Monday, March 8, 2010

Comics No One's Mom Threw Away

The sale of comic books made the news last week. Well, the sale of two particular books, a copy of ACTION COMICS #1 -- the first appearance of Superman, for those among you who aren't comics aficionados -- that sold for a million dollars and a copy of DETECTIVE COMICS #27 -- the debut of Batman -- that broke that record a day or two later.

For those who might be wondering (and the couple who asked), I am neither the buyer nor the seller of either book, nor do I own copies of the originals. There have been plenty of reprints over the years; I've got most, if not all, of those.

It is highly likely that the two sales last week will bring a lot of those reprints out of the closets and attics and basements, with those folks who find them convinced they are due a major windfall when they sell them. Not only that, every comic book that is more than twenty minutes old has gone up in price at every garage sale, yard sale, and junktique shop in the world, because their sellers now believe they too have a gold mine.

Years ago, when I was the Answer Man and had a weekly column in DC's books, I often fielded questions about what one or another old issue was worth. While I would give them the current Overstreet Price Guide value, I would also say that the book was really worth what someone else was willing to pay for it. And that remains the same for every comic book (and any other collectible) out there. If someone is willing to pay you a million dollars for your copy of ACTION COMICS #1, great. But if he's only offering to give you half a million, that's what it's worth, despite what any other copy sold for. Of course, you may also find someone who believes your reprint is an original and will pay you some ridiculous amount for it. But that's where caveat emptor comes in.


Another bit of comics sales information that has me puzzled was in a column in a recent issue of the Comic Buyer's Guide. According to the article, copies of SUPERMAN #75, the issue in which the Man of Steel was killed by Doomsday, is selling for $60 to $70. I find this incredible. The issue, published in 1993, cost a dollar, and DC sold somewhere between 3 and 4 million copies. At the time, thousands of people -- fans, dealers and speculators -- were convinced this would become as rare a collectible as ACTION #1 and bought multiple copies of it. Some bought whole cartons of 200.

Imagine their surprise and dismay six months later when they tried to cash in and discovered that no one was even willing to give them a dollar for one. Well, maybe all those disgruntled people burned all their copies in a fit of rage, because I can't imagine why anyone would have to pay $60 for a copy unless the number available out there has dwindled to next to nothing.

I do have a couple of copies of that one, by the way, so if you've got the $60, let me know.


  1. I remember when Superman 75 came out.

    There was a shop in Wynantskill, long since closed, that marked up the issue to $6 just three days after its release. It didn't make sense to mark it up that quick, but as you noted, Bob, speculation was out of control back then. They didn't quite understand the concept of mass marketing, methinks.

    Small wonder, then, that the little hole-in-the-wall shop I visited that particular day was out of business a few months later.....

  2. " While I would give them the current Overstreet Price Guide value, I would also say that the book was really worth what someone else was willing to pay for it."

    This is a basic economic point (per Austrian economics). Value is subjective. *Anything* is really worth what someone is willing to pay for it, not just comics and collectibles.