Comic book collecting is a long-standing pastime of fans. It dates back to a time before collected trades and digital apps allowed readers to catch up on the previous antics of their favorite characters. If someone wanted to read all about the issues referenced in the editorial notes of their favorite magazine, their only recourse was to find the original issue.
As time marched on, people started to realize the immense value contained in select issues – especially those predating WWII – and a new market began to bubble up. Unfortunately, by the 1990s, that bubble began to burst with several comics shops and even publishers filing for bankruptcy and shutting down. Although comics still hold their value despite the crash, not all supposedly rare issues are priced equally.
10 Recolors, Reissues, & Reprints
It’s worth mentioning that any and all recolors, reissues, and reprints rarely (if ever) hold any real value in terms of collecting – especially in comparison to their original source material. While original prints of Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, and Amazing Fantasy #15 can go for millions of dollars at auction, republished versions of those tales with minor bells and whistles are practically worthless. Unless a reader needs the issue as a placeholder for issues too expensive to reasonably afford, there isn’t much use for these releases.
9 Zero Issues Worth Zero Dollars
During DC‘s 1994 massive sequel to the original 1985 Crisis On Infinite Earths, titled Zero Hour, they released brand new Zero Issues for several of its characters, which aimed to re-establish them after the continuity-shaking events. While pushed as major collector’s items, these stories fell into the classic ’90s trap of trying to retroactively create rare comics and pay into the collector boom of the decade.
Barring Aquaman losing his hand, each issue had little impact on the characters. As a result, they’ve largely been forgotten and now remain scant oddities in trade releases to mildly confuse new readers. Time capsules of DC’s growing pains at the time, these comics hold little to no value. They were pushed so heavily by the publisher they’re now found just about everywhere.
8 Zero Year; Money For DC But Not Much Else
Seemingly wanting to tempt fate, DC started a Zero Year initiative during the New 52, which retold the origins of its major characters after the large-scale reboot caused in Flashpoint. Easily the most famous Zero Year storyline is found in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s all-time classic run on Batman. While the run is one of the most impactful and iconic stories for the Dark Knight in the last few decades, the Zero Year arc is generally considered the not-as-good version of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli‘s Year One. The rest of the tie-ins vary in quality but are much like their Zero Issue brethren – largely forgettable time stamps of early ’10s DC.
7 Heroes Refunded
After the climactic events of Onslaught, the Avengers trinity of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, as well as the Fantastic Four and their archnemesis Doctor Doom, are seemingly killed. However, in reality, they’re sent to the Wildstorm imprint by Franklin Richards in Heroes Reborn.
This attempt to bring the Image Comics readership back to classic superhero stories saw several big names of the ’90s, including Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, take control of what would be some of Marvel‘s hottest properties in the 21st century. However, at the time they were characters who couldn’t sell peanuts next to the titans of Spider-Man, X-Men, and anything with Wolverine. Infamously bad, Marvel canceled several of the contracts, and it wasn’t long before the heroes were brought back to Earth 616 proper.
6 Edgey In The ’90s, Blasé Any Other Day
A running theme is the often transparent attempts of the Big Two to appeal to the nihilistic and anti-authoritarian culture of the 1990s. Superman died, Batman killed, and Spider-Man hit his wife. All the major characters experienced equally major shifts in the tone of their stories to bring in new readers, but some characters with less sizable fan bases were victims of more extreme upsets.
As pictured above, the normally regal and even headed Doctor Fate of Kent Nelson was replaced by a blood-thirsty dagger-wielding Jared Stevens. Thor was no longer Donald Blake – a doctor and well-respected man of science – and instead drug dealer and general scum bag, Jake Olsen. Most, if not all of these characters died as quickly as they appeared, and their books hold as much value as their number of fans.
5 Spinning-Off Then Spun-Out
The reason the last few decades of comics are littered with status-quo shaking crossover events is because they provide a financial boon to their respective companies. Big events bring in new readers and boost sales upon their release.
However, what is less successful (but often tried) is the event spin-off. For example, following the classic Infinity Gauntlet storyline, Marvel released the less successful and largely forgettable Infinity Watch (although that might change depending on where the MCU goes). Infinity Watch is one of the better-known teams to spin out of major events, but even then, they hold none of the value of their original event.
4 Avengers #200 Assaulted Carol Danvers
Avengers #200 was a major event for the long-running series by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and David Michelinie, with George Pérez pulling double duty as the artist. What should be a landmark and well sought after issue à la Spider-Man #100, is shattered by one of Marvel’s most infamous faux pas in its entire history.
(Then Ms. Marvel) Carol Danvers deals with a surprise pregnancy that’s revealed to be the machinations of an interdimensional predator, who effectively drugged and had non-consensual intercourse with the hero. The Avengers are uncharacteristically chill with this assault on their teammate and allow her to go off with the monster like it’s some kind of happy ending. Its horrendously misguided writing is represented in its bargain bin value.
3 Spider-Man #1 Sold Like Hostess Hot Cakes
One of the most impactful artists on Spider-Man is undoubtedly Todd “I’m Todd McFarlane and I created Spawn” McFarlane, who made the live-action intros to the HBO Spawn animated series. His unique rendering of Spidey’s classic webbing has remained integral to modern interpretations of the character. His personal Web Crawler series, simply known as Spider-Man (or more colloquially as Adjectiveless Spider-Man) was a knock-out success and a big collector’s item. However, because of its success, the first issue can always be found at conventions and comic shops.
2 Superman #75 Was Nation Wide News
While looked back on as a silly and desperate attempt to refresh an underperforming series, the original Death of Superman remains one of the most iconic stories for the Man of Steel. Between the epic country-spanning battle and the final full-page panels rendered by artistic legend Dan Jurgens, this tale has been burnt into the minds of every DC fan for the last two decades.
Superman’s death was nationwide news with much ado about the death of an American icon. Infamous black polybags adorned with bloody S-shields are a pop culture moment yet to be repeated in the industry. Similar to other popular titles before it, the long-term financial boon for collectors was poor.
1 X-Men #1 Is The Nintendo Wii Of Comic Books
X-Men #1 is cemented in history as Marvel’s biggest cash cow. This is due to the return of Chris Claremont – architect of the modern X-Men lore at the height of its popularity – and break-out artist Jim Lee. It also enjoyed the boon of being a brand new #1 during the height of the collector bubble.
As readers can guess, the fact it sold so well made it synonymous with the central flaw of comic collecting – at least when it’s done for financial benefit and savings. Classic Golden and Silver Age comics are rare due to a variety of external factors like wartime rationing and paranoid book burnings. However, in the modern age, no mass-marketed comic could ever come close to the massive value of those original classics.
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