By Vincent Zurzolo
A few years ago, a man from Kansas called me to say he had found his old comic collection tucked away in a corner of his parents’ barn. He shipped them to me for an offer, and, when I received the box, I was excited to see so many great titles like Captain America, Wonder Woman, Human Torch and Green Lantern.
When we later spoke, I told him I could pay him “18.” He said OK without hesitation and seemed pretty pleased. I then asked who he wanted me to make out the check for $18,000 to.
“Eighteen thousand?” he said. “I thought you meant $1,800!” I was happy to make his day.
He was one of the lucky ones. How many times have I heard, “If only my mom hadn’t thrown out my comics, I’d be a millionaire”?
Mothers notwithstanding, we are still finding original owner collections held onto by seniors who are downsizing and cashing in on their childhood treasures. Today’s 70-year-olds were tweens or teens during what is known as the Silver Age of Comics (1956-1969). That memorable period saw a boom in Marvel Comics titles:
- Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963)
- Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spidey (1962)
- Fantastic Four #1 (1963)
- X-Men #1 (1963)
- Avengers #1 (1963)
- Journey Into Mystery #83, the first appearance of Thor (1962)
- Tales of Suspense #39, the first appearance of Iron Man (1962)
Each of those titles in good condition can sell for tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you are fortunate enough to have such a valuable item, be prepared to send some of your bounty to the IRS, said Garrett Wagner, a CPA. He says this is because the income from the sale of a collectible, whether art, coins, comic books, sports cards, memorabilia, or other items, is treated as long-term capital gains when owned for more than a year. The collectibles tax rate is specifically set at 28%.
Many states also have their own tax on such income, ranging up to 10%. For the Kansas collector above, the state tax rate would have been 3.1% to 5.7%, depending on their household income.
Although superheroes dominate the collectible comic book market, non-superhero titles, such as Archie, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Little Lulu, are finding traction as well. Many are from the Golden Age of comics (1938-1956), but some from the Silver Age and even later are growing in popularity. Many of these early issues from the 1940s are worth five and six figures.
If you or your clients are ready to find out whether you have “cash in the attic,” here are some of my expert tips:
- Condition is everything. The comic book grading system goes from .05 (poor) to 10 (mint). It’s hard to get any value out of a book that’s less than a 6.0, which means “fine.” The difference between a 6.0 and an 8.5 (very fine+) might be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- If you have some particularly valuable titles in good shape, put them into acid-free mylar bags with backing board.
- Don’t just put your collection up on eBay – you might miss some golden opportunities. Do a little online research, look at actual sales prices, pick out the potentially most valuable titles and have them graded. Choose a professional grading service that will give you a quick turnaround for a reasonable price.
- When choosing books to be graded, consider older comics that star characters appearing in their own movies or Disney+ series, the streaming home for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Work with an established broker. For example, ComicConnect sells tens of millions of dollars worth of collectibles each year to top collectors and investors around the world. We also have four Guinness World Records for selling the most valuable comic.
While you’re combing your collection for golden nuggets, you will also have the opportunity to go down memory lane and remember why you loved these comic books when you were a kid. And that’s priceless.
Vincent Zurzolo is president of www.ComicConnect.com and Metropolis Comics based in New York City. The company holds multiple Guinness world records for comics bought and sold.