Most Valuable Comic Books of the 1980s
The most valuable comic books of the 1980s were published in the middle of two crucial ages for comic books — the second half of the Bronze Age and the dawn of the Modern Age.
During the Bronze Age, more comic books were produced that tackled topical issues that mirrored the real world in lieu of the sillier and straightforward good-vs-evil stories of the Silver and Golden Ages.
The Modern Age of comics doubled down on mirroring the real world and depicting more violence within its pages. Also, the mass commercialization and merchandising of comic books became a fully viable industry in the 1980s.
Now, such information may not mean much to you, but it should. The comic books printed during this decade are now billion-dollar films.
I will never be half as talented as actor Tom Hardy, but I was not a fan of his Venom films, even if they were hits. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been pop culture phenomenons for decades. Usagi Yojimbo is an obscure samurai rabbit character but also a cult fan-favorite amongst hardcore comic book fans.
The thing all these characters have in common is that they were all created in the 1980s.
However, if you are a non-comic book reader, you must know that future comic book films will dictate the investment prices of the comics they are based on. A mint condition copy of Amazing Spider-Man #300, which featured the first appearance of Venom, is now worth over $3,300.
So, if you want to know what the most valuable comic books of the 1980s are, check out these three pivotal comics from the decade. If you are a comic book casual, I will also include a suggestion link for popular comic book stories for you to check out.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (May 1984) Mirage Studios/ Eastman and Laird
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 was created and self-published by creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984. They shopped the comic at a local comic book convention in New Hampshire where it was acquired by Mirage Studios.
The comic took off in popularity immediately. It’s about four pet turtles who were turned into anthropomorphized superhero ninjas by radioactive sludge and then trained by a rat named Splinter.
The first animated series, the first of several that are still being produced to this day, was produced in 1987. There have been five TMNT live-action motion pictures.
Consider, the first TMNT movie was produced just 6 years after TMNT #1 was printed! The last two TMNT films were produced within the last decade.
Although these films were not critical successes, a sixth film, a new reboot, is currently being produced.
A $90,000 First Edition
TMNT is a pop culture mainstay, so it’s not hard to understand why someone spent $90,000 for a first-print copy of TMNT #1 in August 2019. This comic has a CGC grade of 9.8.
It is an ultra-rare copy in pristine condition. This comic is supposedly one of the original 3,200 copies from the first printing.
Suggested Reading for Casuals – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate B&W Collection Vol. 1
This graphic novel collects the first seven issues of the 1984 comic book launch. Some of the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Stories ever began in this seminal run of issues. The pop culture juggernaut that started the TMNT fan craze started with these issues.
Get it for $22.37 at Amazon.
Albedo Anthropomorphics #2 (November 1984) Thoughts and Images
Albedo #2 features the first appearance of fan-favorite Usagi Yojimbo. Albedo was an anthology comic book series of the era that featured stories starring anthropomorphic characters.
Usagi Yojimbo roughly translates to, “Rabbit Bodyguard.” Imagine Ronin-style comic book stories featuring an anthropomorphic rabbit samurai and you get the gist of it.
Usagi Yojimbo was created by Stan Sakai. The stories are set in Edo-period Japan. Usagi Yojimbo comic books are still published to this day via independent publishers.
A 9.8 CGC graded copy of Albedo #2 sold for $31,000 in May 2019. Only 2,000 issues were produced in the original first-edition printing, so it is very rare. There is always a collector out there who loves comics like this, so keep an eye on it if you’re interested in collectible investment.
Suggested Reading for Casuals – Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 1
This graphic novel collects over 600 pages of classic tales featuring Usagi Yojimbo as a wandering samurai vigilante. If you have ever watched old Akira Kurosawa samurai films about wandering Ronins, then you can imagine similar scenarios in a comic book featuring an anthropomorphized samurai rabbit.
Get it for $19.98 at Amazon.
Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988) Marvel Comics
To fully explain the value of Amazing Spider-Man #300, the first appearance of Venom, we need to explain the convoluted history of the black-colored Spider-Man outfit.
Spider-Man and his iconic red and blue costume first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. His costume didn’t change much aesthetically until Amazing Spider-Man #252 in May 1984.
In that issue, Peter Parker comes into contact with a black substance, a “symbiote,” from outer space that bonds with him. It turns his costume into the iconic black and white costume.
For some reason, different variations of this origin also occur in Marvel Team-Up #141 and Spectacular Spider-Man #60. Both issues were also published in 1984.
A fourth origin story for the symbiote, which became official comic-book canon, occurs in Secret Wars #8 published in December 1984.
Spider-Man is on an alien planet where superheroes and villains must battle at the whims of a mad alien. After his costume is ripped, Spider-Man uses a device of alien origin that he thinks will repair his costume.
The device releases the black-colored symbiote which spreads over Parker’s body and transforms into the black costume.
In subsequent stories, readers learn that the symbiote is a malevolent alien parasite that physically bonds to its host.
The symbiote amplifies the subconscious and negative emotional instincts of the host in uncontrollable ways.
The more that Spider-Man bonded with the symbiote, the more likely the bonding would become permanent.
Enter Eddie Brock
Amazing Spider-Man #300 is the first appearance of Eddie Brock and Venom. Brock, a journalist, is professionally ostracized by an error that is publicly corrected by Peter Parker.
Meanwhile, Parker finally separates himself from the symbiote. It was aggressively making him a more violent version of himself.
Brock, nearly insane with fury, jealousy, and regret, bonds with the symbiote which thereafter recognizes itself as Venom. The symbiote and Brock essentially become one new being.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Venom was Spider-Man’s deadliest enemy. Venom was originally written as a crazed villain set on killing Peter Parker. But he became so popular with fans that he soon became an anti-hero. Today, Venom is known as an ally to Spider-Man and an anti-hero.
Suggested Reading for Casuals – Venom by Donny Cates Vol. 1
Venom’s origin has been revised a few times since the 1980s. In the comic book, the Venom symbiote is now revealed to be a part of an ancient lineage of alien invaders. The Venom comics of the past recent years have been very exciting to read and have created a status quo for Venom that is distinct from Spider-Man, which is not easy to do since Venom is a Spider-Man ripoff.
Read any Venom comic featuring writer Donny Cates.
Get it now for $15.29 at Amazon.
Strategically Seek Investment Value In Comics
As you will notice in my next articles on this subject, comic books published in the Modern Age do not necessarily have the relative collector value of those published in the Golden, Silver, or early Bronze Age eras.
They are not as rare. Even if they are rare, they are only 30+ years old. The only thing that will make them potentially valuable right now is if they are in perfect condition, rare, and are based on an upcoming film with intense fan hype
Time and growing collector interest create demand. In decades to come, the comics on this list will be in greater demand.
If you have a mint-condition copy of one of these comics, hang onto it.
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.