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Taking Comic Books Seriously Can Lead to Serious Money

By Vincent Zurzolo

Investing in comic books is becoming a hot trend. But the first step in making a profit on what some still think of as “kiddie fare” is to act like a kid and do your homework.

Fueled by the prevalence of top-grossing movies featuring comic book characters and the increasing popularity of events like Comic Con, the interest in comic books is on the rise. Comic Con International: San Diego has seen attendance grow from 300 when it began in 1970 to more than 130,000 in recent years. Similar events have spread throughout the country, with New York’s 2014 Comic Con claiming more than 150,000 attendees—the second largest event in New York City.

While everyone’s heard stories of people cleaning out an attic to find comic books they sold at a hefty profit, it’s not just the older books that are valuable. Even comic books from the last 20 years are becoming more collectible. Some have jumped from just a few dollars each five years ago to $50 to $100 today. Smart investors are finding that they can make money off of this trend, but only if they treat it like they would any serious investment.

The first step is to learn everything you can. Talk to experts. Follow auctions to see what’s selling and for how much. Study trends, such as a surge in popularity due to a character being featured in a new movie. And, most important, know your superheroes. Comic books are about more than the “blue chip” superheroes, the characters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Flash, Green Lantern, The Avengers, Thor and X-Men. Expanding your knowledge beyond the big names can make you a savvier investor. For example, some heroes from the Golden Age (1930s-1950s), such as Catman, Black Terror, The Destroyer and Phantom Lady, also are very popular despite no longer being in publication.

The next step in investing is to decide on your budget. There is room in the market for small and large investors alike. That means anything from $10 to $3 million. Decide on a budget based on how many comic books you want to buy per year, and how long you want to hold onto them.

Consider whether you want to invest for the long- or short-term. Long-term investors should select comics that have traditionally shown slow and steady growth.  In 2010, people who bought a copy of Amazing Fantasy 15, the first appearance of Spider-Man for $3,000, could see that same comic book being worth $10,000 today.  For long-term investors, pre-1985 books are the best choice.

For short-term investors, it’s all about timing. Try to buy books when they just start to get hot with the intention of selling them quickly before interest wanes. There are comics that have only been out for a few months that are selling for anywhere from $50 to $100. But remember, the short-term market can be very volatile. People who bought Green Lantern number seven, the first appearance of Sinestro, a year before the Green Lantern movie came out, saw huge profits if they sold within a few months.  But if they waited until too close to the premiere of the movie which flopped, they probably ended up losing money.

Whether investing in new or older comics, there are a few general rules you can follow that can help determine whether a comic will increase in value. Issues that feature a character’s first appearance or death, or an artist or writer’s first professional publication are more likely to be good investments down the road. Individual pages from when Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics 1 have sold for thousands of dollars.  But it’s not just the big names that can prove valuable. It’s just as possible that the first appearance of a character in a low-grade comic can provide substantial returns one day. It’s a gamble, but one that could potentially pay off. Remember, though, it’s not just a comic book’s significance that determines its value. Condition and rarity also have an impact. But nothing is set in stone. If there is one copy of a book in near-mint condition, but five more are found a year later, the value of that issue could drop.

Once you jump into the comic book market, remember to protect your investment. Store books in a cool, dry place, such as a safe deposit box. Finally, use professional appraisers and consider purchasing insurance for your collection. A quick search of your comic’s name and issue on www.comicconnect.com can help you gauge your comic’s value.