Comic books have exploded in popularity as an investment in recent times, alongside other less established collectables such as baseball cards, Pokémon cards and even handbags. The rarest copies swap hands at astonishing prices, with the current world record held by the exalted Action Comics #1 -the first appearance of Superman- which sold on eBay for 3.2 million US dollars in 2014. Originally issued in June 1938 and sold for 10 cents (or 2 US dollars in 2020), this represents an enormous return on investment for what is essentially printed paper.
Accordingly, this has led many to dip a toe in the water of comic book investing, to consider if they too could flip a comic book for a large profit. Keep reading as we give you a crash course in comic book trading, revealing everything you need to know if you’re just starting out.
Not all comic books are created equal
The aforementioned issue of Action Comics #1 is a good candidate for the first of the ‘Golden Age’ of comic books, when superheroes first burst onto the scene. This era began to end in the 1950s, when popularity began to wane. The Golden Age was followed by the Silver Age, which occurred from approximately 1956-1970.
Mint condition examples of comic books from the Golden Age will sell for consistently high sums, although the best examples from the Silver Age will also be worth considerable sums. A copy of X-Men #1, the first appearance of the titular heroes from 1963, sold for over 800,000 US dollars in June 2021.
Beyond the Golden and Silver Ages, Frank Miller comic books have been known to fetch high prices. The cult nature of his work, venturing into darker, more adult themes has attracted a legion of fans willing to pay large fees for well-preserved examples. One collector even paid 478,000 US dollars for Miller’s first cover sketch for his Dark Knight Returns comic.
The recent explosion of superhero movies has also contributed to value increases for more recent comic books featuring characters that have been well received on our screens. Take 2011’s Ultimate Fall Out #4, the first appearance of Miles Morales. Following 2018’s Spider Man: Enter the Spider Verse film which featured Miles Morales, copies of Ultimate Fallout #4 have been increasing in value steadily from hundreds of dollars to thousands.
All this is to say that while Golden and Silver Age comics might sell for the highest sums in absolute terms, you may find that more contemporary releases offer a greater return on investment, and with lower capital required upfront.
Get familiar with the CGC/CBCS grading scale
The CGC and the CBCS are the authorities when it comes to comic book condition grading. Comic books are sent to these bodies, which grade examples according to a 10 point scale, and then package the comic book in a secure plastic case marked with the item’s grade. Whenever you’ll buy or sell a comic book, it will come in such a case. The closer to 10.0 your item is, the more valuable it is to an investor. Make sure you understand how much value you are likely to lose with a poorer condition item.
Use GoCollect to understand sales trends
GoCollect is a database of almost every comic book ever published. View sales data segmented by grade to get a feel for the current market for a specific item. GoCollect offers a modelling feature which suggests a ‘Fair Market Value’ for an item based on its condition and sales history. This is a good way of getting a gauge of what your example might be worth.
Comic books, like all valuables need adequate protection. Chubb’s valuables insurance provides worldwide protection against loss or damage and will automatically cover you for up to £500,000 for any newly acquired comic books, so long as cover is requested within 90 days of purchase.