Top 25 Most Valuable Comic Books
Is the era of the $1 billion dollar movie franchise over? It looks like it is for the foreseeable future. Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow, The Suicide Squad, and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins all underperformed financially due to pandemic. The pausing of the comic book movie is a traumatic blow to popular culture. Still, I have noticed that many modern “comic book fans” don’t read comics. So, I want to inform such people about the 25 most valuable comic books you should know about as a potential investor.
Do you want my advice? Start reading comic books! The billion-dollar films you love so much get their ideas from them anyway.
And, you can also start learning about investing in comic books.
Do you know what makes some comics very valuable? Rarity. Important storylines. Seminal works of famous creators.
And the first appearances of major characters.
People are streaming comic book-related shows and films now more than ever. And many new investors can look to comics to make some basic investments.
Black Widow’s First Appearance as Investment Potential
I loved Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (The Black Widow mantle will be passed onto Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova character) However, Black Widow’s first appearance didn’t occur in 2010’s Iron Man 2.
The comic book character Black Widow first appeared in Tales of Suspense #52 in March 1964. This occurred during the Silver Age of comic books.
None of us will be cheering in a comic book movie anytime soon. Looks like we are all too busy at home streaming anyway.
And, if you can save money for comic book movies in this economy, maybe you can try investing in the most valuable comic books.
Look at it this way — you can learn true comic book canon from comic books instead of from the movies while making a tidy investment.
So here are the 25 most valuable comic books.
But first, a mini style guide.
CGC Ratings and Comic Book Eras
In this rating list of the 25 most valuable comics books, I will be referring to “CGC ratings” and “ages” of comics.
There are four distinct “ages” of comic books published since 1938. The exact years for each age differ from person to person.
These are the four:
The Golden Age of comics ran from 1938 to 1956. This is the era when the superhero comic became popular.
The Silver Age of comic books ran from 1956 to 1970. Comic books were highly censored by the Comics Code authority and creatively regulated during this period.
The Bronze Age of comic books ran from 1970 to 1984. Comic books become creatively unshackled from the Comics Code Authority. Stories begin to reflect real-world issues.
(The Copper Age is sometimes referred to as the years between 1984 to 1991, but is not agreed upon by everyone.)
The Modern Age of comic books started in 1984 and continues to this day.
This list of the 25 most valuable comic books will go backward from the Modern Age to the Golden Age.
25 – Preacher #1 (April 1995) Vertigo/DC Comics
Are you a fan of AMC’s Preacher? Well, it started out as a comic book in 1995.
Preacher tells the story of an amoral preacher, Jesse Custer, who gets caught in a battle between Heaven and Hell.
A copy of Preacher #1 with a 9.8 CGC rating sold for $230 in July 2021.
This comic is an affordable entry point for investors. Garth Ennis, one of the story’s writers, has a fevered and loyal fanbase. Also, the Preacher IP could be revisited in the future.
24 – The Walking Dead #100 – Red Foil Variant Cover Edition (June 2012) Image Comics
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is one of the best actors of his generation.
But if you think his characterization of Negan, the wildly popular fan-favorite horror character, first appeared on the sixth season of The Walking Dead TV show in 2016, then it is obvious you don’t read comics much.
Negan made his first appearance earlier in the landmark 100th issue of The Walking Dead.
The Red Foil variant cover edition of this comic, which is all black and features Negan’s blood-stained bat Lucille, sold for $875 in June 2021. It has a CGC grading of 9.8.
23 – Amazing Spider-Man #700 – Steve Ditko Variant Cover (January 2013) Marvel Comics
The existence of this comic helps me to better understand why modern comic book fans, the ones who don’t read comics, don’t read comics.
Grappling with decades of comic book canon can be intimidating. Still, not a reason to not try, in my opinion.
In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Peter Parker “died.” (Not really and not for long). This issue paved the way for Dr. Octopus to assume the Spider-Man mantle as the Superior Spider-Man for a few years. (Yes, really.)
This comic, with a variant cover drawn by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, sold for $700 in August 2020. It has a CGC grade of 9.8.
22 – Malibu Sun #13 (May 1992) Malibu Comics
Todd McFarlane became a superstar comic book creator in the 1990s when he and several other creators launched Image Comics.
McFarlane’s signature series is Spawn — a murdered assassin who is reincarnated as an unwilling agent of the devil.
The first appearance of Spawn technically occurred in a promotional comic, Malibu Sun #13, right before the comic’s official launch at Image.
Spawn #1 launched in May 1992 and is still published to this day. It was adapted into a film in 1997 and could soon be rebooted with Jamie Foxx in the lead role.
A copy of this comic with a CGC grade of 9.8 sold for $3,100 in May 2021. If the Jamie Foxx-led film franchise reboot of Spawn occurs, keep an eye on this comic’s value.
21 – Invincible #1 (January 2003) Image Comics
Comic book creator Robert Kirkman, who created The Walking Dead, is prolific. Invincible is the story of teen Mark Grayson, who learns his father is an alien. Mark later develops superpowers.
Invincible ran for 144 issues and wrapped its run in 2018. The comic has a fervent fan base which just expanded with the release of the animated series.
A 9.8 CGC graded copy of this comic sold for $4,100 in July 2021.
20 – The Walking Dead #1 (October 2003) Image Comics
This is the Modern Age horror comic that became a global popular culture hit in the 2010s.
In the post-modern comic book ages to come, this is a comic to watch for increased value.
The Walking Dead #1 features the first appearances of Rick Grimes, Shane Walsh, and Morgan Jones.
A 9.8 CGC graded copy of this comic sold for $3,000 in July 2021. The Walking Dead #1 has steadily increased in value since 2016.
19 – Edge of Spider-Verse #2 – Greg Land Variant Cover (September 2014) Marvel Comics
If you loved Spider-Gwen’s appearance in the 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, then this is one of the most valuable comic books to know about.
Gwen Stacy was originally Peter Parker’s first love interest. Gwen died in Peter’s arms in The Amazing Spider-Man #31, published in December 1965.
Gwen Stacy was revived as an alternate version of Spider-Man from another dimension in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 in 2014. There is also a Deadpool-inspired variation named GwenPool (Don’t ask.)
A 9.8 CGC grade copy of this comic sold, with a variant cover sold by Greg Land, for $6,500 in May 2021.
18 – Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973) Marvel Comics
Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu was a character created in the 1970s in the wake of Bruce Lee’s popularity. Marvel has used the character in comics ever since.
Now, Shang Chi will soon appear in a live-action MCU film.
Shang Chi made his first appearance in Special Marvel Edition #15 in 1973.
A copy of this comic with a 9.8 CGC grade was sold for $12,000 in June 2021.
Shang Chi may become the next superstar of the MCU, so keep an eye on this comic’s value.
17 – Iron Man #55 (February 1973) Marvel Comics
People who have never read a comic book know who Thanos is by now.
But if you have never read a comic book before, you may think he first appeared in the post-credits sequence of the 2012 Avengers film.
Thanos first appeared in the Bronze Age of comic books in Iron Man #55. Drax the Destroyer, a supremely powerful cosmic being in the comics, also made his first appearance in this issue.
A copy of this comic with a 9.8 CGC grade sold for $7,250 in December 2020.
16 – Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) DC Comics
The Justice League film was supposed to introduce Darkseid as the big bad of the DC Extended Universe.
Those plans did not work out.
But who knows what will happen in the future? Fan interest in Darkseid could be reinvigorated has been reinvigorated with the release of the Zack Snyder Justice League cut.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134 features the first appearance of Darkseid.
A copy of this comic with a 9.8 CGC grade sold for $12,500 in September 2020.
15 – Amazing Spider-Man #129 (January 1974) Marvel Comics
Were you a child in the 1980s? Then you’ve lived long enough to see four actors portray the Punisher in live-action films and cable TV.
Since 1989, Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane, Ray Stevenson, and Jon Bernthal have all portrayed the grim vigilante. The Punisher is a character whose popularity will not wane anytime soon.
Amazing Spider-Man #129 features the first appearance of Frank Castle, The Punisher.
A copy of this comic with a 9.8 CGC grade sold for $39,000 in June 2021.
14 – X-Men #94 (August 1975) Marvel Comics
X-Men #1 was first published by Marvel Comics in 1963. The comic was a loose allegory of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Professor X and Magneto were both very loosely based on Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X respectively.
The comic waned in popularity for a few years and was canceled. It was revived as reprints of earlier issues before being rebooted in 1975.
The 1975 X-Men team featured in X-Men #94 was diverse. Storm was from Africa, Thunderbird was a Native American, Nightcrawler was German, and Banshee was Irish.
A copy of this comic with a 9.8 CGC grade sold for $54,000 on April 2021.
This comic is one of the pivotal issues of the Bronze Age of comics.
Now that Disney, owner of Marvel Comics, owns a majority share of Fox, the X-Men will return to live-action film sometime in the future. Watch this comic.
13 – Werewolf By Night #32 (August 1975) Marvel Comics
This Bronze Age comic book is valuable not because of the marquee character but because of the guest appearing character.
Werewolf By Night #32 features the first appearance of Marc Spector, also known as Moon Knight.
Moon Knight can best be described as a Batman analog for Marvel. Oscar Isaac will soon portray the character on a Disney+ streaming show.
A copy of this comic with a CGC rating of 9.8 sold for $74,000 in May 2020.
12 – Green Lantern #76 (April 1970) DC Comics
At the dawn of the Bronze Age, Green Lantern was waning in popularity. So, he was teamed up with Green Arrow for the first time in this issue.
In 1970, Bronze Age comic books began creatively mirroring society more realistically. Green Lantern #76 launched the “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline.
Instead of patrolling space, Green Lantern walked America with Green Arrow and investigated issues of corruption, racism, environmental pollution, and other crises of the era.
A copy of this comic sold for $47,000 in December 2014. It had a CGC grade of 9.8.
11 – Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972) Marvel Comics
Nicholas Cage starred in two underwhelming Ghost Rider films in 2007 and 2012.
While Cage did his best, the popularity of the character just didn’t translate from the comic to the silver screen. Still, the character is still wildly popular with comic book fans and reappeared on the SHIELD TV show.
Marvel Spotlight #5 is the first appearance of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider.
A copy of this comic with a 9.8 CGC grade sold for $290,000 in June 2021.
10 – House of Secrets #92 (May 1971) DC Comics
You may remember Swamp Thing from the campy 1982 film directed by Wes Craven.
A streaming TV series based on the character was featured on the now-defunct DC Universe for one season.
However, Swamp Thing has been a fan-favorite comic book character for decades.
House of Secrets #92 features the first appearance of Swamp Thing.
A copy of this Bronze Age comic with a 9.8 CGC grade sold for $68,000 in March 2018.
9 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (May 1984) Mirage Studios/ Eastman and Laird
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was created and self-published by creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984.
This comic was launched in the premier year of the Modern Age of comic books. TMNT #1 also created the first pop culture craze from an independent comic book that lasts to this day.
A 9.8 CGC graded copy of this comic sold for $90,000 in August 2019.
8 – The Incredible Hulk #181 (November 1974) Marvel Comics
Remember how I referenced how modern comic book fans think Black Widow made her first appearance in the MCU’s Iron Man 2 instead of Tales of Suspense #52?
Well, the first appearances of comic book characters, especially popular characters, adds to the value of a comic.
Wolverine made his first full-body appearance in The Incredible Hulk #181. (Technically, Wolverine made his first partial appearance in a single panel in The Incredible Hulk #180.)
The first appearance of Wolverine is one of the most important developments of the Bronze Age.
There is probably only one 9.9 CGC grade copy of this comic book in existence. It is one of the most valuable comics books ever and sold for over $150,000 in March 2011.
7 – Avengers #1 (September 1963) Marvel Comics
My biggest pet peeve about comic book fans who talk about the Avengers are those who are talking up the 2012 film but have never read the comic.
These billion-dollar films get their source material from the comics. If you love these films, you are missing out if you haven’t read the classic comics.
And this comic will stand the test of time as one of the most valuable comic books to own.
It has been estimated that only three issues of Avengers #1 with a 9.6 CGC grade exist. One of them sold for $275,000 in July 2012.
6 – Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962) Marvel Comics
I grew up on Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno portraying Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk, respectively, on TV.
Since then, Eric Bana, Ed Norton, and Mark Ruffalo have portrayed the Hulk in live-action films, with Ruffalo becoming the fan-favorite.
In September 2016, a copy of Incredible Hulk #1 with a CGC grade of 9.2 sold for $375.000.
5 – Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961) Marvel Comics
There have been numerous attempts to successfully adapt the Fantastic Four to the big screen.
None have been very successful.
Non-comic book readers may know the Fantastic Four through cartoons and video games.
However, their best adventures occurred in the comics books, especially in their signature Silver Age stories.
This comic is one of the most valuable comic books around. A copy with a 9.6 CGC grade sold for $450,000 in 2008.
4 – X-Men #1 (September 1963) Marvel Comics
In the 1980s and 1990s, Marvel Comics almost went out of business. So, the company licensed many of its characters for use in films to numerous film companies.
Until recently, the X-Men and SD could only be adapted for film and TV by Fox. Fox is now majority-owned by Disney, which owns Marvel, so this will change in the future.
(Confused yet? No wonder modern comic book fans prefer the live adaptation over the comics.)
Anyway, sometime in the future, we will hopefully get a new franchise of X-Men films produced by Disney.
This wildly successful pop-culture phenomenon was made possible by the publication of X-Men #1 in 1963.
A copy of this comic with a 9.8 CGC grade sold for $493,000 in July 2012.
3 – Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) Marvel Comics
During the Silver Age of comic books, Amazing Fantasy was an anthology comic waning in popularity.
It was actually in danger of cancellation.
The editors of Aamazing Fantasy gave Stan Lee and Steve Ditko carte blanche to create whatever they wanted in issue #15. Spider-Man’s first appearance occurred in that issue.
Imagine – if Aamazing Fantasy was wildly popular, we may never have experienced Spider-Man!
A copy of this copy with a 9.6 CGC grade, or near perfect condition, sold for $1.1 million in March 2011.
2 – Marvel Comics #1 (September 1939) Timely/Marvel Comics
This comic is a time capsule of history – WWII started the same month Marvel Comics #1 was published.
Marvel Comics #1 features the first appearance of the android Human Torch, who is not the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four. (It’s complicated – you have to be a comic book reader!)
A Pennsylvania mailman bought a copy of Marvel Comics #1 in 1939. It was kept in pristine condition ever since.
That copy was sold in November 2019 for $1.26 million. It has a CGC grade of 9.4, so it is in near perfect condition.
1 – Action Comics #1 (June 1938) DC Comics
As of this writing, it’s unclear if fan-favorite Henry Cavill will return as Superman on the big screen. (Signs aren’t looking good). There probably must be an official confirmation either way before fans can let the issue go.
Such fan-based psychodrama didn’t exist in 1938. We can only have such fan debates now because of one comic book that was published 82 years ago: Action Comics #1.
In 1938 there was no such thing as a “superhero comic book,” relative to the modern context.
Then, in June 1938, Action Comics #1 introduced the modern comic book superhero as we know it. It launched the Golden Age of comic books.
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, this comic book was the big bang that created the comic book industry as we know it today.
A genuine copy of Action Comics #1 is rare to find. About 200,000 copies were printed in 1938. Less than 100 copies probably exist today.
There are probably only 2 copies in existence in near-perfect condition with a CGC grade of 9.0.
Actor Nicholas Cage paid $2.1 million for one of the existing 9.0 CGC copies in 2011. The other 9.0 CGC copy sold for $3.2 million through eBay in 2014.
There is a reason why I started this list with affordably priced comics.
If your knowledge of comic books starts and ends with films, dip your toes into comic book investment slowly.
As recently reported in Forbes, many comic books are skyrocketing in value because of film and TV adaptations.
You could start investing with a few bucks or a few hundred bucks. However, you have to know what is rare, popular, and the tastes of collectors in the market.
You may be able to find an Action Comics #1 with a CGC rating of 1.0 or 2.0 very cheaply. But you have to buy it from someone who doesn’t know the value. And then you would have to sell it to a collector who wants it. And you won’t be able to do that if you don’t understand the market or the power of sentimentality to collectors.
You don’t need a lot of money to start collecting and investing in comic books. But you do need a basic knowledge base about comics and the mind of the comic book collector to start. Confer with serious comic book collectors or appraisers to learn more.
You could invest in comics via fractional investing but that is an investment strategy more suited for veteran investors.
Start reading comics and find out what you like and what you think may become valuable as an investment.
Allen Francis was an academic advisor, librarian, and college adjunct for many years with no money, no financial literacy, and no responsibility when he had money. To him, the phrase “personal finance,” contains the power that anyone has to grow their own wealth. Allen is an advocate of best personal financial practices including focusing on your needs instead of your wants, asking for help when you need it, saving and investing in your own small business.