Gerber Scarcity in the Internet Age

GerberMy thanks to Poverty_Row on the Collector’s Society boards for essentially acting as my editor on this post

When a collector buys a given comic book, what drives that decision?  In my experience it can be a lot of things.  I am putting a run of that title together, it’s a cool cover, it has art from an artist that I like, it’s a quirky book I’ve not seen before, etc.  All of these things, and more, have influenced my buying decisions at one time or another.

Often though, I will buy a comic just because I know it is rare.  It may not be a very interesting book, but if it is pre-1954 and it has managed to make it to 2013, I almost feel an obligation to protect it.  How do we define rare in this hobby?  Ernst and Mary Gerber, in their fantastic reference, The Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books, say a comic book is “Rare” when between 11 and 20 copies are in existence.


This scale was created pre-internet when locating collectibles was much harder than it is today.  So what do we, or should we, call “Rare” today?

A brief look at a few key Golden Age books gives a hint.  Take a look at the table below showing these milestone books with their Gerber scarcity number and the current number of CGC graded books.


I could have picked other books here, especially books in and around these milestone issues.  From Detective 1-30 for example, there are a few issues with less than 15 graded copies.  I chose the issues above because I suspect that most, if not all, copies in existence are slabbed.  If someone has a Detective 19 though, it might reside in their collection as a “raw” book.

Action_Comics_1So what do all these numbers say?  For starters, they say that Gerber was pretty accurate in his estimate for Action 1, and maybe a little less so with Detective 27.  One could probably make an argument for Gerber 7 on that book.  As for All Star 8 (a book that lists for $80K in the guide in NM- 9.2) it probably should be considered a Gerber 6.  For a book like Walt Disney Comics & Stories 31 (~$8,000 in NM- 9.2) it’s likely that a lot more “raw” copies of this book exist than do copies of Action 1 or Detective 27.  However, I suspect a Gerber 5 rating is still too low.

In addition to the specifics on these books, I think we can draw a more general conclusion about the Gerber scale and its application today.  Is there any doubt that Action 1 or Detective 27 are “Very Rare” books?  I don’t think so.  I suggest that it might be time to reevaluate this scale to more accurately represent the data that has been gathered as part of the CGC database.  What do you think?

Until next time…

P.S.  As an aside…2018 copies of Amazing Fantasy 15 have been graded by CGC.  Even taking into account multiple submissions of the same book, it is clear that this is not a “Rare” book.  A book in demand?  Sure.  A rare book?  No.

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