It seems like every month there’s a new comic book movie. Even if it feels like Marvel overload, all these movies have led to a renewed interest in comic collecting. Because of this, some titles have started to sell for impressive amounts. Now, many comic book collectors and investors are trying to predict which characters are going to show up in the next major Hollywood production. But does that mean that you’ll get a small fortune for that comic your grandpa gave you? To find out, we first need to take a look at what makes a comic valuable.
Is There Gold in your Comic Collection? Maybe.
Many know of the issue of Action Comics #1 (first appearance of Superman) that sold for $3.2 million dollars. Similarly, a Detective Comics #27 (first appearance of Batman) found in an attic by a family in Fresno made them instant millionaires.
That’s the dream, right?
The reality is slightly different. Those are the types of headlines that drive people to buy lots of lottery tickets and comics can often be like lottery tickets. Most of the time, comics don’t appreciate in value. Even if there is a comic book movie with Silver Surfer the characters comics might not go up in value. However, when investors seeking a high payout buy up comics when an obscure character is suddenly in the Hollywood spotlight, they inflate the market. Obviously large dollar amounts are made by finding that diamond in the rough, but that is very rare.
So does all of this mean that comic collecting based on comic book movies is a bad investment?
No, but in order to get the most out of it, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Do you know what you’re doing?
This may sound obvious. You probably wouldn’t start investing in the stock market without making informed decisions, right? That fits here as well. Comics have such a huge amount of history associated with them. If you’re just buying random issues and hoping to find gold by accident, you’re far more optimistic than I am.
Here’s where the movies come in.
When the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was first announced, investors started scouring comic book shops for characters’ first appearances. Drax had some appearances fetching quite a large amount. But it was that silly little tree, Groot, who brought in the most. That’s because the issue he appeared in first was a very obscure issue of a horror comic from 1960 (Tales to Astonish #13). If you kept that issue bagged and boarded knowing that someday a talking tree would make it into a superhero movie, well, then, I am impressed. The rest of us can only hope to be well versed in the history, and be discerning with where we put our attention and money.
Condition means a lot
Anyone who collects anything will tell you that the condition of the item is very important. In the early days, comics were printed on cheap paper. They were treated pretty roughly by kids who bought them for a nickel. Because of this, key issues from back in the day rarely show up in perfect condition. Even the smallest imperfections, easily overlooked by the untrained eye, can affect the price by a wide margin. That’s where grading services, like the Certified Guarantee Company, come in. They evaluate comics and seal them to prevent any further wear and tear. A comic graded by a respected grading company can mean the difference between a comic that’s worth a fortune and a modest payout. Even a small fold on an interior page can change that grade quite a bit.
What Makes Comic Books Valuable?
The market is sort of fluid and hard to nail down, but what really keeps the value of so called “key issues” high is the fact that they have been known to sell for large amounts, and can be considered to reliably appreciate in value for some time to come. These issues are typically historically significant, and widely revered. They often feature the first appearance of a character or the first issue penned by a writer or illustrator.
The Significance of a Comic Book Influences its Value
Harley Quinn is one of the main characters in the new movie The Birds of Prey, but that doesn’t mean that Harley Quinn #7 from 2016 is going to be worth a lot of money, mostly because nothing of note came from this particular issue. Collectors are looking for the key issues, and even then, quality and print run is going to influence the price. So, if you’re looking to capitalize on the Birds of Prey movie you’d be better off searching for The Batman Adventures #12.
Why, you ask?
Well, Harley Quinn was created for Batman: The Animated Series, not the comics. It was in that particular issue that she first appeared in comics. This is pretty significant in the history of Batman, the Joker, and obviously Harley herself. Comics featuring characters who are appearing in movies will definitely fetch a higher price in the resale market, especially around the release of the film. However, the issues have to mean something for the value to be really affected.
Comic Books Are Only Valuable If Someone Values Them
Think about what you learned in your high school Economics class: higher demand equals higher prices. Action Comics #1 is such a high earning issue not just because of the first appearance of Superman. There are so few issues known to still exist, and even fewer in good condition. There are probably only dozens of comics, out of the thousands that exist, which have that golden ratio of desirability and scarcity. Those comics are almost guaranteed to appreciate, but what about the other ones?
The popularization of comic books through film has spread awareness of characters well beyond the classics. That means that more people will get it when you reference Ego the Living Planet, and it might mean that someone is more likely to spend top dollar to own that issue from your collection that features the character’s first appearance (Thor #132).
But issues from more recent years are in significantly lower demand.
Why Recent Comics are Less Valuable.
Let’s take Ronin for example. The character recently appeared in Avengers: Endgame, but he first showed up as a new alias for Hawkeye in New Avengers #11 in 2005. That issue had approximately 160,000 issues printed in that year, and was a high seller, meaning that even though the issue is in demand, due to the character’s focus in one of the most popular comic book movies of all time, it just isn’t netting high dollar amounts. Even a near mint copy is only going to fetch $20 or so on the market because they just aren’t that hard to find.
This is very important to consider. The comic book market can be a tough place to figure out, especially if you aren’t a seasoned collector or professional comics dealer with a large amount of potential buyers. In the comic book market, the value of a comic is nothing more than an asking price, and that means very little if no one is willing to buy it.
There is money to be made in the comics market, and movies do have an effect on values. Are you making a mistake buying the first appearance of Jessica Drew AKA Spider-Woman (Marvel Spotlight #32)? Probably not, because there is a good chance that she’ll be swinging her way into a movie at some point. But that issue is not going to appreciate in the same way that Action Comics #1 will because of its scarcity and significance. Go ahead and try your luck at picking out the next big issue, but just remember that investing in any market is a gamble. Have fun with it! Like the best stories from your favorite comics, collecting is going to have ups and downs, wins and losses. Only this time, you get to write each frame.