What makes a Comic Book Valuable?
Since 1991, I have been an avid comic book collector. I still own the very first comic book my mother ever bought me. My mother had no idea when she bought me that copy of X-Men #16 that she was helping me embark on a hobby that has taken me around the country and afforded me a successful career. I originally fell in love with the art and the idea of being able to do perform incredible feats to save the day. Later in life I began to realize I could use those same books to help make an honest living and support an expensive habit. In 2018, the comic book industry earned approximately 1.095 billion dollars in revenue. The highest selling price a comic book was Action Comics #1. What originally cost a mere 10 cents went for eBay for $3.2 million US dollars on the 24th August 2014. No one knows which comic will become the next Action Comics #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15 (The first appearance of Spider-Man). Countless of collectors run to their comic books stores or peruse the internet to see what new comics are coming out to try to figure out which book might garner a profit. Not every comic will be the geese that laid the golden goose. Their takes certain aspects to create the perfect comic book.
There are several aspects of a comic book that determine its worth. Even though one can never tell which book will be profitable, below are some characteristics that can aid one in their search.
First Appearances or Keys
A “Key” comic book is defined as a comic book issue that contains a significant or key event that have a major effect on the story or an important character. For example, an issue of a comic that introduces or kills off an important character is certainly a key. On the other hand, a comic featuring the origin story of an important character, or a pivotal plot change occurs for a character or group, can also be considered a more important key.
- Amazing Spider-Man #300 (First Appearance of Venom)
- Uncanny X-Men #266 (First Appearance of Gambit)
- Superman #75 (Death of Superman)
- House of M #7 (Scarlet Witch Eliminates the mutant population)
Even though first appearances of a new hero are regarded as the most valuable of comic books, there are comic books from each era that are sought after due to their popularity.
- Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27 from the Golden Age
- Showcase #4 and Amazing Fantasy #15 from the Silver Age
- Incredible Hulk #181 and Marvel Spotlight #5 from the Bronze Age
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 from the Copper Age
- Walking Dead #1 from the Modern Age
Rarity and scarcity
The law of supply and demand even applies to the comic book industry. The amount of a commodity, product, or service available and the desire of buyers for it, considered as factors regulating its price. In layman’s terms, the more people want a comic + the rarity of the comic = the price of the book. That’s why the price of a comic can fluctuate. Even though Spawn #1 remains a popular comic book since is presentation in 1992. The relative value of the book remains low due to the fact there were 1.7 million copies sold. One can easily go online and find a quality copy. There are ways to increase the value of a book like having it graded or signed by an artist or writer. We will speak more on that below.
Desirability and Demand
Even though the numbers of a book is drive the price of comic. In this industry, demand has a greater effect. An example being, there are more than 11,000 CGC-graded copies of New Mutants #98; the first Deadpool appearance; according to CGC census. Even though this issue is easily found and purchased, New Mutants #98 has sold for more than $1,000 online. In contrast, the record sale for a copy of 1942’s New Funnies #69 is $275, even though there are only seven certified copies on the CGC census.
The condition of a comic book has a significant impact on comic book value. Everyone for experts to novices judge a book’s worth based on a 10-point scale. This grading scale is very subjective which is the reason, many fall victim to scammers that raise the price of books or try to offer considerably less for a book based on their personal evaluation. A rating can mean thousands of dollars in some cases.
It takes to years to master the art of grading comics. I always suggest that a buyer does not take an individuals word on the condition of a book unless it is graded by one of the grading companies that will incase your books and certify the condition.
The grading scale is as follows:
- 10 – 9.8 Mint: The best example of a comic book ever seen. Perfect, or as near to perfect as possible.
- 9.6 – 9.2 Near Mint/Mint to Very Fine: Nearly perfect with only minor imperfections that keep it from the next higher grade. The overall look is as if it were just purchased and read once or twice.
- 9.1 - Very Fine/Near Mint to Very Fine: An excellent copy with outstanding eye appeal. Sharp, bright, and clean with supple pages. A comic book of this grade has the appearance of being carefully handled.
- 9.0 – 7.0 Fine/Very Fine: An above-average copy that shows minor wear but is still relatively flat and clean with no significant creasing or other serious defects. Eye appeal is somewhat reduced because of slight surface wear and the accumulation of small defects, specially on the spine and edges. A fine condition comic book appears to have been read a few times and has been handled with moderate care.
- 6.9 – 5.5 Very Good/Fine to Very Good: The average used comic book. A comic in this grade shows some significant moderate wear, but still has not accumulated enough total defects to reduce eye appeal to the point that it is not a desirable copy.
- 5.4 – 3 Good/Very Good to Good: This grade shows substantial wear; often considered a “reading copy.” Comics in this grade have all pages and covers, although there may be small pieces missing. Books in this grade are commonly creased, scuffed, abraded, and soiled, but still completely readable.
- 2.9 – 1.5 Fair/Good to Fair: A copy in this grade shows heavy wear. Some collectors consider this the lowest collectible grade because comic books in lesser condition are usually incomplete and/or brittle. Comics in this grade are usually soiled, faded, ragged, and possibly unattractive. This is the last grade in which a comic remains generally readable.
- 1.4 and below Poor: Most comic books in this grade have been sufficiently degraded to the point where there is little or no collector value; they are easily identified by a complete absence of eye appeal. Comics in this grade are brittle almost to the point of turning to dust with a touch and are usually incomplete.
There is a wide range for some of these categories. I will repeat that I would only accept a grade from a certified company.
There are companies that keep track to the value of comics. Listed below are a few I suggest.