Comic Book Collecting: Fun and Profit for Today's Collector Part 1
If you are interested in comic book collecting, this will give you a basic overview to get started.
Like most collecting, there are a lot of specifics, especially with an industry almost 70 years. With more and more movies being based on characters from comic books, or the more preferred term today, graphic novels, it is clear that the interest for comic books unlike some printed mediums shows no time of abating any time soon.
Comics today certainly have something for everyone and are not just "kid stuff" anymore. In fact many comics are so more mature than what the Comics Code Authority would ever allow, you might not even want your child in the same house as it. Now, as for actual collecting, you can certainly collect any comic you desire.
However if you are collecting comics for profit, then for the most part, few if any comics from the 1980s and on have or will have much value. There are many reasons for this but the biggest reason is the mass production of each particular issue. What increases the value of any collectible is rarity. When there is literally 1 million of something, it's not rare, especially with the Internet and auction sites like eBay. It's too easy for anyone to find a copy of almost any issue in any condition and often at the price the buyer wants and not the seller. It is for this reason the older comics have more value. People didn't used to know these comics would be worth a lot so many were abused or thrown away by a well-meaning mother cleaning her kid's room. That diminished the number of good copies of older books. Now, one can buy better cardboard backing and bags that are acid-free to protect the comics from aging, moisture, yellowing, etc.
The condition of any comic is the most important factor in determining it's value and comic book grading is harsh and quite specific. That little tiny crease by the staple in the cover that you can barely noticed devalued your comic a fair bit. A potential pristine or near mint went down to very fine.
Certain older comics that are worth a lot according to a price guide (there are many but the Overstreet Price Guide is the Bible of comic collecting) might be worth having graded professionally. They certify the rating and seal the comic in a plastic case to preserve the condition. It's up to you, but due to the cost, I personally wouldn't recommend it unless you think the comic will be worth $50.00 or better or are collecting a whole run or set of some issue. If you aren't planning on resale anytime soon, I think it's best just to protect them and store them. The only exception would be if you have a few valuable comics you wish to insure in case of fire or some other covered disaster.
Local auctions occasionally might have some old comics or antique shops. You might luck into a bargain and it's worth looking. Oftentimes, you will find old comics in so-so condition but they are priced higher than their value just because they are old.
Almost any genre of comics has a good market. Western, superheroes, funny or kiddie, monster or horror, romance, war, and on on all have fans. Simply put, in general, the earlier the issue in a set or the earlier appearance of a characted the more valuable. However, it's not always that simple. A particular writer, artist, or storyline or major change to a character can make one issue stand out and be more valuable than the issues before or after its printing. Certain events, like the relatively recent Death of Superman saga DC Comics promoted were over-produced and marketed to the point a lot of people bought that issue for posterity. However, because of the strong sales and overproduction, this issue has very little value. However, the first appearance of Superman is quite valuable even though the story has been reprinted numerous times, the actual appearance in Action Comics is quite rare and one of the most valuable items produced in the last century. There are various eras of comic book collecting but we'll save the advanced details for later.
In the beginning, you mainly need to know how to care for comics and how to look up their value which the Overstreet Price Guide helps with. This is just a "guide". That doesn't mean you will or won't get that price from a collector. A completed items search on ebay will give you a more realistic expectation. However, once again, a poor condition comic sold on ebay for $100 might bring $1000, for example, for your near-mint copy. I will get into more advance topics as this series of articles progresses,