16 Comic Books Worth More Than Your Car
So, you want to hold off on taking out that loan at the bank to get a new ride, and instead bank on the value of your comic book collection to get you behind the wheel of something nicer than your 1998 Toyota Camry? Bad news: most of those comics are probably worth less now than what you paid for them. You might be lucky to get somewhere between a nickel and a dollar for each. So unless you have millions of comic books and a zen-like ability to patiently cull offers on eBay, you may want to rethink your get-rich strategy.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Most comic books that have any sort of real value generally have three things in common: they’re old, they’re in very good condition, and they introduce now-infamous superheroes. We’ve put together a list of what some of these high-value comic books have fetched at recent auctions, and do our best not to curse our lot in life for not having tens of thousands of dollars to spend on awesome comic books.
Modern Age of Comics (1991-Present): Honorable Mentions
Before getting to the heavy hitters, it’s worth pointing out that a comic doesn’t necessarily have to be old to be valuable. While the following comics don’t get anywhere close to earning a spot on the top 100 most valuable comics list, they still deserve honorable mention.
Batman #608 (2002)
Retailer Appreciation Variant Cover
Record Sale: $3,000
3,000 bucks for a comic that probably came out after you were born? Not a bad deal. Issue #608 is a straightforward Batman installment, seeing the Caped Crusader going up against Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc. What gives it value is the exceedingly rare variant cover, meant as a thank-you from DC to their comic book retailers.
Bone #1 (1991)
First Issue, Original Red Logo
Record Sale: $3,200
This is the issue that set creator Jeff Smith’s Bone cousins – Phoney, Smiley, and Fone – loose on the world.
The Walking Dead #1 (2003)
Record Sale: $11,000
Back in 2003, it was impossible to know that The Walking Dead would become the cultural phenomenon that it is today. As such, the first printing of the first issue was a limited run, making those copies quite valuable.
The Bronze Age of Comics: 1970-1984
The Bronze Age of comics saw the rise of in-depth, drawn-out plot lines that carried over several issues of a given given comic. While certain issues from this age are worth many thousands of dollars, none make the top 100 most valuable comics list.
The Incredible Hulk #181 (1974)
First Full Appearance of Wolverine
Record Sale: $13,000
Although Wolverine’s first appearance was technically in The Incredible Hulk #180, he only appeared as a teaser in the last frame of the comic. He wouldn’t have his first full appearance until the next issue, and though he played a prominent role, much of his backstory was left ambiguous, other than that he was some kind of superhuman operative for the Canadian government.
Star Wars #1 (35 cent Price Variant, 1977)
Rare Variant of First Issue
Record Sale: $23,000
The first 6 issues of the Star Wars comic series were a retelling of the events of the film; original stories wouldn’t be pursued until issues 7 and beyond.
Green Lantern #76 (April 1970)
Green Arrow Joins Green Lantern – Neal Adams Cover
Record sale: $31,000
Under the new creative vision of Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, Green Lantern is joined by Green Arrow as they go on a road trip across America, making social commentary all the while.
The Silver Age of Comics: 1956-1970
The Silver Age is when comics really came into their own: there were many artistic advancements during this period, and the comic book industry became financially formidable. The Silver Age also saw the beginnings of many now-infamous careers, including writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby.
Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963)
Origin and First Appearance of Iron Man
Record sale: $268,000
Created by Stan Lee at the high of the Cold War, Iron Man was originally conceived as a means to explore America’s financial and technical roles in the suppression of communism.
The Avengers #1 (September 1963)
Origin and First Appearance, The Avengers
Record sale: $274,000
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Avengers’ earliest incarnation consisted of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hank Pym, and Wasp. Captain America would join the roster in issue #4.
X-Men #1 (September 1963)
Origin and First Appearance, the X-Men
Record sale: $492,000
1963 was a big year for Marvel. With the success of the Avengers and Spider-Man comics, Stan Lee wanted to create another group, but didn’t feel like bothering with origin stories. “I couldn’t have everybody bitten by a radioactive spider or exposed to a gamma ray explosion. And I took the cowardly way out. I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I just say they’re mutants. They were born that way.'” The earliest roster of the X-Men was Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, and Angel, with Magneto their main adversary.
Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961)
Origin and First Appearance, The Fantastic Four
Record sale: $300,000
Long before it was the doomed film franchise it is today, the Fantastic 4 was Marvel’s first – and for a long time, most famous – super-group. Stan Lee was directed to create the team of superheroes in an effort to compete with National Periodical Publications’ (now DC Comics) success with their own team of superheroes, the Justice League.
Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962)
Origin and First Appearance, Spider-Man
Record sale: $1,100,000
Stan Lee had to fight Marvel publisher Martin Goodman to give Spider-Man a shot at seeing print. Goodman finally relented, on the condition that the first Spider-Man story be printed in the last pages of Amazing Fantasy issue #15, a comic series that was being cancelled after that issue. Goodman’s decision to give Lee a shot turned into one of the greatest superhero franchises in the history of comics.
The Golden Age of Comics: 1938-1956
The Golden Age of comics can be said to begin roughly around 1938, the year Superman came into existence. He was followed by Batman the next year, and comic books were suddenly a cultural phenomenon, as well as a formidable publishing powerhouse. For this section, we’ll include the current value of the comic (assuming it’s in near-perfect condition) in addition to its record-sale price.
All-American Comics #16 (July 1940)
Origin and First Appearance, Green Lantern
Record sale: $203,000
Current Value: $543,000
The Green Lantern comic series has gone through many iterations over the years, but in its first run, it saw Alan Scott (and his ring) fighting standard criminal fare in New York City.
Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941)
Origin and First Appearance of Captain America
Record sale: $306,000
Current Value: $582,000
Check it out: Captain America was almost called ‘Super American.’ Joe Simon, Cap’s creator, remembers not liking the name, saying “No, it didn’t work. There were too many ‘Supers’ around. ‘Captain America’ had a good sound to it. There weren’t a lot of captains in comics. It was as easy as that.” This is yet another reason why superhero names are important (we still love you, Negasonic Teenage Warhead!).
Batman #1 (April 1940)
First Appearance, Joker and Catwoman
Record sale: $567,000
Current Value: $613,000
While Batman #1 wasn’t the first appearance of the Caped Crusader (we’ll get to that in a moment), it did introduce two of the most iconic super-villains in the history of comics – the Joker and Catwoman.
Detective Comics #27 (May 1939)
First Appearance of Batman
Record sale: $2,100,000
Current Value: $2,400,000
Batman co-creator Bob Kane admits that his early sketches of Batman were a bit silly. He says that the original concept had Batman wearing “reddish tights, no gloves, no gauntlets … with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings.” Writer Bill Finger helped refine the look, suggesting a gray palate to make Batman more ominous, and said to “make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious.” Can you imagine a pie-eyed Batman staring down the Joker? Neither can we. The future thanks you, Mr. Finger.
Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
Origin and First Appearance of Superman
Record sale: $3,200,000
Current Value: $4,280,000
Given how popular Superman has become over the years, it’s hard to believe that he had to share his first comic book with ten other unrelated stories. The first 13 pages of Action Comics #1 provides an origin story for Superman, and tells of some of his early exploits. And while he can definitely leap tall buildings in a single bound, this early Superman didn’t have the ability to fly.