Auction Action by Altan Insights: June Comic Recap

This week on Auction Action, the Altan Insights team recaps a few busy weeks in the world of comic books, virtually visiting the June 2021 Heritage Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction, as well as auctions closing this week at ComicLink and ComicConnect.

No space in the fractional world has been hotter than comics this month, with five buyout offers tabled and four accepted. With a number of data points and some direct comps on offer at auction, we dive in to provide context on how certain titles are trending in recent months. While like-for-like direct comps are limited, there's utility in looking across grades to better understand directionality and the magnitude thereof. Across assets and auctions, current results remain vastly higher than those achieved at the end of 2020 and the very beginning of 2021. However, there is a trend forming of some results that lag more recent spring auctions, signifying that an expeditious climb higher may be meeting some resistance. Short term, of course, the question becomes whether that resistance is a temporary consolidation before another leg higher, or a more prolonged stalling out.

Still, the right assets continue to command record prices - Detective Comics #27 in CGC 5.0 condition sold for $1,125,000 in the Heritage auction, falling just outside of the top ten most expensive comic book sales of all time. And if you weren't convinced that demand remains strong, the Heritage June Auction also set a world record for comics & comic art sales at an eye-opening $22.4 million, up from the previous high of $16.5mm just two months ago.

Note: Heritage prices include 20% buyer's premium. ComicLink prices do not include 3% buyer's premium. ComicConnect does not have a buyer's premium unless otherwise noted.

Amazing Fantasy #15

Heritage (CGC 6.0 - Pop 74): $84,000

ComicLink (CGC 7.0 - Pop 51): $191,000

ComicConnect (CGC 7.0 - Pop 51): $162,000

Rally (CGC 8.0 - Pop 23): $229,888.26 (sold 6/4)

Mythic (CGC 7.0 - Pop 51): $197,020 (to be liquidated)

We begin with an asset recently exited on Rally for a 14.9% return on the IPO price and a 30.6% return on the last trade. Heritage's copy is of course a significantly lower grade, and the result represents a 12.5% decrease from the last sale for the comic in this grade, which was $96,000 in April of this year, though that was for a copy with superior pages. ComicLink's sale is a significant improvement over an August 2020 result for a higher-graded 7.5, which hammered at $138,779. That sale, in addition to the vastly lower ComicConnect sale on the same day, creates some uncertainty for the ultimate liquidation value of Mythic's 7.0 copy, which last traded at $197,020.

The Incredible Hulk #1

ComicConnect (CGC 8.0 -Pop 13): $150,000

Heritage (CGC 7.0 - Pop 42): $69,000

Heritage (CGC 6.5 - Pop 52): $51,600

Rally (CGC 8.0 - Pop 13): $72,500

Eye-opening results for fractional investors here! The 7.0 sale from Heritage is up 31% on their last 7.0 sale of $52,800 in January of this year, while the 6.5 sale is down 6.5% from the last 6.5 sale of $55,200 in late April. Rally's 8.0 is down 18.5% from its $89,000 May 2020 IPO price, having fallen 21% in the last window in late April. As a result, its market cap is barely above the 7.0 sale from this Heritage auction, and it is less than half (!) of ComicConnect's 8.0 sale.

Batman #1

Heritage (CGC 0.5 - Pop 20): $57,600

Rally (CGC 1.5 - Pop 11): $85,000

The Heritage sale, from the Harold Curtis Pedigree, represents an 11.6% increase over their last sale of a 0.5 for $51,600 in April of this year, which was also a copy with superior pages, though not a pedigree copy. The Rally copy has traded up close to 20% since its June 2020 IPO at $71,000. That IPO followed the most recent sale of a 1.5 with Heritage for $78,000 in April of 2020. Of course, the broader market has performed remarkably well since then.

Avengers #1

Heritage (CGC 9.0 - Pop 20): $49,200

Otis (CGC 9.4 - Pop 11): $101,000

Rally (CGC 9.6 - Pop 5): $153,800

This sale by Heritage represents 2.4% decline from their May 2020 sale of a 9.0 for $50,400. The 9.4 example from Otis is up 1% from it's $100,000 IPO in July of 2020, after rallying more than 20% over the last month. Rally's copy is down 43% since its December 2020 IPO at $270,000, suffering a difficult first trading day in April. Those price ratios of 9.6/9.4/9.0 would generally be considered fairly tight for this type of issue.

X-Men #1

Heritage (CGC 7.0 - Pop 125): $49,200

Heritage (CGC 6.5 - Pop 152): $34,800

Rally (CGC 9.4 - Pop 13): $302,557.33 (exited)

Otis (CGC 9.2 - Pop 20): $141,013.60

ComicLink (CGC 8.0 - Pop 79): $147,000

ComicConnect (CGC 9.6 - Pop 4): $702,000 ($807,300 with 15% BP)

For Heritage's last sale of a 7.0, you have to look all the way back to August 2019, when one sold for $16,200. This sale surpasses that by 204%. For the last sale of a 6.5, we need look back only as far as November 2020, when one sold for $20,400. This sale is a 70.5% improvement on that November 2020 sale. Rally's 9.4 example just recently launched at $240,000 in March of this year but was bought out for for net proceeds of $302,557.33 this week. The last comp listed for Rally's 9.4 example was also a November 2020 sale for $215,000. While not all grades necessarily increase in value at the same rate, for reference, If we applied that same 70% growth to the $215,000 sale, we'd get to $425,000 (important to keep in mind this is a gross number, before any taxes/fees would be assessed).  

ComicLink sold an 8.0 on 6/22 for $147,000, blowing their prior $55,000 winter 2021 result out of the water. In August of 2020, they sold an 8.0 for just $36,000. This result suggests greater reason to question Rally shareholders' decision to sell, as a 9.4 can sell for multiples of an 8.0 price. For a closer comp to Rally's book, though, a 9.6 closed on 6/24 with ComicConnect for $702,000 ($807,300 with BP).

Giant Size X-Men #1

Heritage (CGC 9.8 - Pop 195): $72,000

ComicLink (CGS 9.8 - Pop 195): $42,000

ComicConnect (CGS 9.8 - Pop 195): $56,222

Otis (CGC 9.8 - Pop 195): $51,000

Heritage (CGC 9.4 - Pop 556): $15,600

Finally, another direct, like-for-like comparison, but unfortunately not one that provides tremendous clarity. The last Heritage sale of a 9.8 was for $19,200 in September, and their June sale represents a 275% improvement. Since launching for $12,500 in April of 2020, the 9.8 example from Otis is up 308%, increasing from $45,000 to $51,000 on 6/24. The $42,000 ComicLink result, however, casts some doubt on the appropriate valuation for this asset. ComicLink sold another 9.8 in February for $40,500, but notes a March sale of $67,900 as well. A $56,222 close for another 9.8 with ComicConnect on 6/24 approximately splits the difference between the Heritage and ComicLink results.

Journey into Mystery #83

ComicConnect (CGS 7.5 - Pop 28): $48,944

Rally (CGS 9.4 - Pop 11): $134,912

Higher graded copies of this issue do not trade particularly recently, with no 2021 comps for Rally's 9.4. However, it's likely fair to say the current ratio of Rally's 9.4 vs. the price for a 7.5 is not in line with norms. The 2020 Overstreet guide had a 9.2 at approximately 4.7x an 8.0 (albeit at much lower prices). So the difference between a 9.4 and a 7.5 would, in theory, be even larger. Looking at it a different way, one of the most recent times a 9.4 sold was May of 2020, for $142k with ComicLink. In that same auction was a Giant X-Men #1 9.8, which sold for $14,250 (see above for today's value -3-5x higher), an Incredible Hulk #181 9.4, which sold for $9,099 (sold for $22,800 with Heritage last week and $18,751 with ComicLink this week), and an X-Men #1 6.5, which sold for $13,556 (sold for $34,800 with Heritage last week). Rally's copy IPO'd in January of this year at $215,000, and is down 37.25% since, having succumbed to the late April trend of brutal trading windows.

Amazing Spider-Man #1

Heritage (CGC 7.0 - Pop 91): $34,800

Rally (CGC 6.5 - Pop 121): $33,750

Not a particularly encouraging result here. The Heritage sale represents a 38.1% increase on the most recent 7.0 sale for $25,200 in September 2020. Rally's asset, a 6.5, is up 53% since its February 2020 launch for $22,000, but its current valuation sits just below this 7.0 sale. Heritage last sold a 6.5 for $22,800 in November of 2020.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

Heritage (CGC 9.0 - Pop 82): $31,200

Otis (CGC 9.8 - Pop 29): $89,850

Rally (CGC 9.8 - Pop 29): $91,994.26 (exited)

TMNT continues to trend upwards, as this sale is an 18.2% improvement on an April 2021 sale of a 9.0 for $26,400; that's one of the rare occasions of a significant improvement over an auction from this spring. The Otis asset launched in August of 2020 for $62,500, and is up 44% since with a large move upward this week from its prior $77k level. The Rally example was sold this month for $92k, a 41.5% return on the IPO value and an 8.2% return on the last trade.

The Incredible Hulk #181

Heritage (CGC 9.6 - Pop 332): $27,600

Heritage (CGC 9.4 - Pop 514): $22,800

ComicLink (CGC 9.4 - Pop 514): $18,751

Otis (CGC 9.8 - Pop 127): $59,000

Rally (CGC 9.8 - Pop 127): $47,500

The Otis asset launched at $35,000 in September of 2020, and is up 69% since, while Rally's 9.8 launched at $47,500 in January of 2021, but traded down 15% in its first trading window on 5/31.  The 9.6 sale falls short of a $33,600 April sale, while the 9.4 significantly surpasses a $15,600 January sale.

Captain America #3

Heritage (CGC 4.0 - Pop 6): $27,600

Rally (CGC 5.0 - Pop 6): $37,000

Rally's 5.0 example is unchanged from it's July 2020 $37,000 launch value, after falling from $39,000 in Friday's trading window. Heritage most recently sold a 5.0 in July of 2020 for $23,400, which has of course been notably and significantly overtaken by this sale of a 4.0.

Daredevil #1

Heritage (CGC 9.2 - Pop 50): $30,000

Heritage (CGC 9.0 - Pop 86): $24,000

Otis (CGC 9.6 - Pop 28): $77,109.90

Rally (CGC 9.0 - Pop 86): $18,400

Heritage (CGC 8.0 - Pop 150): $18,000

A 9.2 hasn't sold on Heritage since May of 2016, that one from the Thompson Pedigree Collection going for $11,950. This sale represents an approximate 19.8% annualized return over that one. A 9.0 sold much more recently, in September for $18,000. Rally shareholders recently voted to decline an buyout offer for their 9.0 for net proceeds of $18,648.31. The asset is up 60% from its July 2020 $11,500 launch value. When grossing the net proceeds from that offer up, the gross offer was not a far cry from this result. The 9.6 from Otis is up 51% from its January launch value of $51,500.

Tomb of Dracula #10

Heritage (CGC 9.8 - Pop 54): $28,800

Otis (CGC 9.8 - Pop 54): $38,880

Another like-for-like comparison (nearly - the Heritage example has white pages, while Otis's are off white to white), and not a favorable one. The Otis asset is up 224% since its June 2020 launch for $12,000. That launch was just one month before the last 9.8 sale from Heritage for $10,200 in July 2020.

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