Sorry, Your Comic Book Collection Is Probably Worthless

Bad news, fanboys -- those multiple copies of "X-Force" #1 may be worth even less than you feared.
Andy Ihnatko/Flickr
Bad news, fanboys -- those multiple copies of "X-Force" #1 may be worth even less than you feared.

Bad news for those of you who have been counting on those old comic books from your youth to fund your retirement plans. A new report suggests that the bottom has fallen out of the back-issue market. Comic collections valued at thousands of dollars are actually worth hundreds at best.

Bloomberg Businessweek shares the sad news that, while the price for particularly famous and important back issues -- like the first issue of Batman or the first appearance of Superman -- continues to climb, the demand for other old comics has decreased significantly in this age of collectors editions, reprints and digital releases.

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To illustrate this point, retailers discuss the falling prices for comics once considered to be sound investments -- "Incredible Hulk No. 181 [the first appearance of Wolverine] was getting $20,000," shares one. "They now trade for $8,000" -- with one expert cited in the piece, business analyst Rob Salkowitz, even going so far as to call the back-issue market "essentially a Ponzi scheme."

The upshot of the article is something that's part warning and part common sense. Firstly, if you really have been hoping that those issues of Crystar and Spanner's Galaxy were going to be able to help you financially in years to come, you might want to reconsider that plan. But more importantly, comics are there to be read, not treated like investments. As long as you remember which definition of "value" your comics are meant to have, you'll be fine.