Which Old Comic Books are Valuable?
Not all old comic books are valuable. Age is perhaps the least accurate indicator of what makes a comic book desirable. Like other antiques or collectibles, value is determined by how much a collector is willing to pay for the item. There are four basic criteria that make vintage comic books appealing to collectors: condition, supply, characters, and story.
Since comic books are intended to be read and not just looked at, it is sometimes difficult to find key old comic books in mint condition. Those that have survived decades of readership are highly valuable. If they have been properly stored, the chances of retaining value are better than if they have been sitting in a box in an attic, although you shouldn't discount grandpa's old copies of Spider-Man. Even in average condition, some of the most sought-after comics can still fetch quite a price.
The supply of particular old comic books is important to figuring value as well. Just as supply and demand work for any retail product, the less supply of a particular comic, the greater the demand. If there are 15,000 copies of the comic in perfect condition, it is going to be less desirable than one with only 100 known copies in mint condition.
Books featuring major characters are going to be significantly more valuable than ones featuring minor or unknown characters. Names like Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Captain America and the X-Men among other recognizable names are going to fetch the highest dollar. Issues with these characters are going to be much more appealing to collectors than those featuring the relatively unknown Dartman.
Finally, the Holy Grail of comic book collecting is to find first appearances and other significant events for major characters. The first appearance of a particular character is not necessarily the first issue of their series. Many major characters appeared in anthologies or as characters in other series before they had their own. Other events that collectors find appealing are major life changes like births, marriages, loss of power and deaths. Also of interest are issues of crossover into another series.
Based on these factors, the top 10 most valuable old comic books if in mint condition as of early 2009 are:
1940 Whiz Comics #1, first appearance of Captain Marvel. Valued at $84,000 US Dollars(USD)
1940 More Fun Comics #42, first appearance of The Spectre. Valued at $84,000 USD
1940 Flash Comics #1, a promotional comic featuring the Flash. It is valued at $97,000 USD
1941 Captain America #1, first appearance of Captain America. Valued at $125,000 USD
1940 Batman #1, first comic devoted to Batman. Valued at $125,000 USD
1940 All American Comics #16, first appearance of The Green Lantern. Valued at $160,000 USD
1939 Superman #1, first comic devoted to Superman. Valued at $270,000 USD
1939 Marvel Comics #1, first appearance of the Human Torch and other characters. Valued at $330,000 USD
1939 Detective Comics #27, first appearance of Batman. Valued at $375,000 USD
1938 Action Comics #1, first appearance of Superman. Valued at $440,000 USD
I laminated each page of an old comic book to preserve it. Did I make a huge mistake?
I have a 1984 concn comic book still in plastic it is #2 in a two issue limited series. Is it worth anything?
I've heard the 'sold at garage sale' story so many times. Everyone had all these No. 1's that got sold at a 'garage sale'.
Interesting hearing about the most valuable comics on the market today because I currently own a copy of the so called #1 Whiz Comic Captain Marvel.
Nothing like finding a good copy of The Fantastic Four #1 at a garage sale, purchasing it for a buck only to turn around and profit $1200.00! That's where my real passion for comic book hunting began.
A good basic comic book article.
It misses some of the truly interesting price points. Yes, Amazing Fantasy #15 (Spiderman's first appearance) is worth less than Superman's first foray but valued at $50,000, plus it is nothing you would want to to ignore.
There are thousands of almost ho-hum comics out there that feature an artist, writer or inker's early work or are autographed copies of otherwise unimportant issues. These are easily overlooked by the average person but may fetch hundreds or even thousands.
A few that come to mind are McFarland's (originator of SPAWN) early work on Spiderman, and his first 15 issues of SPAWN a number of which were signed by Spawn himself, Al Simmons. Singly some are worth a few hundred but if the series is complete and in near perfect condition, it is worth a few thousand.
Some forays into an unfamiliar character or non-superhero characters can add up to a fairly valuable collection, such as Ivanhoe, Prince Valiant, Uncle Scrooge, Dennis the Menace, and Journey Into Mystery. Often it is these that are found at garage sales or in attic boxes and sold at comic conventions for a few bucks because of a cursory "look over" by a dealer whose focus is the big ticket item. Some issues of the former titles are worth from $50 to several hundred while certain issues of Journey into Mystery are approaching the low thousands.
It is unlikely to stumble upon a perfect copy of Captain America #1 in a yard sale but quite possible to find a "Five Bucks for the box" deal which turns out to be worth several hundred dollars when sold individually to a collector.
I collect Spiderman for reading material but most of my collection's value is in comics like Uncle Scrooge, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, and lesser knowns like the aforementioned Journey Into Mystery, which are a bore to read but my collection of them is worth close to $10,000.
As you will hear from people so often, I loaned my collection of Spiderman and other Marvel comics from the 60's and early 70's 9several boxes of comics, each sleeved, probably well over a thousand issues, to a friend to "read through once" and his family moved. I never got them back. Somewhere out there, the labors of my youth, my lawn mowing and paper route money, has given someone a nice collection of very valuable comics.
I used to be quite the comics fan myself when I was younger. As an 11 year old, I would save up money from yard work and other tasks to buy old comics. Of course, I wasn't buying any comics that are worth much at all. I do however, have a few issues of Spiderman, X-Men, and Fantastic Four from 1967 and 1968. They're no where near first issues, but they are from the original series of those comics. I am hoping that as those franchises acquire more and more legend and timelessness within pop culture, the five or so issues of those series will become more special to comic collectors and, who knows, maybe even museums.
@Charitable - Wow, what a story. I have a similar story. My dad, who was a teenager and very into comic books in the mid 1960's, had first editions of many prominent comic books, including but not limited to The Amazing Spiderman #1, Silver Surfer #1, and X-men #1. He later found out that my grandmother had sold them all, probably for much, much less than they would later be worth, in a garage sale. It's really too bad too, because those comics would undoubtedly be mine now if that garage sale hadn't happened. Too bad, I suppose.
Action Comics #1, which contains the first appearance of Superman, has been more recently given and average worth of around $675,000. There are only five known copies in reasonable condition, until July 2010, when a family facing foreclosure on their home found a copy in very good condition. It is believed they will be able to fetch at least $250,000 for their copy, which will save their home. Quite a lucky find by any stretch of the imagination.
Another interesting story relating to this particular comic came from William Gaines, who publishes Mad Magazine, and whose father was in business with DC Comics in the 1930's. He claimed in an interview that he had dozens of copies around his house, but that most of them were thrown away at some point. I bet he wishes they weren't. Who knew comic books, which cost $.10 or less at the time, could be such a good investment.
you might want to revise your comic book values for Superman and Detective's Batman based on their recent sold price of more than 1 million dollars.
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