Ultimate Guide to Selling and Investing in Comic Books

Umair Aamir

Umair Aamir

28 minute read

 

        Are you planning to sell or invest in comic books? When it comes to investing, we generally think it involves something like Blockchain, Real Estate, or the Stock Market. However, an investment is just an asset or an item with the potential of generating income or showing appreciation. Hence, an investment can be various collectibles such as trading cards, pop culture collectibles, toys, and even comic books. Almost everyone in the modern age has been a fan of the various characters or knows about them. It might be quite tempting if I told you that you can earn money or enjoy profitable assets simply by investing in your favorite characters such as Iron Man, Batman, or Spiderman. Comic books are quite a fun thing for almost everyone. You can build a collection of all your favorite characters, read about them, keep them as assets, and use them to multiply your wealth.

Unlike the stock market, the comic book market offers a more crude form of investment – termed as a secured investment. Comic books are more fun than stocks because you are investing in your favorite characters. Unlike the stock market, the comic book market never crashes. However, while there can be some fluctuations in the value of your comic books, your investment is always there in sight. You can always hold your comic book as it is getting more and more valuable as the days pass. According to a lot of people, comic books are deemed something only kids do, but it is more than that. This industry has much more to it than mere child’s play. It contains nostalgia, passion, enthusiasm, and wealth. 

Comic books are an important part of American history. Back in world war times, war comic books helped incite patriotism in the younger generation and a sense of saving the world from evil. From superman to almost every good character, they helped the helpless and reshaped the world into a better version of itself. The best thing about investing in comic books is that you can invest any amount in every range. You can invest from millions to only a few hundred. According to a lot of comic book vendors and investment gurus, investing in comic books is to some extent recession-proof, which makes it a secure investment. There can be minor fluctuations in the pricing of comic books; but if you hold them properly, you will not be losing principal and, in fact, multiplying it.

Fun fact: You can even invest millions in a single comic book. For example, A comic book featuring the first-ever appearance of the friendly neighborhood spiderman, Amazing Fantasy #15, was sold for a whopping $3.6 million at auction. 

In recent years, the comic book market has become drastically popular. Ever since superheroes paved their way to the cinema or TV shows, the comic book market has gained popularity and new comic book enthusiasts. A series of films is named “Avengers” and features a team of Marvel Comic book Superhero team. Nowadays, comic books as shows, games, and movies are released every month. With several comic book movies crossing the billion mark at the box office worldwide to winning Oscars, the characters and their associated books are getting more popular day by day. 

Apart from their cinematic appearances, Marvel and DC Comics have both launched their own streaming services. They offer all their comic book-related movies exclusively at a minimal cost. Thousands of new consumers are subscribing daily. TV shows and cinematic films – both animated and live-action – are being offered on these platforms. Apart from cinema, video games featuring comic book characters are also a worldwide success. 

Of course, superhero video games have been around for quite a while, but the Batman Arkham series is the one that actually defines gaming in the superhero genre. This series has around 7 sequels – all massive successes that sold billions of copies worldwide. The massive success of this series opened new realms for video games featuring superheroes. After the Arkham series, both Marvel and DC comics began to develop new video games, leading to the Spiderman game being offered as a Playstation exclusive. Daily newer video games from both franchises that boost the popularity of their associated characters have led to price hikes of several books.

When it comes to pricing a comic book, it depends on a lot of factors. If it features first appearances or a crossover between two characters, it is usually more expensive. In terms of condition, comic books are usually graded via a 10 point grading scale. The higher the grade, the more expensive the comic is. Age also plays an important role when it comes to pricing a comic book. In short, age, grade, significance, and condition determine the price of a comic book.

However, the actual price of a comic book is how much someone is willing to pay for it.”

You can sell a comic book that costs $10 for $100 if someone is willing to pay for it! 

Here is our comprehensive guide to selling and investing in comic books:

  • Setting goals

The first thing before investing in comic books is to adopt a mindset. Determine how much money and time you are willing to invest in the comic book industry. Focus on your goal.

  • Set a budget

After you have made up your mind, set up a budget. Determine how much you are willing to invest in comic books. Always remember not to measure the depth of the sea with both hands. Don’t go all in. First, spare a few hundred dollars that won’t affect your budget even if you lose them.

  • Create a schedule

Make a schedule to give some time to your hobby. Research it. Learn the ins and outs of the industry. Join a few comic book boards and spend time there. Get acquainted with comic books and comic book culture.

  • Decide your utmost goal

After you have set your budget and learned the ins and outs of the industry, make it your utmost goal to determine how much you can make from this industry. Different financial goals lead to different strategies. Do you have some cash and are looking for a long-term asset or do you want to make money in the next few months?

Comic buying strategies

 
  • Long term investment

             If you want to buy a comic book as a valuable asset that you can hold for a long period of time, then you need a completely different strategy as compared to comic books as short-term investments. If you plan to invest for long-term growth with less associated risk, start investing in classic characters and graded  comic books that have been a hot item since forever. Stop focusing on the current market. Focus on the worth of your comic book after several years when it is still in demand. Rare comic books with renowned characters usually cost more and have less associated risk.

  • Flipping 

          Flipping is a strategy for those who want to invest for a lesser price and then flip it in a shorter period of time. You can attain flippable comic books by easily keeping track of upcoming TV shows, movies, and their associated items. Before you start flipping, it is very important to consider the risks involved. Movies get canceled. Fans lose interest in some comics. Price drops happen or maybe the book you are investing in might not get the hype you think it deserves. These are all flukes and some strategies are prone to fail. It is very important to know about comic book price fluctuations, demand, and market trends in order to flip with minimal risk. Educate yourself and learn about the industry before you start investing.

  • Collecting         

     Maybe you are buying comic books for the purpose of investment, but it may not be a source of increased wealth for everyone. Comic books are a hobby in the first place and an investment in the second. Comic people collect comic books as a hobby. They keep comic books as they bring happiness and satisfaction. If you like a certain character such as Batman, you can collect issues featuring Batman. You can simply enjoy collecting; and later on, you can flip them if you want.

Key issues

          A key comic book is defined as a comic book issue that holds a greater value or is of higher significance as compared to the others. In most cases, key issues are usually those in which a popular character makes their first appearance. However, that character may have appeared before in some medium other than comics, but that character’s first appearance in a comic book makes it a key issue.

  • New Label:

   Other than the first appearances, the launch of a new label or imprint can also signify a comic book as a key issue. Well, a lot of comic books have labels not related to the main universe. For example, DC has Black Label and Vertigo they use for mature stories. For example, Batman Damned #1 is signified as a key issue because it is known as the first comic book issue published under a Black Label imprint.

  • New Universe:

    Furthermore, comic books mark the beginning of a Universe within a given publisher. For instance, DC Comics have “Millerverse” named after Frank Miller’s own spin on DC characters such as “The Dark Knight Returns”. Other than the Millerverse, there is also a “Murphyverse” named after the infamous Sean Gordon Murphy, or the White Knight Comics.

  • Iconic Cover or Storyline:

    These comic books don’t have any of the above-mentioned characteristics, but they are extremely popular because they have an iconic cover or a popular storyline. For Example, Detective Comic #476 brings the famous laughing fish and an iconic cover.

  • Distinctive Series:

    These comic books allow a character to be in their own distinctive series with their own parent name. They are the books that mark a character in their own first titular series. For example, The Incredible Hulk #1, Batman #1, Superman #1, and Wonder Woman #1, etc., which mark the first series of their distinctive characters.

The plot in cinematic verse:

   With lots of comic book movies making their way to cinemas, the books that serve as the basic plot of a movie are also referred to as key issues. For instance, the inspiration for the first Hellboy movie is Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, and the inspiration for the brilliant cinematic masterpiece by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises, became the Knightfall storyline.

Why Key issues are so Important?

      These key issues usually carry so much significance that the fans dig them, which is why they are much in demand and carry a high value. Typically, key issues are 10 to 20 percent more expensive compared to their predecessors and sequels. Nowadays, only a number of key issues come out every year. Either they mark the end of an ongoing series, big crossover events, deaths, or infrequent first appearances.

    A proportion of more expensive key comic book issues usually fits in more than one series such as Action Comics. They not only mark the origin story of the Man of Steel Superman and his beloved Lois Lane, but also the origin story of Superman. Apart from these, such a key issue may also be the first-ever issue of the long-running Action Comics, the first in modern comics, as well as the foundation of the DC Comics Universe.

Value Variables

    The value of a comic book depends on a lot of factors. If we consider these factors, we can easily determine the value of a comic book and whether it is a worthy investment or not. These value variables also play a role in determining the demand of a comic book on the market.

  • Age:

   Like all collectibles, the true value of a comic book can be determined by its age. The older a comic book is, the more value it is likely to have. In terms of age, comic historians divide comic books into four eras. These eras are termed as the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the Modern Age. The Golden Age ranges from 1938-1950. The Silver age and Bronze Age range from 1956-1970 and 1970-1985, respectively. Currently, we have the Modern Age, which ranges from 1985 to the present. Comic book prices may vary in terms of age. Golden Age comic books are generally more expensive than Silver Age, and vice versa. Henceforth, the older the comic book, the more value it is supposed to have. The older the comic book means that only a few mixed numbers of books are on the market alongside increasing demand. As they say, “Less supply and more demand is directly proportional to higher value.”

Comic books featuring all-star characters such as Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman are considered classics. These classic characters are very unlikely to suffer from a recession and lose their price in the market. Hence, their prices are less prone to fluctuate on a daily basis alongside less associated risk.

As the character gains popularity, more fans and collectors are looking for their associated collectibles such as antique toys. However, the prices of certain issues may vary as comic books that feature the first appearances of characters are much more expensive, comparatively. The comic book’s age plays an important role when it comes to prices. However, there are some exceptions in which some Silver Age comic books are relatively pricier than the Golden Age ones. For example, The Amazing Fantasy #15, which belongs to the Silver Age, marks as the most expensive comic book ever sold.

 

  • The grading company:

     When it comes to preserving and preventing a comic book from demand, grading is a must-have. Comic book grading is sealing a comic book in a tight hard shell plastic case, while mentioning the condition of a comic book on top of it. These grading companies determine the true value of  comics in a much-standardized 10 point grading scale. One of the best pieces of advice you can give to a new investor is to get into graded comic books as they have standardized pricing and are easier to estimate compared to a raw comic.

Graded comic books enjoy a higher demand in the market and are less prone to lose their grade or condition. When it comes to graded comics, the grading companies play an important role at determining the price of a comic book.

There are four major graded companies:

  •         Certified Guaranty Company (CGC)
  •         Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS)
  •         Halo Certification PTY LTD
  •         Professional Grading Experts (PGX)

 

    In terms of market value, out of all the grading companies, we advise you to stick with CGC and CBCS. These two companies have a significantly higher market cap and more demand. Comic books graded by CGC have a much higher price tag. In fact, CGC is the most respected and highly trusted grading company among collectors out there. In terms of long-term investment, graded comics are easier to handle, much secure, and less prone to lose their grade over time. Another plus point of graded comics is that they can be insured.

  • Scarcity:

            The scarcity of a comic book plays an important role in pricing. If a comic book is rare and even less sightly, it is more likely to be sold at a much higher price because a lot of collectors would pay a fine just to have that book in their collection. The number of comic books on the market can easily affect the value – by quite a lot. In the collectible market, supply and demand play an important role; you should consider these factors before investing. 

          Collectors and enthusiasts love rare comic books. However, just because your comic book is rare and has a low supply doesn’t mean it has more value. It is a vast field; there are a lot of factors that determine the actual price of a comic book. Overall awareness of that particular comic book, its character, and the events in the book are the things to consider. It is on you to decide whether your comic book is in low supply because it is rare or so irrelevant and less in demand that no one is sending it for grading.

         If you want to determine the supply of comic books, population  or grading company reports is the way to go. You can access these reports to determine the scarcity of your comic book. An eBay sold listing is also a good way to determine the scarcity of a comic book. Population reports are among the finest tools for a comic book investor. Use these reports to compare comic books and find the rarest and hottest comic book out there.

  • Buying raw vs graded:

             When it comes to buying comic books, you can buy  books graded by a renowned company or a book in raw condition. Raw comic books are those that haven’t been sent for grading to a grading company.  Raw comic books are comparatively cheaper, but they generally don’t have a nicer grade. Because raw comic books aren’t protected, they are more prone to damage than a comic book sealed in a plastic case. Raw comic books can help you grow as a beginner since you can buy five raw comic books compared to a single graded comic book. You can easily brush up on your skills as an investor and get acquainted with the industry by using raw comic books; but if you are looking for long-term investments, you should go with graded comic books. However, it is much better to start with raw comics and then move on to graded comic books after you have gained experience.

  • Surface, corners, edges, creases, and centering:

            When buying raw comics, always pay good attention to the details. Focus on the spine, page color, creases, folds, edges, smudges, and corners of the comic book. Try to buy comic books in pristine condition without any nuisance that might affect their grade. We also advise paying attention to the condition of the graded case as well. Check for any fall marks on the case, cracks, or anything suspicious. Grading is a subjective process that entails the human factor. Comic books are graded by people based on their condition. Nowadays, a lot of scammers try to open the graded case and put cheap knockoff copies inside.

    Determining the condition and the grade of a comic book is a difficult process, but you can acquire this skill over time. Always focus on the condition of a raw comic book  and then send it to a grading company for grading.

  • Cultural relevance:

          Cultural significance plays an important role in determining the demand for comic books in a market. For example, American old war comics are much in demand because they are a source of how great America is. When Superman lost to Muhammad Ali also has cultural relevance among all the avid basketball and Muhammad Ali fans. 

  • Character:

          The main protagonist plays an important role in estimating the short-term fluctuations of a comic book. You can always keep track of the character in a particular book and its relevance to the market. Keep track of the features of that character. Check if there is an upcoming movie in the works, a TV show, a video game, or something new.  Relevant characters are always in demand. Their appearances are one of the most important factors in causing both short-term and long-term fluctuations of comic books that feature the character. If the movie is a huge blockbuster or fans love that character, then it’s a long-term price hike.

  • Your negotiation tactics:

        When it comes to dealing in something or buying and selling, negotiation is the key whether you are dealing in person or online. There is a specific section when you are dealing online termed as “accepts offer” from where you can message the buyer and negotiate a reasonable price. With loads of information on recent sales, there isn’t a lot of flexibility in terms of price. However, if you develop a good relationship with a seller or buy from them more than once, you can ask for a lower price and get complementary discounts.

  • Nostalgic elements:

                 Nostalgia is one of the important drivers when it comes to human behavior and it plays an important role in the world of collectibles. Many people have some sort of sentimental value attached to some characters and comics. Characters like Superman, Batman, Mickey Mouse, and a lot of other characters have sentimental value in the hearts of people. People collect these characters because they played with them when they were younger or it brings them inspiration and a sense of hope. For example, old American war comics are a sign of nostalgia from Superman defeating the Nazis to helping American soldiers win the war.

  • Demand

Demand is a crucial factor when it comes to the pricing of a comic book. If the demand of the particular character is depreciating, then, it is very likely that your comic book will lose its value. Always remember that the actual value of your comic books is how much someone is willing to pay for them. If a lot of people want to buy your comic books, they will likely gain value. If no one wants your comic book or there are plenty of them on the market with less demand, then it will be worth less.

Consider options outside of comic books

         The most basic and crucial rule in terms of investing is to invest in multiple subjects. Never hold or invest your wealth in a single object whether it’s comic or something else. If you invest in multiple assets, it eliminates the risk of losing all of your wealth. For example, if you invest in six different comic books you have six chances to gain profit. Even if you suffer from a loss in two comics, you’ll still have four more to gain profit from plus the experience you get from the loss. If you are planning to invest in comics or want to deal in the comic book industry, it’s a vast one, and you might as well consider original art.

      Creating a comic book is quite a comprehensive process as it includes a lot of different things from drafting the plot to designing the thumbnail sketches. Afterward, come the original drawings, the coloring, and dialogue. Original art as the name suggests are the actual pages on which the artist worked to generate the book. Generally, original art are the white oversized pages that are a part of the comic. They can either be the cover or even the interior page. Many comic book collectors refer to the original art as traditional art because it comes from a physical medium. It can be some sort of canvas, paper, or even wood. 

Original art 

            Collectively ,original art in terms of comic books can be prelim sketches/concept art, comic book covers/pages, original commissions, rejected work, and even privately commissioned work. Like every industry, the comic book industry has evolved as many artists nowadays work digitally and on soft copies. However, they sell the print of the art page as the artist’s proof. It is original art; it has just evolved a bit.

     Other than comic books, original art is also a good form of investment and very likely to depreciate as compared to comic books. Original art is usually one of a kind with a lot of competition surrounding it. You can buy original art from the artists themselves or you can buy it off a website. Many comic book artists simply sell their art on their websites. Apart from buying sketches from the respective artist, you can simply buy original art from an auction through websites like Hakes, eBay, Heritage Auctions, Comiclink, or ComicConnect, etc.

 

Places to buy

           Back in the 1970s, comic books were usually sold in newsstands, toy stores, grocery stores, and bookstores. But like every industry, the comic book industry has also evolved as most retailers are selling their comic books on the internet. There are hundreds of ways to buy comic books in the modern age. For newer ones, You can subscribe to vendors or read them online. When it comes to buying collectibles, there are hundreds of ways to buy your desired comic book. Like all the businesses out there in the era of social distancing and Covid-19, a lot of comic book collectors and vendors are now dealing online. 

           You can buy your desired comic books in the desired condition just by sitting in your house and ordering online. Selling and buying a comic book is fairly easy given the wide variety of sources. There are comic book forms out there. These forums are flooded with thousands of comic book vendors who are buying and selling comic books. If you don’t want to buy your comic book online or at auction, you can buy them at comic book gatherings on site such as ComicCon. These gatherings have thousands of stalls at which a lot of vendors are dealing in comic books.

 

Research tools

        Researching is one of the most important factors when it comes to investing. Whether you are investing in comics, stocks, or even real estate, research is important. Always research before investing as it minimizes the risk of losing your investment. When it comes to the comic book market, you have a wide variety of options and tools to properly conduct your research. Here’s a list of research tools to choose from:  

  • Overstreet Price Guide

            The Overstreet price guide is a must-have for everyone in the comic books industry. As the name suggests, Overstreet is a comic book price guide that features the current price of a comic book in the respective grade. Ever since 1970, Overstreet has standardized the comic book prices to a certain level. However, Overstreet is an annually published comic book price guide so it is prone to fluctuations in the prices of different comic books. Nonetheless, it pretty much gives a raw idea of what the cost of the comic book should be.

  • Online price guide

             If you don’t want to invest in the Overstreet price guide, there are a lot of annual comic book price guides on the internet. These online price guides are updated more frequently than the Overstreet because soft copies are easier to update compared to the hard copies updated annually. These price guides also have a built-in search feature. You simply type the name of your desired comic book and the search engine automatically searches it within seconds.

  • eBay Sold item

              When dealing in the comic book realms, you can also use eBay and view previously sold items to get a brief idea of the current market stats and what the price of your desired comic book should be. However, it is not standardized as it merely depends on the kind of buyer the seller encountered, but the average is quite helpful in this scenario. Round up 5-10 sold comics and take an average of their sold prices.

     

The future of the hobby

            As the coronavirus stuck, almost every business encountered a downfall. The stock market crashed, the chip shortage affected tech, and a lot less production affected sales in many industries. According to a survey, nearly 43 percent of businesses went through a temporary closure, causing consternation to  business owners worldwide. Some businesses faced a permanent closure; some endured heavy losses or became prone to bank loan calls. However, in these tough times, the comic book industry enjoyed a boom. With comic books showing record sales and high demand, new fans flooded the comic book market. TV shows and movies always have an important impact on the comic books industry as they encourage fans to collect comics of the featured character. With the release of streaming services such as Disney+ or HBO Max, new comic book movies and TV shows are announced daily. A lot of new video games featuring superheroes are under development. Some are huge, immediate successes. Comic book movies are crossing billions of views worldwide. It is very likely that the comic book market is going strong and constantly growing.

With the worldwide success of comic books, we have seen an increase in demand. An increase in demand and a low supply leads to higher profits. Comic books are a piece of vintage American history, a form of memorabilia, and a source of nostalgia for many. New issues and new characters are being developed daily that will eventually gain popularity.

         Nevertheless, as markets tend to go up, they are very likely to go down. But in the comic book market, there are hot items very likely to continue rising for quite a long time. We have even seen Gen Z and millennials alike taking a keen interest in the comic books industry. Without a doubt, the comic book industry will remain a growing industry in the future. The popularity of some characters or issues may suffer, and some might go through recessions, but the future of the comic book industry is secure.

The risks involved

             The best thing about investing in comic books is that you can invest any amount as investing caters to every range. You can invest from millions in comic books to only a few hundred. According to a lot of comic book vendors and investment gurus, investing in comic books is to some extent recession-proof, making it a secure investment. There can be minor fluctuations in the pricing of comic books; but if you hold them properly, you will not lose wealth, but, in fact, multiply it. 

Just like the well-known automobile executive Lee Iacocca used to say,

“Every business and every product has risks. You can’t get around it.”

Similarly, the comic book market has associated risks. But, if you consider these risks properly, as Warren Buffet says,

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

It is better to properly understand the ins and outs of the comic book market before investing or making comic book deals. to be sure, while these risks are there, and you can avoid them easily.

 

  • Fake comic books

     Like all the industries, comic books also have their fake copies roaming around. Beware of these fake comic books and avoid them because the sellers will give you a good discount to tempt you to buy these knockoffs. To be honest, these fake comics and the sellers dealing with them are disgracing the market and the comic book culture. These books look exactly like the originals and will cost the same in most scenarios. We have also seen these fake rip-offs with fake grading cases.

To avoid buying fake comics, educate yourself so you can tell whether a comic is real or fake. Plus, try buying graded comic books and properly check the authenticity of the graded case, and for cracks or tweaks. Always buy comic books from a trusted seller. You can also check the seller’s reviews and feedback for additional help.

  • Shilling

      Shilling is basically when sellers use fake massive bids on comic books so that they can sell them for a much higher price. You might encounter such scams at a lot of auctions whether eBay, Heritage Auctions, or even Hakes. If a comic book has only a few sales, where that comic book is sold for a much higher price than what you think it’s worth, it is very likely that the vendor is manipulating you. Do proper research before buying a comic book. Look for prices in the Overstreet price guides and from an online price guide from the same year. Always remember, there are a lot of scammers out there who want to rob you of your precious hard-earned money. Purchasing comic books is the same as purchasing art: an unregulated market, plenty of manipulation, and lots of fake books.

  • Scams

     Always do your transactions through reputed channels, valid websites, comic book marketplaces, or PayPal goods and services, which can be a very reliable way to channel them. Such a platform offers secure hassle-free transactions with payment protection to both buyers and sellers, ensuring that the transaction is carried out properly. It is one of the best options and a recommended way to buy comic books from Instagram groups, Facebook groups, comic book boards, or some other source. 

Diversify

    Diversification is the most important rule when it comes to investing. It means distributing your assets into several different streams. For example, if one channel is depreciating, then the other is gaining. In this manner, by the law of averages, you minimize the overall risk inherent in investments. You can diversify in almost any field whether it is buying stocks, investing in real estate, and even buying comic books.

When it comes to investing in comic books, the same rules apply. Always try to buy diverse comic books from different franchises with different characters. If the value of one comic book is depreciating, then a different comic book is likely gaining in value. Hence, your investment is secure. Consider investing in comic books from different publishers, different characters, different issues, or even different genres. Never overexpose your investments to risk. Always try to minimize the risk factor.