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7 Tips for Beginning a Vintage Comic Book Collection

It’s not unusual for a single issue of a comic book today to be $4.99.

Many folks drops hundreds on those $4.99 modern comics with their variant covers, 9.8 grades, and edgelordy Donnie Cates storylines that involve some newly introduced symbiote mating with the corpse of another symbiote, or some such thing.

For my money, I would rather have one $50 Silver Age key issue with sweet Jack Kirby artwork than 10 of those modern comics, but I’m old school that way.

But as trends would have it, comic book back issue sales are booming, driven largely by folks who are drawn in by the movies and want something tactile and vintage to own as a remembrance of that fandom. [See “The Resurgence of Comic Book Back Issues“]

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7 Tips for Beginning a Vintage Comic Book Collection

Tip #1: Be Realistic

Collecting comic book back issues is a wonderful hobby, but you can’t let Nic Cage money influence you. You will never stumble upon a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 that is so fine you purchase new home and pay for your kids’ college, but you might locate a 3rd appearance of Moon Knight.

Being realistic understands that there are indeed a handful of $100,000 comic books, but you likely won’t be the owner of them. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tens of thousands of other wonderfully amazing comics out there that can be a part of your personal collection.

Maybe start your Amazing Spider-Man run at 100 and see if you can get everything up to 200, understanding that sub-100 Spider-Man comics are a pretty penny and you may only ever be able to procure a handful of them. While leads us to my next tip.

Tip #2: Set Your Budget

You must set your budget unless you want your credit score to be lower than the number of issues in the latest Ms Marvel relaunch. I wrote this list – Marvel Keys for a $100 Budget – because you can get an amazing comic book for $100. But that might not even be your personal budget: The point is that you must set a budget and stick to it, or you will otherwise pour through money like a spaghetti colander that has the bottom cut out so it’s just a ring that everything just pours through unabated.

There are too many cool comics to buy them all, particularly at highest value after a Marvel movie is first rumored. Set your budget and be patient, these comics have been around for 40 years, they aren’t going anywhere.

Tip #3: Know Who You Are

Next, determine what kind of collector you are?

  • Do you have interest in collecting runs because you love the thrill of the hunt, filling in those missing numbers.
  • Do you want to just collect key issues? That is, you only want issues where something major happens, like the interdiction of a new character, a death, or some other key event?
  • Do you want to simply collect from a specific age? Maybe you want to focus on Silver Age Marvel because that’s the the bulk of Lee / Kirby works exists.
  • Maybe you are into the art and you simply want to collect the iconic covers or individual covers that personally appeal to you.

There are many more types of collectors than those listed above. And maybe you want to swim in a couple lanes. But the point is that you need to understand who you are as a collector because they hobby is too broas to take a scatter-shot approach.

Tip #4: Take the Road Untraveled

Trust me, hundreds of Nerds of flipped through that dollar bin at your local shop and millions of people shop on eBay. You need to find some alternative outlets when shopping for comics.

Flea markets can be a good choice if you are an early riser and if you don’t mind coming home empty handed. You can never be guaranteed what you’ll find a t a flea market, but if you are the type that likes the hunt as much as the purchase, then fell markets are a good time.

Antique shops are also an unexpected place to find old comics, but it’s more common you’ll find junk comics that are being passed off as quality in an antique shop. And if you ever stop at yard sales, always ask if they have any comics. You never know – they may have some they just didn’t think to bring out.

Tip #5: Get the Best Condition You Can Afford

Most comics will eventually go up in value…if you live long enough. But the key to the value of a comic book is the condition. A comic in fantastic condition will fetch a much higher premium, whereas a beat up comic likely isn’t worth a nickel, even if it is a key or order issue. Condition is critical in comic book collecting.

Buy the best condition you can afford. But don’t stress about it, particularly as you are starting out. Get some stuff that appeals to you visually and emotional. And if it’s a beat up, then that only means it is more affordable. That gets you started, then you can begin to focus on condition a little later as you’ve learned more about how comics are graded. Then you can perhaps begin to “upgrade” your comics into higher condition copies.

Ultimately, you’ll be searching for only high grade copies, buying the best condition you can afford. But you don’t need to start your collecting there!

Tip #6: Look for Lots

The best way to build-out an early collection is to buy lots. A “lot” is a group of comics bundled together in a way that allows you to get them cheaper than if you were purchasing them individually.

A lot of old Marvel comics are sold as lots and they are excellent values. Dealers pull the “key” issues that are worth more and sell those individually for a premium. That leaves all the “common” issues, which are then bundled into lots.

Because you are starting, you want some volume to fill out your collection. So search for lots. Captain America, Thor, Marvel Team-Up, Spider_man, etc. can all be had cheaply as lots. Pick up a few bundles!

Tip #7: Be Happy

Collect what makes you smile.

That’s the most important piece of advice I can give you. Comic collecting is a wonderful hobby with a lot of opportunity to dive in deeply. Jump into the area tha makes you happy. I’m a Silver and Bronze Age Marvel man, but other go for the Distinguished Competition, while others might go modern or are into variant covers. Whatever. Collect what makes you happy.

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