More than just a bit of prized nostalgia, the pleasures of youth are sometimes worth big bucks. Silver Age comic books — those published between about 1956 and 1970 — are skyrocketing in popularity and rising in value among collectors. Do you have a box of comics hidden away that may be worth money?
Just like some vinyl records, baseball cards, first-edition concert posters and toys like Hot Wheels and Barbies, many comic books now have bumped-up monetary value.
The most expensive Golden Age (about 1938 to 1956) comics can sell for more than $1 million, but the comics of baby boomers’ youth are also rising in value, said Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of Metropolis Collectibles in New York, a vintage comic book dealer, and its online auction house, ComicConnect.com. Superheroes like the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Black Panther plus the X-Men and the Fantastic Four all flourished during what is known as the Silver Age of comics, Zurzolo said. Each time one of these characters shows up in a movie or TV show now, vintage comics’ value jumps, he said.
These days it’s rare for a cache of Golden Age comics to be uncovered, but not uncommon for those from the Silver Age to be found packed away in a closet or attic, Zurzolo said.
“Our target customer is a retiree or an empty-nester looking to downsize. They find a comic book collection from the 1960s and think, ‘I may have something of value here,’” said Ashley Cotter-Cairns, president of SellMyComicBooks.com and an advisor to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.
Some people advocate for holding onto Silver Age comics when they realize their value, but others are looking for a sale, Cotter-Cairns said. If your stash of comics has survived over four or five decades unharmed from basement flooding or other disasters, it could be the right time to make some money, he said.
What’s the difference?Lifetime collector Robert Letscher of the Phoenix area decided to sell his collection, valued at $500,000, this past summer. Growing up in the 1960s as an “Air Force brat” whose family relocated often, Letscher often felt isolated and alone as the new kid in town. He turned to comic books, where heroes like the X-Men resonated with him. Just like the Marvel mutants, Letscher felt ostracized, but the X-Men had special powers and could exist and thrive, he said.
Letscher was hooked. “When I first started collecting, during the late Silver Age, it already seemed like most Golden Age comics were relatively scarce. I searched garage sales and thrift shops, as we had no local sources, and when I would find 10-cent comics I’d buy them up, but they seemed rather childish and bland, more primitive art and storylines, usually,” he said.
The Golden Age died out as concerned parents censored comic books to protect the innocence of children and even held comic book burnings in public squares, Cotter-Cairns said. Some horror comics were incredibly gory, he said.
Comics were blamed for juvenile delinquency, and there was a Senate investigation that vilified all types of comics and crushed the market, Zurzolo said.
“The Silver Age was a period of rebirth of the superhero genre,” Zurzolo said. Silver Age comics were “more realistic with deeper stories and more tie-ins to actual society and headlines,” Letscher said.
“Some Silver Age characters were new, some were new versions of Golden Age characters like Flash, Atom and Green Lantern, and some were continuations of the Golden Age superheroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman,” Zurzolo said.
“Kids wanted stories that made sense to them, and Stan Lee gave them Spider-Man. When he wasn’t wearing the [Spidey] suit, he was in high school or college, sitting at the soda fountain. Comics got exciting again and kids could relate,” Cotter-Cairns said.
Assessing valueHow do you know if your comics are worth money?
“Old doesn’t equal valuable. There are plenty of old comics that nobody cares about,” Cotter-Cairns said.
Instead, do you recognize the character? If it’s a big name who’s been featured in a movie, it’s far more likely to have value, Cotter-Cairns said.
Look at the cover price. “Comics with an original cover price of 10 or 12 cents (those from the 1930s-1960s) generally fetch the highest values,” Zurzolo said.
The most valuable comics are usually those that mark the debut of a popular superhero or villain, Zurzolo said.
Condition matters as well, Cotter-Cairns said.
A quick way to gauge a comic’s value is to do an online search. Try comicconnect.com, comicspriceguide.com or another reputable source. Then, get them appraised by a pro. Dealers welcome such inquiries.
“Everyone who collected comics as a kid thinks they have something of value, and every so often, they do,” Zurzolo said.