Valuable old comic books can still occasionally be found for a fraction of their book price at tag sales, church sales, shops, and country auctions. One day you might get lucky and come across an entire stack of early comics in good condition for say, $50. If you do gamble. If it's a large promising collection of comic books, pay more. Although most people are aware that good specimens can fetch big dollars, few of us, including antique dealers, understand just how much. Editions where a famous character makes his/her first appearance command highest prices. The following estimates are for first-appearance comics in very fine to near mint condition. Please buckle safety belts before reading.
- Action Comics #1 June 1938, The first appearance of Superman: $100,000 - $200,000. (Please note* DC Comics produced an oversized exact reproduction of this comic book in 1974.)
- Detective Comics #27 May 1939, The first appearance of Batman: $100,000 - $200,000. (Please note* DC Comics produced an oversized reproduction of this book as well. The reprints have "Famous First Edition" on the cover that might be removed and sold as an original interior. A coverless reprint is a valueless comic)
- Captain Marvel Adventures March 1941: $15,000 - $20,000.
- Captain America #1 March 1941: The cover depicts Captain America whacking Adolph Hitler with hard right to the chin. $40,000 - $75,000.
- Casper the Friendly Ghost, Harvey Comics Hits #60 September 1952: $150.00 - $200.00.
- Fantastic Four, Present Marvel Comics Group, November 1961: $7,500 - $15,000.
In general, Superhero comics like Spiderman, The Fantastic Four or Green Lantern are more valuable than humorous comics like Casper or Richie Rich. Amongst the most valuable humorous books are early Walt Disney creations that have cross-over appeal with Disney collectors. Generally, old comics are more valuable than later editions. Comic Books are generally assigned by age to the following categories.
- 1897-1937 Early Period - Not really comic books, most have thick cardboard covers and are found in brittle darkened condition today. Richard Outcalt's Hogan's Alley was introduced to two newspapers in 1895 and is generally considered the first comic strip. The term "yellow journalism" was probably coined from William Randolph Hearst's political views often reflected by the strip's lead character the Yellow Kid.
- 1938-1945 Golden Age - Led by early issues of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and 700 other costumed characters, the most sought after era of comic books. All Golden Era books in good condition have antique value today. Most sold in their day for around 10 cents. In mint condition most are worth $7.00 + today.
- 1946-1949 Post Golden Age - Many romance and crime comics are introduced.
- 1950-1956 Pre Silver Age - Satires like Mad and horror comics like Haunt of Fear emerge.
- 1956-1969 Silver Age - The next great era of comic books. Beautifully drawn early examples of Green Lantern, the Hulk, Flash, Thor, the Amazing Spiderman, and other heroes are hotly sought after today. Many are worth several dollars and some are worth thousands each.
- 1970-1979 Post Silver Age - Collectors should seek out near mint editions.
Keep in mind that you don't have to come across a superhero first-appearance issue to stumble into a significant find. Look for issues that have appeal. Are the heroes well known? Does the comic introduce a new villain to the scene? The introduction of any significant new character (good or evil) adds value. Is there a sentimental or cross-over market? Buy from a qualified dealer if you want to be a collector. Take a shot at a legitimate tag sale if you want to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Until then, join us next week for another amazing Antique Talk adventure!