You may have heard stories of people cleaning up attics to find old comic books which they then sold at huge profits.
This is already happening – but it’s not only the old books that become valuable. Even picture books from the past 20 years are becoming more and more collectible. Some of them have jumped from just a few dollars five years ago to more than $2,000 today.
Smart investors are discovering that they can make money from this trend, but only if they treat it as they would any serious investment.
I started investing in comics in the mid-’70s with the change I found in couch cushions. By careful savings and choosing the right comics, I invested my profits and invested them in bigger and bigger purchases. This is my advice to anyone looking to get started.
How to Get Started with Comic Book Investing
The idea of comic books as an investment first gained steam during the 2008 recession. Between the turbulent stock and real estate markets and the near-zero interest rates offered by banks, people had to come up with innovative ways to invest and make money.
Lots of people have done, and still do, well by investing in comic books, but it’s not like throwing darts into a dartboard and hoping for the best. To make a profit from what some still think is “kid’s fare,” you have to act like a kid at school and do your homework.
1. Learn all you can about picture books
The first step is to learn everything you can. Talk to the experts. Follow auctions on sites like ebay and ComicConnect to see what’s selling and how much. [Editor’s note: The author is the owner of ComicConnect.] Study trends, such as an increase in popularity due to a character appearing in a new movie or TV show.
And most importantly, get to know your superheroes. Comic books are about more than just “excellent” superheroes: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the like. Expanding your knowledge beyond the big names can make you a smarter investor. For example, some heroes from the Golden Age (the 1930s and 1950s), such as Catman, Black Terror, The Destroyer, and Phantom Lady are very popular, despite the fact that they are no longer published.
2. Set your budget
The next step in investing is determining your budget. There is space in the market for small and large investors alike, and that could mean anything from $10 to $3 million.
When setting your budget, decide how many comic books you want to buy per year, and how long you want to keep them. I recommend compiling a “wanted list” of the comics you want to buy and the grades you want. You can then look at current market prices using the Overstreet Price Guide, gpanalysis.com and gocollect.com.
I also like to leave about 10% of my budget for something that catches my eye – and something that always catches my eye!
3. Start buying – but do your due diligence
In addition to attending comic conferences to find comics for your group, I suggest that your best option is to check out dealers and auction sites.
For example, my company ComicConnect holds four event auctions a year, displaying a wide range of vintage comics, original art, and other collectibles. We also host monthly auctions, where you can find more great comics.
Many other sites sell comics, but it’s important to find reputable sources that stand behind what they’re selling. Accurate scores and return policy are important.
And if you’re thinking of selling your comic books, be prepared to answer plenty of questions from seasoned book collectors.
Is this a long term investment versus a short term investment?
Consider whether you want to invest in the long or short term. Long-term investors should choose storyboards that have traditionally shown slow and steady growth. For example, people who bought a copy of “Amazing Fantasy 15” (Spider-Man’s debut) for $3,000 in 2010 own a comic book that is worth more than $10,000 today.
For long-term investors, pre-1985 books are the best option. These comics have shown that they have legs to them, and by the time they are that long, they will have reached an antique. There are plenty of modern comics from the past 20 years to read, collect, and invest in, but the market for these books can be a bit more volatile.
For short-term investors, it’s all about timing. Try to buy books when they start to heat up with the intent to sell them quickly before interest wanes. There are comics released only for a few months that sell for anywhere from $50 to $100.
But remember that the short-term market can be very volatile. For example, investors who bought “Green Lantern 7” a year before the release of “Green Lantern” made huge profits if it was sold within a few months. But if they waited until the movie’s premiere date – which failed completely – they likely lost money.
Nobody wins all the time, not even experts like me. I was one of the guys who bought a quality “Green Lantern 7” the week the movie came out. I ended up taking a small hit when I finally managed to sell it a few years later.
Some tips for identifying potentially valuable storyboards
Whether you’re investing in new or old comics, there are some general rules you can follow to help determine if your comics will increase in value.
Issues featuring a character’s debut or death, or the first professional publication of an artist or writer, are likely to be good investments in the future. Single pages of Action Comics 1 (Superman debuted in 1938) sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
But it’s not just the big names that can prove their worth. It’s possible that a character’s debut in a low-key comedy could make big returns someday. It’s a gamble, but it may pay off.
Remember, however, that it’s not just the importance of the comic that determines its value. Condition and rarity also have an effect. But nothing is engraved in stone. If there is one copy of a book in near-good condition but five more copies are found after a year, the problem may be devalued.
Once you jump into the comic book market, remember to protect your investment. Store books in a cool, dry place, such as a safety deposit box.
Finally, use professional appraisers and consider purchasing insurance for your group. A quick search for a comic name and its issue on reputable auction sites can help you gauge the value of your comic post.
Vincent Zorzulu is co-owner of New York-based Metropolis Collectibles, the world’s largest vintage comic book dealership, and ComicConnect.com, the largest online vintage comic auction house. He and his partner, Stephen Fischler, hold five Guinness World Records for the most expensive comics and related collectibles ever sold. Call him at [email protected].