Monday, August 6, 2012

TRADER TRENCHES: The trade I should have made!

BATMAN 615 COVER - LEE/WILLIAMS VS. AVENGERS 80 COVER - BUSCEMA/PALMER

Most of the collector community knows all around good guy, Scott Williams.  He's one of the very BEST ink slingers working today, he's Jim Lee's regular finisher, and he also has one of the best and diverse art collections I've seen.  About the time that HUSH came out I got to thinking that I'd really like to own one of the covers from that series drawn by Jim Lee and inked by Scott.  I contacted Scott and as it happens he managed to get back my favorite cover, BATMAN 615 (shown above).  It's a beautiful image of Batman and Nightwing running into frame with a fantastic art deco cityscape behind them.  It still gives me chills when I look at that awesome cover.  Anyway, it was one of Scott's favorites too--no way he was jst going to sell it to me.  But he was willing to trade if I had something he liked.  Finally he settled on my AVENGERS 80 cover (above) by John Buscema with luscious inks by Tom Palmer--a childhood favorite of mine.  At the time, Albert Moy, who reps Jim Lee was selling Hush covers for about 10k.  The Avengers 80 cover was valued at about 20k.  The thing was, Scott informed me, and I believe him, that he had offers for the Batman 615 in the 25K range.  Still, he really liked my cover and was willing to trade the Batman for the Avengers straight up.  I thought about it.  I loved his cover, but my thinking at the time was that it was a crazy lopsided trade in his favor--so I didn't pull the trigger, I passed.  I guess I'm just an old time collector when it comes to trading classic vintage material for modern stuff.  I'll opt for the vintage stuff all day long.  Scott was funny when I told him this--he said that he actually felt the same way--which is why he was willing to do the trade in the first place.  Now, as it turns out, making this trade would have been a huge financial gain for me.  Shortly after Scott and I broke off trade discussions, the BATMAN 608 cover sold for over 80k.  I'm sure that even today the Batman 615 has a 20-30k advantage over my Avengers 80 cover, could be more.  I guess, in retrospect, this is the trade I should have made.  I don't know.  Long term, I gotta believe that the vintage art is poised for a comeback.  That's where, after all, I throw my extra bags of cash.  But, maybe, maybe, one of these days, Scott will agree to ink me a recreation of that lovely 615.  Wouldja please, Scotty?

46 comments:

  1. Glen, are you $#@!% insane? Lamenting this trade because it didn't happen? You should be thanking your lucky stars it didn't happen. Assuming both pieces are by top names of their era, NEVER value anything that was just drawn today more than something that already has decades of history built into it. That's the golden rule. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but if you get into the habit of making exception and trading old classic art for art just drawn today and priced as if it already has decades of history behind it, you will get burned way more often than not. Tread carefully...

    By the way, can you hook up your blog to be streamed through an RSS feed so I can get messages through my Google Reader ?

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    1. I agree with you, Ruben. That's why I decided not to trade. But from a purely financial point of view, it was clearly a mistake in the current marketplace.

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    2. I use Google reader for this blog -- just paste this into "add new feed" or whatever:

      http://originalcomicartlocator.blogspot.com/feeds/7753584251158337319/comments/default

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  2. Enjoying your stories so far. I'm slooowly getting into buying OA. I'm gnashing my teeth about thinking buying $500 worth of art. I couldn't even think about a 20k trade.

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    1. My first piece of art was a Sal Buscema Spectacular Spider-man page. It was a great battle page, Spidey against Tombstone. I bought it for the princely sum of $15 in 1994.

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    2. That brought up a few questions in my head:

      1) How's $30 for that Sal Buscema page? ;)

      2)In one of your next posts can you talk about valuing pages. My first OA piece was a JRJR panel page from the Marvel Try-Out book. I got it as a bundle with a set of signed McSpidey #1s. I probably paid $30 - $40 for the whole shebang. So I don't feel like I have a good idea of what it is worth. I could go by what some of the other dealers have from that book but I hear that some of those dealers way over-price their pieces. I would guess looking on Heritage, ComicLink, or other auction site would help.

      Thanks
      Wes

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    3. I actually sold that Sal Buscema page last year for $400. I realized the only reason I was keeping it was because it was the first page I bought, not because I loved it.

      I want to do a post on how to value art, but I want to take my time in doing that. It's kind of a complex post that requires some thought on my part on how to present the information. But I will, Wes, I promise.

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  3. No matter how good it is, I can't value modern art in the 10s of thousands of dollars. There will always be good new covers, but there are limited number of good bronze covers.

    (Like Sniderwj, I am playing in the OA kiddie pool :)

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    1. I used to think covers from the 90's were new covers. Now those covers are starting to look nostalgic. One man's new cover is another man's classic. But generally speaking I agree.

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  4. Hey, at the end of the day, which one would you rather see on your wall. That's the one you want.

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  5. Ummm....let me think about that one. :)

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  6. Glen,
    Why does it seem that your emphasis is more on the monetary value of the art rather than the aesthetic or historical context of the art? Is this why you collect art?

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  7. Miki, when I first started collecting it was all about the love of art. But the price of the things I like have risen SO much in the past ten years that to ignore the monetary value would be foolish. Every decision I make now has to be considered in the dollar value cost. It's too much money to lose simply to choose items that aesthetically please me. That's the reality of the hobby today. If I were a richer man...well. :)

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  8. I also think that considering the marketplace first over aesthetics is the most important thing a collector can do. I hear so many horror stories of new people coming into the market and buying things that are way too expensive because they liked them. Then they turn around and find that they can't get out of these pieces anywhere near the price they paid. This blog will cover many things including history and beauty of the art in question. But if I can save a few collectors the heartache of spending too much too soon by presenting the marketplace as it is I will consider my time here well spent.

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  9. Most collectors don't look to flip right away. So whether they "overpaid" or not is irrelevant. They buy to keep.

    The other irony is: How many collectors can get out of pieces they buy from you?

    You really want to do collectors a favor? Reduce your asking prices by 80%. You're actually a big part of the problem. You're not the solution you seem to think you are.

    That you would regret not trading the Buscema/Palmer cover for the Lee/Williams strictly because of missing a potential financial advantage, really says it all about this blog and about you.

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  10. I'm not posting anonymously. You must leave a name if you want a response.

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  11. I read something about art and the VERY rich I found interesting. The very rich who like to spend their money on art enjoy it more than spending on anything else. More than expensive cars or enormous yachts because those things retain the taint of practicality. Art is a pure purchase since it has no practical value.

    The rich also claim that they are not disappointed when their art goes down in value--they bought it for the beauty of the piece. However, if a piece they own doubles in value then that's VERY exciting--an homage to their good taste.

    Practically speaking, for the rest of us, if we're buying art simply for asthetics alone, we better be buying it cheaply or with a real handle on the market value.

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  12. Glen,

    Thank you for this very promising blog and thank you for your last post that was one of the most informative about Jim Lee art collecting I've read in recent years.

    To the few people who are asking why this financial emphasis:
    It's extremely naive to think that value should not have an importance in our hobby. Most of us are not billionaires and we simply can't afford to buy whatever we want, therefore each acquisition has to be carefully planned : what I'm buying today will prevent me from buying other pieces tomorrow.
    Also, what if my collecting focus changes ? What if I find a better piece ? What if I need the money for my family tomorrow ? Without the ability to sell back, those questions would haunt people like me day and night and I would have stopped collecting years ago. But we CAN sell back !

    And obviously who wants to lose a lot of money (whatever your scale is : might be $200 for some or 100k for others) when they sell back ? It's not only about losing money, it's about losing the ability to purchase other pieces.
    I don't consider myself a flipper, I believe I'm an "upgrader". I've been slowly building my collection, upgrading with each new opportunity. For instance, I began my Perez focus with a panel page from AvsJL, I sold it when I found a dps from Avengers (last Perez run). I then sold it and it gave me the opportunity to buy a Batman cover. If I had lost too much money on each operation, I would never have been able to get my dream piece.
    This hobby is not about money but if you don't carefully choose your pieces and the money you're willing to give for them, this is not a sustainable hobby for anyone. So money is definitely at the core of our hobby.
    As for Glen asking 80% more than he should for the pages he sells, that is quite a funny remark : obviously, Glen should offer his pages for less than he paid himself :-)
    Thanks again Glen for the blog and I would deeply regret not doing that trade too. And for those who believe it's only because of the financial advantage, I'll just answer that if you had done this trade, you would now probably be able to exchange this Hush cover for 1 Buscema Avengers cover + 1 Romita SR Spider-Man cover + 1 Lee X-Men cover + other stuff ! Anyone, failing to see how you could regret that, doesn't seem logical to me.

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    1. I think you're absolutely on point here, Alex. Thanks for going to bat for me on this. I will not be responding to people who spit venom in my direction without the courage to even sign their own name to the post. I want to encourage discussion and debate, but I insist that we all know who we're talking to.

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  13. Although it's pretty stuff, Jim's new art is often priced to the max to capitalize on the hype of the current project and to capture customers that want the bragging rights of owning the latest work by their favorite hot artist. The pitfall is that the pool of potential buyers at these inflated numbers is likely small and once all the hype dissipates, there's no secondary market left for resale. So the collector must ask himself an important question, "Am I willing to go to my grave with this piece? In all liklihood you will.

    Remember when a good asking price for a HUSH cvr. was 7K? I bought the Batman #618 cover myself for 9K because I loved it enough to keep it forever. But when someone offered me 16K I surrendered it immediately. That just seemed like an insane price for new art.

    Looking back, I think Jim's HUSH cvrs. were an exception to the rule because Jim's rep. Albert Moy miscalculated their demand and underpriced them early on. I find in most cases flipping or recouping your money on new art by a popular artist nowadays is very difficult.

    --Hans

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  14. HUSH is one of those stories that has turned into a modern classic. It's the perfect storm of great art and a storyline that people have nostalgia for. I do not foresee that we will be seeing the same kind of return on the Justice League art that Jim and Scott are currently working on. I don't think the story will generate the same kind of fond remembrance.

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  15. Oh boy. Now you've done it Glen! You've opened up that big ol' can of new 'art verses old art' can of worms. I have to tread carefully here, as ANYTHING I say might be construed as self serving. It's safe to say that I am always honored to be offered the type of cash and trade deals for work that Jim and I have done. Really, other than a very small handful of guys (Hughes, Mignola, Campbell, Charest, and yes, Lee) I don't collect new art, so I understand why old timers look askance at some of these trades and sales on new stuff. Not saying I always agree with all of those dismissive tones, but I can really understand it. In fact, I basically "traded" most of my Hush art for cash in order to buy "vintage" art. While I would make those "trades" again today, the reality is that I would be WAY ahead financially if I had kept the Hush art in lieu of all the Adams, Buscema, BWS and Kirby art I bought with those funds. Like I said, I don't regret that trade off for a moment. By the way Glen, I had 5 Hush covers, including the 608 cover, and only kept one. Yup the 615 cover in question. Thought it was the best one, and the collector in me just couldn't let it go, even with some remarkable offers made for it. Yours included. Don't know if that makes you feel any better about the trade that never happened or not. We all have pieces in our collections that are close to "untouchable" and this just happened to be my one untouchable Hush piece. Now, if you or anyone wants a good deal some 25 year old Strikeforce Morituri...and it's "vintage". LOL

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  16. Thanks for piping in here, Scott. Didn't mean to call you out on the carpet on this debate. It does seem that you tend to come down on the vintage art side of the arguement though in your collecting habits. I'm happy you kept the 615. It proves, being my favorite, that my aesthetic taste is valid after all. :)

    Now about that recreation....can we talk?

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    1. Never hurts to talk.

      By the way, I admit I have a pretty crummy memory, but I just went back and looked at all my old emails, and while I found some discussion about the Batman 615 cover and the Avengers cover, I could not find anything that said we were even close to actually doing a trade or where I offered the Batman cover for the Avengers cover. Not saying it didn't happen, but I don't remember it and can't find any evidence for it. Any chance you kept those old emails?

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    2. I just checked, my AOL emails only go back to 2007. I guess we'll have to go with my unreliable memory on this one. :)

      It's just a story, not a court of law. I promise I won't force you to still do the trade eight years later. :)

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  17. Scott -

    It must be quite a thing to think that 40% of the modern guys you collect emerged out of those Wildstorm talent searches. Add in Jim, and you've had a ringside seat to comic history.

    andy




    "Those were the days..."

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  18. Glen,
    I am not one of the rich however, I am very happy with the art that I have purchased and would not be disappointed if it went down in price. In fact I would LOVE for the prices were to crash because then I could afford to buy more. I have also turned down offers to multiples of what I paid including one where I was offered twice what I paid one week after I purchased the art.
    My complaint was not that you were discussing price but that it seemed that the price of the art was more important than the art itself. For the record if I had the choice of buying the Avengers cover vs the Batman cover at the same price and I was even told that I could resell the Batman for a higher price in a short time, I would still choose the Avengers cover.

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  19. You would also be able to buy more art if you sold that piece you were offered double on the week you bought it and put that money into other more cheaper pieces that you liked. Price has got to be a major factor--things change, tastes change. The piece you love today may be too expensive to hold on to later. Keeping an eye on the market allows you to decide if it's time to sell an expensive piece in your collection and put that money to work somewhere else--maybe where there is a dip in the market. It gives you the freedom to add to your collection in an accelerating environment.

    I did choose to keep the Avengers cover, but as a collector of things with high value I think it's important to continue to analyze these kinds of decisions as they come up or in hindsight.

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  20. Great thread Glen! When I started collecting comic art once again last year (after a 5-year hiatus) I initially bought a bunch of modern art that I liked including some nice Hush panel pages (for $4k-$5k each). When I went to re-sell some of this art to fund other purchases, I quickly realized that I wasn't getting full value and sometimes took a significant loss. As a result, I decided to shift gears, take my losses on the modern art and invest in more blue-chip silver and bronze-era art by the usual suspects. A savy OA collector who may or may not be already represented in this thread ;) once told me that when you invest in the best possible pieces by the best artists with a proven track-record of appreciation, you can't go wrong longer-term. Advice I've tried to always keep top-of-mind. Although, hard advice sometimes to follow when it is so bloody easy to get wrapped up in the emotion/nostalgia/competitiveness of this crazy hobby.

    Now, all of this being said, I agree with Glen in that Hush is a modern classic and I firmly believe that blue-chip pieces from this series are in a league of their own - such as the Bat 615 cover. I would have made the trade myself for sure. But there's that hindsight thing again.

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    1. Solid advice you got there, Mike, from whoever you got that advice from. :)

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  21. Hey Mike, that guy who gave you the advice was pretty smart. ;p

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  22. Hey Glen, great blog. I look forward to reading more in the future.

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  23. I'm going to agree with Miki here (Must be a blue moon). I'm not going to complain, but there is some sadness to hear that finances was almost the sole driver of why a deal was made or fell through. The financial gains may bring you happiness but the missed opportunities have clearly also brought you some regret. I'm not insisting that overpaying for things is the way to go, but sometimes, the excitement in acquisition outweighs the financial loss. I think you made the right move. Hush will go down in history as one of the greatest Batman arcs ever. But Buscema and Palmer may be the greatest Avengers combo in that long history. I'm not making any assumption of what you think of Buscema or Palmer, but the post made me feel their work is underappreciated.

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    1. Not to worry Larry, I fully appreciate the Avengers 80 cover every time I look upon it.

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  24. Hey Glen! Congrats on the blog, well done, and I look forward to future installments. Nobody mentioned that Avengers 80 is a grail -- the first appearance of Red Wolf (Will Talltrees)! A guy running around NYC with his shirt off and a wolf's head hat...that rules! :)

    Steve K.

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  25. Hey, thanks Steve. Yeah, I forgot you were a Red Wolf fanatic. :)

    You even know his alias. Well done.

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  26. Hi Glen, congratulations on this art blog, this is an excellent forum for us fans of the comic art medium to discuss many varied topics, hopefully, without prejudice or censorship.

    Onto your cover for Avengers #80 vs Batman #615. In my opinion, Buscema and Palmer's cover is epic, and I wouldn't trade it for two Jim Lee covers!

    It always staggers me how Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane's artwork fetches massive dollar values, yet legendary artists such as John Buscema fetch much lower prices. It was guys like Big John, Romita, Kirby, Ditko, Colan, Steranko, Kane etc who paved the way for artists like Lee and McFarlane to enter the medium.

    Andrew Van E.

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    1. Thanks Andrew. I guess it's just a matter of supply and demand. The collectors that came of age during the 90's are speaking with their hard earned dollars--and they want their Lee And McFarlane which are becoming in short supply.

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  27. Just want to say GREAT BLOG Glen! You certainly know how to push the "right" buttons to stir the pot, lol.

    Just to chime in on the vintage vs. modern debate: In this hobby there are two primary dynamics that affect demand and thus prices, one is investment and the other is of course nostalgia. The collectors that collect Brand New art and or Commissions must certainly be guided primarily by aesthetics, however, because of the obvious absence of both nostalgia and investors in that type of material, re-sale value if often HORRIFIC. Clearly the investor money is always going to pour into the historic and or key vintage material. Thus when you have the perfect storm of key/historic AND nostalgic elements coming together we see record prices like in the Ditko Spidey, Kirby FF, Romita Spidey, and Byrne X-Men markets. I think guys like Buscema, Colan, Kane and others are lagging behind some of their contemporaries because they simply aren't associated with the truly key, historically significant characters/stories (to the same degree) in spite of their artistic prowess. Of course Buscema has his fans and people that grew up with the material he worked on, but it doesn't seem like the investor money pours into his stuff like it does with Kirby, Ditko, and Romita hence the lower prices. What's interesting is that the crazy prices in the McFarlane and Lee markets are almost all the result of guys that grew up during the 90's "Boom" era simply battling it out with each other to own a coveted piece of their childhood. The ASM #328 cover is no exception to that as EVERYONE knows who Metropolis ultimately bought that cover for. McFarlane and Lee stuff sells for what many consider insane prices simply because of a HYSTERIC level of nostalgia that was born out of a HYSTERIC level of fandom that was the early 90's. There's really no mystery to this, though it shocks me when some people act so baffled by prices. Fifty years from now most of the 90's collectors will be gone and I have no doubt that the pendulum will swing back in favor of the Ditko's, Kirby's, and Romitas of the world.

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    1. I tip my hat to you, Ken. Let me know when you begin teaching that course in comic art collecting 101. I'll sign up. :)

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    2. At the risk of sounding like an idiot....Who did Metropolis buy that cover for??

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    3. Isn't that what happening across the board in collecting right now, guys that grew up during the with a particular era simply battling it out with each other to own a coveted piece of their childhood. It doesn't seem like there is any real sanity right now when it comes to the most coveted pieces in any particular era.

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  28. great article Glen. Listen, price is very important to consider when purchasing . Ignore the troublemakers here. We are not spending our money, we are spending our family's money too. I was welcomed into the home of a man who had $500 MIL art in his home-- yes $500 MIL (he was on the board of directors of NY Met and I bought a Bouguereau drawing from him for cash) and he was kind to share collecting advice. He said consider wisely any purchase over $5K...that if you just like art, buy prints. But buying art was an investment to be done carefully so that one leaves a legacy (and profit) to the family, since you are spending family funds. I never forget that. Unbelievably sometimes I get snippy comments from collectors who give me shit for selling art or buying art to resell. Too bad. Art is a business, with aesthetic benefits. As far as new art vs. old, all collectible hobby's have the same experience-- newer stuff hits the roof because the youngest collectors are most carefree with their money, and the tidal wave of high prices reverberates backwards...I expect 60s and 50s and 40s and 30s to hit their stride within 5 years. Because as we all realize, if a McSpidey cover is wroth $675K (and it isn't imo) then certainly a Ditko cover is $ 1 Mil+. Rob Pistella

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  29. This makes a lot of sense to me, Rob. People get really hung up on the idea that you can't place a dollar value on art that has an emotional resonance--if you're focused on the dollars then you don't appreciate the aesthetic value. You need to look at both, for certain. But if You have financial responsibilities and dependents it's important to keep a close handle on what the value of your pieces are and what the opportunity cost of keeping them may be.

    I didn't know you were so cool-- hanging with the art elite. We need to hang out more often. :)

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  30. Anytime Glen, if I hang out with you, I'm still hanging out with the art elite!!

    Rob

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