Most Valuable Comic Books of All Time
The average cost of a modern comic book is about $4.48 — it costs about $2.20 in 1995. In the early 1980s, when I was a 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. I wish I had taken better care of my comics — they could have become the most valuable comic books of all time.
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.
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.
Now, if pay attention to what characters stand to become most popular in upcoming films, you can invest in relatively affordable comics that will become more valuable in time. Here is a list of the most valuable comic books of all time that you should consider.
But first, a primer on CGC grading.
Certified Guaranty Company, or CGC, is an American comic appraisal company and grading score metric.
A CGC is a 10-point grading system that impartially appraises the aesthetic condition of a comic book. The higher the CGC grade, 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 2021, a collector paid $915,000 for a copy of this comic with a 9.4 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.
Tales of Suspense #39 is the first full appearance of Iron Man in a comic book. The comic was recently sold for $2,800,000 and had a CGC grade of 9.8.
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.
It’s one of the most valuable comic books in the world but it is an unremarkable read. It’s a tale about Superman joining a circus. This comic was published in December 1938.
It sold for $143,000 with a CGC grade of 8.0 in 2008. There may only be 47 copies of this comic in existence. But only 16 of those copies may be in near mint or mint condition.
So, 16 of the most valuable comic books of all time —time could still be waiting to be discovered.
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 April 2021 for $1.2 million with a CGC grade of 8.0.
Action Comics # 1 – DC Comics
While it’s 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 was 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 Investing in the Most Valuable Comic Books of All time
Before you reach for some spare millions to buy one of these comics, you need to keep some things in mind.
The reason that these comics are valuable to collectors is that they are rare and are in near-mint condition. The paper used to make these comics was 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 strictly controlled conditions.
And you must be patient. It takes time for the most valuable comic books of all time to generate value.
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.