Serious investing in collectables can garner great returns, but are not without its risks. Paying attention to trends in the market and sustained popularity of specific characters is important. One sure fire way to earn a return on investment in the world of comic books is to concentrate on first appearances of popular characters. These are generally considered more valuable and are usually in higher demand.

The Incredible Hulk #181 is one of the best known Bronze Age (comics published from the early 1970's to 1980's) issues as it contained the first full appearance of Wolverine. Technically, the first appearance was in The Incredible Hulk #180 since this favorite X-Men character appeared in the last panel, however it is #181 that become so sought after and is considered Wolverines' first real appearance in the Marvel Comics universe. From that small appearance Wolverine has grown into one of the most popular comic book characters of all time.

In 1978 the value of a near mint copy (9.2 on a 10 point condition grading scale adopted by the comic book collectables market) of the Incredible Hulk #181 was $1.20; in 2009 the same copy was valued at $1450. The average annual return for this comic book was 36%. Obviously not all comic books will equal this amount, however, the point is that comic books (as with many other collectables such as stamps) make an excellent investment.

In addition, higher grade copies are worth much more especially if they are officially graded by CGC-Certified Guaranty Company and then preserved in their patented plastic sleeve. Any comic for that matter, graded 9.2 and above by CGC can usually earn multiples of Overstreet Price Guide

First Appearance vs. First Issue

When searching for first appearances as an investment don't assume that it is the same thing as a first issue. The Invincible Iron Man #1 (May, 1968) is not the first appearance of this character. During the Golden and Silver Age of comic books (late 1930's, to late 1960's) a new character often appeared in an anthology comic and if it became popular it received its own series. The first appearance of Iron Man was in March, 1963 in Tales of Suspense #39 worth about $12,500 in near mint condition. The Invincible Iron Man #1 is valued at only $650 near mint.

First appearances of super hero groups are just as important. Consider the Justice League of America which first appeared as a unit in DC's The Brave and the Bold #28 from May, 1960. A near mint copy of this Silver Age Comic is worth about $11,500.

The bottom line is that first appearances make great investments. It is important to note that prices vary widely according to condition. With older comics that feature still popular characters a substantial return on investment is possible as they also appreciate every year. They are also sought after since they are not as expensive as the better condition copies. For instance, a copy of The Brave and the Bold #28 graded as Very Good is valued at $350 and graded as Fine is worth $525. So good luck and good hunting!