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Collecting Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Folks who Buy, Read and Keep Comic Books

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Comic Book Collecting 101...

  • Sep 26, 2010

We have all heard or read the stories in newspapers, Action Comics # 1 sold for $ 3 million dollars, a severely damaged Marvel Comics #1 selling for a sweet $ 18,000 (mint condition is about a few million), Amazing Fantasy selling for a cool million. Let’s get this straight and let us analyze why these comics are so valuable…they weren’t valuable because they had great stories and awesome art, they were valuable because they were a part of pop culture and they were RARE. I’d hate break it to you, but unless you want to spend a humongous amount of money to invest in comic book media, it is a bad idea to buy comics for investment. Why? You need to buy cheap and sell for a lot more. Actor Nicholas Cage sold part of his collection for more than a couple of million dollars.

The Love of Comic books comes from the appreciation, the understanding of the stories and how you begin to care about the characters. Some aficionados only buy the cheaper trades and I respect them. I go by a simple rule; I buy comics for their enjoyment and nothing else--if the book does become valuable in the future then it will only be a mere bonus for me, comic books are simply a part of my personal history and nothing else. My collection spans 4 decades because of the comic books I’ve also inherited. Yes, I have sold some before to get rid of some bills; but making money from them is never a good motivation. I will be describing the three different types of people who buy comics; I’ve seen a small show about it before which inspired this write up, but the following would be my own personal opinion on the matter.

File:Action Comics 1.jpg 

                                File:Amazing Fantasy 15.jpg

1) Investor

People such as “investors” are the ones who buy comics looking for “first appearances”, number one’s, significant events in comics such as “the Death of Superman” among other things. Most of these folks never even read all the comic books they buy, and they have very different ways to pick what they buy. You may want to ask someone why he bought so many issues of THE AVENGERS and THOR when he doesn’t even care about those titles: past present and future (Hint: movies are coming out and they project in an increase of value of those titles. There will be but it won't be significant). Don’t get me wrong, everyone has a right to invest, but don’t pose that you’re a fan--folks who pose give collectors a bad name--which is also why investors deny that they are merely investing. Having and owning comics and loving and understanding them are two different things, there is a difference between knowing your path and walking the path.


Let me tell you a story, remember when the news announced that in Capt. America # 25 (2008 I think) Steve Rogers was going to die? Well, I didn’t even know, so when I came to pick up the issues in my monthly list, I got three copies of the much-talked about # 25. The guys in the store I go to  (I also get a 40% discount)  usually save me 2-3 copies so I can decide which copy I want to buy (I avoid creases and folds) and seeing as all copies of # 25 were sold out or reserved I was approached by two guys in the store--one wore a nice suit who offered me $ 50 for it and another who wore jeans and asked me if I could let one go for $ 10? I asked the two guys two questions about the character. The guy in the suit didn’t know the answers at all but offered me more money instead, while the other guy answered one question right. I sold one copy to the guy who answered one question right for its cover price ($ 2.99), the other copy I sold for $ 2.99 to a co-worker who wanted it for his son. Why did I do this?


Myself, I am not fond of investors in comics. Remember the collapse of the industry in the late 90’s? Investors were the main cause, they bought and bought, provoked the comic book companies to print millions of copies (and reprints) and dozens of different covers. Then when these investors tried to sell the copies and turned out that they were worth squat, they get angry at comic books. So why are the comics in the 90’s worth a dime-a-dozen? Because there are so many copies made and reprinted. Note: they were not garbage--I bought some original graphic novels in the 90’s that are worth 4 times as much now. Because of the collapse, Marvel was pushed to selling the movie rights to its characters for really cheap starting with X-Men; from then on, movie studios have played on which direction the comics themselves would go (comics accomodating their intended adaptations, in costumes, characterization and such). Don't get me wrong, I rather enjoyed some of these Hollywood adaptations, but don't you think it has become an overload lately with all the mediocre comic book movies? Disney now even  has Wolverine and Spider-man appearing as members in three titles of The Avengers (I know how this came about Disney execs saw kids wearing Spidey and Wolverine T-shirts, and Avengers is a soon-to-be produced film). Comics can lose their creative nature when influenced by money men motivated by investors.


So you ask, when is it a good idea to invest? Well, you can buy some 70’s comic books which are a good price (most go from $10 up to even $ 200 for a 40-50 cent cover price, 10 cent cover prices usually go from $ 50 and up) Remember though, if you want to profit, you need to keep the comic at least 10 years; and then there is still no guarantee, it all depends on what happened in the comic to make it more ‘in demand”. Buying a $ 50 comic does not mean huge returns, it may well mean that it would be worth $ 10.00 in the future and this means a loss on your part. Also, always pay cash or check in buying your comics, interests are not worth it.

Truth be told, unless you own issues such as Giant-sized X-Men # 1, X-Men # 1-10, Avengers # 1 and # 5, Justice League of America # 10 and so forth, most comics aren’t exactly that valuable. Golden-Silver age comics and comics from the 80’s are now being reprinted for the fans in trade paperback form. Comic book companies want their piece of the pie, so they are now keeping digital copies of the comics, so they can be reprinted anytime.


So, mister investor, do not even bother trying to invest in comics these days (unless you have a few thousands to invest), comic books now know how to make profit--on their own side of the fence. Hollywood is also getting their piece of the pie, quite honestly. Hollywood is not for the love of comics but for the love of the almighty dollar. (remember Spider-man 3 and Fantastic Four?)

2) Reader

This buyer is actually someone who enjoys comics for what they are. They read each issue for entertainment and may even have extensive knowledge of the characters. These guys however, may keep the comics for their kids in the future, or they may give them away (my brother and his friend gave me their 60’s comic books) and they buy because they enjoy and understand the medium. I do like to converse with readers, since they offer a lot of geek knowledge to the love of comics. However, though readers are fans, they go through phases such as what they may want to read at times and they rely on word of mouth from collectors. They may like comics now but may lose interest in the future.

These folks usually have some valuable titles in their garages (hardly in good condition) and once they lose interest, they may sell them in a garage sale. However, due to the stories we read in the paper these days, some readers are keeping their comic books. Again, this defeats the purposes of the investor, comics only become valuable when they are rare. Readers help keep investors at bay and I like readers who get into what they read. I like readers myself, they are a lot of fun to converse with. I know one person-reader who has an ipad application to read his comics; quite fun really.

3) Collector

These folks are into it for the fun of collecting, for filing, for having comic books. I myself am a collector since I have held on to 98.8 % of my collection (I sold some which were doubles and some British copies). I don’t care if the comic I buy becomes valuable, if it does it is just an added bonus. I do have my favorites that I have collected since the day I first ran to the drugstore. I do love comics but I would be the wrong person to ask if you want to know what will become valuable, because I will never tell…




I see comic books as part of my childhood and a part of pop culture. I like to talk about them and share what my ideas are about them, but I would never think of selling them right away for profit (but I did pay off two credit cards when I sold some). One last advise; some comic books can be worth nothing by itself but worth hundreds and even thousands when combined in a set cacelled titles and mini-series for example). So be careful who you sell your comic for $ 5-10, they may just be completing a set.

Ironic that collectors are usually the ones who own the most valuable comic books, eh? You know why, we buy cheap and forget about them. We love comics and we don’t care about selling them…. It is also quite funny that the people who don’t care whether a comic will become valuable are the same ones who can/may dictate the foreseen ‘value’ of such a title or an issue. Honestly, unless you are a true collector who has read thousands of comics, you will be clueless as to what would become priceless in the near future. (Sure, you can research by reading the comic buyers guide and such, but you can never foresee the industry movements enough to predict its market and buy them at cheap cover price). Investors usually say "I'd rather spand $ 3.99 on a Silver Age comic than spend $ 3.99 on a new one." while readers and real collectors say "I just want to know what is going on with my favorite character these days."

These days for titles with massive reprints, I may just buy the trade paperbacks to read for titles that are not in my monthly list. It is also a better idea to wait for the collections at times.  Comic Books today may be better drawn and have more mature stories...but they are a lot shorter too with less dialogue and bigger panels; I guess it is a way for better art detail and shorter issues mean less stressful deadlines. Yep, I am a geek...so sue me!

Despite my misgivings about investing in comics and profitting from their popularity, I rate comic book collecting a 7 out of 10. Hey it is still a fun hobby...I just wish that the recent H-wood movies and the acquisition of Marvel by Disney didn't drive the cover price so darned high (despite my 40% discount at two stores).

Thanks. Now I take the opportunity to plug a comic book community called REALITY INKED, and Cafe Libri is a Nice Spot for graphic novels too.

This Review is a Cafe Libri Community Exclusive For Lunch.com
Here's a vid on some tips about collecting which I haven't watched LOL!

Comic Book Collecting 101...

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September 27, 2010
Wow, some great advice and stories shared! I am so proud of you for selling the sought after Capt. America # 25 for the cover price to those who actually would enjoy them rather than to the collector. It says a lot about your character. I'm the type of person that collects comics purely for sentimental value and because I enjoy the stories. Thanks so much for such an unique review! I've been trying to come up with some good graphic novel and comic book badge ideas, so if you have any suggestions, shoot them to the discussion thread I created: http://www.lunch.com/cafelibri/Forums-Got_Badges_-74-399-1-1.html
September 29, 2010
Thanks, Adri! I am trying to do some more unique write ups for your community, I know I am a pretty slow reader when it comes to novels but I wanted to contribute something nice for Libri. I guess as for that mentioned issue # 25, (first printing was selling for $ 150 at the time in ebay), I wanted to make sure that whoever got a copy was going to be a fan and not some investor who had a buyer out there. I'll be checking out that link in a bit, I have no idea why, but the heat in Cali has been really draining for me.
September 29, 2010
No problem, William! I love the unique reviews. They stand out more and can be more exciting to read. Don't worry about being a fast reader either. I'm actually a slow reader too when compared to some of the super stars in the community, lol! Wow! Can't believe how high it was going for on ebay at the time. You definitely made the right decision with who you gave it too. No rush on the badge discussion. It's been rather cold here, but I haven't been sleeping well. So, I feel drained anyway. :(
September 26, 2010
AMAZING write up WP and very very well said, I still own 100% of my collection. I couldn't care less about what it is worth like you said, I buy them because I love them and the characters in them. Do I own some that could bring me some good money, yes, will I sell them for any amount of money, no. EXCELLENT write up WP, one of the best I have read.
September 29, 2010
thanks, man. as always your words of encouragement can keep a writer going :)
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William ()
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[From Wikipedia]

Comics are collected for several possible reasons, including appreciation, nostalgia, financial profit, and completion of the collection. The comic book came to light in the pop culture arena in the 1930s due to the popularity of superhero characters Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel. Since the 1960s, two publishers have dominated the American comic book industry: Marvel Comics, publisher of such comics as Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, and DC Comics, which publishes titles such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Other large non-manga publishers include Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics.

As comic books regained their popularity in the 1960s during the boom of the Silver Age, fans organized comic book conventions, where they could meet to discuss their favorite comics with each other and eventually with the creators themselves. As of 2010, numerous conventions and festivals are held around the world, with San Diego Comic Con being the largest and best-known convention in the United States.

While some people collect comic books for personal interest in the medium or characters, others prefer to collect for profit. To assist both types of comic book collector, comic book price guides are available and provide estimates of comic book values as well as information on comic book creators and characters. The price guides assign values for comic books based on demand, availability, and the copy's condition. The longest running price guide is ...

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