Most Valuable Comic Books of the 1990s
The comic book movie boom of the past decade will create a new generation of comic book readers and investors. Investment takes time. And, you may be better off buying a comic of moderate value now that will become valuable in the future. Consider: the most valuable comic books of the 1990s are not very valuable now. Not yet, anyway.
What’s important to remember about collecting comic books from the Modern Age is to keep perspective. We live in an era where comic books are making a billion dollars at the box office.
That is why you should research the most valuable comic books of the 1990s. The older a rare comic book is, the more valuable it becomes.
That is something to bank on in the future.
Investments in stocks, companies, or valuable comic books take time. It could take decades to get a return.
So, you should understand what would appeal to a comic collector decade from now.
Before listing the most valuable comic books of the 1990s, let’s briefly discuss the Golden Age and Modern Age of comic books.
And the differences in rarity and collector demand.
The Most Valuable Comic Books of the 1990s
Modern comic books are not rare.
Time will change things.
In the Modern Age of comics, comic book publishing is slowly moving to the e-comic medium as well.
It’s the supply and demand economics of comic books, and commerce in general, that makes them valuable to collectors.
And now, with the advent of billion-dollar comic book films, everyone knows about comic books.
The most valuable comic books of the 1990s that featured the first appearances characters like Deadpool and Harley Quinn could be shrewd investments to make now.
New Mutants #85 (February 1991) Marvel
Image courtesy Pulp Culture Comics and Collectibles.
Do you know the reason how Ryan Reynolds, now synonymous with the fourth-wall-breaking, wisecracking superhero Deadpool, secured the role?
Reynolds’s first attempt to headline a comic book film franchise, 2011’s disastrous live-action Green Lantern, was a disaster.
That’s film’s failure sidelined his securement of the Deadpool role for years.
Legend has it that the Deadpool project Ryan tried to launch was being rejected by every studio.
Tim Miller, a noted video game designer, and aspiring film director was hired to direct the live-action Deadpool in 2011.
However, filming on Deadpool didn’t begin until 2015. There was no interest from the studio.
Miller, or someone in his department, leaked a pre-visual demo for a Deadpool stunt sequence online before filming began.
The stunt worked. The leaked stunt demos created a fan fervor that couldn’t be ignored. Deadpool (2016) and its sequel Deadpool 2 (2018) collectively grossed over $1.5 billion at the box office.
However, if comic book artist Rob Liefeld hadn’t created Deadpool way back in 1991, Reynolds would never have assumed the role he was born to play.
Deadpool made his first appearance in the pages of the X-Men spinoff comic book New Mutants #85 in February 1991. The character was created by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Rob Liefeld.
Deadpool began life as a deadly supervillain but has since morphed into an antihero. And, a bankable household name due to Reynold’s portrayal.
A copy of New Mutants #85 with a CGC grade of 10.0, which means the copy is in perfect mint condition) sold for $15,500 in 2013.
Rarity and Demand from the Golden Age to the Modern Age
Comic books are a lot like a hybrid of a time machine and a mirror. Especially comic books that collectors covet.
They reflect the politics, zeitgeist, and influences of their creators during the era in which they are published.
Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 in Spring 1938 occurred over a year before the launch of WWII.
The character was bulletproof, could only leap about one-eighth of a mile in that era, and couldn’t fly.
When Superman first appeared, the character launched the Golden Age of comic books and wowed readers. Superman would be an archetype for many successive characters.
Today, in the Modern Age of comic books, Superman is overly saturated, overpowered, and overly familiar to readers audiences of pop culture.
Now, think about Harley Quinn.
Harley Quinn originally appeared in a 1992 Batman cartoon and later became a comic book hit. Harley is female, powerless, essentially a Joker-derived analog, and yet is a pop-culture icon. This was not the norm in the 20th century.
The evolution of Quinn from cartoon to comic books to the big screen will appeal to collectors decades from now.
There are no new Superman movies planned in the near future. Harley Quinn is set to make her third onscreen appearance in the new Suicide Squad film.
The most valuable comic books of the 1990s featuring Harley Quinn may be the ones to watch for investment potential in the future.
The Batman Adventures #12 (September 1993) DC Comics
Australian actress Margot Robbie boosted her international career and became a household name after appearing in the 2016 film Suicide Squad.
The film was a critical failure but grossed almost $750 million at the box office.
Robbie’s riveting portrayal as Harley Quinn absolutely stole the film and made a lasting impression on audiences. She will soon portray Harley again in James Gunn The Suicide Squad in 2021.
Avid comic book fans have always known about Harley Quinn, but Suicide Squad introduced the character to non-comic book reading audiences.
This fact will inform the value of Harley Quinn’s first comic book appearance in the future.
Harley Quinn Origin
Harley Quinn first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series in September 1992.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel was a psychologist working at Arkham Asylum. Dr. Quinzel was working on a project to cure the Joker of his murderous insanity.
Instead, Quinzel’s mentality and personality were corrupted by the Joker. She was transformed into his lover and sycophant Harley Quinn.
However, Harley Quinn is now an independent antihero in modern comic books. The character’s first comic book appearance was in The Batman Adventures #12 in 1993.
In April 2016, a copy of this comic with a CGC grade of 9.8 sold for $1,800.
This sale occurred a few months before the first Suicide film opened, so its value will certainly go up in the long-term future.
If James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a hit, you can bank on it.
Value is in the Future
As a collector of Modern Age comics, it’s important to keep perspective.
In an era of relatively larger print runs, there is no scarcity of copies right now.
E-comics are popular. This may be the last era of large print runs of physical comics.
The most valuable comics of the 1990s exist now but won’t be valuable until the future.
The value of such comics, in an age of billion-dollar movies, will accrue in the long-term future.
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Allen Francis is a full-time writer, prolific comic book investor and author of The Casual’s Guide: Why You Should Get Into Comic Book Investing. Allen holds a BA degree from Marymount Manhattan College. Before becoming a writer Allen was an academic advisor, librarian, and college adjunct for many years. Allen is an advocate of best personal financial practices including saving and investing in your own small business.
My name is Matt Chamberlain. I had a comic book collection left to me and 95% is books from the 90’s. I’m overwhelmed. I see that obviously if I have certain ones graded they’re worth more. Probably 90% of what I have never been opened and are either in nice plastic “sheaths” and maybe 30% of the 90% have a hard cardboard-like backing. Most are X Men but definitely a variety.
Do you have any suggestions? There’s 311 I believe and I had some guy come out and offer $50. I’ve looked up about half of them so far and I’ve probably got 4 or 5 that are at least $80 and no more than $300..Again..getting back to the grading….any assistance that you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Hello Matt! Thank you for reading the column and leaving a comment!
I understand that you feel overwhelmed. But it’s hard to profit from comic book collectibles – very few people turn a profit with comic book collectibles, and never easily. So, take this process one step at a time.
My first piece of advice to you is to adjust your expectations. The 1990s comics scene was a self-inflicted comic book speculator nightmare. Comic book companies printed hundreds of thousands and millions of issues of comic books to satiate collectors who thought they were investing in comic books that would be worth fortunes in the future. (The law of supply and demand states that scarcity creates value) Marvel almost went out of business in 1996. They sold the film and TV licenses for many IPs to stay afloat. Marvel almost sold all of their IPs to Sony for $25 million but Sony only wanted Spider-Man. (Marvel Studios was almost NEVER a thing) The comics market and Marvel almost went bust because too many comics flooded the market and 1990s collectors were stuck with too many copies of comics that wouldn’t be valuable anytime soon. I don’t know what comics you have, and I am not saying you are in this predicament. Just be prepared for the possibility that most of your comic books may not be as valuable as you would like to believe. (I didn’t say give up hope, just be realistic.)
Next, I think you have to do your own research. You want to sell these comics? You have to find a buyer who finds them more valuable than you. You can’t do that unless you understand the market value of each issue. You mentioned some guy tried to buy them all from you for $50, but you knew some of your comics were worth $80 to $300? OK – now do a full inventory. Get plastic gloves and place every comic book in a MYLAR comic book sleeve with a cardboard back. You could read every comic book or look up summaries online, but find out what makes each comic book valuable – does it feature a pivotal comic book history moment? The introduction of a character? The death of one? Does the work of a favorite writer or artist appear in it? Scarcity really makes a comic valuable, but that may not be the case wth a 1990s comic book. You may need to persuade or negotiate with someone about the value of your comic books. You know the market value of a car before you sell or buy one, right? If you don’t know the true value of the comic book you are trying to sell, you could get ripped off. Or you may waste your time trying to sell comic books with no appreciable market value. Check the market value of your comic books at “comic book price guide sites” like ComicsPriceGuide, Comic Book Realm, Heritage Auctions, SellMyComicBooks, or CGCComics.com – you should check the value of every comic book you have on a few of these sites and then cross reference the values you see. Then you can get a ballpark estimate of the comic books in question. (You said you looked up the value of half of them, but you should look up the value of all of them.) You can check the value of the comics online at these sites yourself – but some of them have a process to get graded and a ballpark value estimation by an expert for a fee. Every comic book that you know for certain is valuable should get graded and put in a slab.
Finally, if you think the few comics you have are valuable, get in touch with a local collectibles dealer. (Personally, I would only do this if market value research shows that you stand to make a few hundred or thousand to make it worth your while.) You should get a collectibles expert to help out, and they may know a buyer who wants them. (A potential buyer is not just going to take your word for it that your comics are invaluable – there are levels to this. It’s a process and to engender trust, show the buyer you understand the gravity of the potential deal) Is this a lot of work? – yes it is. But you look at those comic books and see an investment that could be valuable to the right buyer. There is no such thing as easy money if you are trying to profit from an investment, especially if you are uninformed about the investment and want to cash out quick. (The hard truth is that it is very hard to profit from comic book collectibles – you really must know what you are doing and have the right networking skills to find a potential buyer)
Some of the comic books that don’t have value right now may acquire value in the future. Don’t throw them away. Assess what may make them valuable to a collector in the future. (For example, collectors are now scrambling to buy the first appearances and important issues featuring Namor, a character that was virtually unknown to non-comic book readers and the general public until Wakanda Forever was released.) There are many comic book characters that will become popular in the future. (This is NO guarantee that those comic books will become valuable. But it is also true that when these films get released, collectors and casual comic book readers scramble to buy old comics or trades to learn about these characters)
Investors understand their investments and research them exhaustedly. Learn more about comics, why your comic may be valuable, learn the market value of those issues, get the most valuable comic books graded and evaluated, consult an expert, and you may give a buyer plenty of reasons to take them off your hands on your terms.
Thanks again for the comment, and good luck.