What’s this horses**t?

§ February 22nd, 2021 § Filed under collecting, market crash, retailing § 13 Comments

Okay, so apparently this is a thing that’s been happening. X-Force #1 from 1991…you know, the comic that sold, what, five million copies…which could be had for under ten bucks, usually closer to about a buck…is suddenly selling for premium prices.

…but specifically the variation that was packaged with a Deadpool trading card (approximately one-fifth of the run, as there were five different cards):

The price that I’ve seen bandied about is “$100” which apparently it did sell for on eBay, but a quick look reveals prices to be more in the $20-$40 range, which is still a lot.

And this is goaded on by the fact that this very Deadpool card, just by itself, is apparently selling for even more premium prices, with this optimistic seller offering up a graded ‘n’ slabbed one for $2600. (“Or best offer,” to be fair.)

It wasn’t that long ago…well, okay, it was 2013 when I talked about how folks didn’t seem to care much about early Deadpool appearances that weren’t New Mutants #98. And then just a couple of years back I noted my surprise at how the Deadpool-carded X-Force #1 was now (well, then) priced in the guide at $18 (which isn’t too far off from where most eBay sales are at the moment). BONUS: you can see that lovely pic of me in the second link wielding a full set of those X-Force #1s, with each card in the set represented.

There are a preponderance of these Deadpool cards listed online as “rookie cards,” which…I don’t know, is kind of weird. I mean, I guess, technically, that card is his second appearance, I think, if you want to refer to tie-in merchandise as “appearances” of characters (which leads to madness like calling an issue of Marvel Age the “first appearance” of Spider-Man’s black suit). But calling it a “rookie” card feels…well, feels like forcing the invention of collectability in a market where genuinely collectible items are becoming harder to come by.

I’ve written before (on Twitter, I think) about how this seems to be driving the current speculator market for current issues, where any first appearance, any deviation from the norm is branded “hot” and because of the very nature of current close-to-the-bone comics ordering by retailers, an already scare item becomes that much more scarce. Who needs to chase after an Amazing Fantasy #15 when you can artificially inflate demand for the first appearance of Gold Lantern, a character everyone’s already forgotten about?

Also tying into things I’ve written about before…while millions of X-Force #1 were printed, that doesn’t necessarily follow that millions are out there in readily available circulation. And the ones that do turn up aren’t necessarily going to be in that minty-mint collectable condition. I assure you, no matter how many bags or boards or Mylars or what was it, “Comic Stor” 3-ring binder sleeves were sold, I am betting, just on personal observation of having been in comics retail for nearly 33 years, that most of the copies that ended up in the hands of consumers at that time have been damaged or destroyed over the decades.

And the large amounts of unsold copies that stores still had after that initial sales window closed back in 1991? Probably vanished along with many of the stores that shut down as soon as that comics boom went bust…probably because they were stuck with too many copies of, oh, say, X-Force #1 and comics like that. So it’s possible a lot of that stock is just sitting in storage units or former retailers’ garages, with no where to go, and no access to potential buyers. Which isn’t to say a comic like X-Force #1 is “rare” by any means…just that you have have a longer search ahead of you finding copies, as not many stores open now were open then to have wholesaled them.

(NOTE: I know I’ve discussed this before, in relation to Valiant’s Turok #1. Longtime readers, I beg your patience as Old Man Mike repeats his stories.)

So anyway, does this have anything to do with X-Force #1 avec une carte à collectionner Deadpool suddenly creeping up in price? It probably doesn’t hurt, but it also appears to be tied to the current secondary market for Marvel trading cards also booming beyond belief.

For literally decades any inquiry about Marvel trading cards was always, always, without exception, even more italicized words, from people trying to sell their sets. Never looking to buy. Just trying to turn over their old card sets, and then realizing they’d get next to nothing for them because, well, nobody was buying and stores would be crazy to put any kind of premium price on these.

Well, guess what, from what I can tell looking on the eBays, about a month or so ago it was decided Marvel trading cards were hot and collectible again.

Look, I just did a quick survey, maybe this had been coming for a while, and prices had been creeping up. But in January a complete set of just the base 1990 card set, no holograms, could be had for $60, and now it goes for hundreds. A set with holograms apparently sold for over $600. And I’m sure there’s more I’m missing.

In short, when no one was looking, Marvel’s trading cards suddenly shot up in price. Even that $60 for a base set was five times the going market price on these for years. And most tellingly, within the last few days I’ve started to get actual inquiries from people looking to buy them. Granted, they’d likely want them for the traditional low prices than the new hot market prices, but that this online trend is trickling down into the real world is somewhat telling.

I suppose again it’s the idea of relative scarcity, especially after these sets were ignored and untraded in shops during the trading card lull in the comics market. Like all those hot 1990s comics, sets were probably disused into noncollectability or just lost, and retail stores that may have had inventory on these at the time are long gone. Again, more product that still isn’t reate, but now not as easy to find as it once was.

So it that what’s happening here? Marvel cards are suddenly getting hot, and now “promo” cards like that Deadpool one are being driven up in price as well along with them? If I had to guess, I’d say X-Force #1s are likely easier to track down than full sets of Marvel Universe cards…so are those Deadpool “rookies” being boosted as collectables to capitalize on the newly-resurging card market? Those Deadpool cards seem to be selling, on average, for more than the comic with said card. Should I open up the X-Force #1 I have in the store and just sell the card by itself?

Some of the eBay listings I’ve looked at don’t even mention that the card was originally a comic book insert. Do some buyers even realize that it was an insert? Do some sellers even know? It has been 30 years…a non-zero percentage of the people involved in these transactions were almost certainly not even born yet.

It all seems so amazing to me that these comics and cards after years of being mostly moribund are suddenly The Hot Tickets. But then, there was a time at the old shop when we were selling New Mutants #98 with Deadpool’s first appearance at $10 a pop and thinking this had to be some sort of crime selling them for so much. So as the market changes, I guess I gotta roll with it.

I’ve leaving that Deadpool card intact inside that X-Force #1 I had at the shop, however. Popping it open just to sell the card is a bridge too far.

13 Responses to “What’s this horses**t?”

  • G23 says:

    I direct you to looking into “NBA Top shots.” People are making a ton of money (short term) pumping and dumping these. It’s going to end poorly, as we all know, but some of the more ambitious types are speculating on future demand on other types of trading cards. As crazy as it may sound, Marvel cards are one of the different cards being looked into.

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    That cover just hurts my eyes. X-Force #1 is objectively one of the worst-drawn and most poorly-written comics I’ve ever come across. I have one or more copies that came as freebies with online comics orders 15 or 20 years ago (shows you how much people cared about the issue then). Maybe I’m lucky and have the Deadpool one and can sell the piece of crap.

  • JohnJ says:

    Sounds like a collectible market version of the whole stock market thing with speculators driving up the price of GameStop stock for devious reasons. EBay could easily be manipulated with phony pricing just to set up a false front of desirability hoping to hook a gullible fish or two.
    That card tells me one other thing. Deadpool became a popular character in spite of Liefeld’s “art.” Seriously, has he worked on even one percent of the totality of Deadpool stories?

  • Thom H. says:

    Rob Liefeld is the creator of Deadpool in that he designed and introduced the character. The Deadpool we all grew to love, then tolerate, then get sick of was mainly fleshed out by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness later on. As we look back at the character, we project the later version onto Liefeld’s less sophisticated original idea.

    Which isn’t that uncommon in comics, I guess — Stan Lee and Jack Kirby technically “created” the X-Men, but it wasn’t until most of the characters were replaced by a totally new creative team that the series took off. Lee and Kirby still get the “created by” credit even though the X-Men was always a 2nd or 3rd tier book under their guidance.

    And I agree about that art — I’ve never understood the love for Liefeld or most of the Image founders. Seriously, a character’s thigh should not be as thick as their waist. I mean, that’s just basic math.

  • Thom H. says:

    Oops — just remembered that I also wanted to say:

    DC seems to have gotten wise to the new short-term collectibles market because they’re releasing new Harley Quinn knock-off characters at the speed of light. Miracle Molly is coming in May, but didn’t we just have Punchline? Pretty soon they’ll each have their own book.

  • Matthew says:

    You’ve mentioned the “Shazam! effect” before in relation to the 1970s Shazam comic (https://www.progressiveruin.com/2012/07/09/theres-gold-in-them-thar-funnybooks/) and I think there’s an element of that happening here too. I mean, X-Force #1 came out 30 years ago, that’s the same gap between Fantastic Four #1 and X-Force #1. Plus people who were young when it first came out our (potentially) old enough to have money and nostalgia for that thing they used to have?

  • John Lancaster says:

    So what you’re telling me Mike, is that I need to get a time machine and stop a nearly thirty-year-younger me from dumping box after box of Turok #1 into the recycler? Will that have become been my ultimate failure? Missing out on filthy lucre from stupid speculators is one of my worst fears. Well, that and Phill- King of the Pill Bugs.

  • Mike: I don’t recall if I mentioned it here last time you brought up Turok#1, but as the store I worked at closed for good, the last scene I took in was Turok and those four Deathmate covers.

    I still have my Ed Wood and Universal Monsters trading cards, I gave my Kingdom Come cards to a friend. The store sold those Dracula cards based on the film very good indeed. I remember that, we had boxes disappear in a week. We never sold pogs, though, so I wonder if that was a regional thing.

    Following on what Thom H. wrote: I’ve mentioned how things were when Image first appeared with other shop owners after the new52 started up (higher rent and then the pandemic has made that only one store now, the first “specialty” shop in the area, back in 1980). On how maybe there is a kernel out there where whomever created that mess recalled the huge amount of younger kids religiously buying every Image book regardless of how long it took to come out. And connected that to it being thirty years later and a fair amount of those kids now being in their 40s and having much more disposable income. My personal pull list for a long time was almost as many Image books as DC (REVIVAL, SEX CRIMINALS, PAPER GIRLS, THE WALKING DEAD) as any DC or Marvel book if you go back five to ten years.

    If anyone ends up looking at baseball cards, check out my great-uncle Slim Sallee, who pitched two no-hitters in two consecutive World Series in 1918-9 for different teams. If I ever do see Rob Liefeld at a convention, and as most people say, he is a nice guy and takes criticism of his art nicely, I intend to have him do a sketch of Uncle Slim. One of my remaining vision quests.

  • @misterjayem says:

    “How do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions?” — Alan Greenspan, 1996

    “Those Deadpool cards seem to be selling, on average, for more than the comic with said card.” — Mike Sterling, 2021

    Now I’m no Julliard-trained economist, but…

    — MrJM

  • MRPRSN says:

    I usually miss out on getting stuff up on the ol’ feeBay when they are hot but I did manage to get my timing right to sell The Vision #1 (2015) while everyone is talking about WandaVision on Disney+. Hopefully I can dig out my set of Marvel Masterworks cards before the card market collapses again.

  • […] I do plan on returning to the trading card pricing topic of this post from Monday…that was going to require more time than I had for blogging this week (hence only […]

  • Snark Shark says:

    “which leads to madness like calling an issue of Marvel Age the “first appearance” of Spider-Man’s black suit”


    Deadpool is the ONLY decent character co-created by Liefeld.

  • […] last week, when I was a’typin’ about the weirdo Marvel trading card boom allegedly going on right now, Matthew noted (in reference to […]