Tips and tricks of the trade to get the maximum value for your comics
Whether you have a collection that you’ve been acquiring for years, or you just won a storage unit full of comics, it helps to do your homework when you are ready to sell.
If you are a long-time collector looking to cash out and retire, or raise cash for college or wedding expenses, you will have an easier time because of your knowledge of comics. You might even have an extensive list or spreadsheet with grades and prices. A dealer will look at your list and ask to see sample photos of some of the higher grade books to check your grading before deciding to visit. A reputable dealer will pay from 50 to 80 percent of the retail value of your comics. This is usually the fastest way to raise capital.
Advantages of selling to a dealer
A trustworthy comic book dealer is usually the fastest way to raise a lump sum. They will often pay in cash or partial cash and check. They will often travel to you at no charge. Many dealers, including Superworld will pay you on the cusp of the year end and beginning of the next if that gives you a tax advantage. For example, half of the money in December of one year and the other half in January of the next year.
Also, a dealer will usually take every book, even if you have a mix of grades and ages. Dealers will base the price they pay you based on how many of your books have high value. The final price will often reflect a 55 to 80 percent of retail value on the better books and a lower percentage on more common books.
How do I organize my collection if I don’t have “collector knowledge?”
If you found or inherited some comics, you will have to work a bit harder. Some kind of a list is usually the first step in contacting a buyer. It can be daunting looking at long boxes of comics without knowing what you are looking at. One way to start is by separating books by cover price.
10 cent covers are from the Golden Age of comics (1933 to 1956) and can be very valuable. As with all comics Super-heroes rule. Titles like Detective Comics, Action, Captain Marvel, Marvel Mystery, Superman with 10 cent covers are highly sought after. From this era, the books don’t have to be in great shape to be worth money. In fact, sometimes even a coverless book can still be valuable. Golden Age comics are usually wider and thicker than newer comics. The actual dates can be found in the indicia found at the bottom of the cover or the first page.
Example of the indicia. Always lists the publisher, the title, the date and location of publication.This page on our site shows good examples of Gold, Silver, and Bronze age comics.
With Golden Age comics (and silver as well) you have to be conscious of restoration. In the fifties, sixties and seventies it was not considered a problem to take a bit of watercolor paint and fill in a spot on the cover or the spine, or use a sharp paper cutter to trim off a rough edeg. Today restoration is considered a major flaw and books are downgraded because of it. Other types of restoration are tear seals, glue, piece replacement, reinforcement, trimming and reglossing.
12 cent covers are from the silver age 1955-1970. (Some ten centers are from this era as well.) Many of these comics have great value, especially any number ones, or certain key issues where important characters first appear. Spider-man, Hulk, Avengers, etc. Marvel tends to be higher valued than DC. Usually, you can find the Marvel or DC logo easily on the cover. Some DC titles are also very valuable. Look for Batman, Detective, Flash and other notable characters. Other publishers such as Gold Key, Charlton, Atlas can have value but you really need to get some expert advice.
Consider picking up an Overstreet Price Guide. This is the comic book dealer’s bible as it lists every comic book with grades and prices. You don’t need the most recent because prices don’t change that much from year to year – you can pick up last year’s copy on Amazon for a few dollars.
You don’t need to list every book, but just a range will do. For example: Amazing Spider-man 3-100. Also, or in addition, you can lay a bunch of books out on a table and take group shots. Taking the comics out of the protective bags is very helpful because the plastic causes reflections that make it hard to judge the grades of the books. Except for a few newer exceptions, comic books did not come in bags, but were placed in bags with boards by the collectors.
Books with 15 to 25 cent cover prices are from the Bronze age from 1970 to 1980. Values tend to be more varied in this age group with some books rising to good value based on the specific issue and character that appears such as Black Panther or Ghost Rider. In this date range it is more important that the books be in high grade.
Check out our grading guide to see examples of comic books in different grades.
Should I send the books in to be graded by CGC or CBCS?
CGC and CBCS are professional grading companies that will verify the grade, check for restoration, and encase your comics in plastic holders. The service can be quite expensive and you do not need to grade your books if you are selling to a dealer. If you plan to sell them yourself online, customers will be much more willing to buy from you because the grading takes the risk out of their purchase.
Should I sell to a store or a dealer?
Some larger comic book stores are also online dealers and have expertise in silver and golden age. Many stores specialize in newer material, so they might be a better choice for newer comics. (after 1980)
What about auction houses?
Auction houses can be a good choice if you have high end material that will benefit from lots of bidders. Some auction houses charge a buyers premium of 10 to 20 percent which can suppress bidding prices.
The advantage of an auction house is that they will often front you part of the money, and also pay for professional grading up front, and then take the cost out of the final sale price, along with a 10 to 20 percent seller’s fee. All of the auction sellers have different rules so it is best to check their websites.
Should I sell them myself on EBay or Amazon?
If you are retired, or in need of a part time job, you might want to consider selling the comics individually yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Selling on EBay is very time consuming.
You will need a good scanner and an EBay account.
At first you will have no feedback on Ebay so buyers will be a bit wary. It will help to sell a bunch of inexpensive items quickly to build up a reputation.
Ebay takes about 10 percent of your profit.
You will need a Paypal account and Paypal takes another 3 percent. Paypal reports income to the IRS.
More expensive books should go to CGC to be graded unless you are very sure of your grading and restoration detection.
Once a customer pays for your item you have only 24 hours to ship the item.
Prepare for at least some returns and refunds!
If you do not need a lump sum and you enjoy working online, you may find this a very satisfying want to make extra cash.
What if I shop them around or set up at a Comic Con?
If you have access to a larger comic book show in your area, you may want to try setting up or just shopping your books around. Just beware – you will be swamped. Have a firm idea in advance of what prices you want for the books. If you shop around, do your homework on which dealers are reputable, and will not take advantage.
If you actually set up, you will have to spend significant time grading and pricing and bagging the books, as well as incur the cost of the table or booth. One more disadvantage of selling at a comic con is that you will most likely not sell all of the comics this way. The less marketable ones will go back home with you.
Full disclosure my husband Ted VanLiew and I own Superworld Comics so we are biased toward you selling to us! We have been in business for 31 years and we would love to help you. Call us at 508-829-2259