These days, the best-selling books will sell approximately 150,000 copies in a good month. Contrast that with something like West Coast Avengers #45, the first appearance of “white Vision” (later seen in Wandavision). “I don’t know if it was millions [of copies], but it was definitely in the several hundreds of thousands,” Poulakas says. This impacts pricing. “The first appearance of America Chavez [in 2011’s Vengeance #1] is a lot harder to get than the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill [who debuted in 1983’s Thor #337].” Vengeance #1 is currently selling for over $200, while Thor #337 is going for, on average, about a third of that. In this case, “older” doesn’t necessarily equate to “better” or “more valuable.”
The next thing to know is what you’re looking for. Collectors tend to fall into two categories, says Ryan Higgins of Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale, California. “We’re seeing so many people looking for complete runs,” he says. “A surprising amount of people are looking to fill in random issues.” Key issues – first appearances, major life events for the characters, new creative teams – are a prime focus for the second group. But how the characters sort in those two groups is interesting: big characters like Superman, Captain America, or Batman find their prices remarkably stable. “Batman is impossible,” he says. “Every Batman book is priced correctly.” It’s the secondary and tertiary characters where the most movement happens and where the best values can be found. If you get to it in time.
“If they’ve announced the character [for a movie or television appearance], it’s already too late,” says Higgins. “The needle has already moved.”
A character making the jump to the big screen drives prices on collectible books in a huge way. That doesn’t preclude you from buying their key issues, but it might price them out of reach. And the rush to get ahead of the various cinematic universes is causing people to make leaps that don’t necessarily make sense.
“Seemingly overnight, 1991’s Darkhawk #1, who has no real rumor of being in a movie, went from a $5 book to a $200 book,” Higgins says. That’s why it’s important if you’re serious about this, and at least somewhat frugal, to keep an eye on the solicitations for new books, both to spot key issues as they’re released, and to try and divine hints from what Marvel and DC are deciding to reprint.
“[Marvel] did all these Kid Loki and Lady Loki trade paperbacks leading up to the show,” he points out. “Making money is more important than spoilers.” If they’re reprinting something that looks random, chances are it’s to get ahead of something about to happen.
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