After waking up in the middle of the night, I started browsing through 2007 edition. Initially it was to understand the differences in comic book grading - they have a very simple discussion of the topic. Then I started reviewing prices. This is what I learned:
a. Professionally graded and slabbed comic books can have a 10:1 multiplier in value for very high quality books printed after 1990; usu. 10.0 or better.
b. For comic books before 1990, the multiplier can be 50:1 for very high quality; usu. 9.4 (near mint) or better.
c. Most comic books printed after 1990 usually retain their cover price value if in near mint (9.4) condition; i.e. $2-4; however from a practical basis I don't see most books selling at this price.
d. Lower volume books, first issues and introduction of new characters can sometimes increase comic book value; increases can be from 25% - 300% - but it is not frequently enough to be as strong a rule as people expect in the market place.
e. No one will get rich collecting the average comic - especially over the short term; books with higher values seem to be at least 30 years old, if not 40.
f. Most older books are in poor condition, which dramatically reduces their value - it's rare to find a near mint book from the 1960s. Good condition comic books can be worth only 1/12th of list value.
g. Books on very popular topics tend to retain and have higher value; i.e. disney, casper and other popular entertainment can have suprisingly high value - if from before the 1970s
h. Very old mainstream comics like superman, batman, etc... can also be very valuable - pre-1970s.
i. even older books, much older books, might only be worth $100 each - there are very few true treasures.
j. the only way to really make money is:
1. have a very targeted list of comics you want to collect
2. have a efficient means to sell them to a broad market - such as being a retailer or perhaps auctions via Heritage or some of the other collectors auction houses
3. consider grading and slabbing - which can cost $18-$40 - so the theoretical value really needs to be worthwhile.
The ultimate lesson is this:
The per item value of comic books is generally too low to justify a significant price; i.e. why spend $30 to grade a $1 comic? Logistics, storage, susceptibility to deterioration all make collecting comics a difficult and economically challenging hobby. How can you make money on auction off of a $1-$3 item without volume? Also consider that comics are fairly heavy when it comes to shipping.
So why should you collect comic books?
For the love of art, story and a chance to dip into the visual representation of popular culture.
For me, I've always loved reading the stories since I was a young child.
My golden rule is to spend as close to $0.20 per book as possible - preferably buying them as back issues.
There is something quite exciting about buying back issues, slowly over time, piecing together a story line. Or reading a new series every month, waiting to see how it progresses.
I am shocked by the element of greed that so many people demonstrate when they find an old collection of comic books. They immediately assume they are worth $1000s of dollars, when the likeliness is so rare.
I'm also suprised by the naviety that other specialty collectors have when pricing comics - they usually have very little idea of value.
Oddly, some of the best selling comic books at flea markets are often the humorous ones - people enjoy them and will often pay a bit more.