Predicting Demand for DC Characters from Total Comic Appearances

by Blaise Tassone

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This is the complementary post to my previous entry (here). Whereas in my last post I looked at Marvel characters, and linked the total number of appearances of characters to the prices on their first appearances looking for correlations, here I will take a look at the other big American publisher National Comics Publications aka DC.

DC has just as many famous superhero characters as Marvel. A quick look at the most popular, based on number of appearances, produces the following list:

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As in my previous post, my data is extrapolated from a set of variables for over 6000 characters. This time the data comes from the DC comic universe and the columns in the table above once again list attributes including character name, first appearance and total number of appearances between June of 1938 up to September of 2014.

As opposed to the Marvel list, there may be some surprises here. First of all, one character almost completely dominates the listings: Batman. It’s no accident that DC comics is named after Detective Comics, the title in which Bruce Wayne first appeared. It’s no exaggeration to say that DC is Batman….closely followed by Superman and, then Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, etc.

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Now that we have our table of appearances, let’s take a look at the values of the related comics. As I explained last time, most of these older books cannot be found in 9.8 so the only fair way to compare is to take a lower grade (again I’ll use 9.0 as my standard, however since many DC superheroes premiered in the Golden Age, where no 9.0 is available, I will take the highest available grade and its FMV in 2014 – the year at which the data regarding appearances stops, as the standard).

The results are interesting:

Action Comics #1 (June 1938) – price of a 9.0 in 2014 = $3, 207, 852.00 (eBay sale on 08/25/2014).

Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) – price of 9.0 = N/A; price of an 8.0 in 2014 = $1, 075, 500.00 (based on a Heritage Auction on 02/25/2010).

All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941) – price of a 9.0 in 2014 = N/A, price of an 8.5 = $81, 113.00 (based on an eBay sale completed 10/15/2012).

Showcase #22 (September 1959) – Price of a 9.0 in 2014, = $59, 750.00 (based on a Heritage Auction sale ending 11/19/2009).

Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) – price of a 9.0 in 2014 = $46, 000.00 (based on a Heritage Auction ending 03/08/2003).

Showcase #4 (Sept. 1956) – value of a 9.0 in 2014 = $38, 837.50 (Heritage sale on 08/17/2011).

More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941) – price of a 9.0 in 2014 = N/A; prince of an 8.0 = $10,157.50 (based on a 05/22/2008 Heritage Auction Sale). One year later a 9.4 sold for = $38,837.50 (on 11/19/2009 also at Heritage), we can add these two sales for a total of $48, 994.00 and estimate that a 9.0 in 2014 was worth about half of this. So: $24, 497.00..

Flash Comics #86 (July 1947) – FMV in 2014 in 9.0 grade = N/A. Sales before 2014 occurred for 9.6 (2 sales Mile High Pedigree copies sold on Heritage for: $17, 250.00 on 10/14/2005 and then $10, 157.50 on 05/20/2010). A 7.5 sold in 2012 for $2, 151.00 (Heritage, 07/27/2012). Taking a medium between the 3 sales, we can place the 2014 value of a 9.0 around $9, 852.00.

Tales of the Teen Titans #44 (July 1984) – First Nightwing. Value of a 9.0 in 2014 was c. $65.00 (based on an eBay sale on 08/18/2014). In 9.8 it was worth around $290.00.

Batman #436 (November 1989) – FMV in 9.0 in 2014 N/A, a 9.8 sold for $135.00 (eBay sale 07/26/2014), and a 9.6 for $21.99 on 04/07/2011 (eBay).

As can be seen, Superman is king of prices, and it will probably be a while before that Action Comics sale is beaten, but he lags in total appearances compared to Batman.

Batman is the second most valuable key, but the Batman family is so well represented, taking spots number 2, 5, 9 and 10 of the top 10 comics- added together- these would increase the overall value, which is already considerably high even though there was no 9.0 to find for an accurate price comparison.

The outliers in the DC world are: Flash and Wonder Woman who both punch well above their weight respective to appearances. What are the reasons? Showcase #4 simply has such an iconic cover, the Aquaman first appearance cannot compete (he’s not even on the cover of More Fun #73). Wonder Woman should be where Hal Jordon is in terms of FMV, instead her first appearance sells higher, also without even featuring her on the cover.

In this instance, scarcity combined with the difference in age might be the factor. Wonder Woman appeared in the Golden Age. Golden Age Green Lantern, with 969 appearances just misses making the top ten by a hair, and his first appearance in All-American Comics #16 (July 1940) , would have been worth over $203, 150.00 in 9.0 grade in 2014. If we take the Green Lantern brand, it actually is more popular. It’s just that there was more than one Green Lantern.

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The take away: As in the case of Marvel, total appearances alone cannot determine the value of a book, but they should be considered as a factor since there is more than a merely accidental relationship between number of appearances and value of key books.

In the case of DC for example, the high representation of Tim Drake and the very low value of his first appearance might mean one of two thing: either Tim’s first appearance is seriously undervalued, or he is the least interesting character with the lowest appeal in DC history. I’m leaning towards the former as an explanation.

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