Why are Certain Comic Books Valuable to Collectors & Investors?

by Joseph Overaitis

072222A-1024x536 Why are Certain Comic Books Valuable to Collectors & Investors?Collectors and investors know that certain comic books sell for more than other issues. Various factors can cause a book to be in demand and sell for a premium. The more favorable elements the issue possesses, the more in demand it will become on the market, if it ever does go to the market. The biggest problem collectors and investors face is identifying those elements.  Some of them are very basic and easy to see, but even the most experienced hobbyists can miss a few.  Those mistakes can be costly. The following is a tutorial on elements that can impact both investors and collectors.

I.  Grade

A. Basic Course

Do it yourself

Grading has always been important in the hobby.  Investors must pay special attention to the condition of issues because a mistake could be costly.  Collectors can try to ignore grading but that does not mean they will get a break on price.  The higher the grade, the greater the cost of the issue.  In addition, some comic books are very difficult to find in high grades because of age and cover composition. As a result, a comic book’s grade is a very important factor in the value of the book. The Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide is one book that can help even the most experienced collector determine the grade of a book. Other hobbyists have taken a different path.

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A condition arbitrator

Years of debates between buyers and sellers on the impact of a subtle defect effect on the grade of an issue led to third party grading companies. These companies charge a fee to act as impartial arbitrators of a comic book’s grade. Many experienced collectors and investors use these companies exclusively for the sale of comics.  Others have given up learning how to grade books and exclusively rely upon these companies to grade books. Their grading decisions can be the difference in thousands of dollars.

B. Advance Course

Fixer upper

Some collectors like books in their original condition.  Investors can feel the same way.  A restored book sells for less and can have a decreased amount of collectors interested in the book. The problem for collectors and investors was that a cottage industry involving comic book restoration was created.  Comic book pressing and cleaning does not qualify a book as being restored, but other forms of improving the book are deemed restorations.

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Can you see it?

Some restorations can be seen while others are much more subtle. Not being able to see restorations 32does not mean the books are unrestored. A restoration is a restoration. Pages can be trimmed to remove edge defects to improve the visual appeal of the book.  Tape is another way that amateur restorers believed would increase the visual appearance of a book.  Many Gold to the Bronze Age have some signs of tape restoration. Identifying restorations where they exist is very important in grading. A restoration can eliminate a whole class of investors’ and collectors’ interest in the book.

II. Key Issues and Special Books

A. Basic Course

Story Elements

Many issues have something about them that makes the book a key.  Batman #181 is a key issue because it is the first appearance of Poison Ivy.  Captain America #100 is technically the first issue of the self-titled series that evolved from Tales of Suspense.  Besides first appearances and first issues, deaths of characters are also key issues.

A key issue could be even what appears to be a non-important element, such as a costume change like in Ms Marvel #20.

In summation, any issue that features a key development of the character can be deemed to be key if it is important in future issues. As a result, these issues will sell for a premium because of the impact these elements have on the character and the comic universe.

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The new great masters

Hot artists and writers can impact a character’s position in their universe.  Covers from artists can become iconic.  Many comic book investors and collectors cannot tell you the plot elements of Green Lantern #76, but almost everyone can identify Neal Adam’s cover in a group of comic books. The covers of such artists as Kirby, Frazetta, McFarlane, and others can make an otherwise insignificant issue important and a key.

The comic book bard

Writers also can impact the value of an issue.  Chris Claremont’s run on the X-Men has created many memorable storylines and elements that are still in use today.  His name on the title sells books.  Stan Lee’s last original story in Fantastic Four #125 is a book that has become a minor key on its own because of the comic book legacy of the industry icon.  Today, the work of many writers is adapted to the big screen, thus fans want the issues that spawned these movies.

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If you want to look at how a good writer can make a book a key then look no further than the masterpiece Larry Hama created with GI Joe #21.  A story with no sound effects or speech bubbles is evidence of how a writer can create a key issue on their own.

Advance Course

Cultural significance

Comic books can sometimes transcend the genre and become important for other reasons.  Many hobbyists know important comic book events, but that is where they leave their knowledge.  Comic books have had far-reaching impacts in many other areas, and this can make a book a key.

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All-American Men of War #89 is considered an important comic book, but do you know why?  Famed pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam! used a panel from that issue to create his image.  Lichtenstein’s paintings can sell for millions of dollars.  For this reason, many consider his source material important, and yet very few hobbyists know that it came from this comic book.

Some collectors seek out this book because of this fact and investors look to scoop this book up from uninformed sellers.

Historical importance

Brenda Starr #4 has a classic damsel in distress bondage cover.  This makes it important to the bondage collectors, but this is also a key book to some for a cultural reason.  This book was featured in Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent as a reason children were being corrupted by comic books.

Most identify Crime and Suspenstories #22 as the seminal book because the Senate hearings focused on violence, but sex was another topic that Wertham’s book focused on.  Sadly, many collectors and investors do not realize the platform that the Brenda Starr issue gave Wertham and thus do not readily identify the significance of this book. Investors and collectors know this book is important and scoop it up when they can.

Hidden symbols

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A collector said that issue is prized because of the cover. A closer inspection reveals the artist has incorporated the words “asspain” in the marquee on the cover. The location of the text appears below the split legs of Stilt-Man. The Comics Code Authority seal of approval is on the cover, but so is the profanity.  This may not be considered a major key comic by many, but it is a special issue that investors and collectors should know.

Do you know the kids comics not for kids?

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Most collectors and investors frown on Archie Comics.  There are very few keys that people want, and most of those are first appearances or sexy Betty and Veronica covers.  Those issues do sell at a premium to knowledgeable hobbyists.  There is one book though that investors and collectors seek out that is unique. That cover is so special that its own nickname in the comic community is based upon the issue’s cover.

Can they say that?

The one special book that often gets overlooked, even by GoCollect, is Betty and Me #16.  The artist and writer used a double entendre to create sophomoric humor that got by many parents and the Comic Code Authority. The book is in demand because of this reason.  There are less than one hundred graded copies in the CGC census.  Graded books sell for well above the suggested FMV.

Collectors and investors should know issues like this book.  Collectors can add new books to seek out.  Investors can target these type of books. They can be scooped up, sometimes cheaply, and sold at a premium.

III. Final Characteristic- Rarity

The final attribute that truly influences the price of a comic issue is how rare that issue is in the population.  The topic was brought up by a reader of GoCollect. This seemed to be an easy discussion until one realizes how much more complex this issue is now. As a result that element deserves its own feature. That element will appear in my next article.

Want more collecting & investing insight?

Annual_Membership_Footer Why are Certain Comic Books Valuable to Collectors & Investors?*Any perceived invesetment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.


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jack alberti July 24, 2022 - 9:32 am

Daredevil #48 simply states AS SPAIN in the marquee.

Joseph Overaitis July 24, 2022 - 10:18 pm


we saw that as children and all knew what the artist meant. We told the teacher that is what it actually spelled and she did not buy it LOL.

johnnyspruce July 24, 2022 - 11:31 pm

Nice article

Kenloi July 25, 2022 - 10:35 am

Hi Joseph, you are delving deeper than many and accessing correctly. Your current articles have been fascinating because they are describing myself and why i am in this hobby. Ever thought of becoming a psychologist.?.I will soon be calling your articles A Cup O’ Joe…………..

Joseph Overaitis July 25, 2022 - 10:21 pm

We have many writers who cover a wide arrange of topics. Sometimes we have to go deeper to understand why some of those articles are written. I am worried that when I write I am letting the readers in my head LOL. that is a scary thought because of the nightmares that will be given to the lot of you. The benefit is that we realize we are not alone and also that if we do not think that way we realize it might be how others think that are in the hobby. AS i always say…knowledge is power !!!


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