My good buddy, Shawn Low; asked a question about rarity and a possible general foreign collecting guide in another thread. I think it deserves its own post and answer..... What Shawn said "One thing lacking on the foreign comic reprint market that helps cement its legitimacy is a clear resource for pricing, print runs, etc. Think an OSPG for Foreign books. Also, right now it feels like anything could be ‘rare’ just because people don’t see it that often."
You would be correct, Shawn. Without a guide, things are chaotic and fear of getting ripped off is real. For starters though, I'd like to say that in comparison to the American back issue market, most foreign editions are already rarer then their American counterparts. Print runs alone (much less local conditions) make most foreigns incredible rarer right off the bat. So, saying any foreign edition is rare .. isn't actually wrong per say. But, within the foreign scope varying degrees of rarity do make sense of course and some books like (say) certain big runs in Western Europe, are not rare within the foreign niche itself.
Something I'd like you to consider…. Also complicating the issue of a guide, unlike Overstreet, which is concerned with American books in their country of origin.
A foreign guide would have to factor not only what a book might be worth on the American market (the largest back issue comic market in the world), but also the back issue market of a books country of origin. So, for example…. An Italian Spidey 201 might not be worth much here, but In Italy that issue begins the run of a very low print run Italian series. In Italy the book commands big money with stickers attached because of low print run. So, a foreign guide would have to contend with values not only in one place but in 2 places. When I was hunting this book for my set I was blown away with its cost. It isn't really a key here in the states, but its a massive key in Italy. As a writer of a guide we have to know why a book is more valued then those around it. In America, thats easy… in the foreign niche it takes more work.
And trust me .. a foreign guide isn't a new idea…. we at FCC had thought about this already. Years ago, in fact. The best idea we had, was a crowd sourced online way to attempt to record big foreign sales and put a finger on the pulse of both the foreign market and the local foreign books selling here in the states.
The idea was… we would create a closed, private website where vetted members from all over the word could record private, and public sales.
A database would be created with a a bunch of different fields. First field would be if the sale was private, or site-based (foreign auction site). Fields for: title in foreign language, issue number, and publisher. A field for its connection to the original American issue, (sorta like Spiderman 129). A field for general grade (if known). A date field (of course), and this is where it would get tricky. We would need a field for not only price paid, but also 2 fields for which country the buyer was in and which country the seller was in. That way, the database could then be cross-checked… you could say "maaan! that Italian NM Spiderman 201 was sold for big money by a seller in Italy to a buyer in Italy". A reflection of its value in its home market .. but .. when the book crosses country-lines to (say) a seller in America (and it might fall in value, or rise in value…. make sense?) .. a book like the Italian 129 does great here in America! In Italy though, its market realities are not that different then the books around its run for the most part, though that is changing as American money seeks it out there.
So, back to the database. As a researching editor, I then could access the database and pull up only completed sales outside of country of origin, or only sales coming from outside-to-outside, all sorts of data manipulation could then be achieved for a single foreign issue.
This need to keep track of 2 different back issue markets makes a guide a thing of immense complexity.
Of course, however we choose to manipulate the data, this information would be recorded and vetted by a smaller community of trusted editors, who could then see if any shenanigans was going on with fake data etc.
Now, this idea isn't perfect (and it would of course only encompass certain books), but it would be a way to record as many of the largest sales we know.
Over time, we would at least get an idea of the values of certain key foreigns both within their countries of origin and outside of them and maybe as it expanded, it could encompass common books too?
I do know we have friends we trust in many countries so those peeps would be like those regions editors and could draw up reports by country even for a guide. Certain foreign collectors from anywhere with expertise in certain areas like (say), Silver Age Mexicans, could then do reports as well after looking at specific data….. All held within our private database.
Now, of course people would have to trust a guide or reports or whatever or a guide isn't worth nothing. A huge amount of work, but by crowd sourcing .. I think it could be done. So you get the idea? We would need technical help with this. An SQL database expert or coder to help us to make this a reality. Any of you out there?
Again, this is why I always say that in many ways; traditional comic collecting is sorta like high school. Things are pretty easy, you have a trusted guide, you can buy anything you want, you just need money. Things like GPA analysis records slabbed sales, etc etc. but, when you get full on into the foreign niche, its like comic collecting college and PHD level.
It's not easy, It takes research and hours and hours on foreign auction sites/forums to get an idea of indigenous values. Also, communication with the experts within the different countries to get an idea of what's truly rare there or valuable for some reason or simple experience watching what happens…. There are complexities in this niche, Shawn; not only in sourcing books, but market awareness that doesn't exist in traditional collecting.
Right now, the only way to tell if you're being ripped off, is to ask one of us old-school guys.
The guide is in our minds and even then .. we who have been doing this for years, are constantly finding out shit we don't know. Learning new things about books, or back issue market quirks that we didn't know.
It's a brave new world, bro. Why don't you join us? Why don't any of you lurkers join us?
The FCC crew is Foreign Comic Collector Magazine and its friends. We have dedicated massive amounts of time to this niche and pushing awareness out on the general collecting public.
Do your part, share our foreign group to friends, link to our back issues on our site, or just hang out and buy foreigns as you can and share and especially important, don't be afraid to ask questions here in public or PM any of the old school guys.
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