Comic books have been a major part of America's adolescence since 1932, when the first widespread comic book was printed. Some of the earliest comic books can fetch thousands of dollars at auction and are eagerly sought after by collectors. Is your old comic book collection going to pay for your child's college education? Probably not, but with a good price guide, you can get an idea of how much your favorites are worth.
Value Comes From Grading Your Comic Books
Like many other collectible items, comic books are evaluated according to their condition or grade. The better condition a comic book is in, the more valuable it'll be to collectors. When you're looking at a price guide, whether it's online or at the library, you'll usually see different values given for the same book in different conditions. Be honest with yourself about the condition of your comic book to ensure that you evaluate it accurately.
- Mint: Like new with no defects, very rare
- Near Mint: Almost like new but with minor defects such as a light crease or a small bit of color worn off the cover
- Very Fine: Book has been read but has been handled with care
- Fine: One major defect like minor tears or folds
- Very Good: Book is complete but has major defects like creases, soiling, or tears
- Good: Still readable but with many defects, soiling, tears, and wear
- Fair: Still has all of the pages but has a lot of soiling, taped pages, or is missing part of the cover
- Poor: Pages and parts of pages missing
Ultimately, your own assessments for a comic book's grade aren't going to hold as much weight with buyers as a professional grade (with documentation) is, meaning that you shouldn't attempt to sell your comics based on your personal grading estimates. However, looking for things like missing pages and stains can help you decide if you might want to send your comics off to be graded. Yet, the only way to really estimate your comic book's value is through having it graded by a professional organization like the industry standard, Comics Guaranty Company.
Comic Book Values by Each Era
Collectors divide American comic books into eras, and the earlier the era, the more valuable the comic book (typically). Thus, you want to check the sales information posted on the corner of the comics or the inside front pages to see the book's date. Currently, comic books from before the 1970s and 1980s are pretty collectible and hold varying values, while those from after the 1980s have a more niche collector's market.
- Platinum Age - This includes comic strips and other media that developed into the comic book over time. Most experts agree that the Platinum Age lasted until 1938.
- Golden Age - The Golden Age of comics was a time of superheroes like Superman and Batman. It began in the 1930s and lasted until the early 1950s. During the latter part of the Golden Age, the post-war years, military and western comics replaced superheroes in popularity.
- Silver Age - Experts named the period from 1956 to 1970 the Silver Age, and superheroes were reintroduced during this period starting with The Flash in 1956.
- Bronze Age - The Bronze Age of comics continued the popularity of superheroes but also introduced macabre, dark, and more mature subject matter and characters to the comic book genres. It lasted from 1970 to 1985.
- Modern Age - Beginning in the mid 1980s, comic book characters became increasingly complex. Storylines began overtly incorporating modern themes and identities, and series frequently featured long, multi-comic story arcs.
Comic Book Values by Genre
Another way that your comic books can be valued is based on market demand. In reality, this means that comic books with popular and cult classic characters are more valuable than one-off comics from unknown publishers. Usually, early comic books from well-established characters like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and the X-Men, to name a few, will sell for the highest values of their runs. For instance, a near mint condition Batman #1 from 1940 recently sold for $621, 699.50.
Similarly, comic books that feature a story line that was particularly shocking or beloved can turn into valuable editions themselves. One example of this is Batman #428 from 1988 entitled "Death in the Family" where Batman's sidekick Robin (as Dick Grayson's successor, Jason Todd) is murdered by the Joker. A near mint copy recently sold for $519.88.
As with other value attributions, the best way to make an at-home assessment of your comic book's value by genre is using a print or digital price guide that can give you an estimate based on past sales for specific comic books.
Comic Book Price Guides to Explore
Currently, the industry standard price guide is the Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, which has been published annually since 1970. However, if you don't want to wait for the hard copy to come in the mail, you can head over to these online price guides to get a quicker assessment.
- Price Charting - A great online resource for looking at actual past sale prices is Price Charting. Using their search engine, you can look up individual comic books, comic book publishers, or series, and see how their prices have been charting over the past few years, as well as what their average worth based on their grade.
- Comics Price Guide - You'll need to register for the Comics Price Guide site, but registration is free. There're resources and information to help you grade your comic books according to condition as well as to get a value.
- Comic Book Realm - Comic Book Realm also has free registration and is an excellent resource for all kinds of information about your comic books, including the current values.
- Nostomania - Nostomania allows you to find the value of your comics for free and also has an area where you can buy and sell comics as well.
Extremely Valuable Comics to Look Out For
The most valuable comic books are currently worth thousands of dollars, and these special titles in mint condition have sold for millions in some cases. These extremely rare comics would have any comic book nerd foaming at the mouth at the prospect of owning them, so make sure that you rummage through every old bin of comic books you come across just in case you might stumble onto one of these extremely valuable comic books in the wild:
- Action Comics #1 (first appearance of Superman) - Sold for $3.18 million
- Detective Comics #27 (first appearance of Batman) - Sold for $1.5 million
- Superman #1 (first traditional Superman comic) - Sold for $5.3 million
- Marvel Comics #1 (first comic book released by Marvel) - Sold for $2.4 million
- Amazing Fantasy #16 (first appearance of Spiderman) - Sold for $3.6 million
Stay up-to-Date on Current Prices and Trends
Remember, comic book values are alchemical and always changing, so it's important to keep up-to-date on all of the current news and trends pertaining to the comics you're interested in. Staying aware of what's selling fast and what's currently cheap will ensure that you make high-profit sales and low-cost additions to your collection.