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The Top Ten Tips on Collecting Comic Books
Collecting Comic Books for fun and profit
I've been collecting comic books for fun and profit for about 35 years. I first started collecting comic books when I was 10 years old. At 13, I sold my first comic to my next door neighbor. Since that time, I have amassed a large personal collection, have started and then closed a retail store, have created an internet based store specializing in silver age comics - silveragecomicbooks.org - and have sold at many conventions.
In my many years of collecting and retailing comics, I have found these tips to be useful in collecting comic books.
Tip #1 - Protect your comic book. If you want to be able to resell your comic book at a later date, you need to protect it. That means that it needs to be placed in a bag and board after you've read it. Be careful, however. Bags and boards come in many different sizes because comics come in many different sizes. The comic books printed in the 1930s, for example, are much wider than the comic books that were printed today, for example. And then buy specialized boxes that hold your comics. Don't put them in office boxes, this will ruin them!
Tip #2 – Buy older comic books. The first driver of value for comic books is age. In general, older comic books are more valuable than newer comic books because as time goes by, older comic books get harder and harder to find. There are two ways to determine the age of a comic. The first way is to open the book and look at the first page. Usually, the date is printed at the bottom of the page (where all the publishing and copyright information is). If you are looking at a 1000 book collection, however, this way of determining a comic’s age is too time consuming. A quicker way is to glance at the cover price of the comic book. This will tell you approximately when the comic was published.
- 10 cents - 1935 to early 1950s – Golden Age of Comics
- 12-15 cents – 1955 to early 1970s – Silver Age of Comics
- 25 – 50 cents – 1970s – Bronze Age of Comics
- 50 cents - $2.99 – From 1979 on – the Modern Age of Comics
Obviously, if the 1000 book collection has a lot of 10 and 12 cent cover price comics, you are looking at an old collection of comic books, which means they could be expensive.
Tip #3 – Buy comic books in better condition. The second driver of value for comic books is condition. This is due to the fact that comic books are made of paper and paper decomposes with age. So with time, it becomes harder and harder to find comic books in excellent condition. In general, the better the condition the comic is, the more valuable it is going to be. The Overstreet Comic Book price guide lists comics in a variety of different conditions. A comic that is labeled Very Good condition (VG) might be worth only $3.00 but in Near Mint Condition (NM) could be worth $60.00.
Tip #4 – When buying back issues, buy more popular comic books (they will hold their value more). The third driver of value for a comic books is popularity. This is the demand side of the equation. Obviously, prices go up for comic books that are more popular than others. And what drives popularity? Basically, superhero books are more popular than Crime, Horror, Romance, and other types of comic books. Marvel and DC books are more popular than other publisher’s books. Certain characters are more popular than other characters. Here is list of some of the most popular comic book characters – Spider-man, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, X-Men, Avengers.
Tip #5 – With new books, don’t get caught up in the hype. When a book first gets published, there is a lot of hype. Everybody wants to buy the most popular book out there. If you can buy the book for cover price, go for it! But if you have to pay three or four times cover price, don’t be foolish. Usually, in a few years, the price of the comic collapses. I have seen books that people paid $40.00 for collapse back to $3 to $4 within a few years. This is because what may seem like a big deal in comic publishing (i.e. The Death of Superman) will seem trite and meaningless in a few years. That’s why I tend to urge collectors to collect books older than 2 years old. By that time, the hype has usually worn off.
Tip #6 – Go to a local comic book store at least once per month. This will help you determine what’s new and will also introduce you to a lot of different people who also like to talk about comics (the employees and other customers). Be aware that, stores tend to sell mostly newer comic books and graphic novels. Most stores don’t have a large collection of back issues. A good way to find stores is through the Comic Shop Locator Service. (CSLS).
Tip #7 Use the internet. Many online stores specialize in back issue comic books. Mycomicshop.com for example – a division of Lone Star Comics – sells tons of comic books online – including many hard to find comics. Ebay and Craigslist are also great sites to buy new comic books. You can even use Craigslist as a way to buy comic books. Put a free ad that says that you are a private collector and would be willing to buy comic books. (Make sure to write down what exactly you are looking for).
Tip #8 – Go to conventions. Conventions are also a good way to buy back issues. The biggest convention of the year is held in San Diego in July every year (San Diego Comic-Con). If you can’t get to San Diego, try some of the smaller conventions held at major population centers nationwide.
Tip #9 - Try to specialize. By specializing, you’ll get to know your area of collection quite well, and you’ll be able to spot the great deals. You’ll also be building a much more interesting collection. You can specialize by time period (Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, or Modern Age). You can specialize by character (All comics about Superman, Batman, Superman, etc.) You can specialize by genre (Superhero, Romance, Horror, Crime, etc.).
Tip #10 – Have an exit strategy. At some point, you may get tired of your collection. What will you do then? A good exit strategy might be to try to sell the whole collection to a private individual through ebay or craigslist. Or, if the collection is specialized enough, maybe you could sell it directly to a library. The worst thing you can do is to spend a long time collecting something and then sell it for pennies on the dollar. So, when selling the collection, resist the urge to sell it off in pieces. Try to sell it to someone who values the time, effort, and money that it took to complete the collection.