A beginner's guide to the world of pop culture collectables

Collectables expert Dubsy, who sold a rare Pokemon card to YouTube star Logan Paul for a record $5.27m, explains the basics of this growing niche market

A few of the rare comics owned by Dubsy. Pawan Singh / The National
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It is the summer of 2020 and Covid pandemic lockdowns are in full swing around the world.

In my decades of collecting comic books and other collectables, I have never seen such a surge in this previously niche market, far exceeding the growth rate of any other asset class.

Some would compare it with the cryptocurrency and non-fungible token markets but, in reality, it couldn't be any more different.

Due to millions of individuals stranded at home with nothing to do other than consume media, shop online and even start trading, a new interest in pop culture collecting emerged.

Countless thousands of new collectors and investors started exploring alternative asset classes with their sights set on the collectables market. Now, the collectables market could be considered mainstream.

What are pop culture collectables?

A general definition of a collectable is objects that are desirable, have a perceived value to others and are limited in quantity.

Investors acquire collectables in the hope that the value increases over time, as well as adding a sort of “coolness” associated with owning them; a prized possession.

Just like a piece of fine art displayed at home or the limited-edition watch on your wrist, a pop culture collectable has more bearing to the modern era of what we associate with popular culture from our childhood.

Think of a film you fell in love with during your youth; a musical, rock ‘n’ roll band, perhaps a sports team.

We associate those feelings of nostalgia, our memories of growing up, to those euphoric experiences.

People who grew up in the 1990s, the heyday of modern pop culture, who are now in their 30s and 40s and with disposable incomes, want to relive those memories.

Collecting everything from action figures, comics, trading cards, VHS tapes and more, the choices are endless.

Record prices never seen before

For me, pop culture collecting has been a decades-long endeavour and I have seen some of those markets mature into established ones akin to coin and art collecting.

Comic books was a niche collecting hobby that started in the 1970s.

Today, after the advent of CGC grading (a third-party grading service) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the comic book industry turned over $23 million in the month of October alone, according to GPAnalysis.

In April, a high-graded Superman #1 comic from 1940 set a world record of $5.3 million, obliterating a previous record for an Amazing Fantasy #15 (first Spider-Man) comic set in October of 2021.

Some of Dubsy's rare comic collection, including The Amazing Spider-Man. Pawan Singh / The National

Over the past couple of years, similar records are being broken more often and in all genres of collectables.

Not until 2018 were video games thought of as nothing but video games.

Today, some of these “vintage” sealed video games command prices in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

At the forefront of pop culture collectables are trading cards, specifically sports cards.

The National Sports Collectors Convention (NSCC), or “The National” as fans call it, has been held annually since 1980. In 2022, a record 90,000 people attended the event held in Atlanta, in the US.

Unlike large conventions, such as the San Diego Comic Con, the NSCC caters only to trading cards.

Investing in collectables for the long run

The world of high-end collectables can be an expensive one, but collectors can reap the rewards, both financially and emotionally.

However, just like any investment tool, there are risks.

Patience and experience play the biggest part in how successful one can be.

Collectables are seen as mostly long-term investments, with some jumping on the speculation wagon for quick returns, albeit at a very high risk.

In the end, a collector must also love what he collects. That is where the true success of it stems.

In the end, a collector must also love what he collects. That is where the true success of it stems

Emerging markets

Very recently a new collectable entered the market: vintage VHS tapes.

Although still in its infancy, more collectors are discovering their passion for what was once in almost every household in the world.

Before the digital age brought Netflix and other streaming services, VHS was the way to go.

What makes this market unique is the fact that, although these tapes were sold in the many millions, almost all their plastic protective seals were ripped so the content can be consumed for our viewing pleasure, making sealed VHS tapes quite a rare find.

Just last month a sealed first commercial release of Star Wars: A New Hope from 1982 sold for $114,000. Will VHS collecting rival that of trading cards and comic books in the future?

Only time will tell.

Dubsy has been an avid collector of all things pop-culture since the 1990s. He is a Guinness World Record holder and one of the world's leading collectors of high-end Pokemon cards and comic books. Follow him on Instagram @DubsyCollection and check out his website at www.Dubsy.com

Updated: November 29, 2022, 1:16 PM