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7 Tips to Start Collecting Vintage Comics on a Budget

I am convinced that collecting old comics is the absolute best hobby in world. I’d love to help you get started with a few tips!

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#7 Be Realistic

Amazing Fantasy #15 is the 1st appearance of Spider-Man and let’s be realistic, you’ll never own a copy. Being realistic is the first tip I have for you if you want to get into collecting older comics. You can’t set your sights on a 3 million dollar comic book unless you’re a Voodoo sorceror whose reading of the chicken bones gave them the winning lotto numbers.

But let’s say your favorite character is Moon Knight. The character 1st appeared in Werewolf by Night #32, a book that will set you back about 3 grand. Being realistic understands you might not own that book, but you can set your sights on the 3rd appearance of Moon Knight in Werewolf by Night #37, a $250 book.

#6 Set Your Budget

Once you’ve grounded your wants in reality, determine your budget and stick to it. Then do NOT exceed your budget.

Your budget could be a monthly spending amount or you might save up in order to have a wade of cash to spend at a con. You might even set a top dollar you’ll spend on a single issue, like, say, you’ll never go over $100 on a single comic. So, you can use a variety of methods to set a budget, but do make sure you set one, then stick to it.

Sticking to a budget requires patience. You don’t have to get into an eBay bidding war and you don’t have to make that impulse purchase at a con. If the price tag exceeds your budget, you have to learn to be patient and walk away knowing you can continue your quest to find that comic at the price that makes sense for you and your budget.

#5 Learn Who You are as a Collector

The beautiful thing about collecting comics books is you can approach the hobby in a variety of ways. You, of course, have modern collecting, which is primarily speculating, hoping you get a 9.8 in a hot comic or you catch lightning with a variant cover.

But collecting Silver and Bronze Age comics provides even more variety.

  • Maybe you just collect “key” issues, defined as important issues like first appearances. Use Key Collector for that.
  • You can collect runs. I, for example, have complete runs of old school Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Man-Thing, and an uninterrupted run of Uncanny X-Men from #94 up through when Marvel started renumbering every 5 minutes.
  • Maybe you get into it for the artwork and collect covers. If I see a Jack Kirby or Jim Steranko cover for a nice price, I pick it immediately.
  • Maybe you get esoteric and collect Mark Jewelers variants.
  • You can collect just Silver Age. You can collect a Direct and Newsstand edition of each title, like I do with Claremont X-Men. You can collect certain creators. And on and on it goes!

The point is there is a variety of ways to collect old comics. Choose what you like and what speaks to you, then get after it!

#4 Get off the Beaten Path

Comic shops will be your third space here, but also know when to get off the beaten path. Flea markets are a good source for comics, but you have to be willing to dig through a lot of cruft to get to the good stuff you want.

Antique shops might have a comic or two and the thrill here is in the hunt. Really, it’s any place that might sell old stuff…I’ve even asked an antique coin dealer if he happened to have some old comics as well.

Speaking of asking? If you stop at a yard sell make sure you ask if they might have comic books as well. It never hurts to ask and you might get lucky! The point is to make it about the hunt, so try outlets other than shops, even though shops will obviously have your best selection.

#3 Condition

I’m 47 years old, so my right shoulder is here to tell you that a little wear and tear comes with age. So expect 40 year old comics to be beat up a little bit. That said, condition is everything when collecting vintage comics.

First, here’s a guide to grading comics. That will help set expectations. But then forget about grade as much as you can. Here’s what I mean: You won’t be able to afford a high grade in most old comics, unless you are independently wealthy. So get the best condition you can, then don’t stress about it.

It’s better to own a comic in a mid-grade condition than to not own it at all. Then, if you happen to find a nice price on a higher condition later, upgrade!

#2 Look for Lots

I love Thor, so I was excited to collect a run from #126 (when the title was renamed The Mighty Thor after starting out as Journey into Mystery) up through Walt Simonson’s run, which I already owned. Unfortunately, I didn’t have many of those comics.

So what did I do? I looked for a lot, which is a big bunch of comics. I found a lot of Thor comics that someone bundled up and was looking to get rid of at a good price. Because I bought them in a bundle I was able to get them at a steep discount.

I then filled in the issues around those that were included in the lot. But it was that first big purchased that kickstarted me.

#1 Collect What Makes You Smile

This one should be obvious but it isn’t always so. Collecting comics should be fun, so don’t place any undue pressure on yourself. Set yourself a reasonable budget, decide what type of collector you are, then have fun with it.