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A word about prices

March 20, 2010

When it comes to comic book price guides, there’s really only one that anyone ever uses.  Overstreet.  It’s the Industry Standard.  The King.  The 40th edition is coming out this year and never once have I ever seen either man or beast using anything else.  In book stores I’ve seen other guides on the shelf.  I think one is published by CBG (Comic Buyer’s Guide) and if I’m not mistaken there’s another one out there whose publisher I can’t recall.  As far as I can tell those guides are like chemical compounds that can only exist in a lab – they don’t do so well out in the open.  Like I said, at no point have I EVER seen anyone referring to them.

So case closed, right?  Overstreet is the unquestioned master of the field, and no one else can even come close – right?  Not quite.  I don’t want to disparage Overstreet here.  It’s the only guide that offers price breakdowns for different grades: Good, Very Good, Fine, Very Fine, right up to that nice sharp Near Mint that we all love so much.  Its listings are extensive and go all the way back to the 19th century, and you’ll find everything from super-hero books to romance comics, Spidey to Mr. District Attorney.  That’s all great.  So what’s my problem?

I find the prices in Overstreet to be inaccurate.  That’s kind of an issue when you’re dealing with a PRICE GUIDE.

In Overstreet’s defense, they always offer the disclaimer that it’s only a guide, not a rigid code of prices to which we collectors have to adhere or risk the penalty of death.  Fair enough.  It’s just that I rarely, if ever, PAY the Overstreet price for a comic, and that’s sans haggling.  In fact, if I do pay guide for something I kind of feel cheated.  It often works out that the price I pay for Book X, if Book X is in, say, Fine condition, is the price that Overstreet lists for Book X when it’s in Very Good condition.

So maybe inaccurate is too harsh a word.  Is Overstreet inaccurate?  OK, I won’t go that far.  Is Overstreet inflated?  Yeah, maybe that’s it.  Inflated seems right.  I’ll grant that I do all my buying in the DC area, so I’m not up to date on what people are paying for books in Spokane or Topeka, but it seems to me that DC would have prices as high as they might be anywhere else.  I could be wrong on that.  So if they seem inflated in this market, I can’t imagine a lot of markets where they wouldn’t seem inflated.

A quick side not…Before I mentioned the CBG guide that’s published annually.  As useless as that seems to be, I have to say a word about the short guide that CBG puts at the back of it’s monthly magazine.  It only lists prices for Near Mint condition, so you have to do some mental math to figure out what, for example, a Very Fine book would be according to their prices (they list it as 2/3 of NM).  But the crazy thing?  The prices I come out with tend to be a lot closer than those that Overstreet has to offer.  Maybe my math is fuzzy, but I don’t think it is.  Their listings are very limited – a selection of higher profile super-hero comics, but I find them to be very helpful.  When I pay X for something and it’s in accord with this little guide, I don’t feel ripped off.  I feel that I paid a fair price.

Weird.

Anyway, I guess the moral of all this is to take Overstreet with a grain of salt.  Despite their disclaimer I sometimes worry that people might get a little carried away with what they list things at.  I just adjust the prices down a grade – the VG price for a Fine, a Fine for a VF, etc.

But you should only use my adjustments as a guide.  And yes, I do see the irony there.

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