, however, the slabbed comic market represents a much larger percentage of total dollars spent annually, particularly for the highest valued (and highest publicity key issue) comic books in each decade. The largest of the professional grading companies for comic books has been Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) since opening to the public in 2000. With CGC permission, I have been compiling the CGC census into a searchable database online since 2003. If any other grading companies also make their census information available and give permission, they will be included in future reports. While there are billions of comic books in existence, 4,161,087 comic books were reported as having been professionally graded and encapsulated according to the official CGC census by mid-December 2018. The counts break out as: 3,405,568 universal grades, 659,200 signature series, 53,488 restored, and 42,831 qualified grades. Those 4,161,087 slabs are for 179,409 different comic books, seeming to show that the average comic book sent to CGC has been graded 23 times. In fact, more than 50,000 different comics have been graded only once, more than half of the 179,409 comics have been graded three times or less, and more than 129,000 (72%) of the 179,409 have been graded fewer than ten times. Only 4% of comic books sent to CGC have been graded at least 100 times. The nine most submitted comic books to date have been graded at least 10,000 times. This might seem like a very high number of copies graded, but even 10,000 is only 10% if the print run was 100,000 comics.  The comics in the top most submitted were printed in multiple hundreds of thousands of copies. The most often CGC graded comic book is Amazing Spider-Man #300 with more than 18,000 copies graded, followed by New Mutants #98, and Wolverine Limited Series #1. The next five are Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, Uncanny X-Men #266, Incredible Hulk #181, Amazing Spider-Man #361, and Amazing Spider-Man #129. In ninth place is Spawn #1, followed by Amazing Spider-Man #252 in tenth, which is likely to exceed 10,000 graded copies by the time of this publication.  Nine of the top ten most submitted books are from Marvel, plus Spawn #1 from Image Comics.  The top most submitted comic from D.C. Comics is Batman: The Killing Joke at 17th most submitted with 5,770 copies on the CGC census.  All the Top 100 most-submitted comics are from Marvel (85), D.C. Comics (11), or Image (4). The first book represented by another publisher is Rai #0 (1992) from Valiant Comics at position #101 (2,512 copies graded).  The Top 100 most-submitted books to CGC represent 476,015 copies on the CGC census, which is 11.4% of all CGC graded comics.  The Top 1% of comics submitted to CGC (1,794 different comics) represent 1,715,163 slabs, or 41% of all slabs. 

CGC Census Counts by Comic Decade (as of mid-December 2018):

1930s = 8,254 (0.2%) –

1940s = 138,426 (3.3%) –

1950s = 135,854 (3.3%) –

1960s = 656,900 (15.8%) –

1970s = 694,187 (16.7%) –

1980s = 639,429 (15.4%) –

1990s = 472,865 (11.4%) –

2000s = 519,093 (12.5%) –

2010s = 893,984 (21.5%) –

Others = 2,095 (<0.1%) –

Total = 4,161,087.

Drawing broad conclusions using the CGC census information is more problematic than simply calculating the numbers. CGC counts, totals, and averages do not necessarily represent a sample of the whole comic book market. Comics which are sent to CGC have often been selected by the submitter for exceptional qualities of high grade condition, high market value, or both. By definition, the average raw comic is unlikely to be exceptional.  Another important note is that comics which have few copies on the CGC census are not necessarily rare. When a comic book has little market value, even if it is very old, there is little reason to pay for third-party professional grading and encapsulation. Comics which appear uncommon on the CGC census may be extremely common and of little value in the market. One common phrase often used with CGC graded comics is the phrase “highest graded”. According to the CGC census, the highest graded copy is rarely alone. The potential buyer for a highest graded copy should check to see if the copy is still the highest graded because more copies may be graded at any time. The buyer should also know if the highest graded copy is one of one, one of ten, or one of hundreds at the same grade. Over 25% of all CGC graded comics are also the “highest graded” for that issue. More than 1,000,000 CGC graded comics are technically the “highest graded” while fewer than 50,000 are the “single highest graded” copy with at least one lower graded copy on the CGC census. Everyone should be aware that the phrase “highest graded” rarely means “single highest graded”. Additionally, any premiums paid for the single highest graded copy of a comic book should be considered carefully, since another copy at the same grade or higher could potentially be graded tomorrow. There is also quite a bit of debate and mystery associated with the highest possible CGC grades of CGC 9.9 and CGC 10.  At the time of this writing, CGC had assigned the CGC 9.9 grade to 15,432 comics (about 1 out of every 270 comics graded) and assigned the CGC 10 grade to 3,503 comics (about 1 out of every 1,188 comics graded).  The CGC 9.9 and CGC 10 grades are overwhelmingly associated with recently-printed comic books.  80% of CGC 9.9 and 86% of CGC 10 books were printed since CGC opened to the public in 2000.  A high percentage of the remaining CGC 9.9 and CGC 10 comics were printed in the 1990s with chromium wraparound covers. It is common to point to the CGC 9.9 and CGC 10 grades (and their corresponding high prices in the market) as examples of extremes, even extreme absurdities, but it should be recognized that CGC 9.9 and CGC 10 are extremely infrequent, particularly for comics printed in the 1990s and earlier which do not feature chromium covers.  The oldest CGC 10 comic book is Kolynos Presents the White Guard #1 (1949), which was a promotional comic book for a toothpaste company. The oldest standard comic book graded CGC 10 is a copy of Thor #156 (1968). The oldest comic book graded CGC 9.9 is a copy of Zip Comics #7 (1940).  All three of the oldest CGC 9.9 and CGC 10 books listed above were graded by CGC more than 15 years ago.  For key issue comics, it is nearly universally-accepted that the three biggest superheroes in the comic book industry are Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, so it is worth noting that CGC has graded 69 copies of Action Comics #1 (1st Superman, 1938), 68 copies of Detective Comics #27 (1st Batman, 1939), and 3,061 copies of Amazing Fantasy #15 (1st Spider-Man, 1962).  If there were unreported CGC resubmissions for copies of these (or any other) comic books, then the CGC census numbers are too high. While this means that the CGC census has errors, the actual number of CGC slabs in the market (and available for purchase) is always equal to the number reported or is even lower.  More information like this market report is available at slabdata.com, and more detailed CGC census analysis can be performed at cgcdata.com.