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How To Buy Rare Comics

Updated on August 24, 2012
The Dark Knight Returns #1
The Dark Knight Returns #1 | Source

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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).

Piggy banks come in all shapes and sizes.
Piggy banks come in all shapes and sizes. | Source

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).

A dusty attic can turn you into Indiana Jones!
A dusty attic can turn you into Indiana Jones! | Source

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.

There's a hidden gem in there somewhere!
There's a hidden gem in there somewhere! | Source

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.

Free Comic Book always has deals!
Free Comic Book always has deals! | Source

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).

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    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 4 years ago from Northern, California

      Some pretty cool ideas for shopping for those rare comic books. Great story about the huge pricey collection found in the attic. Hmm,...I may just have to dust off the cobwebs and see whats left in my own attic!

      Cheers~

    • Edgar Arkham profile image
      Author

      Edgar Arkham 4 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thank you for reading! I never got the dusty attic buried treasure, but you never know, maybe one day I'll buy an old desk or dresser or something like that with a hidden compartment. Ha Ha!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Very Interesting!!! I used to collect comic books when I was younger of all different genres, I wonder if my parents still have them...lol

      Thanks for sharing!! Well Done!!

    • Edgar Arkham profile image
      Author

      Edgar Arkham 4 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thank you for reading

    • emimemo profile image

      emimemo 4 years ago from USA

      I tried to sell old flintstone comic on ebay and couldn't sell.....but I sold wonder woman kids bicycle empty box for $180. It is very interesting to know what people want and do not want.

    • Edgar Arkham profile image
      Author

      Edgar Arkham 4 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thank you for reading. Some times you have to hold onto things for a while before the retro-interest come back for them.

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 4 years ago

      Great article. I also had to stop buying because it got to expensive and only got back into it a couple years ago. Even now it is not to the extent I used to collect. I tend to sell my stuff on e-bay but I enjoy the physical hunt and buying on e-bay takes that away. It becomes more about the money.

    • Edgar Arkham profile image
      Author

      Edgar Arkham 4 years ago from Modesto, CA

      I know what you money about the money. Money is always that "monster" that is in the back off your head whenever you're collecting anything: "Can I get a deal on this?" or, "Will this be worth anything down the road if I get it now?".

      Nowadays, I try my best to stick with new books and the occasional old book that I once had (the worst is walking through a comic book store and seeing a book I once had that is worth 5 times what it was when I had it..."WHY I DID I GET RID OF IT?").

      I have gotten great deals online; but nothing beats the drudgery of digging through old dusty comic bins for hidden treasure--makes you feel like Indiana Jones!

      Thanks for reading!

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