Any kid who collected comics heard it all the time; “you’re wasting your money!” Moms and dads across the globe formed secret committees that held clandestine meetings to come up with ways to get us to drop the comics and get into more “respectable” hobbies. Hobbies that were less anti-social and more likely to help us make money one day.
Little did they know that, in most cases, all it took was puberty to make us stop heading to the comic shop every week to spend what little money we had on our favorite four color heroes. Some of us have persisted, still heading to the store or buying comics digitally as we cruise through our late teens, our twenties, even our thirties, and forties. The ones who did leave their comics behind though, sometimes they think back and wonder.
Some of them may still have their old comics. They hide them away up high in the bedroom closet or stash them in the basement. When the old nostalgia bug hits, they’ll pull them out and flip through the pages. Panels spring back to life as memories of a life long gone return. Then, as the childhood memories fill the clouds of the mind, a bit of the adult peeks through and wonders “are these worth any money?”
In truth, your old comics probably aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, but there are some that would bring in a hefty bit of loot. If you’re lucky enough to own any of these twenty comics, you’re could be on the verge of entering a whole new tax bracket…
20. Detective Comics #38 – $414,000
You may have thought that the first appearance of the most famous superhero sidekick ever would be higher up, but Robin just cracks the top twenty.
In near mint condition, the issue, which introduced Dick Grayson to the world, is worth over four hundred thousand dollars, but the chances of having or finding one is pretty slim. There’s a much better chance that you could find a copy of the issue that has seen a fair amount of abuse. Every crease and yellowed page lower the value of the book, so unless you happen to find it placed in an airtight glass case in a temperature control room with low light, you’re not going to get a perfect copy. On eBay, you can find the famous issue going for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to fifty grand. With a cover price of ten cents, that is a great return on investment!
19. Detective Comics #33 – $428,000
This is one of those comics that shows just how much comics changed over the years. Detective Comics #33 is the first time readers learned just how it was that millionaire Bruce Wayne became the feared crime fighter known as Batman.
This issue, marking the seventh issue of Detective that Batman showed up in, gives us the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of a movie theater, as well as Bruce’s promise to spend his life battling crime as he trains his body and mind for the mission, in just two pages. These days, comic companies wouldn’t dream of introducing a new hero without first giving readers their origin, and even then the origin would take up at least six issues!
While a perfect copy would sell for over four hundred and twenty grand, one sold for a hundred and seventy thousand dollars earlier this year, and it was graded at an 8 out of 10 by CGC, so maybe you can sell the house and grab one for yourself!
18. All-Star Comics #8 – $462,000
A quick glance at All-Star Comics #8’s cover and you would never be able to guess why this book is worth so darn much. Is it the first appearance of Starman or Doctor Mid-Nite? Nope. It is the issue where they join the Justice Society of America – the first superhero team ever – but that isn’t it either.
No, the reason for the high price tag is because of a backup story that the cover couldn’t bother to mention. While the story was originally printed without a title, the numerous reprints of it would proudly state “Introducing Wonder Woman”.
That’s right, everyone’s favorite lasso carrying Amazonian princess made her comic book debut in this otherwise unimportant issue of a classic golden age series. Sensation Comics #1, which had the honor to be the first comic to showcase Wonder Woman on the cover – and which most people think is her first appearance – would come out a month after this issue. Surprisingly, it doesn’t make the top 20 cut. Maybe now that Wonder Woman has her own movie that will change!
17. New Fun Comics #1 – $531,000
The first comic published by National Allied Publications, the company that would later become DC Comics, did something no other comic publishing company had done; every story was completely new.
Before New Fun Comics, the basic format of a comic book, like Famous Funnies, was 95% recycled material from the newspapers and 5% new material. Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, the creator of National Allied and New Fun, saw that the newly created comic book market was an easy way to make money, but by the time he put his hat in the game, all the popular newspaper strips had already been licensed. Instead of paying to reprint lesser strips, the Major chose to create all new material. Little did he know that in doing so, he would be setting the stage for the rise of the superhero.
16. Flash Comics #1 – $534,000
It is impressive enough to have a comic that introduces one character that, nearly eighty years later, is still popular, so you know it’s rare to find an issue of a comic that introduces three classic characters!
Flash Comics #1 isn’t just the first appearance of the Fastest Man Alive, it also gave readers their first look at Hawkman and Johnny Thunder. Oh, the comic also includes the first stories about the Great Dustan, a ventriloquist who is framed for murder and the Whip, a rich white dude who travels across the United States and becomes the hero to the poor Mexican immigrants of the town of Seguro after a quick bit of cultural appropriation.
In 2010, a copy of Flash Comics #1 sold at auction for four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Around the same time, an ashcan edition of the comic (a version the publisher makes to print early so they can secure the trademark) was put on eBay with an asking price of a cool five million, but it didn’t sell.
15. More Fun Comics #52 – $565,000
For the non-comic fan, this one being so expensive may be confusing – there’s no character in this comic that has become a household name like Spider-Man or Superman, so why is it here? We fans know why – it is the last appearance of Wing Brady! Oh, and the superhero called the Spectre also makes his debut.
You know, now that we think about it, we’d bet that the Spectre is the reason. No one really cares about old Wing Brady.
If you don’t know him, Spectre has one of the cooler origins in comics. Tough as nails police detective Jim Corrigan was on his way to see his fiance when a group of thugs stuffed him into a cement-filled barrel and threw it into a river. The now dead Corrigan’s need for revenge is so strong that God brings him back to Earth as the spirit of vengeance. Corrigan is able to avenge his own death, then chose to keep the power God gave him to exact vengeance wherever he could. He’s like if Marvel’s Punisher was on a mission from God!
14. Detective Comics #29 – $603,000
The third appearance of Batman is worth a whole lot of loot, and there’s no shocking reason for it. Nothing new is introduced, and the villain for the story, Doctor Death, never caught on.
There is a backup story, “The Murder of Ace Mullins”, that is done in black, white, and red. Artistic choices like that were very rare for comics back then – the color was a big selling point.
The main reason Detective Comics #29 is so expensive is because many comic historians feel it is the first time Batman really feels like the Batman we all know and love, though he still has gloves that don’t match the rest of his costume. The cover is also a big part of the price, drawn by Bob Kane, it is the second time the Caped Crusader showed up on a cover and it is a striking image, though we’re not sure how Batman’s cape-wings made it through that window.
13. Marvel Mystery Comics 128 Page Edition – $738,000
How rare is this comic? When it came out in 1943, Marvel Mystery Comics 128 Page Edition had a very small print run and was only sold in New York City. Today, only five copies are known to exist.
The book is a black-and-white reprint that combines Marvel Mystery Comics #41 and Captain America Comics #22 and uses the cover to Marvel Mystery #33. While the cover claims the comic has 128 pages, some people argue that it is actually 132 pages when you count the front and back covers.
In 2006, a copy of Marvel Mystery Comics 128 Page Edition sold at auction for over twenty-eight thousand dollars. The copy wasn’t graded by CGC – because of the thickness of the book, it can not fit in a CGC case – but was, according to Heritage Auctions, in very fine condition.
12. Action Comics #7 – $795,000
Weird as it may seem now, DC Comics didn’t really think Superman was going to be such a hit. Sure, these days we know that copies of Action Comics #1 flew off the shelves, but at the time, the publisher had no idea what they were starting.
Because they couldn’t see the future, it wasn’t until Action Comics #7 that Superman made his way back to being on the cover, and what a cover it is! Drawn by Joe Shuster, Superman is really taking a chance by carrying that dude by his shoe. I mean, what if his sock is slippery from a day’s worth of criminal sweat and the shoe comes off? That guy is headed for death!
Of course, Superman was a little lax on the whole “don’t kill people” back then, so maybe the Man of Steel wouldn’t have been all that upset.
11. Detective Comics #31 – $818,000
Along with having one of the greatest images of Batman, Detective Comics #31 features the first part of a true Batman classic, “Batman Versus the Vampire”. This story where, if the title didn’t already give it away, Batman fights a vampire, introduced the world to the Batarang (which is spelled Baterang in the comic) and the Batplane. Batman’s costume also goes through its first change – he finally gets gloves that match the rest of his look.
The Monk, the villainous vampire covered in red robes and a hood, is the first enemy that forces Batman to go on a cross-continental adventure, starting in the US, then heading to France (where Bats fights a gorilla), finally ending in Hungary (where Batman kills the vampire).
Detective Comics #31 also reveals the name of Batman’s city for the first time, and if you think it is Gotham, you are very wrong. At this point, Batman was operating in New York City. It wouldn’t be until Batman #4 that the city is changed to Gotham.
10. Captain America Comics #1 – $902,000
With a knockout cover (pun intended), the most famous patriotic superhero of all crashed onto the scene in 1941. Created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Captain America was fighting Nazis ten months before the United States entered World War II.
When Captain America Comics #1 was released, it wasn’t just a hit with readers, it was controversial. Crowds gathered outside the publisher’s office demanding that Kirby and Simon be fired for, as crazy as this sounds, their blatant disrespect for Hitler. Death threats piled up each day and it got so bad that New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia gave Timely Comics and the two artists police protection.
In 2011, a CGC graded 9.2 copy of Captain America Comics #1 sold for three hundred and forty-three thousand dollars. Since then, the Marvel movies have raised Cap’s brand to a level it had never seen before. Now that he’s a movie star, this book’s price has gone up considerably.
9. All-American Comics #16 – $1,000,000
For a guy with the color green in his name, the original Green Lantern didn’t wear much green. His costume, with a red shirt, red boots, and purple exterior cape, is iconic though.
All-American Comics #16 introduced the ring-slinger to the world, but he isn’t the one most people think of. While the Green Lanterns would become space cops with a weakness to things colored yellow in the 1960s, this Green Lantern stood alone. Alan Scott created his ring when he found a seemingly magic green lantern after a horrible train crash. While Scott’s ring has no problem with the color yellow, it was weak against wood, so that kind of sucked.
It would be another two issues before the world first heard the Green Lantern oath, but not the one that we all know and love today. Alan Scott’s oath was not as fun: “And I shall shed my light over dark evil, for the dark things cannot stand the light. The light of… the Green Lantern!”
8. Archie Comics #1 – $1,050,000
Before he was getting it on with his hot teacher and dealing with a murder, Archie Andrews was America’s Favorite Teenager. While this book wasn’t the introduction of the goofy redheaded boy or his pals (that will come up later), it did introduce the concept that everyone thinks of when they think about the students of Riverdale High, the love triangle.
The main story of Archie Comics #1 finds the titular character in a real dilemma! For a bit of fun, Archie writes a letter to Veronica asking her to prom even though he’s already asked Betty to go with him. While Archie never planned on actually sending the letter, his good pal Jughead stuck it in the mail and you can bet your butt that hi-jinks ensued as Arch did his best to keep both gals happy without getting caught!
7. Detective Comics #1 – $1,060,000
Remember how Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson took a chance when he published New Fun Comics, the first comic that was 100% new material? It didn’t really work out well. Sure, the first issue of that comic is worth half a million dollars today, but when the Major was publishing it, sales were poor and he found himself in debt.
To try and pay off his debts, the Major went into business with pulp-magazine publisher Harry Donenfeld and, along with Harry’s accountant Jack S. Liebowitz, they formed Detective Comics, Inc. Their first comics, as you can probably guess, was Detective Comics #1.
The final story in Detective Comics #1, titled “The Streets of Chinatown”, introduced the character Slam Bradley. Slam was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who two years later would bring their greatest creation to the offices of Detective Comics, Inc and change the comic book world forever.
6. Batman #1 – $1,140,000
Almost a year since he first hit the scene in Detective Comics #27, Batman, with his trusty sidekick Robin, got his own book.
Along with this being the first issue of Batman’s solo series, the classic comic gave readers their first look at two of the Dark Knight Detective’s greatest adversaries, Catwoman and Joker.
Catwoman, who is just called “The Cat” in this issue, is pretty much exactly like she is in the comics today, just with a very different costume. While Batman stops her from stealing some jewels, he falls for the feral feline and lets her escape.
As if they knew that Joker would be a hit, the Clown Prince of Crime gets two stories in this issue, “The Joker” and “The Joker Returns”. As with Catwoman, it is pretty shocking just how little Joker has changed over the last seventy-seven years. His look and motives are on point from day one.
5. Marvel Comics #1 – $1,280,000
The world tends to think of the Marvel Comics universe starting with Fantastic Four #1 but, in truth, it started twenty-two years earlier when Marvel Comics #1 was published in October 1939.
The comic, released by Timely Publications, introduced readers to the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. This version of the Human Torch, unlike the youngest member of the Fantastic Four, was an android who starts off more like a Universal Monster, but becomes a superhero by the end of the story.
The Sub-Mariner’s story is straight up awesome. During an arctic journey in 1920, the crew of the Oracle nearly annihilated a race of water-breathing people. In 1939, when a new group of humans showed up in the Arctic, they found Namor the Sub-Mariner waiting for them. He starts what his mother calls “The War of Revenge” by murdering a man. With his mission underway, the Sub-Mariner heads towards America to kill more people.
4. Pep Comics #22 – $1,340,000
By December 1941, the superhero craze was in full effect. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman… they were all the rage. MLJ Magazines Inc. was also in the game – their best-known character was the Shield, the first patriotic superhero (Captain America would show up a year after the Shield), so his being on the cover of Pep Comics #22 isn’t surprising.
What is surprising is that a goofy little backup story about a teenage yokel and his pals would end up changing MLJ Magazines Inc. into one of the longest running comic companies in the world. The story, simply titled “Archie” gave readers their first look at Archie “Chick” Andrews and his pals Betty Cooper and Jughead Jones.
Archie was an only child who was, to be blunt, pretty dumb. He was a poor student, he acted impulsively, and he didn’t really consider the feelings of others. As his readership grew, and as parents came to think that comics were evil, Archie became the clean-cut teen we all think of today.
3. Superman #1 – $1,830,000
From his first appearance in Action Comics #1, the Man of Steel was a huge hit and a year later he was rewarded with a series of his own. Not surprisingly, Superman #1 was a big seller, as was anything that had the Metropolis Marvel’s face on it at the time.
Of course, when Superman #1 came out, Superman wasn’t in Metropolis. His adventures, which in this issue included Clark getting hired at the Daily Star and a bunch of stories reprinted from Action Comics, were set in Cleveland, Ohio. Much like Batman and Gotham, Superman would end up in the fictional city of Metropolis later on.
In 2016, a CGC graded 4.0 copy of Superman #1 sold for $358,500 at auction. While DC Comics originally printed over a million copies, there are likely fewer than a hundred left. So, if you have one, can I borrow it for a little while?
2. Detective Comics #27 – $4,380,000
Bob Kane and Bill Finger were given one hell of a mission – they had a weekend to create a character that was as good as Superman. Kane promised he could do it before he spoke to Finger, but it seems like Bill was down for the challenge.
Over the weekend, the two men huddled around Kane’s drawing desk and batted around ideas. As the story goes, Kane came up with a red-suited guy with a domino mask and bat-like wings. Finger suggested making the red a darker color and turning the mask into a cowl. Bit by bit, piece by piece, the Batman, or Bat-Man as they called him, was born.
Now, nearly eighty years later, you can’t escape the Dark Knight. Comics, video games, cartoons, TV shows, movies… he is everywhere. Around the world, people old and young recognize his symbol as the mark of justice. And it all started with a short story in a ten cent comic.
1. Action Comics #1 – $7,870,000
No surprise here. The comic that first introduced superheroes to the universe is, of course, the most expensive one around. Created by two teens in Cleveland, Superman came onto the scene like an atomic bomb. Hitting newsstands in May 1938, Superman’s rise was bigger than Beatlemania. By 1940, Supes was on everything DC could license him for, from cereal to a balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
In 2011, actor Nicolas Cage sold his copy of Action Comics #1, graded at 9.0, for $2.1 million. In 2000, Cage’s copy had been stolen but was recovered after a man found it in a storage locker in California. Three years later, a 9.0 graded copy of Action Comics #1, possibly the same copy as the actor’s, was sold on eBay for $3.2 million.
With superheroes becoming more and more popular, it is unlikely that Action Comics #1, or any of the books listed here, will go down in price anytime soon.
All prices are taken from Nostomania.com, which regularly updates the prices of comics.