by Aitch Cee
Before we start, I would like to preface this by saying a lot of what is here will be subjective. Not everyone will agree with everything that is listed and also may change over time. The prices listed for some of the books can and will fluctuate so do not take what is listed as gospel; but as an ESTIMATED range. The estimate are mostly for raw (meaning ungraded books) comics, but if possible and estimate may be included as well. Also, I am trying to keep in mind that not all of us have deep pockets as big time collectors. Collecting anything is always a speculative market. Some of us would like to be able to purchase a few books that won’t break our pockets but at the same time can prove to be a good investment. Bottom line, if nothing else, have fun collecting as sometimes the search can be more fun than the find.
Some of you may be newish to collecting. I say newish meaning that you already have an idea of what’s out there but never really had a direction on which way to go. As for myself, I have collected things for as long as I can remember. Trading cards, toys, and so on. I recently got back into reading and collecting comics since 2008 and realized that now since a lot of movies based on comics are popular, it’s increasing the value of comics as well. Now, as with anything that anyone collects, comics are a speculative market. Meaning that at any given time, the value may increase or decrease on any of a number of events. In my opinion, if given the choice between collecting vintage trading cards and comics, I tend to lean a bit more to comics. In my opinion, there are more variables that determine the value of certain trading cards.
One of the biggest things that collectors are after are ‘key books’. Some of you who are new to collecting may wonder what exactly are ‘key books’? Some examples are books that have 1st appearances, characters that have died, or any significant changes to a book. A big reason why a lot of collectors are seeking ‘key issues’ now is with the sudden explosion of movies from Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers (DC Comics), there are a lot of characters and comics which years ago no one would have thought to buy. Now that there are movies and TV shows being made, those comics are going up in value. As one person in my group stated, “look at Groot and Rocket Raccoon. If you asked people before the movie (general public) most would have had no idea who you were talking about. Now Groot and Rocket are all over the place and a 2nd Guardians could see their books go up even higher.”
Some of you may be wondering which books should you collect and how you should collect them. To that, I say there is no one right answer. It depends on what characters you like, whether you are looking to invest in these books, and how you want to buy. As a newish collector, my opinion is to not break your own bank trying to buy books because ‘it costs a lot’. If you need to have the perfect book, and if you want to pay a load of money it’s on you. My opinion is as with anything, shop around. You would be surprised that some books may be bought at a good price if you really look. I have a story about an Amazing Spider-man 300 I bought this year for $2 that I’ll share later. As always, you get what you pay for. In my own opinion, there are a lot of good ungraded books you can buy anywhere between $50 to $200 and yes, I know that sounds like a big divide but again, don’t go broke if you don’t have to!
Some people also want to buy some books, which are graded. It’s a great way of having a truer idea of the value of your book. A graded book is a book that is treated similar to how diamonds are treated. A company would take your comic and grade it on the condition of the book. Once it’s done it’s encased in a case to keep the book from aging. Along with this will come with an actual grade of the condition of the book. If you sell it, it will give a buyer the exact condition of the book they are buying.
There are many ways to try and figure out what books one should get but my best advice is simply, ask around especially if you have a good comic shop with someone knowledgeable about key books. Have an idea of what you like and of course most importantly, stick to a budget.
How will one know if a book is a key book? Good question. I have been to a lot of shops and have seen a lot of vendors at cons that may have lots of vintage books on display but rarely will a new eye know exactly what they are looking at. For starters, if you have a character’s first appearance in mind, one needs to look no further than Marvel’s and DC Comic’s wiki pages. For instance, let’s use Deadpool. In a few moments of searching, you will find that he first appeared in New Mutants #98.
Lastly, is the question of where one should buy their books. Again, like everything else, this is subjective. Some people may not have access to a comic shop or a particular book that they want may be found cheaper online. If you are fortunate enough to have a comic shop nearby that sells vintage and key books, start there. At the very least you can see the condition of the book. Ebay, is a pretty good source to get the roundabout idea of how much you may pay for a book but the Overstreet books still makes for a good reference source. Getting books from cons could be ideal if someone has a book you won’t find elsewhere but keep in mind that some vendors will over-inflate the price just to make a profit at a show. of course, flea markets and yard sales can yield treasure as well or, if someone is getting rid of a lot of books, see if you can get them to sell them to you.
Again to sum up, collecting can be all about fun. There will be times you will find a steal and times when there will be a book that got away. Occasionally you may feel like you overpaid for a book but there is the sheer satisfaction of finding a book that fits your collection. So good luck and happy hunting!!!
Below is a list of some of the comics in which some collectors may see as a good investment. Some are old comics as well as some newer comics for your consideration.
Just a note: I didn’t include any Golden age comics as a lot of them tend to be VERY expensive. For instance, if you get lucky, you can get a 1st appearance of Plastic Man for 80 dollars and up but a lot of books may not be in good condition for what you will pay for.
What is it: There was a time indeed when Marvel owned the rights to one of the biggest space sci-fi franchises. This, of course is the first issue of 107 comics that came out and for many others and myself in the 70s, this was our only fix.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: As low as maybe $50 and average betw. 75 to 100 dollars.
What is it: Not to be confused with Secret Wars #8, ASM 252 is one of the big keys that Spidey fans will go after. It’s of course the first appearance of the black suit. The cover design is also a riff of off Amazing Fantasy #15.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: Depending on the condition, it can still be reasonably had for as low as 25 to 30 dollars. Higher grades can be had for 175 dollars and up
And speaking of the black suit
What is it: Although Venom makes his first full appearance in ASM 299, it wasn’t until 300 that we had a full introduction to one of the most terrifying villains in Spider-man’s universe.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: You may be lucky if you can find it for under 100 dollars but if you really want a perfect copy expect to pay $1500 and up.
I was very lucky this year to find it for $2 (yes you read that correctly) in a box of comics that someone turned in to my comic shop. Short version, I was told that whatever I found in the box, I could buy for 2 bucks. So, I lucked up and found that and a few other Spider-man books that I needed. The shop’s owner kept to his word after I found the book and it’s one of my most prized books. And by the way, Grab Secret Wars 8 as well if you can!
What is it: Although she wouldn’t become canon character until 1999, this comic marks the 1st appearance of Harley Quinn. And a bit of trivia, she was introduced on Batman: The Animated Series on September 11,1992…nine years before, well you know.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: It’s not going to be a cheap book to come across. You may find one hovering around $100 but on average $175 to $400 and up is what you can expect to pay.
What is it: You may be wondering why I didn’t start off with #1. Because it’s one of the most expensive modern day comic books printed in the last ten years. But this is another early gem as this book is the first appearance of Michonne. With the popularity of the show, the value of this book can still fluctuate and hopefully, it will keep going up.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: Another book that one may not find for under $100 dollars. $125 is good on the low end but $200 and up for better books and more when graded.
One of the most prolific comics in the last 50 years, there are many keys that a collector can find and if they are diligent, can be bought for under $100. Others may range between $150 – $250 depending on the condition or if it was graded.
I will list a few here that avid X-men fans should look to get their hands on:
X-men #10 1st Ka-Zar
X-men #14 1st Sentinals
X-men #39 New Costumes
X-men #60 1st Sauron
X-men #64 1st Sunfire and also the first Asian Character to appear in a Marvel book.
X-men #129 -1st appearance of Kitty Pride, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and Hellfire Club
X-men #134 Phoenix become Dark Phoenix
X-men #141 Days of Futures Past
There are so many more and you can check here to get info about other X-men keys.
What is it: Shazam may not have a current series in DC comics right now but was pretty big during the 70s. This particular book marks the first appearance of Isis.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: Right now, it still runs between 10 to 50 dollars ungraded on average. It’s a good buy to look into until the movie comes out and if Isis makes a movie appearance, the price will climb.
What is it: For those that are fans of the NEW Teen Titans, this key issue marks their first appearance.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: it still goes for a decent price. I recently purchased one for about 25 dollars and you can get it for about the same and on average 50 dollars and up depending on the grade.
What is it: This was the book that set the tone for the Modern ‘dark’ Batman and ushered in an era of more adult tales being told in comics. It’s been reprinted in trade numerous times and was recently released in DVD format. I honestly regret not buying these originally in the 80s.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: You can still grab the entire set as low as 50 and average between 100 dollars and up.
What is it: This comic introduces one of the most influential villains in over 35 years: Ra’s Al Ghul. he made his first appearance in Batman Begins and has been part of the Robin Omega story line.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: ungraded prices start around $145 and up. Graded from 325 and higher
What is it: First, it’s the book with the full appearance of Storm Shadow. But it’s also a book that has been often imitated as it’s done completely without dialogue. I am happy to say that I still own my original copy and got a duplicate a few years back and had signed by Mr. Hama himself.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: depending on the condition $20 is the average minimum and great copies can be had around the $70 mark, more if graded.
What is it: if you are a fan of Agents of SHIELD, you saw what happened in the mid season finale. Skye got a whiff of the terrigen mists and now has seismic powers, thus Quake has been revealed. Since that brief time, the book which has her first appearance, which you could have gotten for 5 bucks over a month ago is quickly climbing. And the one that everyone is chasing after is the 2nd print sketch cover which had a lower print run.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: I recently bought mine for $20 and I have seen some on line go for the average around 435 dollars, more if graded.
What is it: Yes you are reading right. The very first Action comics can be yours. Well not exactly. If you are diligent, you can get your hands on a reprint of one of the most seminal comics of all time. This book has been reprinted several times since the 70’s. Click here to find out which reprints are out there and be careful because there are several fakes as well.
About how much can I expect to pay for it: some of the newer ones can be had for 5 to 10 dollars. But if you try to grab some of the earlier ones reprinted during the 70’s and 80’s, 50 dollars and up with be what you may pay.
This is only a smattering of comics I can think of for anyone interested in collecting. There are so many others I wish I could have told you about including Infinite Crisis #7, Thor #337 or any of the Avengers books. But all I wanted to do with this post is to get you started. ! A book that is fast becoming popular is Edge of the Spider-verse with Gwen Stacey re-appearing as a new version of Spider-woman. So many books, so little time. Of course if your pockets are deeper, then you can make it worth your while to go after those books in the $300 range and much further up. But hopefully this will give the average Joe something to consider.
If you can, in the comments below, if there are other books to be suggested, let’s hear about them!