INVESTING IN GOLDEN AGE DC COMICS ON A BUDGET
When the average comic book collector or investor hears the word Golden Age they cringe. Thoughts of low grade comics selling for thousands of dollars is usually what comes to mind. This is in fact not the case at all. There is a myriad of affordable Golden Age comics out there, perfectly fit for the collectors or investors that do not have tens of thousands of dollars to invest in the top end books.I am going to try and walk through the DC titles that offer affordable issues that I would consider investment worthy. I will also give my opinion on what kind of growth to expect in terms of return on your investment. It is important to note that when I say Golden Age, I do mean 1940’s comic books. Some consider the Golden Age 1938 to 1945 and the Atom Age 1946 to 1956. I believe the Golden Age is 1938 with the debut of Action Comics right through December of 1949. Shortly after DC shifted from the large 52 page comic format to the smaller 36 pages in the early 1950s.
Also of note, this information is based on “budget investing” which I would define as comics that can be expected to see a gain over the next 5-10 years. An investment of 50.00 to 250.00 for low grade examples (books in the 1.0 to 3.0 grade range) are the target here.
Not going to look at Timely or Centaur (at least for now) as both companies are on fire in the back issue market and will cost you more than the given “budget” for most books. Common issues from either of these companies will cost you a pretty penny. If you can afford to buy Timely Comics, your money is best put into those issues over almost any title listed below. Not going to look at Archies, Dell or Fiction House either as the books from these companies that are worth investing in, are already established key issues that command high prices. Not going to look at Fawcett or the countless other companies from the 1940s as most of the issues that are worth investing in, are either already key issues, classic covers, or coveted Pre Code Horror issues.
There is quite a lot of material to chose from with DC. The important thing to keep in mind with DC, is you want to focus on books that feature relevant characters. Titles like Boy Commandos and Star Spangled Comics are just not worthy of my investment funds (for the most part) at this point. I strongly believe that as time goes by, the common issues from these series are going to remain stagnant.
The following are the titles I believe to be investment worthy, along with a * rating next to each title. Using a 4 star system here, with 1 star being the lowest return, 4 stars being the best potential for a return.
Action Comics : Issues 1-139 ****
One of the two Superman based titles on the list. You can forget the early issues and skip right ahead to issue 25 or so. Aside from the keys, there are lots of great covers in this run at affordable prices.
Superman always has and always will be a DC classic. Investors should expect a steady increase in value in these issues over time, especially as more folks start gobbling up the existing market offerings.
Adventure Comics : Issues 32- 147 ***
Lots of variety in here. Sandman, Hourman, Manhunter in the earlier issues and Aquaman, Green Arrow and Superboy move over from More fun in the later 1940s. Easier to catch some lower grade slabs in auction or get lucky finding raw copies slipping through in auctions. Obviously some huge Key Issues in this run, but the non Keys can be had at affordable prices if you can find them.
I expect a moderate price increase over the next decade on these issues. Though some of the heroes in here are from times past, new collectors and completionists are going to want these to fill runs or just to own an issue.
All American Comics : Issues : 1-102 **
Classic Original Green Lantern along with some Golden Age Atom. Issues 16-25 or so always sell extremely high in any grade, so best to focus on issues after 25. With the exception of issue #61 which is the 1st appearance of Solomon Grundy, most of the books in this run are easy grabs. A plus for this run, is that almost every issue from 16-99 has a Green Lantern cover, with the exception of a few random Mutt and Jeff covers, which honestly, I would just avoid. Issue 100-102 are Western theme, but worth picking up as they are rare to scarce.
Another middle of the road title to me, but it is a classic DC title. Collectors are always going to be looking for these. Expect a slow but steady rise in pricing as time goes on.
All Star Comics : Issues 1-50 **
The comic that introduced both the JSA and Wonder Woman as well as others. Skip right past the first 4 issues and issue 8 as all are Key Issues. Moving on from issue 9 there are a lot of great covers in here. Virtually every Golden Age Super-Hero is in this run, be it Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Hawkman and on and on. Somewhere in the middle for prices on the lower grade issues, but as with most, lower grade examples can be had at a fair price if you pay attention to auctions.
A tougher run to put together, All Star Comics is still quite attractive to collectors old and new. As the market dries up on issues, the low grade copies should see a modest rise in pricing.
All Flash (Quarterly) Issues : 1-32 **
Not as popular as Flash Comics, and with the added “Quarterly” in the title for the first 5 issues, All Flash is another of the bargain Golden Age titles in the market right now.
Outside of Issue #1 this is another affordable run with most issues ending at bargain prices save the last issue which is the 1st appearance of Star Sapphire.
While not as attractive as Flash Comics, there is still room for growth here. I would expect a steady yet slow growth on these issues over the next 5-7 years.
Batman : Issues 1-55 ****
One of my favorite Golden Age titles to try and grab. Lots of great material in here, but there are also a lot of Classic Covers, Key Issues and Joker covers(Though some of these are obtainable). Even with all the “big ticket” books in this run, there is a still a lot that can be had at bargain prices, especially once you get past issue #20. This is a title you might find yourself settling for F/G grades to G- just to own a copy of some of the cool issues in the run.
Batman has and always will be collected just like Superman. These issues have nowhere to go but up. As folks try to make runs, and mid grade examples increase in price, lower grade copies are going to become more attractive to new collectors and others who might use low graders as space fillers.
Comic Cavalcade : Issues 1-35 *
Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman headline this title. Becoming a non superhero comic starting with issue #30, the focus should be on issues 2-29. All affordable, not difficult to find and no key issues in this run, making it a bit more desirable to the collector that really just wants a DC Golden Age book.
While I do not expect much in the terms of spiking prices, I do believe as other titles become out of reach, common issues that are fetching 50-75.00 now, will bring in 100.00 or more in the next 5+ years.
Detective Comics : Issues 16-154 ****
Just like with Action, forget the early issues. Lots of Key Issues, Classic Covers, Joker Covers and more in this run. Shift your focus ahead to issue 50 or so and you will start finding low grade examples in the 100-200.00 range. Along with Batman, Detectives are my favorite title to chase from the Golden Age of DC.
Again, same as Batman. People are trying to make runs here. Expect a solid return on your investment over the next 7-10 years as the supply of these books dry up and demand drives the prices upward.
Flash Comics : Issues 1-104 ***
Alternating Flash and Hawkman covers in the early issues make for an interesting run here. Skip the first 10 issues as it is a mix of Key Issues and Classic covers. For the most part all issues post issue 10 are affordable and can be found at any given point. The 3 exceptions would be issue #86 and #92 which are the intro and first solo Black Canary and issue 104 which is incredibly difficult to find. All 3 of these issues fetch multiples of guide when they do make it to market.
If the TV show continues to air and more attention is brought to the Flash , I would expect a solid upward trend in the market on all Flash issues from this run over the next 2-3 years.
Green Lantern : Issues 1-38 **
Another Green Lantern title. Starting with issues 6 this is another easy to collect run. Only 1 issue from #6-38 that is outside the budget guidelines here. Issue #30 is the 1st appearance of Streak the Wonder Dog(someone cares…) and is pretty rare. Other than that, issues are somewhat common in the marketplace and can be snagged in auctions raw or slabbed for less than guide prices.
A modest return should be expected on this series over the next 5 years.
More Fun Comics : Issues 32-127 ***
The trickiest of the titles to try and collect. Issues 32 through 50 are not Superhero comics and should be avoided by casual investors. Issue 51-67 are all very expensive Specter and Dr Fate issues. Issues 68, 69, 70, 72, 75 and 76 you can grab yourself some more affordable Dr Fate covers. Issue 71 is the first Johnny Quick. Issue 73 is 1st Aquaman, Green Arrow and Speedy… this book is an absolute MONSTER. Starting again with issue 77 some great Green Arrow and Speedy covers are available until issue 99, all of which are affordable. The title then introduces Superboy in issue #101 with a couple more Superhero covers. Issue #99 is where I would stop with this series.
More attention is being paid to Green Arrow. I would expect a modest return over the next 3-5 years on all of the Dr Fate covers and a bit better for the Green Arrow covers.
Sensation Comics : Issues 1-94 ***
Overlooked for decades, Sensation is a title finally starting to heat up a bit. The first 3 issues are all fetching a premium, though after that there are no real Keys in this run. Lots of great Wonder Woman covers to be had right up to issue #94.
Not the toughest run to complete. Between the renewed interest in WW and with lots of completists entering the hobby, we should see a solid spike in Sensation issues in all grades.
Superman : Issues 1-61 ***
Just like Action and the Batman titles, there are a lot of Classic Covers, 1st appearances and WWII covers in this run. There are also a lot of deals to be found in this run, as most collectors and investors are trying to acquire this run in VG or better. Good news for the budget collector/investor as there are a lot of issues above #25 that can be obtained for less than guide.
Strong potential for a fair return on your investment over the next decade here. People are always collecting Superman, and as folks work backwards on their lists, these 1940s issues should see a nice upward trend in the marketplace.
Wonder Woman : Issues 1-38 ****
Tied with Batman and Detective Comics, Wonder Woman issues are always on my radar. Just like Sensation Comics, these have been overlooked for decades and just starting to catch some real heat. This would be bad news for the budget investor, but for the time being it looks like the market is focusing on the first 7 issues. That leaves 29 issues ripe for the picking in this run, and every single one can be had below guide for those with the patience to watch auctions.
Of all the titles on the list, I strongly believe Wonder Woman will show the greatest return over the next 5-7 years. More and more attention is going to be drawn to Wonder Woman, more and more folks are going to start grabbing up issues and try and put together runs. Sooner or later, demand with outstrip supply.
That’s all I have folks, thanks for reading!