A Bull Market for Pop Culture with Travis Landry

Mar 24,2021 | 11:00 EDT By Travis Landry, Director of Pop Culture at Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers

As we end March heading further into Spring, we notice the bright sun, the smell of fresh air, and the birds chirping in the morning. The end of March also gives us a great opportunity to review the first quarter of 2021 from a collectible economist’s standpoint.

If you refer back to our Top Picks article from October 2020, Pop Culture had already been setting records compared to years prior through the pandemic. When compared to the present day, October, 2020 was in some cases a 50% clearance sale in comparison to the prices we’re realizing today. The market is strong, more buyers enter the market every day while supply only goes down. We’re living in the time of cryptocurrency, NFT digital art, and people are seeking alternative investments more and more. Comics, trading cards, toys, video games, fine art, watches, automobiles - you name it, have all been commoditized compared to the collecting mentality of twenty or thirty years ago. I’m confident the market is here to stay with only further growth in the future. Comic books featuring modern-day superheroes have been around for 83 years, Pokémon with its characters of Charizard, Pikachu, Snorlax have become a brand equivalent to that of Disney. The characters of Pokémon are the Mickey, Minnie, and Donald of the 21st century. Last two facts on the investment pitch here, Pokémon is the highest grossing media franchise of all time at 92.121 billion, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest grossing film franchise of all time at 22.2 billion followed by Star Wars at 10.2 billion. I’d argue that’s some pretty strong time-tested staying power for the world of Pop Culture.

With all that being said, on Saturday March 27th Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers will host their Spring Comic, TCG, ad Toy Auction starting at 10:00am est. Here are our Top Picks with some useful collector-investor tips.

Lot 124: Marvel Comics Incredible Hulk #181 CGC 6.0

When assessing the investment quality of a comic, it is similar to that of an algebraic equation. Your variables are historical importance, cover eye appeal, year of publishing, and rarity. Incredible Hulk 181 checks off all four of those boxes. In comparison it is the Amazing Fantasy #15 (1st app. Spider-Man) of the Bronze Age. It features the first full appearance of Wolverine and an incredible cover by Herb Trimpe showcasing the Wolverine in his iconic yellow suite charging at the Hulk - claws out. It doesn’t get any better. Now, the book was printed in 1974, so there are a good number of copies out on the market when compared to Silver Age books. By 1974 serious comic collecting had been prominent for almost a decade. But, one of the interesting notes on Hulk #181 is the book contained a Marvel Value Stamp, and a large majority of them had been removed by kids back in the day. This is a plus in helping the rarity factor. On the silver screen front Disney has acquired the rights back for X-Men. So, you can bet on Wolverine making an appearance within the next five years.

Lot 241: Marvel Comics Giant-Size X-Men #1 CGC 9.0

After acquiring your Incredible Hulk #181, this is the second book you want for your Bronze Age portfolio. Let’s go through the investment checklist. Historical importance, the comic featured the first appearance of the new X-Men team of Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Thunderbird in addition to the second appearance and cover appearance of Wolverine. Cover eye appeal, just look at it! You have the new X-Men in full stride bursting through an image of the old team by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum, two legends of Marvel Comic history. Rarity, the book was published Summer of 1975, being a Giant-Size special it would’ve been subject to a higher print run; however, it is incredibly hard to acquire Giant-Size books in high grade due to their square binding. A white cover is also hard to keep clean. On the silver screen side of this Colossus has already been a fan favorite in the Deadpool franchise, which number 3 is on the way in addition to the overall Disney acquisition of the X-Men and mutant properties. There is a strong future ahead for the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants.

Lot 281: 1999 Pokémon Base Set 1st Ed. Charizard CGC 8

What Action Comics #1 (1st app. Superman) is to comic collectors, is how Pokémon fans feel about a 1st edition Charizard. Outside of the very limited and esoteric Japanese or tournament prize cards, a North American 1st edition Charizard is the holy grail. There is no denying that fact. I personally remember trading my 1st ed Charizard in kindergarten for a Mewtwo, I remember the first time I saw a graded 10 example for sale for about $600.00 in 2008-2009 at comic con, and now another decade later that gem 10 Charizard is roughly $400,000 to $500,000 depending on the day. Man, I wish my 12-year-old self spent $600 on that in 2008 instead of Transformers! Seeing that a 10 and even 9 grades have become unobtainable for a large amount of people, the lower grades are going to begin to rise exponentially. They already have compared to last year! If you can swing it buy this card, throw it in your desk drawer, and forget about if for 6 months, a year, maybe two. Take it out and see what happens, I think you’ll be very happy.

Lot 333: 1999 Pokémon Jungle 1st Ed. Booster Box Factory Sealed

What we have learned through this TCG collecting craze is that the media, social influencers, celebrity collectors etc. are just as important as the cards themselves. It helps fuel the market no questions asked. One of the biggest trends right now is box breaking. This is the act of taking a factory sealed box like this here, and opening it on social media to create very desirable content. People make a ton of money off doing this. What this also does is diminish the supply every day of sealed product. Ultimately making it rarer and theoretically more valuable by the YouTube or TikTok video. It’s great. The point here is sealed product will always be king in my opinion. Outside of the top cards that are the most iconic characters, there are thousands of different Pokémon cards. However, there are far fewer items to collect when buying a sealed box. But the most important factor is the supply of graded cards goes up as people open boxes, find their collections etc. Sealed product only gets rarer, period.

Lot 410: 1982 Bandai GoDaikin Tetsujin 28 Diecast Robot

It wouldn’t be a Top Picks article if I didn't include some robot goodness. Japanese robots were my true first collecting love as a kid and hold a special place in my heart. But even on the stone-cold business side of things, if you’re going to invest in a diecast Japanese robot, Tetsujin 28 is the undisputed fan favorite. He’s the largest, can be used as a playset with the two included miniature maintenance robots and roboboys, and from an aesthetic and quality standpoint just the finest, smoothest diecast robot around. He’s also incredibly hard to find, and back in 1982 he was $80.00. That’s expensive! If you account for inflation that is equivalent to $218.04 today. That’s wicked expensive compared to your average toy. All the boys and girls growing up got to see him on a shelf, but not many got to take one home. Making him a highly coveted robot collectible today.

View the full catalog for Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers, 'Spring Comic, TCG & Toy Auction' coming up on March 27 and register to bid live on Bidsquare.

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Travis Landry is the Director of Pop Culture and Auctioneer for Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers of Cranston, Rhode Island. He is also an expert appraiser on PBS' Antiques Roadshow in Collectibles and Toys & Games.