How To Buy Rare Comics
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I started collecting comic books when I was 19, almost 20 years ago. Sadly (or wisely, depending on your view) I stopped collecting 5 years later. The main reason was it was harder to find the rare books that I wanted and, more importantly, I got caught up in the modern influx of books. My collection expanded, grossly, with many flashy Collector Editions, special covers, EVERY book by the popular new artist/writer teams (like Garth Ennis, Steve Dixon, and Grant Morrison), or some new book or character (The Maxx, Crimson) that would, hopefully, give me a formidable and valuable collection. Sadly, most of those books would be worth next to nothing today; so, in the end, I had more detritus than diamonds.
But the few diamonds I had were bright. I had a few books that were for personal satisfaction (Batman Vol. 1, issues #400-500; every issue—first prints; which included the Batman: Year One, A Death In The Family and Knightfall stories), and some rare treasures: Detective Comics #234 (first Silver Age Two-Face), and Batman: Vengance of Bane (first Bane). All those good ones could fit into 1 long box (out of 3 long boxes and 2 short boxes filled with everything else). However; in the time I was an avid collector, I (along with my friend who collected comics and got me into it) managed to get some rare books at great prices: Fantastic Four #1 (price paid 15 years ago: $1,000.00. Current value: $80,000.00, and Detective Comics #234 (price paid: $15.00—20.00. Current value: $350.00).
Eventually, my interest in keeping my comic books wained and the need for money led to the sale of my collection. I actually don’t regret it; true, I had a few pricey books,( the Fantastic Four #1 WASN'T mine, and at the time I sold them, most of my books were worth very little. This was before "time" and the comic book movie craze shot up the values of many of the books). About a year ago, I started collecting again; and this time, it's mainly new books for my own personal enjoyment. But, I know (from the days I spent scouring the dusty comic store bins) about the wisest way to get the rarer books without wasting time, energy and most importantly money.
I’ve listed a few ways to find and buy rare books at a good deal or at auction price. NOTE: Not every book I list as an example is a "super rare" book, but the books I discuss are ones that I've owned, and the methods I got them are still relevant to those rarer ones as well).
1. Just Fork Over The Cash
Ockham’s Razor states that “the simplest answer is always the correct one”, and sadly, when it comes to collectibles, it is quite true and pricey. Most of the time, if you want a rare book and you see it at the store, behind the counter or hanging of the Wall of Fame, you have to pay for it. Personally, I paid full collector’s price (at the time, $35.00) for Wolverine #1. Sometime you just have to bite the bullet for the books you want. Some books that are behind the Plexiglas are very rare. At one store I saw Batman #1 (vol. 1) for $5,000. (even though it had three photocopied pages).
2. Dusty Old Attic
Sometimes you can find super rare and valuable items in your family’s trunks, attics or closets. Just like the $3.5 million dollar collection found by Michael Rorrer, of Martinsville, VA in 2011. While cleaning out his great aunt’s house after she had passed away, he stumbled upon his late great uncle Billy Wright's collection. The collection included the Holy Grail of comic books: Action Comics #1 (first Superman). The collection also included books ranging from the years 1938-1941. The bulk of the collection is valued in upwards of $100,000.00 (not including the $1,175,000.00 Action Comics #1). According to Rorrer, he didn’t even realize that they were worth anything until a co-worker mentioned it to him. This is just a example of treasure troves of collectibles that have been stored away long ago by family members just waiting to be found.
3. Hole In The Wall Stores
Even at the height of the comic craze in the 1990’s, not every comic book store was trying to cash in on the insanity by raising the price of rarer books. Some places, like the out-of-the-way stores, or dealers who juggle multiple collectibles, like baseball cards, vintage toys or other interests (models and crafts), might have a small section of their store dedicated to comic books. Sometimes, you can rifle through their bins and find a few treasures. I found Marvel Comics “Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars” #8 (December 1984, the first black suit Spiderman. Current value $50.00) and Star Wars #1 (July 1977 paid $10.00. Current value $95.00) at one of these types of stores. The dealer was happy to give me a deal mainly because he wasn’t interested in holding on to them and wanted to make room for newer stuff.
4. Online Sellers and Auctions
These days everything is online. In fact, you can find and purchase practically anything and everything online. There are quite a few comic book websites like www.comicbookrealm.com and www.comicspriceguide.com that are specifically for the pricing and selling of comics online, They regularly have “sales” on books from sellers. Also, there is www.comiclink.com for auctions. Other outlets include www.amazon.com with multiple sellers of books at different prices. When I started collecting comic books again, I got Batman #400 (current value $30.00) for about half price. So, finding that rare book online is now easier than you think and you can always shop around for the price that you’re willing to pay.
5.Comic Book Store Sales / Free Comic Book Day
Every year, May 1st is Free Comic Book Day. Comic book stores give out free books and offer special deals on rarer books. Also, at other times (sometimes a few time a years), comic book stores will have sales on some of their back issues. Like every business, comic book stores only have so much room for merchandise with their weekly shipments. So, to make room, they have sale on older issues and even specials on rare books (i.e. 75% off back issues or 50% off Silver Age books). The best thing to do, in this case, is to have a working relationship with the store employees so you'll know when they’ll be having the sale. This way, you can get there early and get first pick of the older issues. This is how I got Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972, first Ghost Rider for $35.00, when it was valued around $80).