Broadly - American or British – they attract different kinds of collectors. The American comics market is driven by the current interest in cinema or TV streaming. Marvel Comics are predominant – their most popular characters are Spider-Man, The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and The X-Men. Marvels rival D.C comics are also popular; Batman and Superman are their premier superheroes.
British comics appeal more to nostalgia. The British comic is a weekly rather than monthly – as US comics are and collectors are looking for sequential runs across the whole years, rather than the individual key comics that American comic enthusiasts are seeking out. Top British titles are The Beano, Dandy, Eagle, TV21, Film fun and 2000AD.
Other nations- France, Spain and Japan in particular have long traditions of comic productions; but they tend to be aimed at an adult market and attract a more limited market than children’s English language comics.
US comics are classified accordingly to periods. Early period before 1945 is known as the Golden Age. It begins in 1938 with the first Superman comics. The period 1956 – 1970 is called the Silver Age. Most of the current buying and selling is for comics from this era. From 1970 up to modern times is known as the Bronze Age. There are very few valuable comics produced during this period-most notably The Incredible Hulk No.181 – featuring the first appearance of Wolverine – and Giant-sized X-Men No.1.
Very modern comics are only rarely valuable, the key exception is The Walking Dead No.1 published in 2003.
British collectors take a different approach mostly concentrating on comics published before 1965. Generally speaking, earliest is best. But there is, these days, decreasing demand for very early British comics before the 1930’s. Surprisingly, almost no one now collects Victorian comics.
The cosmetic state of a comic is very important to its value. American collectors grade their comics with points out of ten. Any comics which score over nine points is referred to as near mint or mint and is very desirable. But for rare and sought-after copies, a low- scoring copy with many defects will still be snapped up.
The effect of condition may be seen in the case of Marvel Comics Amazing Fantasy No.15, which is arguably the world’s most valuable comic. It features the very first appearance of Spider-Man on June 5th, 1962. We recently sold a very poor copy of this comic graded around 2.0 for £11,500. A few months earlier we sold a different copy graded at 4.5 for a UK record price of £39,000 During the same month another copy graded at 9.6 (the first copy known to exist) changed hands in America for $3.6 million!
British comics do not command the same prices US comics are capable of; but they are often quite pricey. The Beano No.1 is Britain’s most sought after issue. Published by Thomson & Co of Dundee July 30th, 1938. The current record price is £17,300. However, since there are less than 20 copies known to exist one would assume that the next good copy to come under the hammer would reach upwards of £20,000
British collectors look to amass long continuous runs of their favourite comic titles, seeking out individual issues to fill in gaps in their continuity. Collectors of American comics have in the past adopted a similar approach, but the new young investor goes for the “key” comics. A “ key” comic usually features the first ever appearance of a hero or villain – or an important plot development such as the death of a supporting character, a change of uniform or the acquisition of a new super power. Speculators have their ear to the ground seeking out rumours surrounding this early production or casting of a movie or TV series that may feature some minor character in the Marvel or D.C Comics universe. As soon as a rumour is substantiated, prices for the first appearance of that character will rise. Sometimes, a comic that was easily obtainable for just a few pounds will become scarce and valuable in just a few months. For example, Fantastic Four No.52 featuring the first appearance of Black Panther from 1966 rocketed in value from less than £10 to over £1,000 when the movie was released, and many other comics are valuable simply because they are the first introduction of a hero or villain popular in the cinema.
You may well have old comics at home. Remember that valuable copies are necessarily rare, and you probably don’t have one. But as we have seen, even modern comics can be worth selling. There is a wealth of information available online and annually published books like Overstreets Guide to Comic Book Prices will help. Your difficulty may however be in assessing condition which is a skill only learned by experience. Fortunately, we are on hand to help and free advice is available. You may find as one of our clients did recently that with values at a historic high, a few old comics purchased in a charity shop can be worth tens of thousands of pounds!