Comic books have a pretty long and glorious history in the United States – the first one ever, known as “The Yellow Kid,” dates back to 1895, and was published in the Joseph Pulitzer-owned newspaper New York World. In 1905, the first comic with a continuing story, “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” created by Winsor McCay, began running in the New York Herald.
From there, things picked up and comic books became a huge part of America’s pop culture, reflecting real life events and social changes. In 1937, the first issue of “Detective Comics” was published by the company that would eventually become DC Comics. One year later, in 1938, Action Comics introduced the first ever superhero, Superman, while in 1939 Detective Comics launched Batman. Other famous and enduring superheroes and characters showed up during the following years, including Captain America, Wonder Woman, Casper the Ghost, Peanuts, Uncle Scrooge, The Fantastic Four and so on.
The popularity of comic books varied throughout the years, but as television and cinema turned to them for inspiration, their fame grew exponentially. During the last couple of decades, the number of movies and TV shows featuring comic books characters has literally exploded, turning what used to be a niche interest into a widespread pop culture phenomenon. Millions of fans all over the world are dedicating serious time and money to buying, reading and collecting comic books.
Collecting comics is not only pretty good fun, but it can also be quite lucrative – the value of comics can grow over time, depending, obviously, on a multitude of factors, including how popular a certain story or heroes will become, or how many copies of a comic book were initially published. However, there’s one paramount requirement for ensuring that your comics will increase their value in time – you need to keep them in pristine condition.
From $0.10 to $3.2M: Top Five Most Expensive Comic Books Ever Sold
The passion for comics translates into the huge amounts of money that people are willing to spend on a copy. The most valuable are the ones that are rare, vintage, and/or feature the birth of a famous character.
It’s no wonder, then, that the most expensive comic book is the Action Comics #1, published in 1938, and featuring the debut of arguably the most iconic superhero ever – Superman. The original comic, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, sold for a mere ten cents back in 1938. However, since then, four copies of it sold for more than one million dollars. In 2014, one copy broke all the records, selling for an impressive $3.2 million.
You might be wondering what made the difference between the copies that sold for $1 million and the one that went for more than $3 million. The major factor behind the huge price variation between copies of the same comic is the condition of each. The copies are usually rated by the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), a third-party grading service for comic books and other collectibles.
The copies they evaluate receive a CGC rating anywhere from 0.5 to 10, that quantifies their condition. An Action Comics copy that sold for about one million dollars had a CGC rating of 8, while the 3.2 million dollar one had a 9.0 CGC. All the more reason to make sure your comic book collection is kept properly.
The second-most expensive comic book is Detective Comics #27, published in May 1939, and representing Batman’s birth certificate. One copy of that comic was sold for $2.1 million. Third place goes to Superman once more, more precisely to Superman 1 comic, released in 1939, the first solo publication detailing his adventures. One of the copies sold for about $750,000 but there’s also an unverified sale of $1.5 million.
The very first appearance and the origin story of Wonder Women in All-Star Comics #8, in December 1941, makes for comic book history. One of the copies auctioned for $930,000, making it the fourth-most expensive comic book sold so far, while the minimum value hovers around $10,000. Batman shows up again in the list of the most expensive comics, this time on the fifth spot, with the first illustration of his exploits as a main character, Batman #1, published in April 1940. The comic book also introduces the Joker and Catwoman for the first time, and one of its copies sold for no less than $567,000.
These are top prices for top-rated copies of very famous comic books. Other comics sell for much lower yet still significant sums of money. If you collected comic books as a hobby but didn’t pay a lot of attention to their monetary value, or if you inherited some or bought them at a garage sale or at a storage auction, maybe it’s time to have them appraised – you might be in for a nice surprise.
How to Store Comic Books at Home
You already caught the comic book collecting virus, so you might as well make the most of it. Who knows, 50 years from now, your grandchildren might become rich due to your hobby – but for that to happen, you must learn how to store your copies properly. Comic books are less resilient than regular books – they’re thinner and usually printed on lightweight paper that makes them susceptible to getting creases, folds or scuff marks.
Owning a comic book collection worthy of its name starts with how you treat your comics while reading them. Make sure your hands are clean to avoid stains on the pages, don’t read them while eating, and once you’re finished you could put them in a plastic cover. If you particularly enjoyed a certain comic book, if it introduces a new character or storyline that shows potential, or if it’s a limited edition, buy a second copy and keep it in mint condition – unopened, in its original packaging. It might pay off in the long run, as mint condition copies of popular comics increase their value exponentially over time.
When it comes to storing comic books at home, there are several routes you can go. Piled on the floor or stacked under your bed are big no-nos. Instead, get some durable, lidded cardboard or plastic boxes and put your comics in there, making sure they fit inside properly and are neatly arranged. The biggest risk with this type of storage is unwanted creases and folds on the covers and the pages of the comics – that’s why you must be extra careful when you put them in.
A better solution is to use the storage boxes made specifically for comic books. These boxes are the right size to perfectly fit the books’ format and allow you to stack them upright, minimizing potential damage. For best results, get storage sets that also contain box dividers and resealable bags for protection. Transparent plastic display boxes are an excellent storage solution for your favorite comics.
Another way to keep your comic book collection is on open shelves, which allows for easy and fast access but, on the other hand, doesn’t provide enough protection for the copies. A better idea is using closed cabinets – you can get ones with glass doors if you’re keen on displaying your collection.
Use Self-Storage Units for Your Comic Book Collection
A sizable comic book collection might be difficult to keep at home, because it both takes up a lot of space and needs specific environmental conditions. Comic books should be protected from moisture, sunlight, heat, dust and other damaging factors. So, if you decided to take your hobby to the next level, consider renting a self-storage unit for your comic book collection. It’s only natural, after all – if a self-storage unit in San Francisco kept Ant-Man’s Quantum Realm machine safe for five years and served as the starting point for the world-changing adventures of “Avengers: Endgame,” it’s certainly suitable for your comic book collection.
A climate-controlled, small unit provide just the right environment, away from sunlight, and with constant temperature and humidity regardless of the season. Put your collection into sturdy boxes to protect them from dust, then take them to the storage facility.
It’s a good idea to look into the type of coverage you can get for your collection, especially if it contains expensive items. Some home insurance policies cover items kept away from home, while most self-storage facilities sell insurance for the goods stored with them. However, in the case of pricey items, it’s better to have them appraised by an expert and to purchase an insurance policy that covers their real value.
You can enjoy your comic books while still ensuring your copies are collection-worthy by taking some simple precautions, from handling them gently to storing them in proper conditions. Whether you’ll benefit financially from your hobby or not, only time will tell. In the meantime, however, you’ll definitely have lots of fun.