Help in evaluating comic books?
June 18, 2013 4:33 PM   Subscribe

I have been tasked with inventorying and potentially selling more than a few comic books.

All are in excellent condition, many are in legitimately mint condition and untouched. Some are old, some are new. I know nothing about comics aside from watching Comic Book Guys and Toy Hunter and the local stores aren't particularity newbie friendly. I don't even know where to start.

I need a quick education in comic collecting and/or information about reputable experts (online is probably best, but we're in the Northeast corridor if it matters) in the field who could aid in appraisals or sale.
posted by cedar to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If they are 90s comic books (and most 80s comic books), they are most likely worthless due to the huge glut of them. That is my small piece of advice.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:44 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just last weekend, my girlfriend and I finished inventorying and filing my collection of 7000+ comics so that I could ship them to a big online comic company. My girlfriend knew nothing about comics before we started this Herculean task. Perhaps I can help. (Perhaps not. Your question is a little vague in that it's not even really a question...)

It would be damn helpful to know how many comics "more than a few" is. Do you mean a twenty? Two hundred? Two thousand? Twenty thousand? The size of the collection makes a difference. It would also be helpful to know what you mean by "some are old, some are new". What is new to you? As in last week? Or do you mean "new" as in 1990? (It's a legitimate question. To me, a new comic is post 1985.) And what about old? Is "old" to you 1990? Or is it, as it is to me, pre-1961?

Having laid that foundation, here's what I can tell you:
  • Your first step is to put the comics in order. Sort them by series and then by number. Many collectors sort their comics this way already, so it's not a big deal. I didn't. I sorted chronologically (May 1958, June 1958, etc.) and then by title, so having to reorder them for sale was a pain in the ass. But it needs to be done.
  • Don't worry about grading each book. For most, it's not going to matter. If you have older, more desirable comics (and again, older means early 1960s, in most cases), then condition will be important.
  • If the comics are newer than 1990, the collection won't be worth much (if anything). Your best bet is to take it to a local comic book store and see what they'll give you. They may not want it at all.
  • If there are comics older than, say, 1965 then you'll want to identify which are the "key" issues (meaning the individual comics that are important to collectors). It's these comics where condition will be most important. Small differences can make hundreds of dollars difference in the price.
  • Forget price guides. The comics are worth what somebody will pay for them. In 99.9% of cases, that's far below what the price guides list.
  • If you're unfamiliar with comic book grading, you shouldn't even really try. Most folks who try to grade their own comics say things like "they're in mint condition and untouched". Unless they're legitimately new comics, that's not likely. And if they're new, then they're not really worth anything.
  • You have to make a choice: Sell quickly or get the best price. You can't do both. If you want the best price, it's going to take time and effort. If you want to sell quickly, you can -- but you won't get much money for the comics.
I know that all sounds pessimistic, and I'm not trying to burst your bubble. I just know that I built a collection of 7000+ comics from the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics, a collection comprising most of the key issues (Amazing Fantasy 15, Fantastic Four 1, etc.) and that the collection isn't really worth that much money. (I think I can get about $15,000 for the 36 most important books in the collection, but only if I do it the long way. I'll get maybe $7500 if I go the quick route. The remainder of the 7000 comics will fetch about $18,000, and that's only because there's full runs of X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Batman, etc. from roughly 1958 to 1985.)

If I were you, I'd start by visiting local comic stores and talking to them about your collection. Again, you haven't given us any info, so it's tough to know what your collection is like, but in most cases, it won't be something that a shop is interested in. On the off chance that your collection is something like the one I've built, they'll be able to give you info on how and where to sell it.

If you want some online info, start with the how to sell comics to us page at The same business also has a page with advice about comic book grading, as well as a page with advice for people who don't know how to grade comics.

Now that I've finished that long-winded response, let me re-iterate that your question is terribly vague. "More than a few comics", "some old, some new". Some specificity would help us give you better answers. There's no need to list the entire collection, but at least something to go by would be helpful. (Oh, and just in case it helps: a comic "short box" holds about 125 comics while a comic "long box" holds about 250 comics. I'd guess the short box is 18 inches long and the long box is 36 inches long. If the collection your dealing with is serious, it may be in those types of boxes already.)
posted by jdroth at 5:36 PM on June 18, 2013 [43 favorites]

The market for old comic books collapsed about fifteen years ago, and I think you'll find that your expectations regarding value are probably way too high.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:45 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

To provide an alternate viewpoint, there are books that are hot for various reasons. Movie releases have that impact sometime. I unloaded Walking Dead 1-100 for $1500. It happens.

But on averages, yes, see above.
posted by phearlez at 6:27 PM on June 18, 2013

ALso, stay away from professional grading services like CGC that charge for grading and "slabbing" your comics. You will not actually get the price they state, which is often over guide.
posted by kewb at 6:32 PM on June 18, 2013

Yeah, we've been schlepping around Husbunny's comic collection ever since his mom called and said, "Get this shit out of here." It was stored in a badly insulated utility room and could very well contain the Hanta Virus. Every now and again I'll ask Husbunny if he has anything of value, his answer is ineveitably, "probably not." Yet we still have this taking up valuable basement space!

jdroth has excellent advice.

A friend of Husbunny's abandoned his gaming shit in boxes on our front porch. We sold it on Craigslist for $200.

You won't be making a fortune with that collection any time soon.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:31 AM on June 19, 2013

Once upon a time, Overstreet was THE reference in comic book prices and could be very helpful. Its still useful. Its weakness has always been that the comic book market is volatile and Overstreet can only update every so often.

Ultimately, as a seller, things are only worth what you can get people to pay for them. Dealers have a lot of overhead and are trying to make a living. They have to pay you a fraction of what they could be sold for because they don't know when things are going to sell and some things that are pricey are going to depreciate before they get sold. They are often overstocked. Acquiring comics can be much easier than acquiring buyers.

After you sell a collection someone will always be ready to tell you that you got ripped off, that you could have done way better. Its true, if one would have spent a lifetime and much online selling involvement and promotion one would have sold things for much more, but would it have been worth it?
posted by logonym at 6:46 AM on June 19, 2013

Hello! I have worked at a lovely LCS for almost seven years. jdroth's advice is 100% spot-on. That is exactly how it goes when someone brings us comics that they want to sell--particularly the part about post-1990 comics being worth essentially nothing (barring the random breakouts like Walking Dead). In my shop, we would not even take them off your hands for free. We get one or two people a week with collections from that era, and it stinks to have to tell people that their collection isn't worth anything.

The only thing I'd add is that you can check eBay's completed auctions for any of the titles. That will give you a more accurate idea of what your comic might be worth as opposed to a print pricing guide. But it has to be completed auctions, not currently running auctions. People can price their comics however they like; it doesn't mean they'll sell. Completed auctions are the ones that sold. And don't bother with grading unless you're sure you've got something with potential--a key issue, for example.

In seven years, I have only once seen a "valuable" comic, and even then, it only went for a few hundred dollars. Those are the odds you're up against. Sorry to be a downer, but maybe it will save you some time. Good luck!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 10:35 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My accumulated wisdom on this topic.. From Best way to sell comic books?
Fact is, a fair price has as much to do with your expertise as it does with objective valuation.

Presumably you don't know anyone who could go to your place to look at the collection, but that would be best. It can't work online because you would have to type up a complete inventory - probably not worth the effort. The second best solution is buying a price guide and looking to see if you have any 'key issues'. The prices are meaningless, but you can get an idea of relative importance, with that information you could pursue more specific online assistance (ebay ended auctions, follow up here, whatever).
From What to do with an old coin collection?
Consider, once you have invested the time required to understand the coin market to the point that you can sell your collection for "a good price", you will be in a much better position to invest profitably in coins than stocks.
With an addendum from Selling a sports trading card and memorabilia collection
Which is not meant to imply that getting into any given market is a good idea at any particular time - choosing a market is part of the expertise :P
Anyway, I'm surprised by jdroth's valuation for the 36 top books. Complete copies of Amazing Fantasy 15 in crappy condition regularly go for $5,000+ on eBay. Fantastic Four 1 in similarly not nice condition goes for $2,000. Admittedly it is still a long way up to $15,000.. But if any of those 36 books are in better than really awful condition, it would jump start the total quickly. And of course you have to consider that eBay/paypal take almost 15% off the top. Getting somebody do do the listing work for you will cost too. Still...

Similarly, I don't think CGC is the fools errand kewb says, you just have to make sure that the specific book warrants the treatment. Very few will.
posted by Chuckles at 3:51 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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