There’s a lot of great stuff to invest these days, to make certain that you have a hefty nest-egg for when you eventually retire. Gold, LEGO and low-risk stocks are all solid examples. But what about comic books? You’d imagine that with 2016 being jammed with comic book movies right now, the market must be fielding some high-value gems right now.
Like that copy of Action Comics #1, which sold for $3.2 million in 2014. Or maybe that issue of Amazing Fantasy #15, where the first appearance of Spider-Man is worth actual tens of thousands of dollars. There must be paper gold in that box at the bottom of your cupboard, right? …Man, I am about to make your easy retirement dreams crash and burn like the Hindenburg buddy.
Chances are, what you’re sitting on is barely worth its cover price these days. I’d hazard a guess, and say that your mint collection is mostly from the 1980s and early 1990s, the heyday of comic books. This was a fantastic age, one that saw hundreds of thousands of readers hit their local shop every Wednesday to pick up new issues of Batman, X-Men and more. And that’s the problem.
With demand through the roof, big publishers like Marvel and DC worked overtime to ensure that there was enough of a supply. And that means that your rare first appearance of Exodus in X-Men, isn’t nearly anywhere near as valuable as you’d think. Entire runs of comics, which you’d think were worth thousands of dollars, have sold for a scant few hundred these days.
The bubble for comic book collecting swelled to an ungodly level in the 1990s, before it finally burst and crashed an entire market with enough chromium covers to cover a car show in silver. There’s just too damn many comics from that era left gathering dust in bargain bins around the world to make the hobby actually worthwhile.
Supply and demand. If you want a comic that is actually worth something, then you need to invest in something that is already rare. Like an Incredible Hulk #180 and #181 (First Wolverine appearances) or a Detective Comics (First Batman appearance) #27. These comics have value, these printed books will always have a fanbase demanding them. Good luck affording them of course.
I often get asked to actually have a look at comics for possible grading, and locally, this is both amusing and heartbreaking. Flash back to when you were a kid, and South Africa was feeling the excitement of the comic book boom. All of a sudden, you could walk into a supermarket and see the likes of Lobo, the X-Men and Spider-Man. Man, surely they’re worth a few bucks, right?
Sadly, toilet paper is worth more. With comic books, there’s a perceived value at play. Collectors know what’s valuable to them, and you can’t convince them otherwise. The mid 1990s comics that we all bought into? Those were reprints of popular comics on paper that was worth less than toilet paper. I salute BattleAxe Press for making an effort to create a local market for comic books, but the low-grade reprints with Cheeto adverts at the back aren’t exactly going to get wealthy collectors frothing at the mouth.
Here’s the moral of the story: Comic books are very rarely that good of an investment these days. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What you’re paying for is a luxury that won’t hold any value in the years to come. If you want to save up for the future, start a pension fund. Comic books are about fun, gorgeous art that makes your eyes joygasm and sharp writing that thrills, entertains and delights you.
The joy of owning a comic book shouldn’t come from seeing it locked away in a CGC slab and kept out of the light. It’s about the story and loving the greatest art-form around. It’s about experiencing a level of storytelling that pushes the envelope and steers your mind towards new ideas and notions. That’s the real treat in buying a comic book. Hell, there’s nothing I like more than to actually grab a trade paperback of Preacher some days, and read one of my all-time favourite epics on a sunny afternoon.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pitch some ideas to Marvel and DC, and regret writing this column in a few years once I finally hit the big time.
Last Updated: January 27, 2016