Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Bizarre Business Plan Pt. II

Pop Quiz: What do you need to get to the true value of art?

Give up?

Two people. Two people who want the same piece and you get to see what both of them are willing to spend.

I keep harping about original art since it happens to be a love of mine, so you'll have to bear with me on this one.

One thing that has driven me mad, besides being priced out of an art market that I felt a part of, hell, that I helped drive, is a single strategy of many of the art dealers. I've noticed it now for a number of years and just have to point it out: many of them took pieces of art, primarily covers and splashes, and years ago put extremely high price tags on them. OK, fair enough, try to see what the going rate is for the art.

And they didn't sell.

And they brought back the same pieces, and have been bringing back the same pieces, year after year, and raising the prices again and again. Case in point: when an old Master of Kung Fu cover was really worth about $2K, they were asking for $4K. Now, a good bronze age cover is probably worth that $4K if its a good Kane or Cockrum or Romita piece but a B or C level character, but they're asking $7K now.

Perhaps I'm missing the ppoint here, but isn't the business plan to turn your inventory? What good is it to continually hold on to the pieces, not sell them because you're well beyond what any single one of your customers is willing to spend? Does it help with other business? Why not get the cash to invest in other pieces? I'm seeing the same pieces from some dealers going on 8 or 9 years now.

And you don't have two people who want those pieces at those prices. You don't even have one person at those prices.

Albert Moy has always been on the high end of the art dealers, but give him credit. When he moved a single page for $7K, it was a Steranko splash, not simply a cover hacked out by the Romita Raiders with some slapdash inks on it. The fact that he has had original Byrne/Austin pages from the X-men at his booth speaks well about his connections and the quality of the art that he carries. I may not have been able to buy much from him over the years, but I've found a few things that I couldn't live without. He has turned up with some pretty rare stuff on occasion, like the majority of the Clayface issues of Detective by Rogers and Giordano. Where they've been hiding all these years, no one knows except for Albert.

But I digress. Given that the New York Times is running articles on the value of comic art, I feel vindicated by my love of the work, since now many other people are clearly catching on to what I always knew. And I also feel sad, knowing that my days of being able to find some of the work that I would love to get are long since past. The older pieces that I would love to have are either going to simply trade hands among the private collectors, or will come up for dollar amounts that I will certainly never expect to be able to pay.

And some of the damn pieces are still just sitting there, in the same dealer's portfolios, year after year, as opposed to going to a good home. Don't these people need cash to live or buy new art to sell? Like I said, a bizarre business plan.


Todd Miro said...

The only thing I can figure is that they use the high-end covers and splashes as a way to set a high-level mark that they can use as a reference point for all their other pages.
As the price of the super-premium covers and splashes go up, so do all the mid-level filler pages as well- and those are pages they can move and make a profit on. Since these pages are still so low in comparison to a 7K cover, people will think $800 is a bargain for some crappy Jim Mooney page.

Danny said...

Hey - I like Jim Mooney pages!!

Sriously, it does make me wonder if people actually want to sell high end art or just want to hold it in to make themselves look good. I've been offered some choice Breyfogle art over the past year and have bought virtually all of it, but there is a dealer (that should read, dealers) who have a great cover who keep saying they want 'offers' for it. Each offer I've made has been refused. last time they spoke they said they'd be interested in trading the cover for a Neal Adams Batman cover. Which I don't have.

Now I love Norm's work. Lord knows I have enough of it (but never can have too much), but even Norm would belt me if I traded a Neal Adams Batman cover for one Norm's Detective covers. Now they're out a few grand as I'll wait til someone else buys it and sells it to me. The same guys also pulled the same trick on me for some Ross Andru pages. Go figure.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

interesting thoughts guys. perhaps they are just a calling card, and they don't want to let them go unless someone is going to pay stupid money. I wonder if they think, If I don't have covers on the wall behind my booth, no one will stop by. I'm more likely to stop by if I know that the person has good prices and I can get some stuff.

For a while, the Donnelly's didn't catch on that all the twice up art had taken a big jump and i got a great price on my Avengers #14 page, better than I expected.

Love Norm, but no way anyone is going to trade a neal adams piece for his. Theres driving a tough bargain, and asking someone to do something stupid.

Kid Sis said...

i can't even talk about this subject right now. Still too pissed off about my Ebay sales.

Screeeeeewed over...

And it's the guy who got an original art piece for one dollar who is leaving me bad Ebay feedback because the shipping method HE chose bent it...

Don MacPherson said...

I was at a San Diego con in 2000 or 2003, and at the Anthony Collecibles booth, he had a Danny Bulandi Man-Bat page from an issue of Batman Family. It's an unremarkable page, but I wanted it because it was from my first comic book, the catalyst that started it all.

He wanted $60 for it. I offered him $30, because I felt that I was probably the only person on the planet who'd really be interested in it. The guy manning the booth was a bit curt with me, noting the price was firm. So I walked.

Several years later, the same dealer has the same page for sale on his website, now at $50. I wonder -- is it really worth $20 or $30 bucks for him to keep this unimportant page in his inventory for so long?

Great blog entry.

Don MacPherson said...

Speaking of Albert Moy, I picked up a Perez Avengers page and a Byrne West Coast Avengers at *great* prices at a San Diego con around the same time. He's willing to deal, and I always check his table on the rare occasions I make it to a major con.

Personally, I prefer to buy directly from artists. Prices tend to be better, and you can find some real treasures.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

don - that is a great story. a perfect example of the dealer mentality that i simply don't get. there are a few of those "no one but can ever possibly want these pages" in my collection as well. Oddly, one of them, a gil kane marvel team-up storytelling page has actually come to be one of the more interesting in the portfolio. at the time, (1991?) it was $10 and there were most likely using it as filler for packing other pages.

Sorry that you've never gotten that damn man-bat page!