About two or three times every day I get a phone call from someone trying to sell their collection of comic books. It almost always begins something like this:
“I have a really old collection of books, still in their plastics and I’m sure they’re worth a bunch of money,” states the eager seller.
Juett (my excellent general manager) responds, “Oh really? Are they in pretty decent shape? About how old are they?”
“Oh, we bought them in the 90′s. We have Brigade issue 1′s and Cyberforce Scratch n Sniff Berry Flavored Die-Cut Gold number 4′s!”
At this point we have to politely let them know that most likely their collection isn’t worth that much and they hang up very disappointed. So I figure it would make a good topic to discuss what makes an “old comic”. Comics have been around since the 1800′s in one form or another but we’ll skip all of this because these books aren’t what most people would relate to as a comic book. The Golden Age of comics started in the late 30′s and runs until the early 50′s. During this period we see the first appearances of Batman, Superman, Captain America, along with quite a volume of children’s books, westerns, and pulp comics. Quite frequently even the most dog eared, rat chewed, coffee stained issues are going to be worth something. If you come across a collection of 80 year old comics that are complete (no missing pages or panels cut out) you are probably looking at money. These can be legitimately called “old comics”.
So now we can roll right into the silver age with a little book called Showcase #4 which is the first appearance of the silver age Flash. During this period of rather anemic superhero titles (there were really only Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman of note during this time) it was refreshing to see something new. Sales were great so we saw a huge relaunch of DC superhero books. It took Marvel a few years to eventually get up to speed with Fantastic Four, Spider-man, X-men, etc. The silver age runs up until 1970 and there are a lot of valuable books from this era. There are so many first appearances, origins, epic battles, etc during this time period that it’s very easy to have a collection with a number of big money issues. Condition becomes much more significant because high grade issues are more common than in the golden age. These can also be legitimately called “old comics”.
After the silver age we have the bronze age which runs from 1970 to 1985. There are quite a few key issues that can be found during this period. First appearance of Wolverine and the Punisher…random awesome horror books like Supernatural Thrillers and Werewolf by Night. BUT…in general there’s a whole lot of poop during this period that’s not worth much of anything. You can pretty much roll everything from about 1980 to 2012 into one big pile of financial mediocrity with few exceptions. The 90′s saw such a huge explosive growth in speculation that not only were there a lot of crap new titles…but the print runs on them were gigantic. Spawn #1 from the early 1990′s had an estimated print run of over 1.7 million copies. In today’s market it’s considered significant if a book sells over 100,000 copies. Huge supply plus low demand equals no value. These books are not considered “old comics”. Matter o’fact I’d consider most books from this time frame as “kindling” or “toilet paper”.
In conclusion don’t be surprised if you can only get 10-20 bucks a long box (250 comics) for your “old” comics from the 1980′s and up. There’s just too much volume that can never be absorbed by our current number of readers. Even worse, I can’t even predict a time when they’ll ever go up in value. It’s true that we’re in a huge upswing in the comic industry right now due to movie and television exposure…and we are seeing new people get into comic collecting…but most of these guys are getting into current stuff and they aren’t collecting dusty 20 year old runs of Avengers. It’s very easy to tell someone, “Go grab a copy of Saga or Mind the Gap or Hickman’s New Avenger title.” Marvel and DC are both doing an excellent job of maintaining great “jumping on points” for many of their titles. It’s really difficult to convince someone to get involved in the Herculean task of putting together 200 issue runs of Fantastic Four or Action Comics by going through back issue bins in comic shops.
So bring me your comics. I’ll buy pretty much anything that’s not water damaged or full of roaches. Just please be aware of what your comics are most likely worth to avoid overwhelming waves of disappointment. I love buying stuff…I just hate hurting people’s feelings.