Get Rich from Comic Books: Fantasy Investing - TheStreet

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Disney's Ironman collected $678 million in just twelve days. The movie left many of us to wonder how do we all get a piece of the super hero pie? A few of us may already have a slice and not know it. Comic book collections kept as a child, but now gathering dust as an adult, can sometimes have more value than meets the eye. While not considered fine art, a comic in mint condition by the right artist can be worth millions.

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If you have a pile of old comics in your mom's house or a storage unit, the easiest way to get started is to create a list with the title and issue numbers to organize the treasure hunt. There are a few sites that handle appraising and auctioning comic books, such as The site is the largest dealership of vintage comic books in the world.

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"Watch for condition, rarity, and significance," said Vincent Zurzolo, owner of ComicConnect. "If it is the first appearance of a hero or villain, if a character dies or if it is the first time the artist or writer worked professionally, all these factors play a part in the worth of the comic."

Most of the comics that are really worth a sizeable amount were printed between the 1930s and the 1970s. Zurzolo holds the record for selling the three most expensive comics of all time. The most expensive being an Action Comics 1 CGC 9.0 that went for $2,160,000 He did include that if an entire comic is not in the best shape, even individual pages that have been preserved can be worth several thousand dollars.

That is not to say all low-grade comics are worth tons of money. Comic grading has it own scale and system. Jerry Stephen, a comic grader from Heritage Auctions, broke down what the graders look for. In addition to looking for tightness of staples, freshness of book, clipped coupons, if any restoration work was done, and a glossy look, comics are graded on a ten-point scale. "By far, the overwhelming majority of comics from the mid-70s and earlier are between 3.0 and 5.0 in grade," Stephen said. "This is why we see so many record prices for books grading in 9.2 and above because they are so rare."

Julian Chambliss Ph.D., a professor at Rollins College who teaches a course titled "The Comic Book City: Dreams and Disruptions in the Urban Landscape," suggested treasure hunters have their comics graded to lock-in a value. Chambliss also emphasized the value of the underground comic book movement.

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"Underground Comics are independent comics that were produced in the 1970s," he said. "These comics were noted for their political content and social commentary." Chambliss also suggested that collectors look for work by creators early in their career for lesser known companies. Examples of lesser known companies are: Dell, Charlton Comic, Ace Comics, American Comic Group, Atlas Comic (later Marvel), Avon Comics, EC Comics, and the Farrell Comic Group to name a few.

So, what are the richest titles? Here is the top ten:

  • 1) Action Comics #1 $1,750,000
  • 2) Detective Comics #27 $1,350,000
  • 3) Superman #1 $650,000
  • 4) All-American Comics #16 $480,000
  • 5) Marvel Comics #1 $475,000
  • 6) Batman #1 $350,000
  • 7) Captain America Comics #1 $275,000
  • 8) Action Comics #7 $165,000
  • 9) Flash Comics #1 $165,000
  • 10) Amazing Fantasy #15 $150,000

--Written by Leigh Held for MainStreet