In the last decade, the comic book industry has been rejuvenated by an explosion in popularity due to the production of incredible new movies and television programs based on several comic book series. Movies like Batman: The Dark Knight, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy have raked in impressive sums of money, and television series like The Walking Dead and Arrow have become huge fan favorites. As the popularity in comic books has increased in recent years, so has the value of many modern comic books. This article is intended to assist any comic book enthusiasts (or newbies) in how to identify valuable comics and how to make a bit of extra cash from selling them.
What Makes a Comic Book Valuable?
When two comics books have the same cover price, what is it that will make one worth so much more than another? There are multiple facets that can contribute to the value of a comic book including:
- Special Features
- Sold Out
The most basic rule of thumb to follow if you want to make money buying and selling comic books is that if it isn’t popular…..it probably isn’t worth much. Many series and characters tend to have short lives, meaning that the comic never became popular enough to sell enough books and eventually got the axe from the executives. It is a wise decision to avoid short-lived series because they generally will not be worth much in the future. Think of some of the most popular series and characters out there today like Deadpool and The Walking Dead. All have become extremely popular in recent years and in turn, prices of their most prestigious issues have skyrocketed. Take a look at what some of these issues have sold for on eBay in good condition recently:
New Mutants #98 - First Appearance of Deadpool - $250-$300
The Walking Dead #1 - First Walking Dead series - $1,000+
Bottomline is that without the fan base and the popularity, these issues would be worth nowhere near what they are currently fetching.
There are multiple special features of a comic book that can generate value:
First appearances of characters are a no brainer when it comes to comic book investing. Not all characters become popular enough to warrant big money but it is generally considered the most important appearance of any character and definitely holds value.
The number 1 issue of a new series is a big deal. This issue does not always generate the most value within the series, but it is still a great choice to invest in.
9 times out of 10, the first print of an issue is more valuable than all other prints of the same issue. It is very rare that a second or a third print become more valuable than the first print but it does happen.
Signature by Creator
A signed copy from either the writer or the author can really increase the value of a book. Also, anything with a Stan Lee signature is worth a pretty penny.
Some of the more popular comics often have variants produced in coordination with the original issue. A variant issue is one that has a different cover art than the original issue and usually has a smaller quantity produced. The content inside of the variant is identical to the original but because of the uniqueness of the cover and the smaller amount produced, a variant can have a very high demand and become very valuable.
Another very important aspect in determining the value of a comic is the physical condition of the book. Nobody is going to pay the same price for an issue that has a giant dent in one of the corners and a coffee stain on the bottom of the front cover as they will for a perfectly crisp comic which still has sharp corners, no creases in the spine, and a clean cover. For this reason, I would recommend bagging and boarding every single comic book purchased, especially ones that are already valuable. The backing board will keep the book nice and straight to avoid any bending during storage and the cover bag will prevent any liquids from accidentally falling onto the book.
All comic books can be given a grade based on their physical condition which is defined on a ten point scale ranging from 0 to 10. A score of 10 is considered “ Gem Mint” condition whereas a score of 0 is just garbage. Generally a comic within the range of 9 and 10 is considered to be in great condition and should be able to fetch good money in an auction.
For those who think they possess a comic which is in a perfect “ gem mint” or even “near-mint” condition, officially grading a book may be the way to go. To officially grade a comic, one must deliver the book to a registered grading company which will then inspect and grade the book based on the 10-point scale. Once an official grade is determined, the book is then placed within a plastic display case along with a description of the issue and the given grade on the ten point scale.
There are a couple companies that offer this service but Certified Guaranteed Company (CGC) is the only one that really matters. A strong grade from CGC can really set a comic book apart from the rest and bump the value of a comic book to the next level but there are a few risks involved including:
Cost - It costs about $20-$25 per book to be graded
Time - It generally takes over a month to have a book graded and returned
- Score - Sometimes a book you may think is in perfect condition does not meet the exact standards the official grader may have. This may cause a lower grade than expected, which can lower the value of a comic.
A comic book generally has a better chance of increasing in value if there is only a small and limited amount of the issue printed. This concept tends to benefit some of the smaller publishers because they usually have smaller print runs for their series. Marvel and DC Comics tend to have very large print runs for each of their books and as a result it is harder to make money on some of these books.
Generally, a comic book only has a specific number of issues printed on the first run. The number of books printed depends mainly on a publisher’s forecast on how popular they think a book will be, but sometimes publishers can underestimate this factor and print too few copies. In this situation, demand outweighs supply and a book will sell out leaving many fans without a copy and making all other issues of the book worth much more. A lot of times, a publisher will put out a second print or even a third print but the real fans always want the original first print.
Where to Sell
Now that you know how to spot value in a comic book, where do you go to sell them? There are a few different online methods for selling books but the easiest and arguably the best market for finding buyers is eBay. Sign up for an account and start posting your books with as much salesmanship as you can muster. Buyers like to see clear descriptions and even clearer pictures of the books you are selling so make sure those are well done. people will often passover the exact same book as another because something was off with the description.
The best place to price your comics is to find out what they have recently sold for. To do this, search eBay for the book you would like to sell and select the "Sold Listings" option to find out what the issue is going for currently. This method can also find other books that are rising in value.
When to Sell
When to sell a book is going to depend on the book itself.
Some books will need a buy-and-hold strategy in which you will store a book until some catalyst (i.e. a new TV series is optioned) occurs causing a book’s value to increase. This method tends to work better for series in which the popularity of a book is increasing more and more over time. As more fans of the series come on board, the premier issues will become more valuable.
Some comics will require more of a scalp method in which you would buy and sell the book within a week or so. This method tends to work well for books which have quickly sold out and the publisher has not had time to print a second print yet and fans do not want to wait. These books can often come back down in price once the publisher puts out the next print.
Shipping and Handling
Shipping and handling a comic book with care is a very important step to having a successful sale. If a comic does not arrive in the condition a buyer is expecting, the buyer has every right to a refund, and eBay will more than likely take the buyer's side in any type of disagreement so do not expect them to bail you out.
Investing in comic books can be a very fun hobby. Not all books are going to become profitable in the long run but you can still feel good knowing that at the very least you always have a great story to fall back on.