In 2021, a Superman #1 comic book was sold for $5.3 million – it cost only 10 cents when it was first released.
Superman #1 is the most expensive comic ever sold, with Amazing Fantasy #1 coming in second with $3.6 million and Action Comics #1 coming in third with $3.55 million.
According to Fortune Business Insights’ Comic Book Market report, the global comic book market size was valued at $15.35 billion in 2022. It is projected to grow from $16.05 billion in 2023 to $22.37 billion by 2030.
The Covid-19 pandemic “caused a notable surge in online activity among the global population, leading more people to read comics online during their leisure time”.
This, along with the world’s growing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-generated media, has led to a surge in global demand for comic books that will likely last for years.
As the production of traditional comics continues to slow and popular comics in good condition are becoming scarcer, demand for rare, well-preserved vintage comics will also grow and push up prices.
However, this does not mean all comics are worth their weight in gold.
Why are some comics expensive?
Like many other alternative investments, like Rolexes, art, and sports cars, the value of a comic depends on a combination of factors that must be present simultaneously.
Many of these factors come down to just one element: demand. There must be demand for a comic for it to be valuable.
Below are five factors that could indicate the demand and, therefore, the value of a comic book.
Some comics, particularly older comics, had limited runs (they were only printed in limited numbers). This makes them harder to find and, therefore, likely more expensive.
Older comics are often more valuable than newer comics. This, again, comes down to scarcity.
Since older comics are often more challenging to find, especially in good condition, this drives up their demand.
The condition of a comic affects its value. If it is in mint condition with no signs of wear or tear, it can be worth significantly more than a copy in poor condition.
Some comic book characters are more popular than others, and their comics are often more sought after.
For example, the first appearance of Spider-Man is a highly valued comic book. He first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962.
This can also apply to the popularity of a comic’s author. More well-known comic book artists/authors like Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Herge and Jack Kirby are more likely to sell at a higher price.
The significance of a particular comic book can also affect its value.
For example, if a comic book introduces a popular character or storyline, it may be more valuable than other issues in the series.
Amazing Fantasy #15, which introduced Spider-Man, set a record in 2021 for the most expensive comic sold, costing $3.6 million.
The local market
Comics have become more popular in South Africa in recent years.
Comic Con Africa, a pop culture and gaming convention rooted in comic book culture, came to South Africa in 2018.
The festival proved to be a huge success and has become an annual event in the country.
A Comic Con is being held this year in Cape Town, for which the tickets have already been sold out.
South Africa has also seen local comic book artists reaching global success in recent years.
South African graphic novel artist Loyizo Mkize signed a contract with US comics publisher giant DC Comics in 2021.
Other notable South African comic book artists and authors include Deon de Lange, Joe Daly, Sean Izaakse, and Lauren Beukes.
Are comic books a good investment?
While comics can sell for millions and provide a good return for investors, there are many barriers to entry.
Comic books can vary significantly in value, and since there are so many to choose from, an investor would have to do extensive research and have a good knowledge base of comics before investing.
Investors looking to start investing in comics now will also automatically face a barrier since many people have been buying and collecting comics for decades.
As comics have become more valuable over the years, collectors have also started saving them, hoping they will become more valuable and sell at a higher price later.
Another barrier is the potential purchasing price. For comics that are known to be valuable, the initial purchase price will be extremely high, and it could, therefore, be challenging to get a good return on the investment.