"Hi, I'm a comic book collector (mainly Marvel Golden Age) and I'm always at odds as to whether I should be buying from auction houses or from dealers? Any advice?" - David Schumann, NY
I get asked this one all the time from a range of collectors, but I can shed some light on the pros and cons, David.
Of course, as a comic collector, one of your main priorities will be to complete a run of a certain series (e.g. the incredibly popular Amazing Fantasy books). So, in this case, your best bet is to look to a dealer, where you will be able to find that elusive issue just by searching online and without the hours of sifting through auction catalogues.
Saying that, comic book auctions are becoming more and more popular every year, and your chances of finding a rare copy from a series are becoming increasingly strong. Not to mention the chance of a great deal if no-one else is interested and the reserve is low enough.
There's also the fact that you will undoubtedly meet more collectors like yourself, which could lead to some fantastic swaps or private deals with someone that shares your interest.
The same applies to stamp collecting, an area I have far more experience with. Often that space in your album belongs to only to the rarest stamps and, rather than wait for a certain piece to appear in an auction catalogue, many collectors prefer to buy direct from dealers - it can be years, even decades, before a rarity is released from a private collection. Dealers often guarantee a reasonable price and buying from them avoids the bidding wars that can place your coveted item far out of reach.
Yet nothing beats the thrill and excitement of bidding in an auction and once again, that exposure to other collectors in your field can lead to some great opportunities. Auctions also feature a greater range of oddities than dealers often do - you never know what might turn up in a catalogue. Check out PFC Auctions for some great items that you simply wouldn't find in an online store or dealership.
From a private investment angle, I always consider what other services the auction house or dealer can offer.
For example, your comic art needs to be kept in great condition, right? My company offers continued support after a purchase and we can even store your items in the right conditions if you are not able to. Not only that you will be able to arrange a one-to-one meeting to discuss further details on your purchase, where one of our directors will be happy to explain anything you need to know.
Overall David, I suggest a healthy mix of the two. Each has its plus points and, as I assume you won't be buying just one item in your collecting years, you can switch between auction houses and dealers as much as you like.
I hope this helps!