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A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Investing in Harbinger

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In the early 1990s Valiant Comics was launched and quickly grew to become the third largest publisher in the comic book industry. Valiant was the first publisher, well, ever to be a legitimate challenge to both Marvel and DC in terms of sales and reach. Then, almost overnight the industry collapsed and Valiant was sold to the highest bidder.

In 2012 Valiant Entertainment was re-launched by Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari, and is today stronger than ever with a brighter future more promising than its founders might have ever imagined possible. In the Spring of 2015, Valiant partnered with DMG (a Chinese/US film production group / distributor with a hand in such movies as Transformers: Age of Extinction, Iron Man 3, and Looper) and together raised a nine-figure film fund to adapt the Valiant characters to film and TV (source: DMG and Valiant to Bring Largest Independent Superhero Universe to Movie Theaters Worldwide ). For those who like numbers, nine-figures is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the Summer of 2015, Valiant then announced a partnership with Sony Pictures to bring Bloodshot and Harbinger to the Big Screen in a five picture plan than culminates in a shared universe Harbinger Wars movie.

As the title suggests, this article will focus on the past, present, and future of Harbinger #1 Investing.

Basic CMYK

Harbinger #1 was released in January of 1992 with a low (at the time) print run of 48,000 copies. Wizard Magazine #10 listed Harbinger #1 at No. 9 on their monthly “Top 10” list for May of 1992. The following month in Wizard Magazine #11 (June 1992), Harbinger #1 moved up to the No. 8 spot on that same list, before spending the next four months in the No. 1 spot (Wizard Magazine #12, #13, #14, and #15).

Harbinger #1 w/ coupon

Harbinger #1 has been listed numerous times in other “Top 10” lists as well, including “The Ten Most Important Comic Books of the 1990s“(source: 2006 The Sequart Organization) and “The Top 10 Comic Books of the 1990s” (source: 2014 The Top Lister).

Harbinger #1 featured the first appearance of the Renegades: Peter, Kris, Faith, Charlene and Torque – ALL of which are 100% guaranteed to be in any film adaptations of this book. What made Harbinger different and unique was the fact that it was a story about what a team of young superheroes might really be like in our world. Each character was flawed, and had his/her own motives. Hell, there is a huge debate as to whether or not the villain might not have been the hero; it’s all based on blurred lines or morality and what is “right” for humanity. I have ALWAYS considered Harbinger to be “what Marvel’s X-Men should have been” if such a team were to exist. Can you give an 18 year old god-like powers and simply expect him/her to act responsibly? What makes a hero anyhow? Must a few die to save the many; or is a utopian future not worth the life of a single innocent?

In March of 2008 it was announced:

“Paramount Pictures has acquired rights to turn the Valiant Comics series “Harbinger” into a live-action feature that will be developed as a potential directing vehicle for Brett Ratner. Alexandra Milchan will produce with Ratner and Jay Stern. The project may be branded under the MTV Films banner.” (source: Variety Magazine: “Ratner eyes Valiant’s ‘Harbinger’”)

The market saw a MASSIVE spike in the price of Harbinger #1 in 2008 as a result of this announcement, and record sales were made at that time (e.g. Harbinger #1 CGC 9.8 sold for $2,550 in 2008, while a CGC 9.8 SS sold for $2,000 that same year). 2009 was another decent year for the Harbinger #1 market with prices averaging between $789 and $1,426.

However, Variety Magazine was wrong; Paramount Pictures had NOT acquired the rights to Harbinger from Valiant at any point. They were negotiating at the time. Brett Ratner was supposed to come on board for the project, if Paramount Pictures had been successful in sealing a deal, which did not occur.

Paramount Pictures was pushing a deal that Dinesh and Valiant did not feel was in the best interest of the publisher, nor was it for Harbinger. Dinesh made the decision to NOT close the deal with Paramount, and both he and Valiant took it internal; developing and releasing the comic* (which is simply incredible and will translate to film very well), developed the movie script/concept, and then decided to bring Sony Pictures on board (Spider-Man 1 through 3, and Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2). This was a good turn of events, as it will provide fans the Harbinger movie(s) they deserve, while smartly avoiding anything less than optimal.

Valiant secured the five picture deal with Sony Pictures**, and the momentum started…

The five film projects that are known (so far) are:

  1. Bloodshot (Sony Pictures: expected 2017 / 2018 timeframe)
  2. Harbinger
  3. Bloodshot 2
  4. Harbinger 2
  5. Harbinger Wars

(NOTE:* While not part of this article specifically, the 2012- Harbinger #1 through #25, followed by Harbinger: Omegas #1 through #3, and leading to Imperium #1 to present are hands-down one of the best stories in years. Imperium is likely the best comic being printed today).

(NOTE:** There are two important things to take away from all this: 1.) is that the MONEY IS THERE for these movie projects, and 2.) Sony Pictures is NOT new to the game and has released multiple comic book movies over the last decade. Valiant movies are not a possibility; they are 120% GOING TO HAPPEN. What this means for comic book speculators and/or investors is up to them entirely of course…)

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Then the Harbinger market crashed!

With 2010 came a dramatic decrease in Harbinger #1 market value. Just two years prior 9.8 copies were selling for $1,500 to $2,500, now sellers were lucky to even sell at all. When they did, the prices were FAR below what many long-time collectors had hoped (averaging $397 per sale).

Interestingly enough, the Harbinger #1 CGC 9.8 SS market has remained fairly stable throughout the years, and the numbers have remained quite low with no more than 6 to 8 copies available and the vast majority of sales fetching greater than $1,000 (even during the crash). At the beginning of 2015 Harbinger #1 CGC 9.8 SS sold it’s lowest ever/fluke sale price of $305 (on Jan 17, 2015 via eBay) prior to the DMG movie announcement, and then six months later selling for $1,550 (on Jul 26, 2015 via eBay) after the DMG movie announcement. Blue-Label CGC 9.8’s in 2015 began at or about $325 early in the year, before hitting $1,130 (on Oct 4, 2015 via eBay).

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Part of the Harbinger #1 story is that from 2003 until 2009 only 1 in 20 copies were graded 9.8. Collectors had hoarded copies since the early 1990’s, and with new (at the time) third-party grading companies like CGC, they quickly found that Harbinger #1 had a number of inherent production flaws and/or other discriminatory issues. The cover stock was notoriously thin, and prone to splitting along the spine and/or at the corners. Additionally, since Harbinger #1 contained a coupon (the first of six) for a mail-away special “pink” edition of Harbinger #0, many copies of Harbinger #1 had been sacrificed by having their coupon’s cut out (which CGC rightly qualifies the books as “incomplete”).

Another known problem was pressing, which (due to Harbinger #1 being prone to spine splitting) has led to a significant number of ruined books. In 2015 one collector submitted 21 books for pressing, with 4 being ruined in the process. That is just shy of a 20% failure rate.

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Again, with a 9.8 success-rate floating between only 4% and 6% for much of the decade, it was painfully difficult for the average collector to actually submit and receive a grade of 9.8. Many heartbreaks occurred during this time, only to be crushed further when the market later crashed.

By 2010 the 9.8 success-rate had doubled (10%), and by 2012 it had tripled (15%) presumably due to increased use of pre-screenings for 9.8.

However, the number of 9.8’s has never exceeded 19% of the total graded census.

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So who really cares about all the above info? Why should anyone care about Harbinger #1 as an investment?

Well, for starters, there exist FAR fewer copies of Harbinger #1 (either CGC/CBCS 9.8 or in NM+/M condition) than New Mutants #98 (either CGC/CBCS 9.8+ or in NM+/M condition) and (estimated) about half the number of Batman Adventures #12 (either CGC/CBCS 9.8 or in NM+/M condition).

While both of those books are clearly hot with upcoming movies on the horizon (as well as massive saturation in the media), it is somewhat short-sighted to believe that once Bloodshot and Harbinger trailers start flooding YouTube that interest will not dramatically increase.

While there might be enough high-grade copies of New Mutants #98 for anyone interested to buy on eBay, the numbers are simply NOT there for Harbinger #1. Harbinger #1 will be MUCH harder to obtain; it already is. Fortunately, the market is slow to figure things out, and copies are still available for far less than they will be in just a few years time. At the time of writing this article, zero CGC 9.9’s and zero CGC 10’s have been found.

After more than a decade of CGC grading Harbinger #1, by Mar, 2015 a total of 734 copies had been slabbed, with 134 graded 9.8. The Mar, 2015 DMG movie announcement(s) led to an increase in grading with 131 new graded copies by Oct, 2015 with 18 new CGC 9.8’s (15% of the total graded copies of Harbinger #1 occurred after the 2015 DMG announcement was made; as well as 11% of the total 9.8’s). Only one new Harbinger #1 CGC 9.8 SS has been added (Jan, 2015) to the census since 2013; prior to that no new Harbinger #1 CGC 9.8 SS were added since 2010.

Based on CGC Census as of 02 Nov, 2015, the following charts show a comparison of available 9.8’s for each book:

Compare

NM98compareIt is highly likely that with 3 Harbinger-centric movies on the horizon, the demand for Harbinger #1 will increase significantly, and that there simply will not be enough high-grade copies available to satisfy that demand. In the past 6 months the average market value and/or selling price for CGC/CBCS 9.8’s has increased by nearly 200%. Do not say you were not warned when these books are selling for $1,500 to $2,000 each.

Harbinger #1 is a rare modern book that can/should be bought, sold, and collected at the CGC/CBCS 9.4 and above level. If a CGC/CBCS 9.9 and/or CGC/CBCS 10 were to ever be found, expect that slab to sell for a premium while likely setting a Valiant sales record in the process.

Long story made short, now is the time to pay attention to this book. Now is the time to start shopping for copies.

In addition to this, Harbinger #1 is ALSO the first appearance of Faith, who is set for her own title launching in January of 2016.

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