ComicsComics are to be read and enjoyed. They can also be collected.
Whether you are looking to rediscover the comics you read during your younger days, find different publications you have never read before or perhaps fill in gaps in a collection, buying at auction presents a good way of getting what you want at a good price.
If you fancy acquiring and looking through some old copies of the The Beano or the The Dandy you’ll find plenty at auction. A whole box might cost no more than £10 to £20. You can also find many Marvel comics if superheroes are your thing, while film fans can uncover copies of editions such as Star Wars comics.
You can also browse auction catalogues to find comics you might never otherwise have heard of and with a few clicks of the mouse they could soon be yours.
Comics are available in many general auctions on thesaleroom.com. The auctioneer will typically offer a large number of comics in one single lot rather than split them into individual items. This gives you the opportunity to acquire many comics in one go, often at a low price.
Remember that when buying at auction, packing and delivery is extra. If you are not going to pick up your purchase in person then work out first how much getting a big box of comics delivered to you will cost.
For some people collecting comics is a hobby. Even some celebrities have caught the collecting bug: TV presenter Jonathan Ross is a well-known collector in this area and actor Nicholas Cage sold most of his collection at auction in 2002 for a hefty $1.68m.
Specialist sales – such as those run by Comic Book Auctions – will typically attract collectors and offer higher priced items than you will see in general sales.
At auction, collectors will vie for a particularly rare issue. That will drive up the cost of those editions but will not affect you if you are buying comics in general sales to be read. However, knowing a thing or two about what collectors look for will help you to understand why some comics are more valuable than others.
The comics that make the most at auction are the earliest editions – usually from the first five issues ever published, with the first issue naturally being the most sought-after. And condition is vital. A comic is not unique, it is one of a print-run of many thousands, so collectors look for the comic that is in the best possible condition.
A pristine issue number one comic that also comes with the original free gift or the flyers that were included inside are exceptionally rare and attract the highest prices. However, to make a lot of money it really needs to be a comic that is well known such as The Beano or The Dandy. Comics that lasted only a couple of years do not tend to interest today’s collectors.
The Beano website has an excellent guide to checking whether a comic is a genuine first edition (rather than a later reprint).
The highest price in recent times for a Beano came in 2015 when an issue No 1 with the original four-page flyer was sold by Comic Book Auctions for £15,200 to a bidder on thesaleroom.com.
Aside from rare first editions, there are other issues to look out for. An issue when an important new character was introduced can also be sought after by collectors.
Alternatively, a very long run of consecutive issues could fetch a few hundred pounds at auction. Each comic in the sequence by itself might be worth very little but the sequence as a whole could be valuable.
Generally, though, collectors in this field tend to be elitist – they want the very best first issue – rather than completist where they aim to have one copy of everything.
The next wave of comics collecting could be focused on girls' comics that stood the test of time. They might not be published any more today but there is a strong feeling of nostalgia around for well-loved titles such as Bunty, Tammy or Mandy – all of which lasted for a decent stretch.
If you spot and buy an early edition of one of these, make sure you keep it in good condition. And if it still has the free gifts that came them with, don't throw them out – together with the original comic they could be worth a pretty penny in years to come.
Another area that is growing in popularity is the original artwork used for the comics. The late comedian Bob Monkhouse was a big collector and much of what he owned has been sold at auction recently – including the original artwork for a page from The Eagle comic featuring Dan Dare which sold for £2050 in June 2019.
What to do next
Decide how much you’d like to spend and use the search facility on thesaleroom.com to find comics coming up for sale. You can filter your search by, among other things, price and by location of the auction house to narrow down your selection.
To research recent prices at auction to see how much different brands sold for you can also try out the Price Guide.
If you are new to bidding check out our guides to buying at auction – it’s easy once you know how.