The Beginners Guide to Collecting Comic Books

comic book collection on display

The Beginners Guide to Collecting Comic Books

Comic book collecting is a rewarding and accessible hobby. Comic books are inexpensive and fun to search for– it’s a great way to bond with kids and can even be profitable. Most importantly comic book collecting opens the door to a rich international culture of conventions, movies, story and fun!

Comic book collecting may seem daunting at first– all the different publishing houses, arcs and issues, it’s hard to know where to start! With this easy guide we will break down how to get started in the world of comic book collecting. 

Where Do I Buy Comic Books?

When comic books were first distributed in the 1930’s they were sold on grocery store magazine racks. Kids would beg shopping parents to buy them the latest issue of Superman or Captain America.

But these days, you won’t be able to get comic books alongside eggs and milk, because comic books were pushed out of grocery stores by more lucrative magazines in the 1970’s. Instead, you can find your comic books in a variety of online shops and book retailers, but the best place to get them is your local brick and mortar comic shop. 

Does Where I Buy Comic Books Matter for Collecting?

Yes! Comic book shops are above and away the best way to enter the world of comic book collecting. Go look at art in person and see what stories speak to you. Browse shelves, and pick up artwork or stories that intrigue you.

Most shops are owned by fans, who will gladly recommend issues for beginners. And comic book shops are more than just places to buy single issue comics– they are meeting places for fans of the genre, often holding author signings, board game nights and collector meetups. 

How are Comic Books Different from Graphic Novels?

Graphic novels and comic books both tell a story via illustration, but they are very different. Graphic Novels deal with a wide variety of subjects, and are a complete narrative– even if they are part of a series, a graphic novel has a distinct beginning, middle and end within the book.

Comic books, on the other hand, are individual excerpts of a serialized story which can only be completed by reading all of the excerpts or “single issues.” 

What are Single Issues?

Single issues are what most people visualize when they think of a “comic book.” They are usually about 31 pages long and contain a part of a serialized story. Some people believe you must start with the first issue of the story to enjoy a comic book, but that is not true– a good comic book should be an enjoyable unit of entertainment regardless of how many issues you’ve read.

So don’t be afraid to pick up issue #26 of a series– you might like it, and decide to read #27!

How are Comic Books Different from Manga?

Comic book shops are home to a wide array of art and stories from all over the world. When you go to visit you may see Japanese Manga on the shelves alongside American comics. What makes them different? For starters most manga is originally published in Japanese.

Therefore Manga is read from right to left. Manga also tends to be in black and white (though can be colored) while American comics almost always use color. 

So Many Issues–Where Do I Start?

So you’ve gone into your local comic book shop. The shelves are laden with dozens of issues from all different publishing houses, and maybe even some rare issues with a high price tag. It can feel very overwhelming to figure out where to start reading.

Well, the best way to start learning about comics is also the easiest– just pick an issue that appeals to you and start reading! Even though they are all part of serialized stories, any comic book worth its salt will be entertaining on its own. If reading a comic leaves you wanting more, you are already on your way to becoming a comic book collector. 

Should I Buy Single Issues or Wait for the Collections to Come Out?

The answer to this is dependent on why you are collecting comic books, and how you enjoy reading them. If you are collecting for resale and potential profit, it is best to buy single issues and store them properly.

Single issues also come out every week, and heading to the comic book store to get a new installment will quickly become a highlight to your week. (But be warned– the only comic books with resale value are vintage.)

If you prefer to read the story all the way through with no interruption, you can wait for the collection of the arc to come out. 

Can Kids Read Comic Books?

Yes! Most comic books have age ratings right on the cover that allow parents to select age appropriate stories for their kids. For example, the publishing house DC uses the following ratings for their comics: E – Everyone, T- Teen, T+ for Teen 15 and older, and M for adults. Please do keep in mind that ratings are guidelines and content can vary. 

What Makes a Comic Book Valuable?

Comic books, like all art, are traded on a lot of tangible and intangible qualities. It is hard to pin down an exact value at any time. Generally what makes an issue of a comic book valuable is its rarity, its social impact, and its condition.

For example, the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics, issue #1, published in 1938. It is thought by many to be the first ever “superhero comic” and only 100 issues are believed to still exist.

On April 7th 2021 a well preserved single copy of Action Comics #1 sold for 3.25 million dollars!

How Do I Find Out What My Comic Book is Worth?

Not all comic books have resale value. Most comic books that do are vintage, generally being published between the 1930s- the 1970s, with some exception. In addition, the quality of the vintage comic matters– if they are dirty, tattered, or missing pages they are going to drop drastically in value– check out the CGC grading scale to learn more.

If you think you may have found a valuable comic book, do a quick search to see what similar issues are selling for online. 

Where Could I Sell My Comic Books?

There are lots of places to sell comics. The first is the biggest– the internet. Through the power of the internet collectors can trade and communicate. It is a great way to learn about what makes a comic book valuable and where to look.

Comic book retailers will sometimes buy valuable comic books for money or store credit– be sure to first check if that is something they offer. Finally, you cannot forget comic book conventions, which started their humble beginnings as comic book collectors coming together to buy and sell rare comic books! 

How Do I Store My Comic Books?

Proper comic book storage is important for any collector, as the value of a comic book is directly correlated to how well it is preserved. Luckily there is an easy way to do that–most comic book shops offer “bag and board” for single issues when you purchase.

That means that the comic book is placed in a plastic sleeve with a piece of thin cardboard. This keeps your comic wrinkle free and protected from dirt. Many collectors keep their bagged comics in ‘long boxes’– cardboard boxes designed specifically for storing large amounts of single issue comic books. 

Where Can I Go to Learn More About Comic Book Collecting?

Whether you are serious about comic book collecting or just a beginner, take comfort– you are not alone! The comic book collecting community is international, and can be found online, in comic book shops and at conventions. If you want to learn more about comic book collecting, a quick internet search should give you all you need.

What is the Most Expensive Comic Book?

Comic Books value are relative to their cultural significance and their rarity. They are also ranked by condition. The fact of the matter is, comic books are worth what people are willing to pay for them. That being said, a copy of “Amazing Fantasy #15” by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, featuring the first ever appearance of Spider-Man, sold at auction for over a million dollars in 2011. 

Collecting Comic Books 

Comic book collecting gets a bad rap from the media for being exclusive or judgemental (examples of this can be found in the Big Bang Theory, the Simpsons, etc.) Don’t let that intimidate you– the comic book fan community can be a wonderful and welcoming place. Everyone was a beginner collector once, and the best way to start collecting comics is to start reading them.

Once you are hooked on the stories, the collecting will follow! 

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