Comic Books: What They’re Worth and Where to Sell Them
Our panel of comic book expertsAshley Cotter-Cairns, President, Sell My Comic Books Writer, web entrepreneur, and comic book dealer who is an advisor to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and publishes an annual list of the 100 hottest comics to invest in Kevin Segall, Proprietor, Collector’s Shangri-La Pop culture memorabilia expert who founded the Essential Media Catalog. Member of the International Society of Appraisers and National Cartoonists Society Jason Crosby, Consignment Director, ComicLink Original comic art and comic book expert with 25 years of experience in the hobby Dylan Schwartz, Proprietor, Dylan Universe Comics Comic book expert who specializes in buying and selling pre-1980 comics. Advisor to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide Bob Bretall, Guinness World Record Holder, World’s Largest Comic Book Collection; owner of fan site ComicSpectrum.com Owner of the world’s largest collection of comic books, featuring more than 101,822 unique comics; Bretall has collected comics every week for 48 years
- What are the most valuable comic books?
- What makes comic books valuable?
- How much are your comic books worth?
- Where to sell comic books
- Understanding comic book buyers
- Comic book selling tips
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What are the most valuable comic books?The highest price ever paid for a comic book was $3.2 million ($3,207,852, to be exact) for a 9.0 CGC-graded copy of Action Comics #1, which was the first comic to feature Superman. The record-setting price was set in 2014 during an eBay auction. “This is the most expensive comic book on the planet, and is the nicest example in existence,” says Dylan Schwartz, proprietor at Dylan Universe Comics. “It is the cream of the crop, in almost perfect condition, which is unheard of.” Schwartz is referring to the most expensive comic book ever certified and sold on the open market, but there is an even more valuable copy of Action Comics #1 – dubbed the “Mile High” copy – that has never changed hands on the open market, says Ashley Cotter-Cairns, president of Sell My Comic Books. “When the so-called ‘Mile High’ copy of Action Comics #1 finally gets certified and sold, it will be nicer than the 9.0,” he says. “It would sell for much more than $3.2 million today.” IMAGE: Action Comics #1. Source: Kevin Segall. Enormous sums have also been paid for Detective Comics #27 ($1.07 million), which features the first appearance of Batman, and Amazing Fantasy #15 ($1.1 million) – the first appearance of Spider-Man. “Those are the big three in terms of demand and notoriety, but there are many comic books that are highly valuable,” explains Jason Crosby, consignment director at ComicLink. Those same comics would be worth even more if they became available today. “It has been many years since they last changed hands, and these prices would be shattered if the best-known copies were to come back to market,” says Cotter-Cairns. Most Valuable Comics
|COMIC BOOK||CONDITION (CGC)||DATE||SOLD FOR|
|Action Comics #1 (Superman)||9.0||2014||$3.2 million|
|Amazing Fantasy #15 (Spider-Man)||9.6||2011||$1.1 million|
|Detective Comics #27 (Batman)||8.0||2010||$1.07 million|
|Flash Comics #1||9.6||2010||$450,000|
|Tales of Suspense #39||9.6||2012||$375,000|
|Marvel Comics #1||9.0||2002||$350,000|
|Captain America Comics #1||9.2||2011||$343,000|
|Incredible Hulk #1||9.2||2016||$375,000|
What makes comic books valuable?The value of a given comic book is determined by multiple factors, though there are some general guidelines that can help identify whether a comic is valuable or not. “Comic books range in value from a few cents to millions of dollars,” says Crosby. “The holy grail comic books are the earliest superhero appearances. The vast majority of comic books, especially more modern editions, are worth cover price or less.” Though the first appearances of superheroes are generally regarded as the most valuable comic books, Cotter-Cairns says there are “holy grail” comics from each period of publishing history. For example:
- Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27 from the Golden Age
- Showcase #4 and Amazing Fantasy #15 from the Silver Age
- Incredible Hulk #181 and Marvel Spotlight #5 from the Bronze Age
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 from the Copper Age
- Walking Dead #1 from the Modern Age
Desirability and demandThe more desirable a comic book, the greater its demand and the higher its value. “Desirability is often determined by the popularity of characters, especially first appearances, significant storylines and seminal issues, artists, writers, and premiere issues,” says Kevin Segall, owner of Collector’s Shangri-La. Demand is highest for first appearances of major heroes and villains, as well as other comics that have historical significance.
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Rarity and scarcityGenerally speaking, the rarer a comic book, the greater its value; however, Cotter-Cairns says demand is far more important than supply when it comes to comic book value. “For example, there are more than 11,000 CGC-graded copies of New Mutants #98 – the first Deadpool appearance – in the marketplace. But every modern collector seems to want one,” he says. “Hence, values are high for this common book, and it’s worth certifying in many different condition grades.” Despite ample supply, New Mutants #98 has sold for more than $1,000. In contrast, the record sale for a copy of 1942’s New Funnies #69 is $275 – even though there are only seven certified copies in the world. “There is no demand for this book,” says Cotter-Cairns. “The record sale for a book that is over 75 years old is $275 for a CGC 8.0. In May 2018, a CGC 8.0 copy of New Mutants #98 also sold for $275. That is absolute proof that rarity on its own is nothing without demand.” IMAGE: The New Mutants #98. Source: Ashley Cotter-Cairns.
Age/EraEvery comic book belongs to a specific comic book age, or era, defined by the time period in which it was printed. You can tell which age a comic book belongs to by its publication date and its cover price.
|COMIC BOOK AGE||PUBLICATION DATES||COVER PRICE|
|Victorian Age||1828 to 1882||n/a|
|Platinum Age||1882 to 1938||n/a|
|Golden Age||1938 to 1945||10 cents|
|Atom Age (some consider this to be part of the Golden Age)||1946 to 1956||10 cents|
|Silver Age||1956 to 1969||12 cents|
|Bronze Age||1970 to 1980||15 to 35 cents|
|Copper Age||1981 to 1990||40 cents to $1.50|
|Modern Age||1990 to the present||More than $1.50|
ConditionCondition has a significant impact on comic book value; however, it can be challenging for novices to judge the condition of a given comic book. “It takes years to master,” says Schwartz. “There are a lot of .5’s out there and about one hundred 10’s in the world. Most old comics form the 1970’s and older are generally around a 4.0.” “To the layman’s eye, a 9.2 looks like a 9.8, but this is a very particular hobby,” says Cotter-Cairns. “Tiny faults knock a book down a grade. The very highest grades, 9.9 and 10.0, are ridiculously rare, and in all our time dealing with books we have never received one.” IMAGE: Showcase #4. Source: Ashley Cotter-Cairns. Cotter-Cairns added that there are typically multiples of prices between grades. For example, a 0.6 difference in condition grades for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 can represent a $26,500 difference in value:
- 2: $8,500
- 4: $11,000
- 6: $18,000
- 8: $35,000
|9.6||Near Mint +|
|9.2||Near Mint –|
|9.0||Very Fine/Near Mint|
|8.5||Very Fine +|
|7.5||Very Fine –|
|4.5||Very Good +|
|3.5||Very Good –|
|0.5 to 0||Poor|
- Mint: The best example of a comic book ever seen. Perfect, or as near to perfect as possible.
- Near Mint/Mint to Very Fine: Nearly perfect with only minor imperfections that keep it from the next higher grade. The overall look is as if it were just purchased and read once or twice.
- Very Fine/Near Mint to Very Fine: An excellent copy with outstanding eye appeal. Sharp, bright, and clean with supple pages. A comic book of this grade has the appearance of being carefully handled.
- Fine/Very Fine: An above-average copy that shows minor wear but is still relatively flat and clean with no significant creasing or other serious defects. Eye appeal is somewhat reduced because of slight surface wear and the accumulation of small defects, specially on the spine and edges. A fine condition comic book appears to have been read a few times and has been handled with moderate care.
- Very Good/Fine to Very Good: The average used comic book. A comic in this grade shows some significant moderate wear, but still has not accumulated enough total defects to reduce eye appeal to the point that it is not a desirable copy.
- Good/Very Good to Good: This grade shows substantial wear; often considered a “reading copy.” Comics in this grade have all pages and covers, although there may be small pieces missing. Books in this grade are commonly creased, scuffed, abraded, and soiled, but still completely readable.
- Fair/Good to Fair: A copy in this grade shows heavy wear. Some collectors consider this the lowest collectible grade because comic books in lesser condition are usually incomplete and/or brittle. Comics in this grade are usually soiled, faded, ragged, and possibly unattractive. This is the last grade in which a comic remains generally readable.
- Poor: Most comic books in this grade have been sufficiently degraded to the point where there is little or no collector value; they are easily identified by a complete absence of eye appeal. Comics in this grade are brittle almost to the point of turning to dust with a touch and are usually incomplete.
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How much are your comic books worth?As stated, most comic books are worth their cover prices or less, though some can be worth a lot more. “Generally, higher-end comics sell at auction close to their price-guide values,” says Segall. “Lower-end comic books are very difficult to sell. Stores will sometimes pay around $25 per long box.” Cotter-Cairns says the average value of a comic book is around 25 cents, but “if you go to a comic book store carrying boxes filled with thousands of primarily low-demand comics from the 1990s to today, you’ll be lucky to get five cents each for them. Most dealers won’t touch them. You might be able to get a buck apiece at a yard sale. Each era has junk. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s valuable.” IMAGE: Marvel Spotlight #5. Source: Ashley Cotter-Cairns. So, how can you tell if you have a stack of relatively worthless comics or a diamond in the rough worth tens of thousands of dollars? Start by listing everything you know about your comic books, including:
- Title and issue number
- Cover price
- Publication date and print edition
- Writer and artist names
- Pictures of your comic book: front and back, and interior if not slabbed; if there are defects, take photos of them as well (loose centerfold, rusted staples, small cover tears, etc.)
- Anything notable, if it’s a key issue, historical significance, and if there are any writer or artist autographs
Professional appraisersIf you know you have a particularly valuable comic, it might be worth having it professionally appraised. Just make sure you think the value justifies the investment in appraisal, which can range between $100 and $500 per hour.
Other sitesYou can check listings and completed auctions on other sites, including:
Where to sell your comic booksThere are multiple places you can sell comic books, including online comic book stores, local brick-and-mortar comic shops, auction websites, auction houses, and local classifieds. Below, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each; but first, it’s helpful to understand what motivates different types of comic book buyers.
Understanding Comic Book BuyersIt can be helpful to understand comic book sales from the buyer’s perspective; once you know the buyer’s needs and motivations, you can more easily arrive at a fair price. We asked Bob Bretall, Guinness World Record holder for the world’s largest comic book collection, to lend insight into what motivates comic book buyers. There are different types of buyers 1. “Investment” buyers: “These people have the idea that if they buy key issues in high grades (usually slabbed) that they’ll go up in value. They pay top dollar for high-grade books and make up the most visible part of the market.” 2. High-grade collectors: “They want really nice copies but are not necessarily in it for investment purposes. They also pay top dollar for the higher-grade books.” 3. Flippers: “These people are in it for the quick buck. They try to anticipate the next hot book and they buy up quantities of things and try to sell them as quickly as possible for a profit.” 4. Regular collectors: “These come in two varieties: patient and impatient. Impatient collectors want a book and will buy it for a higher price to get it in their hands more quickly. Patient collectors play the long game. They realize that even on ‘rare’ comics there are multiple copies out there that are available in a wide variety of grades and for a wide variety of prices. They are generally aware of what things are worth, will decide what they are willing to pay, and will keep an eye out for a book that meets their grade/price buying criteria, sometimes for years. I’m one of these.” Your comics do not need to be perfect to sell them Bretall’s collection mostly consists of comics graded between 4.0 and 6.5. He says he will not buy a comic that does not have good eye appeal. “In the lower grades, grading accuracy of sellers has wide variation,” he says. “I have bought 4.0 books that look really nice and have passed on books sellers claim are 5.0 because they look like they went through a washing machine.” Bretall says most collectors want high dollar value and high-grade comics, which means prices for comics graded below 5.0 are soft – creating a buyer’s market. He often buys comics in 4.0 to 5.0 condition at 30 to 50 percent discounts off the guide price. “When I buy, I really do not care what a seller claims the grade is. I want pictures, front and back, as well as a detailed list of observed defects,” he says. “Then, I base the price I am willing to pay on what I feel the condition is and the Overstreet guide price.” He adds that it’s important to focus on eye appeal: “If the book looks terrible, has lots of tears or creases, is really worn-looking, they will have a hard time selling it unless it’s a real key issue. If it looks decent, someone like me will be happy to buy it. Not for the price that high-grade books cost, but it will still be worth something.” There is a feeding frenzy for high-value comics Bretall says there’s a feeding frenzy for high-grade comics as investments, which skews the market. He actively avoids buying high-grade comics because he doesn’t want to pay 10 or 20 times the price of a mid-grade copy – serious money for some comics. “It makes sense to want the highest grade possible if you are looking for return on investment. If you actually want to read the comic and have it for your collection, then I can read a 5.0 just the same as I can read a 9.2; plus, I don’t have to worry about downgrading the comic just by reading it,” he says. “I can pretty much guarantee that people buying high-graded books, even non-slabbed, are not sitting on their couches flipping through them and reading it. I can read a 4.5 or 5.0 and it will still be in that same condition when I’m done.”
Online comic stores and bookstoresOnline comic stores and bookstores are staffed with experts who understand the value of your comic books, which means sales are quick and your payment will arrive a few days after they receive your comics. These companies offer cash payouts, though many additionally offer consignment services and store credit (which can net more value if you’d like to buy new comic books post-sale). Though fast and convenient, online comic stores and bookstores generally do not pay top dollar for comics because they need to resell your comics for a profit on the retail side.
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contact Dylan Universe Comics with a list of the comics you have to sell (and include photos if you have them), their ages and conditions, and your location. If you have a large or valuable collection, Dylan Universe Comics will travel to you.
multiple selling options: you can either send a list of your comics to receive an offer before you ship; or, you can speed up the process by shipping your comics to them first for valuation. Lone Star Comics also features a “Want List.” If your comic book is on the list, you can instantly see how much they’ll pay for it. Comics valued at $50 or more can be sold via Lone Star Comics’ consignment service, which includes free grading plus listings on MyComicShop.com and eBay. Commission fees are charged on a sliding scale, from 10% for items that sell for less than $300 to 6% for items that go for more than $3,000. The company will travel to you if you have a large collection or estate, and you can visit their warehouse in Arlington, Texas, to get an in-person offer. Once your comics are received, it takes around 10 business days to process them and payouts are mailed within 2 business days. If you opt for store credit, it will be applied within one business day. Though you’ll pay the initial fees to ship your comics, Lone Star Comics offers a shipping rebate.
brick-and-mortar locations in addition to its online presence, New Dimension Comics has been buying and selling comics since it was founded by Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide advisor Todd McDevitt in 1986. Send a list of the comics you have to sell directly to McDevitt to get an offer and next steps.
fill out their online form to see if they’re interested in buying your comic books.
online contact form.
free appraisals for any comic that has an Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide value of $1,000 or greater. The website doesn’t indicate who pays for shipping or how fast payments are sent, though it does say Sparkle City Comics pays in cash. If you sell via consignment services (your comic must have a minimum $300 to qualify), you’ll be charged a commission between 10% and 25%, depending on how much it sells for. Get started by completing the online form.
contact them directly.
Contact them to learn more.
contact them about selling your comics for more information.
“Wants List” to get an idea of the types of comics they’re currently interested in – just understand that the list is not comprehensive. Contact We Buy Comics for more information about how its program works.
contact them directly for more information.
Contact Gary Dolgoff Comics to learn more.
Contact Dale Roberts Comics to learn more.
AuctionsSelling your comics at auction can net a higher sales price than selling to comic stores, but you need to account for commissions and other selling fees. It could take awhile for your comic books to sell at auction – if they sell at all – but it’s also possible you’ll get a quick sale. Payouts are typically submitted via cash, check, or a service like PayPal (which also has fees). There are multiple types of auctions you can run; examples include traditional auction houses (which typically handle the entire process for you) and selling via online auction platforms (you’ll do most of the work). Be sure you understand all terms and fees before you sell your comics at auction. You can auction your comic books at any of these sites.Learn more about ComicLink’s auctions.
Click here to create a seller’s account.
Commissions are assessed on a sliding scale between 5% and 10%, depending on the selling price. There are no buyer’s premiums, which makes Pedigree Comics attractive to buyers.
Contact Heritage Auctions for more information about how to sell your comics at auction.
Learn more about selling on Catawiki.
Learn more about selling via Mound City Auctions.
Contact Hake’s to learn more about selling comic books via its consignment auctions.
Peer-to-peer selling platformsYou can list your comic books for sale on peer-to-peer selling platforms. Some sites charge listing fees or commissions, some do not. Be sure to carefully vet any site you’re considering selling your comics on, as some are unmoderated – which can present potential risks like scams. Others are moderated and provide seller protections like escrow service. Though selling directly to collectors and other buyers might net you the most money, it also requires the most work, since you’ll need to create a detailed listing and deal directly with buyers. Examples include:Learn more about Comic Collector Live’s fees.
Local classifieds sites and appsIt might be more difficult to find a local collector via classifieds, but if you do you can make the sale without needing to ship your products. The caveat is there is no moderation and you’ll need to meet the buyer in person. Local classifieds sites and apps include Craigslist, LetGo and OfferUp.
Online forums and communitiesComic book forums and other online communities often include buy/sell threads that allow you to post your comics for sale. Like classifieds sites, there typically is no moderation; however, dedicated communities can be good places to find enthusiastic collectors. Examples include:
- Reddit Comic Swap
- CGC Chat Boards
- The Comic Book Forum
- Comics Price Guide
- Comic Book Realm
- Comic Book Collectors Club
- Facebook groups like Comic Book Collecting and Comic Book Collecting Buy/Sell/Trade
Brick-and-mortar comic and book storesLocal comic book stores and other bookstores often pay cash and/or store credit for comic books. Like online stores, they need to resell your comics for a profit, so you won’t get top dollar (typically, you’ll get between 30% and 70% of the retail value of your comics). However, they do offer same-day sales – perfect if you need fast cash. Some stores will sell on consignment in return for a commission fee. You can also consider selling your comics to a pawn shop, though they tend to pay less than other options. You can search online for local comic stores and bookstores; or, try the Comic Shop Locator.
EventsEvents can be good places to sell comic books, especially those that have an enthusiastic audience packed with comic collectors. Comic conventions, in particular, are good places to take your comics; though you can also sell them at flea markets, trade shows, and other events. You might need to travel to attend, which incurs additional costs; but the trade-off is these events can be a lot of fun. Check out Comic-Cons coming near you and search online for other comic-related events in your area.
Comic book selling tipsFollow these tips to get the most out of your comic book selling experience.
Set prioritiesIf you want a quick sale and fast cash, online and local comic book stores are good options. If you want the most money, you should consider selling directly to collectors or via auction.
Be careful with eBay and peer-to-peer sites“Some buyers will really jerk sellers around, being really picky about and disagreeing with grades, and want to return books,” says Bretall. “eBay in particular tends to side with the buyers in these cases so sellers need to be fairly savvy and aware.” Bretall recommends not stating a specific grade and instead posting a lot of clear pictures so the buyer can determine what they think the grade is. “If the seller does not advertise a grade, the buyer cannot disagree with that grade,” he says.
Protect yourselfBe sure to carefully vet any buyer before you sell your comic books, and never send valuable comics in the mail without getting paid (or escrow) first. If you meet buyers in person, do it in a well-lit, public place.
Protect your investmentKeep your comics in mylar or acid-free covers to protect them from damage. If you have a highly-valuable comic, you can consider getting it “slabbed” in a hard plastic case that cannot be opened. Professional comic grading companies offer slabbing services. Store bulk collections in long boxes made specifically for comic collectors.
Have valuable comics graded“Comic books valued at $100 and up should be certified by a professional grading company,” says Crosby. “There are two major companies I would recommend using: CGC and CBCS.” Bretall says that while that $100 benchmark might make sense for professional dealers with bulk discounts at CGC and CBCS, everyday sellers might want to hold off unless their comics are even more valuable. “After you pay the slabbing fee and shipping, you are probably into them for $35 to $40,” he says. “I would not want a $40 upfront cost on something worth $100. I’d just sell that book raw.”
Consider your time investmentDoing it yourself can net the most money, but it can be a tedious process. “eBay is one option, but it is time consuming and you have to deal with returns, fees, and waiting,” says Schwartz, who explains that selling to online comic stores can eliminate the hassles involved with the DIY approach. Though many comic books are only worth a few dollars, those dollars can add up: 100 comic books worth a buck apiece is still $100 cash. You might even have a diamond in the rough, worth hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars. Use the tips in this guide to enjoy the best possible experience and sell your comics for the best price!
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