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• Comic Book Scarcity
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Comic Book Scarcity
What makes a comic book rare or scarce?
A) Number of published copies (i.e. the print run)
B) Number of copies in existence (the toughest variable to determine a value for)
C) Number of available copies (i.e. number of copies in general circulation available for purchase)
The relationship of these values will always be one of:
A >= B >= C
These initial values are used to determine "Market scarcity" (M) based on the following equation:
Values closer to "1.00" denoting greater market scarcity and values closer to "0.00" denoting less market scarcity.
For example we assume that all copies of Action #1 have been CGC graded, which at the time of this writing would be 27 and the number of available copies that turn up for sale each year is around 2. From Les Daniel's DC book I found Leibowitz's claim that the first 5 or so issues of Action Comics had a run of 200,000 copies, so:
Again, assuming all known copies of Amazing Spider-Man #129 have been CGC graded. It had a print run of 288,232 copies (from the Standard Catalog of Comic Books), 1052 CGC copies (to date) with about 144 showing up annually on eBay
Or the Star Wars #1 35¢ Price Variant. 1500? copies printed (from the 34th OPG) and the assumption being that all existing copies have been CGC'd (35 CGC copies at present) with about 3 turning up annually on eBay:
Obviously if all you care about are high-grade issues you can alter the B and C values to reflect the analysis needed. Not a perfect system but useful for making comparisons.
The C value (available copies) is basically the inverse of demand. If no copies are available then a conclusion can be drawn that it is due to demand being high. Conversely, if every dealer in the country has a copy of the book then you can conclude that demand is low and the availability is high. The B value is the hardest number to define accurately... which makes the CGC census somewhat useful, but only if you are comparing CGC books against each other.
Age, Desirability, and Condition all play a role in the availability factor and most definitely when it comes to the value of a comic book. I have not bothered to dive into the forces that drive collector demand, only the outcome of those factors that result in availability.
Ernie Gerber did the ground-breaking research into the concept of quantifying "scarcity" and his method was based on observational data collected during his years of attempting to photograph every pre-code comic. Most of his data was based on what dealers had available for sale at the time of his research and he then made some deductions about how many copies probably exist. In personal correspondence with Ernie back in 2000, he confessed that he had made some projections with little research and at times he completely fabricated values for genres he had less interest in, particularly the romance and funny animal titles.