Most Valuable Comic Books of All Time
The average cost of a modern comic book is about $4.48. They cost about $2.20 in 1995. In the early 1980s, when I was child who had just started collecting comic books, I paid about $0.75 per comic book.
It seems that the only thing that is more certain than death and taxes is inflation. If you buy the most popular comic books from the so-called Big Two comic book companies, Marvel Comics or DC Comics, paying $5+ isn’t out of the ordinary.
Comic book characters have taken over every corner of popular culture all over the world. The characters in comic books are now the financial engines for films that gross $1 billion, or more. To date, Avengers: Endgame has made over $2.8 billion in profits.
And to think, when I was a kid, it was pretty uncool to be a comic book nerd. Now, you’re pretty uncool if you don’t enjoy some aspect of comic book culture via media like films, TV shows, cartoons, or video games.
Also, when I was a kid, every comic book collector thought they were going to become rich buying comics during the investor speculation era of the 1990s. There were a few valuable comics. But most speculators bought too many comics books, negating the scarcity principle of supply and demand.
It caused an industry crash that almost bankrupted Marvel Comics and slowed down the whole industry, Now, comic book fans are buying comics at $4-a-pop and throwing billions at comic book movies. If you’re interested in buying valuable comic books, you’ll need deep pockets, a collector’s knowledge of comic book history, and be comfortable never actually touching the comic.
Certified Guaranty Company, or CGC, is an American comic appraisal company and grading score metric. A CGC is 10-point grading system that impartially appraises the aesthetic condition of a comic book. The higher the CGC grade, then the more valuable the comic will be to a collector.
Captain America #1 – Marvel Comics
One of Marvel’s first comic books was Captain America #1. It was released in March 1941, a time when the entire world was still entrenched in WWII. However, the United States didn’t enter WWII until December of that year. Still, the creators of the comic, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, illustrate the immediacy of the Nazi threat on the cover.
It features the first appearance of Captain America punching Adolf Hitler in the face. Captain America #1 was a hit at the time. Simon and Kirby, both Jewish, also received death threats. In 2011, a collector paid $353,000 for a copy of this comic with a 9.2 CGC grade.
Tales of Suspense #39 – Marvel Comics (Iron Man’s First Appearance)
It really grinds my gears to hear people professing to be Iron Man fans nowadays. In 2007, they probably would have mentioned the Black Sabbath song if you said, “Who is Iron Man?” I have been reading about Iron Man since I was a child. Still, Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the character in the 2008 MCU film created a frenzied global fanbase.
That fact may have a lot to do with the 2012 auction of the March 1963 issue of Tales of Suspense #39. This issue is the first full appearance of Iron Man in a comic book. The comic was sold for $375,000 and had a CGC grade of 9.6.
Action Comics #7 – DC Comics
This comic features the second appearance of the Man of Steel. It is also the first comic book to feature the word, “Superman,” on the cover. Also, Superman wears yellow-colored boots throughout the story for some reason, but not on the cover, which might be a coloring error.
These facts might account for the value of the rare comic, since the story is unremarkable – it’s a tale about Superman joining a circus. This comic was published in December 1938. It sold for $414,000 with a CGC grade of 8.0.
Batman # 1 – DC Comics
Although the DC comics characters appearing in TV shows and films are popular, they do not enjoy the pop culture cachet of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Batman was a ubiquitously known comic book character long before the MCU existed.
Batman #1 was published in Spring 1940 with a cover price of $0.10. This comic is not the first appearance of Batman or Robin, but it does feature the first appearances of the Joker and Catwoman. It is also the first comic book to feature the “Batman” name on the cover. (Robin the Boy Wonder first appeared in Detective Comics #38 in April 1940.
This comic was sold at auction in 2013 for $567,625 with a CGC grade of 9.2. Batman #1 become one of the first few comic books to sell for over half a million at auction.
Action Comics # 1 – DC Comics
While its questionable at this point if we will ever see Henry Cavill portray Superman again, what isn’t questionable is the undying pop culture appeal for Superman. Released in June 1938, Action Comics # 1 features the first appearance of Superman.
It is truly a historic comic book in pop culture history. Not the first superhero comic, but this is arguably the first popular, “superhero comic book,” as we know it today. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action Comics # 1 introduced a superhero that inspires fans to this day.
This copy sold on eBay in 2014 for $3.2 million with a CGC grade of 9.0. There are probably about 100 copies of Action Comics #1 that exist today. But there are only two copies of Action Comics #1 on Earth with a CGC grading over 9.0. Actor Nicholas Cage paid $2.1 million for the other copy in 2011. This is the world’s most expensive comic book.
The Irony of Comic Book Investment
Before you reach for some spare millions to buy one of these comics, you need to keep some things in mind. The reasons that these comics are valuable to collectors is because they are rare and are in near mint condition. The paper used to make these comics were not made to last forever.
Comic book paper made in the early 20th century, sometimes on newspaper print of the era, is susceptible to mold, water staining, fading from sunlight, wrinkling, tearing and other problems. You must get them appraised and then seal them in rigid plastic shells called, “slabs.” If you do read them, you must do them with plastic gloves and under strict controlled conditions.