From Super-Man to Deadpool, X-Men to The Fantastic Four, comic books have provided hundreds of characters, countless issues and entire (multiple) universes to explore.
But entertainment aside, there’s been a healthy trade in sought-after comics for almost as long as comics have been around. Collecting comics for profit can be an enjoyable, and lucrative, pastime, as long as you have a good eye for a bargain and lots of patience. In this article, we look at where to start.
Where to buy comic books
Visit a specialist comic book shop – The UK has a wide range of fantastic, independent comic book shops, which often sell a mixture of new and second-hand books.
Browse car boot sales, flea markets and (of course) classified sites just like ezeebids – Sellers with little knowledge of comic book values might not realise what exactly they are selling. Check out bundles, job-lots and household clearances, just in case there are any hidden gems buried.
Raid the loft – ask friends and family whether they have any old comics stored away. Perhaps they kept boxes of old stuff from your childhood, or even thought ahead and stored a collector’s edition away with a view to it being worth more money in the future.
Find other enthusiasts and stay in contact with them – Discover out what they’re interested in collecting so you know you’ll have a ready-made buyer should you find a title they’d like. Ask them what they have for sale and let them know what you’re looking for.
Stay up to date by attending comic book conventions – The most famous, Comic-Con in Las Vegas, might be a bit far to travel, but there are smaller events right across the UK. They offer a fantastic setting to meet other collectors, learn about new releases and special editions, discovering new characters and locate rare issues.
What comics to buy
Many collectors prefer to focus on a particular series creator (such as DC or Marvel) or even a specific character, so choosing your favourite character as a starting point for your collection makes sense. Whatever your plan is though, you can be reasonably confident that there will be at least a niche, if not mainstream, market for the titles you collect.
You might also decide to focus on specific writers and artists. There are many and each has his or her own style. You may have a favourite style – therefore it’s likely that other collectors (your potential buyers) will have, too. Popular comic book authors include Alan Moore Neil Gaiman, Bill Willingham and Warren Ellis, but keep an eye on new, up-and-coming talent.
When to buy
There’re no hard and fast rules about when to start collecting your chosen series, and you certainly don’t need to start with issue #1. Having said that, it might make sense to wait until the start of a ‘story arc’. A story arc will usually last for around 10 – 20 issues, often introducing you to several characters and a specific storyline that might include a ‘crossover’ with other comic book titles.
Story arcs can naturally guide your collecting and provide a logical way to progress – having a full story arc series collection is arguably more valuable than a few random issues across a range of series and comics. The length of a story arc can vary from a handful of issues to (in extreme cases) years’ worth of comics.
What and when to sell
- Complete story arcs. Individual comic titles alone might offer little appeal to collectors. But a complete series, focussed around a story theme or ‘arc’ can significantly increase interest, and therefore value.
- Rare, individual comics that are sought after. In reality, it’s unlikely that you’ll just stumble across a classic title from the 1930s, in mint condition. It’s estimated that most originals of the rarest of comics have either already been found or are destroyed. But remember: time adds rarity. Simply carefully storing a relatively recent issue for 5-10 years could leave you sitting on a pretty penny down the line.
- A collection focussed around characters, titles, authors or illustrators which may have become highly topical. For example, it might be an anniversary year for a comic book title, there may have been a global smash-hit Hollywood blockbuster released or perhaps (less commonly), a character has been killed off or put on hiatus.
Understanding the comic book grading system
Comic books have a well-known universal grading system, to give potential buyers an accurate and realistic idea of the quality of what they’re buying. Comics are graded from ‘poor’ through ‘fair’, to ‘good’, ‘fine’ and lastly ‘mint’. Each grading has a score, with poor being 0.5 and mint being 10. For example, the lowest rating may mean that the comic has missing pages, been damaged by liquid or has rips in the cover. Mint on the other hand means the comic has no blemishes whatsoever and is in perfect condition.
What’s it worth?
You’ve uncovered a gem in the bottom of a box of junk at a car boot sale. But is it worth a small fortune or just a few pence? The more you collect, the more confident you’ll become about what comics are in demand and what affects the price a buyer would be willing to pay. If you still aren’t sure, you can use an online price-checker website, such as ComicsPriceGuide.
Quality and rarity of the issue have a major influence on the price of comic books. But when buying with a view to sell for a profit, don’t forget to look out for landmark issues – for example, the first comic in a series, the first appearance of a character or the death of a major character. Even the first appearance of things like clothing, vehicles and weapons can add to the appeal for the avid collector.
Storing your collection prior to selling
There’s no point spending countless hours and a small fortune collecting the perfect series of comic books, only for the family cat to use them as a scratching post. Ideally, seal each comic in an individual clear plastic sleeve or binder. A sturdy storage box will provide extra protection and help protect against moisture, sunlight and accidental damage.
Also take the opportunity to store your comics in a logical order, so that you always know where to find them. Consider filing by character, series or story arc.
Superheroes with £££ appeal
Some of the amounts paid by collectors for the most sought-after issues are eye-watering. But before you get carried away with dreaming about making your fortune, it’s important to remember that many comics will never become valuable, especially on their own.
Just like collecting anything, the key is to stay alert for any opportunities to capitalise on important events in and around the world of comics. Here’s a run-down of some of the headline grabbers;
X-Men Issue #1, 1963 – sold for over £378,000. The X-Men mutants series first see the light of day.
Detective Comics Issue #27 – sold for over £800,000. The first ever appearance of The Batman.
Amazing Fantasy Issue #15, 1962 – sold for over £840,000. Stan Lee’s Spider-Man makes his debut.
Action Comics Issue #1, 1938 – sold for almost £2.5million. Perhaps the most legendary cover of all time – the launch of Superman.
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