What Typically Makes A Comic Valuable

by Matthew Russell - Posted 7 months ago



Welcome my CryptoComics Compatriots. Today we take a look at the past, and present of comics to determine exactly “What Typically Makes A Comic Valuable”. Keep reading to get answers and all the ins and outs of the comic book industry and see how even company values can even play a part in a comic holding its value. This is gonna be fun.

LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT MAKES A COMIC VALUABLE

I have been asked time and time again “What makes a comic valuable?” Now, I do have a history with this question. I took a job with an insurance company many years ago, so whenever anyone tried to get insurance for their comic collection, I would go appraise them. 


That being said, in my neck of the woods, there wasn’t a lot of need for this, so I only had to do this a few times. I could only give an “unofficial” estimated value. I would turn to the various expert price guides such as Overstreet and early price guide websites, and I knew what to look for in a book. They are as follows…

AGE OF THE COMIC

One of the main reasons that a comic would be considered valuable is rarity. How few are out there currently? For example, there are an estimated 50-100 surviving copies of Action Comics #1. This is not counting second printings or any other reprints. If those counted, then I would be a millionaire, I have 3 reprinted copies of that particular issue… if only.


Typically comics that were created before the 1970s tend to be the most valuable overall. After this age comics started being mass-produced for the general public when they hit the mainstream. 




Thanks to the popularity of the television shows such as The Incredible Hulk starring Lou Ferrigno and the Super Friends featuring the notable voices of Adam West, Ted Knight, and Casey Kasem, an entirely new generation sought out the comic books. 


With more readers, the publishers began printing more copies. Combine that with the “Regan-era” Economics of the ’80s, and comics became overproduced. The ’90s got worse, but that is an entirely different blog post. 


This is in stark contrast to the World War II era when comic publishers knew that money was tight and there was a paper shortage. Unlike during the current paper shortage, publishers like National Allied Publication (DC Comics) and the newly remanded Marvel Comics encouraged young readers to share comics so everyone gets the chance to enjoy them and then recycle them. 


Can you imagine a comic company, or for that matter ANY company telling their customers to share!?!

LOW ISSUE NUMBER

Typically collectors all know that low-issue numbers can play a huge role in the value of the comic. If you could get your hands on something like Wizz Comic Issue #5 this could set you back around $2,000 or Two-Gun Kid (a popular western comic from the 1950s) would cost nearly $6,000. 




Unfortunately, modern Comic Publishers have noticed this trend and keep “resetting” the issue number. I have seen this time and time and again, some even going as far as starting with a new issue #1 whenever there is a new creative team that signs on.


Look at Justice League of America comics for proof of this. They were introduced in Brave & The Bold in the 1960s and then got their own title that ran until 1984. From There is was revamped (complete with a new #1) and this time set in Detroit instead of the famous Hall of Justice. 




In 1986 they went international with another #1. Justice League International ran until 1996 with various spin-offs such as Justice League Europe, Extreme Justice, and Justice League Task Force. 


In 2000 Grant Morison took over and renamed the book JLA. It stayed like this until 2006 when Ed Benes and Brad Meltzer revamped it again. This lasted until it was rebooted along with the new 52 in 2011 when Geoff Johns and Jim Lee took over with (you guessed it) a new #1.




This trend seems to coincide with all the other reboots going on over at DC currently with Rebirth, Future State, and Dark Knights Metal. It doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon, now that DC is moving owners again with the Warner Discovery merger. 


So, to reiterate; old comics with low issue numbers are good, modern comics with no issue number…meh. There are some exceptions to this though.


Now, if it's an actual new series with new characters, that's a different beast entirely. Look at Bone #1 which came out in 1991. That is worth about $6,000 today. This is one of the first Indie Comics to become famous. 


FIRST APPEARANCES

Everyone wants that first appearance of a character, myself included. If only I had a time machine, one of the first things I would do was go get myself a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 hot off the press. FYI, that was the first appearance of Spider-Man. 


If you find a comic with a character’s name in it, that doesn’t generally mean that the first issue of that comic was the first appearance of that character. Batman (Detective Comics #27), Superman (Action Comics #1), Thor (Journey Into Mystery #83), Wolverine (Incredible Hulk #180 last page cameo, #181 1st full appearance), Iron Man (Tales of Suspense #39), Punisher (Amazing Spider-Man #129), Frey & Matt (Temerity #2, special badge code to celebrate this “FirstAppearance”).




That isn’t always the case though; Captain America (Captain America #1), Nick Fury (Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1), Black Knight (Black Knight #1), Daredevil (Daredevil #1), and New Gods (New Gods #1). This is more of an exception and not the rule.


Typically comic characters are introduced in a more established comic. Think of it as a tryout. Does the public love the character? Does the creative team believe in the character? Is the public ready?


If all signs point to yes, then the solo comic will get a green light and move into production. This could take years at times, just look at Robin. Dick Grayson as Robin was introduced in Batman #1, but Robin didn’t get an ongoing solo series until 1993 after the events of the Knightfall storyline. Even then it was Tim Drake in the mantel, not Dick. Dick didn’t get a solo series until long after he had become Nightwing and left the Titans. 




If you don’t know those storylines, ask any comic geek. They will probably have those issues on standby for anyone asking. 

POPULAR CHARACTERS

As I’ve stated earlier, once the public likes a character, a solo series gets started. Sometimes, something outside of the direct comic market turns a character popular and that will raise the value of pivotal issues. 


Let's take a look at Vision for this example. He made his first appearance in Avengers #57 in 1968. He was a cool character with a compelling backstory. He had a few stand-out storylines in the Avengers title. In the mid-80s he got a limited series titled Vision and the Scarlet Witch. 




He returned to the Avengers after the 4-issue miniseries and even led them for a while. Finally, in 2015 he got his first actual solo series. This might have something to do with his introduction into the MCU in the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron. 


It seems that his popularity hit the mainstream consciousness enough to warrant his own comic, but it really took off with the Disney+ show WandaVision. 




His first appearance started selling for $1900 (with a CGC 9.6 rating). This is a remarkable jump from the $270 with the same rating, only a month before. Every issue of his mini-series that we talked about earlier is now selling for $500 each issue. This is up from the former $12 value. 


He wasn't the only character affected. Agatha Harkness was introduced in Fantastic Four #185 and now sells for $150. According to the price guide that I have that came out just before the show aired, that particular issue’s value sat at $37. 


As you can see, when the popularity rises, so does the cost. I’m pretty sure that there is a financial lesson in there, but I will leave it to you to figure it out.


Side note: I am not a financial advisor, nor is any member of the CryptoComics Crew. We are simply comic aficionados and blockchain technology enthusiasts. 

KEY ISSUES OF THE STORYLINES

With such a lengthy history in comics, many new creative teams might have a crack at a popular character. They might introduce a new idea into the mythos of that comic. If they are popular enough, they become a permanent fixture in that series or even a cornerstone of that character’s personality.


Certain “runs” or storylines within the comic can bring people in and spark a sudden spike in various comics. Let’s look at some DC examples for this one. 


Back in the ’60s, the Batman television show changed Batman in the comics to closer match what was being broadcast, making Batman softer and more kid-friendly. It wasn’t until 1970 that a new creative team was brought into the comics to help revive lagging sales. 


New editor Julius Swartz built his own version of a Justice League level Creative Team. He had several titles to fix, including both Batman and Detective Comics. Writers Len Wein, Frank Robbins, and Denny O’Neal teamed with artists Irv Novick, Dick Giordano, and Neal Adams. 




Needless to say, they were more than up to the task. They managed to reinvent the Caped Crusader into that Dark Knight that we know and love today; dark, brooding, and a true detective.  They introduced many new villains to the rugs gallery such as Ras Al Ghul, Leslie Thompkins, Lady Shiva, and even later Azrael. 


Everyone credits Frank Miller with this reinvention with his Year One and then The Dark Knight Returns, but it was really the aforementioned super team. They began their work in 1970 and Year One came out in 1981. Not to take away from Frank Miller’s contributions, but this wasn’t one of them.


Their first story was The Secret of the Waiting Graves featured in Detective Comics #395. Its current value is $3734. This is a huge jump from issue #394 at $95. Granted $95 isn’t anything to snub, but we can see the huge jump.




Now to take a look at the dreaded Death of Superman series. Let's focus solely on the Superman title. Dan Jurgens and Jennifer Frank wrote this title for a while before they got to kill the Man of Steel in 1993. 


Before the much-debated storyline hit shelves, most issues were stand-alone. This means that they were more episodic than serial. Many of the stories rarely carried more than 2-3 issues. 


The Death of Superman was a crossover story that ran through all of the separate Superman titles and began in Superman: The Man of Steel #18, if you don’t count the Doomsday cameos in Man of Steel #17, Superman #73, Adventures of Superman #496, and Action Comics #683. It finally concludes with (spoiler warning) Superman dead in Superman #75.




Now to look at the value of the Superman comic starting right before the Death of Superman storyline. Issue #72 is valued at $2 and issue #73 is valued at $4 due to the loose connection to the storyline. 


Issue #74 clocks in at $255 if graded at a 9.6. If you have a copy of issue #75 that happens to still be in an unopened black polybag and is also graded at a 9.4, they come in at a surprising $399. Granted, most copies that you see in the comic stores are around $1.50.


This leads us to our next topic, grading a comic. 

GRADED COMIC

Grading a comic is a simple process of sending your comic off to a company that will meticulously check out your comic to look for any imperfections. They will then give it a grade and send it back to you. The higher the number (or grade) the better. The rating goes from 0-10.


The cost of grading the book is added to the value of the comic. Think of it as adding a fence to your house. If the work gets done, it adds that much value to your house. 




This doesn’t mean it is always worth it to have your comics graded. If you want to submit a comic directly to CGC to have your comic graded, you have to become a CGC member first. This price ranges from $25 a year to $299 a year. 


Once your membership is complete, you can submit it. You will pay certain fees for this as well. You have to cover the cost of shipping both to them and back to you (at the time of writing this article; from my house to their offices it roughly cost $36 according to UPS,  so those fees apply). Once it is in their hands there are 2 more fees; the cost of grading ($21.60) and the handling fee ($5). 


This means that you will pay roughly $99 for each comic that you have graded from your private collection, and that’s not counting the yearly membership fee. So, you had better make sure that the comic value is over that $99 mark. 


Also, a word of advice; look at it yourself before finally deciding to send it off. Any slightly bent corners or a misplaced staple will downgrade the comic and the value can come back far less than what you paid. Even fingerprints will lessen the value.


Also, another downside is that it is in a sealed hard plastic case when it is returned to you. Although this is good to protect the comic, there is no more reading it. This is why I buy 2 copies of special comics; 1 to save, 1 to read. 


Certain things can increase the value when getting the comic graded like having a signature.

SIGNATURE

Having one of your favorite creators sign one of your books is such a good feeling. If you can get it signed in person, proof that you met one of your heroes. It’s so cool, but you have to do it right.




GET PROOF or it didn’t happen. This is why things such as a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) are so important. This is verifiable proof that the creator actually signed it and not some Joe on the street with good penmanship. 


This was a sad fact that I learned at a very young age. I was in the 3rd grade and a 6th grader offered me a Stan Lee signed Spider-Man comic for $5. Granted, in 3rd grade, I had no concept of money and I was far too trusting. I jumped on it and gave him my allowance. 


I was so excited about my purchase that I ran to the local comic shop and showed them. I still remember the look on their faces. They took me over to the wall that had a polaroid photo of Stan Lee that he had written a message to the owner and signed the photo. 


Needless to say, it was not Stan Lee that signed my comic. I was devastated, but I also learned a valuable lesson that day about trusting the honesty of others. I got into a fight with a 6th grader the next day. Only being in the 3rd grade, I lost…miserably.


The moral of the story is to get that COA when buying a signed copy or else you will get beaten up by a 6th grader.


Always get some kind of proof if you plan to either sell it or get it graded. That Certificate of Authenticity will go a long way in proving that it is a real signature. If you are at a convention that has a company such as the CGC there, you can get them to follow you as a witness to a creator's booth to get that coveted signature. This way they will certify it and grade it at a much lower cost. 


I have some books that are signed by the creator without the COA, but these are mine to keep for sentimental value. I have no interest in ever selling them. They were either sent to me via Kickstarter or I met them and had them sign it. To others, they are probably worthless due to the lack of proof.


SUPPLY AND DEMAND OF THE COMIC

The last thing that can truly affect the value of the comic is simple economics 101; supply and demand. Do people want to buy it and how much are they willing to pay? You could have the rarest comic book in the world and it is the only one in existence, but if no one will buy it, does it have any actual value?


If the public is willing to purchase it, you end up in a bidding war. The top bidder now sets the value of the comic if it ever goes back up on the market. 


To gauge this, you need to watch various auction sites such as the Heritage Auction and eBay. Last year I read about a copy of Batman #1 from 1940 with a 9.4 grading from the GCG selling at the auction for $2 million. It was purchased in 1978 by a collector named Billy T. Gates and he put it up for auction in January of 2021. 




This means that if you have a 9.4 graded copy of that same comic, you have a pretty good idea of how much you can get for it. 


From a creator’s perspective, to sell your comic it is you that first assign its value by putting a price tag on it. I see a lot of creators on various crowdfunding sites that fail because they over-value their comics. 


They know how much it is worth to them. Their blood sweat and tears have all gone into making the comic and they see the value that your average collector might not. I have seen creators charge $15 or even $20 for a 26-page single comic of an unknown character with a new concept that is so far out there that people might not understand it. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad, just that the price doesn’t match the value (what someone is willing to pay for it).


When deciding the value you must leave emotion out of it. You can’t set the value as a creator, that must be left up to the consumer. You can set the initial price, but you have to look around and start to compare it to actual existing comics with the same various attributes and be willing to adjust as needed. 


THE FUTURE OF COMICS

Comics are going through a major change currently and moving to a digital format. Even the typical digital format is evolving as well. We started out with digital pdfs. 


Now by using blockchain technology and with our wizard developers, CryptoComics is doing something different. We are attempting to bring life back to the comics by giving collectors the ability to digitally have the same advantages as the physical copies.


This means that it can digitally be rare, it will have proof of ownership, and it will have some other things that just can’t be printed. 


Much like when the movie industry went from the VHS format to DVDs, our platform offers creators the ability to make the digital experience phenomenal. With VHS you didn’t have the ability to have a director's commentary. Guess what we have. 


The typical pdf comic doesn’t have the ability to make the comic move. Our reader has the ability to upload a gif as a page. A gif is basically just another image format, but unlike the other standard image formats, this one is like a digital flip-book. This means the images on the pages or cover can move if the creator desires.


If you don’t believe me, try it. Sign up and upload your comic to the marketplace. Make sure you make a page as a gif format and make it move in some way. I say start with a single page because it isn’t easy to create a gif from scratch. 


We do all of this (and we won’t stop innovating and adding new features to expand the comics abilities) because we believe that creators have the skills to do all of this but not the platform. 


We also want to make sure that new comics are seen as collector’s items. Only time will tell what the public thinks of our platform, but my magic 8-ball says that the outlook is good.