Investing in Comic Books for Fun and Profit: Super, Man!Why not let a superhero save you from the evil economy? Investing in comic books can be a recession-proof path to steady returns, according to experts at last weekend's New York Comic Con. Just don't let ignorance be your kryptonite. Do your research, focus on the must-haves and be prepared to fight -- BAM! ZAP! POW! -- for vintage editions you can acquire at relative bargain prices.

As a middle-aged man wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey and hat, Jamie Graham fit right into the nerdosphere at Comic Con, the East Coast's pop culture extravaganza. But as owner of Graham Crackers Comics, with nine stores in Illinois, he's dead serious about making money. Graham told DailyFinance he recently reinvested $2 million into so-called Golden Age comics (printed in the 1930s and 1940s) and $500,000 into Silver Age comics (1955 to 1970). He expects at least a 10% return on investment.

"It's a good place to park your dough, 'cause it doesn't have the ups and downs of stocks," he says.

Comics are a lot more fun, too. When was the last time your mutual fund picked up a nuclear reactor and hurled it into space? Gemma Adel, customer service supervisor for the authentication firm CGC, which grades the condition of comic books, says stocks are often politically influenced, "but the comic book industry is passion-driven."

This color-splashed slice of Americana has held its own through the last century. An original Action Comics #1, the 1938 issue in which Superman first appeared, sold for $1.5 million in 2010. Disney (DIS) gobbled up Marvel Comics in 2009 for $4 billion. It doesn't take Dick Tracy to detect that comics could be a new haven for market-stung capitalists.

While we hate to be the bad guy, please note that investing in comics does carry risk. One retailer likened it to day-trading. Here are tips from dealers, auctioneers and graders on how to turn your Clark Kent-modest savings into super-wealth.

Focus on the biggies: A relatively small set of classics consistently appreciates, Graham says. Post-1970 boils down to a handful, including Amazing Spider-Man 129 with the Punisher (1974) and The Incredible Hulk 181 (1974), in which Wolverine made his debut. The latter was being offered on eBay (EBAY) for $19,000 as of this writing. Pre-1970 presents more options -- and often costs more. After Action Comics #1, the aforementioned holy grail of the comics world, comes Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), which spun the first tale that included Spider-Man. A near-pristine copy sold for $1.1 million. Next is the Batman debut in Detective Comics #27 (1938, $1.07 million). Several more fetch six figures in excellent condition. Try this list for starters.

Downgrade to your budget: If you're wondering how you can afford any of the above, look for less well-preserved copies. The dog-eared, torn or loose-stapled cost a lot less, and they still increase in value. You might not get rich, but what asset on the NYSE put you on Easy Street? Some coveted issues can be had for $400 to $600 in fair (or worse) condition. For instance, an unrated original of Marvel's Silver Age Daredevil #1 can be had for as low as $449, but a 9.2 graded one just fetched $12,100 on eBay. You'll need a minimum of $1,000 to start, advises Dave Reynolds, owner of Dave's American Comics. Focus on just one or two comics. Avoid the temptation to burn up your capital by buying a bunch of old comics at swap meets or garage sales. That's just collecting.

Move the moderns: As a rule of thumb, investors tend to resell their newer comics faster for profit while holding on longer to the Golden Age comics to give them time to appreciate, Graham says.

Buy only the officially graded:
Your great-uncle Nate boasting he has a 9.6 1942 Archie Comics #1 when Jughead's crown has been painted black is a little suspicious. All high-end collectibles need to be validated by certifying bodies such as CGC, the industry leader. They come sealed in plastic, with a bar code and a holographic verification. DO NOT OPEN the case. No reading. No touching. Exposing your investment to air or your hands could lower the grade and wipe out your profit.

Check for restoration. CGC's Adel says her firm runs across a lot more botched attempts at hiding flaws -- a no-no -- than complete fakes. Make sure your acquisition is free of any kind of touch-up. No repainting, no nothing.

Cruise the auction sites: Heritage Auctions and Mile High Comics are among several venues that can give you an instant read on what the hot comics are. EBay is a good bet, too. Pay more attention to what bidders actually spent than what consigners asked for.

Speculate by nostalgia:
For those on a tight budget, Barry Sandoval, the director of operations at Heritage, recommends forecasting what today's youth will be nostalgic for when they turn 40. Case in point for this generation of 40-somethings: A near-mint 1984-hatched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 fetched $22,752 at an auction in June.

Be wary of movie hype: Every time Hollywood releases a comic book adaptation, the inexperienced assume the publicity will spike the value of the source material. Not always. Remember The Green Lantern last summer?




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Jared M

Definitely a ridiculous article. If it had been framed different, highlighting people who do invest, rather than trying to sell the idea to the public that it's a good idea, fine. But the fact of the matter is comic books are a poor investment. Thousands of people lost big back in the 90s during the speculator market (during, and right after, the baseball card crash -- many of those card collectors came over to comics and helped to destroy that market too). I realize that the article is advocating the purchase of vintage comics, but who has $1000 to spend on one or two comics in this economy (and then wait around for a decade(s) to sell it)? Ask any realistic comic collector and they'll tell you to collect them because you like to read them, not because of the $.

October 26 2011 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jared M

Definitely a ridiculous article. If it had been framed different, highlighting people who do invest, rather than trying to sell the idea to the public that it's a good idea, fine. But the fact of the matter is comic books are a poor investment. Thousands of people lost big back in the 90s during the speculator market (during, and right after, the baseball card crash -- many of those card collectors came over to comics and helped to destroy that market too). I realize that the article is advocating the purchase of vintage comics, but who has $1000 to spend on one or two comics in this economy (and then wait around for a decade(s) to sell it)? Ask any realistic comic collector and they'll tell you to collect them because you like to read them, not because of the $.

October 26 2011 at 9:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
g-locker62_p

You'd be far better off investing in condoms. The need for them will never die but comic book appeal depends on a perennial child-like state. People eventually grow up and want sex over comics. Well, not Sheldon.

October 19 2011 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael M

Clearly this is a sort of tongue-in-cheek financial web site. I collect comics, but the idea of using that as an investment is reckless at best, just like this article. When people ask if I collect comics as an investment, I tell them that the comics are for fun, my 401k is for my future.

October 19 2011 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Carmen

Comic book collection is not a viable long term investment. Most of the collectors today are middle age and grew up in the era when comic books were a popular entertainment venue. Now with X boxes, playstations, i pads, etc....paper copy comic books are a lost art. And those that see the value in them today are the middle age individuals who collected comic books back in the 50's 60's and 70's me included. When these middle age folks reach there mortality the demand for comic collection will fall. DC comics the maker of Superman and Batman, and others have reinvented the characters of there super heroes and restarted the titles back to issue no 1 in hopes to respark collection in todays younger generation. A risky proposition and we will not know for several years if this move paid off. Marvel making alot of movies in hopes to boost comic book sales. Now with the e version of comics what kid today will read or buy a paper copy. Comic book collection is a dying art form that will die when its middle age readers die.

October 19 2011 at 11:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bartstew

Be VERY VERY careful with stuff like this. Dealers are making big money fleecing the public. For one thing there's the "Condition Game." That's where everything is "Mint Condition" that they're selling, but if you try to resell one of them, there are all these microscopic problems. A fiber of paper is out of place, so it's not "Mint." Another post writer here says the whole comics category peaked out ten years ago. I don't know about that, but be careful. All collectibles should be viewed with extreme caution! Remember the baseball card situation.

October 19 2011 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
trojanrl39

not sure I agree with this article. if collecting, do so as a hobby, not as a sole investment. you should have disposable income for collecting. If you're in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area on October 29-30, the Long beach Comic Con is going on. It's only a few years old, but is getting bigger and better each year. I'm expecting a lot of good things from it, so I recommend people check it out. There will be tons of dealers, artists, and celebs.

October 19 2011 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rd1171

Please do more research when writing on this topic. Ask any real passionate collector would they pay for a CGC graded book. CGC's company has selective grading. Just because a Hulk 181 is being offered on Ebay for 19,000.00 doesn't mean someone is going to pay for it. If that was the case, I have a bridge that i'm selling if your interested.

October 19 2011 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lordhavlock

The genius does not know what he is talking about. The collector comic as investment peaked about 10 years ago except for certain specific high profile ones . Batman/superman/capt. america..and only first couple of issues. Otherwise the category is deader than a doornail.

October 19 2011 at 9:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
G-DAWG

I can remember all the "experts" used to say the same thing about baseball cards, then for one reason or another, card prices hit the crapper. i would take this advice with a grain of salt...... buy gold or silver, something that you know wont wipe you out should the market tank......

October 19 2011 at 7:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply