Comics are typically divided by era: the Golden Age (1938-1950), the Silver Age (1956-1970), the Bronze Age (1970-1985), and the Modern Age (1985-Present). Each era represents a unique period in comic history, from the introduction of major characters to pivotal storylines or influential artists. The most valuable comic books can be found throughout the history of the medium, in each age. Take a look at the top comics from each.
Golden Age of Comic Books
We might be in a Golden Age of superhero movies right now, but we have The Golden Age of Comic Books to thank for that. The period, from approximately 1938 to 1956, is when comic books first began to boom, and superhero comics, in particular, came into prominence. This is the time when Superman, Batman and Captain America were all introduced to audiences for the first time.
Action Comics #1 – $3.25 million
If you’re looking for a big item to take your collection to the next level, Action Comics #1 can’t be topped. This was the best-selling comic book until the first appearance of Spider-Man beat the record recently. Action Comics #1 was originally printed in 1938 and many consider its publication the beginning of the Golden Age itself.
Batman #1 – $2.2 million
This issue hit a record-breaking price earlier this year, going for $2.2 million at auction and making it the most expensive Batman comic of all time. While the caped crusader appeared first in Detective Comics #27 (also on this list), Batman #1 is his first stand-alone issue and features the debut of both The Joker and Catwoman. While it was a 9.4 grade that brought in the most, lower grades are still breaking records of their own — an 8.0 went for $1.4 million, making it the highest price tag for a “very fine” condition.
Detective Comics #27 – $1.5 million
The first-ever appearance of Batman is what makes this one a sure bet for collectors — it’s also currently one of the best-selling comic books of all time, recently going for $1.5 million for a 7.0 grade CGC. If there’s a higher grade copy out there, it would surely become the new record-holder for prices.
Marvel Comics #1 – $1.2 Million
Marvel’s first-ever title first hit the shelves in 1939, from then-publisher Timely Comics. Marvel Comics #1 was a surprise hit, and the initial 800,000 copies printed in October were sold out, with an additional 800,000 printed the following month. At auction, it’s the October printings that have brought in the most cash with a record sale of $1,260,000, but even a November printing with a CGC of 2.0 sold for $156,000. Since this issue also includes the first appearances of The Human Torch and Namor, you can expect the value to go up again if either of these characters join the MCU.
Captain America #1 – $915,000
Captain America’s debut is a true blue-chip comic grail. The highest this book has sold for is $915,000 for a 9.4 grade, but a mint condition book (should it exist) would probably be worth at least $2 million.
Even lower grades can bring in big numbers — a 2.0 is still worth about $80,000. If you aren’t able to track down #1, a Captain America #3 could also be worth your while — the book, also published in 1941, marks the first time comic legend Stan Lee worked with Marvel. #3 has a bit of a lower value, with $80,000 being its highest sale price thus far.
Superman #1 – $456,000
Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman, has made more of a splash at auction, but his origin issue can bring in some serious cash as well. The problem with Superman #1 is that it is hard to find a high grade. The highest on record thus far is a 5.0, which sold for $456,000. Even loose pages from the issue (without a cover!) can sell for more than $10,000. If a higher grade of the comic exists, it could easily bring in millions.
Silver Age of Comic Books
While silver may often seem like second place, that’s not always the case in the comics world. The Silver Age, which constitutes 1956 to 1970, introduced the likes of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Justice League of America. Valuable comics from this era can rack up thousands (or sometimes millions) at auction, and since the comics industry was already booming at the time of their publication, they may be slightly easier to find in good condition.
Amazing Fantasy #15 – $3.6 million
This past September, Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy #15, the issue that first introduced the world to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, sold at auction for a record-breaking $3.6 million. The sale of this comic proved what industry insiders and collectors already knew: comic books aren’t going anywhere.
X-Men #1- $807,300
If there’s any Silver Age comic that will rival Amazing Fantasy #15, it’s X-Men #1. The 1963 book marks the first appearance of the X-Men, who have gone on to be among Marvel’s most popular all time characters. A 9.6 of the book has sold for over $800,000, but even low grades still bring in $20,000 and above. If you can get your hands on a 9.8 grade, it’ll likely move the sale price into the millions.
Incredible Hulk #1 – $375,000
Incredible Hulk #1 is a treat for comic book collectors as it introduces the origin of Bruce Banner/The Hulk, but isn’t exactly how we know the superhero now. In it, Dr. Banner only becomes the Hulk at night, like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scenario, and instead of his signature green skin, Hulk is grey. These unique attributes make it a rare piece of Marvel history, which can drive up value for collectors. The most expensive Incredible Hulk #1 sold for $375,000 at auction in 2016.
Fantastic Four #1 – $300,000
One of the most important books of the Silver Age is Fantastic Four #1, an issue that debuts Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four. The highest grade available of this book is a 9.6 that sold in a private deal in 2008, but a 9.4 sold in 2011 for $300,000. Today, the same book would easily break $1 million if it went up for auction. And that 9.6? The sky’s the limit. More recently, other high grades of this book have sold for upwards of $200,000, so it’s a worthwhile investment if you can get your hands on it.
Avengers #1 – $274,850
It’s no surprise that Avengers #1 hit its record-breaking sale in 2012, the same year Joss Whedon’s Avengers film was released. A 9.6 grade of the comic, one of the highest graded copies left in existence, sold through Heritage Auctions for $274,850 that year. Today, GoCollect estimates the fair market value for that same copy to be $500,000. Avengers #1 is still a hot commodity, with more recent auctions seeing sales between $100,000 and $200,000, while 8.0 grade issues still bring in around $10,000.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 – $262,900
While Spider-man’s introduction, the aforementioned Amazing Fantasy #15, might be hard to top, the other Spider-Man titles are also quite valuable. Amazing Spider-Man #1 dropped in 1963 and is the first title in one of the most well-known Spider-Man books, and features the first crossover with the Fantastic Four. In 2016, a 9.6 CGC sold for $262,900 (and today would be significantly more valuable).
Tales of Suspense #39 – $262,900
Iron Man first made his Marvel debut in Tales of Suspense #39 from the iconic duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s a key issue from this period in Marvel Comics, and only increased in value as Iron Man became the central figure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2012 and 2013, two separate 9.6 grade issues sold at auction for $262,900 each. Lower grades can still bring in some cash, with 8.0 and 8.5s regularly selling for $20,000 to $40,000.
Showcase Comics #4 – $179,250
Often cited at the turning point between the Gold and Silver ages, Showcase Comics #4 is an important issue for any collector to get their hands on. The title reboots the character of the Flash, trading in Jay Garrick for Barry Allen, who easily surpassed Garrick in popularity. This issue is rare to find in high grade, but a 9.6 CGC went for $179,250 way back in 2009. With the explosion of popularity in the character thanks to TV and movie appearances, Showcase #4 will only have appreciated since.
Sometimes, the cover art can make or break a comic’s value. In this case, it doesn’t come down to the art itself, but the color. Since Marvel Spotlight #5, the debut of Ghost Rider, features an all-black cover, it’s incredibly rare to find a high-grade copy. An ultra-rare 9.8 sold for $264,00 earlier this year, but mid-grade issues rarely top $10,000. If only collectors in 1972 knew to keep this one in good condition
Incredible Hulk #181 – $84,000
This 1974 book marks Wolverine’s first full appearance in Marvel, which is its biggest draw for collectors. A CGC 9.8 edition recently went for $84,000, making it one of the most valuable comics from the Bronze Age. If it’s too hard to track down, The Incredible Hulk #180 is a great backup option — Wolverine had a minor cameo in this issue before being properly introduced in #181. This book is much more affordable, and typically only goes for $10,000 or less.
Giant Size X-Men #1 – $72,000
After X-Men #1, the next X-Men comic you’ll want to get your hands on is Giant Size X-Men #1. This comic from 1975 introduces a new version of the team, with Wolverine officially joining the X-Men (his previous Marvel appearances were in The Incredible Hulk) and introducing the characters Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus for the first time. Earlier this year, a 9.8 sold at auction for $72,000, the book’s highest sale to date.
X-Men #94 – $63,000
Another X-Men book you should try to snag is X-Men #94. This issue is considered one of the best comics of the Bronze Age, and essentially picks up where Giant Size X-Men #1 left off, with the new X-Men team taking over from the previous version. In April 2021, a 9.8 grade of X-Men #94 sold for $63,000, a new record for the book that previously stayed in the $20,000 range. If this trend continues, it can be a great investment for collectors.
Werewolf by Night #32 – $50,000
With Moon Knight set to make his MCU debut, it’s no doubt that his origin comic, Werewolf by Night #32, will continue to increase in popularity. Since the announcement that Oscar Isaac would take on the role, this comic has become a red-hot item and will continue to soar in value alongside the character’s popularity. Right now, it’s only the high-grade editions (9.8) that are worth your time, selling for $50,000 last year.
Tomb of Dracula #10 – $48,000
One of the most popular characters to come out of the bronze age is Blade, the vampire slayer who first debuts in Tomb of Dracula #10. Blade has made it to the big screen before played by Wesley Snipes, and will soon debut in the MCU played by Mahershala Ali. With Blade’s enduring presence in pop culture, it’s no surprise that his debut comic is a valuable one for collectors: earlier this year, a 9.8 grade sold for $48,000.
Star Wars #1 35c Price Variant – $32,005
At one point in the 1970s, Marvel released a few 35-cent comics, testing the market for a potential price increase. There aren’t many differences between the 35-cent comics and the standard 30-cent editions, but since only a few copies were produced and sold in select cities, the ultra rare 35-cent variant can help drive up the value of your collection. Take Star Wars #1, for example. The 30-cent cover is worth only about $6,000, while a 9.4 grade of the 35-cent cover sold for over $30,000.