Our Northwest

Get-rich investment in comics? Not so much

Tuesday, May 24, 2016by  Jon Osterberg
Seattle and Portland home prices continue to surge, as reported in recent stories showing prices are near their 2007 peak.
     Less-common investments also have inflated. Thanks in part to nostalgic Baby Boomers, market values for 1950s and '60s muscle cars have jumped to astounding heights. Hagerty lists the average value of a "concours" 1965 Mustang at $27,100; original base price was $2,427.
     Or look at the 1970 Chevelle SS 396, which Hagerty values at $71,300; they sold for $3,439 in 1970.
     Among the truly arcane investments are comic books. Yes, you'd be shocked at what an early Superman or Batman comic fetches.
     Check your attic to see if someone stashed one of these. A "near mint" Superman issue #1 from 1939 is valued at $740,000. Superman's first appearance in Action Comics, June 1938, yields $3 million. Issue #1 of Batman from 1940 can bring $400,000.
     While cleaning our garage recently, my imagination ran wild when I uncovered my box of DC comics from the 1960s, an era collectors include in the 1956-70 Silver Age of comics, second in value only to the preceding Golden Age.
     While my classmates tackled homework from 2nd through 6th grades, I too was immersed in reading. But all too often it was comics. I consumed every issue I could find of DC titles like Batman, Detective, Superman, Action, Adventure, World's Finest, the Flash, Justice League of America, and others.
     Had I kept my well-worn collection in prime condition, I own several issues worth $350 to $1,100 today, like Batman #171, which reintroduced the Riddler. Even worn out as it is, my copy (pictured here) is worth $165. That's according to one of the online sites acknowledged to be authoritative on such things.
     But here's where it gets funny. As an adult, at age 22, I was persuaded by a coworker at Sundstrand Data Control to invest in the first issues of a brand new Marvel comic that he predicted would "make you rich" someday – Howard the Duck. Ron was a comics connoisseur, so I trusted his 1976 prognostication and bought a few issues.
     Yesterday I went to comicbookrealm.com to value my comics, including Howard the Duck. It turns out, that fowl comic fared no better than the critically bashed 1986 George Lucas movie of the same name.
     Issue #1, in mint condition: $40. Subsequent issues are worth $14, $10 ... you get the picture.
     We won't be shopping for my wife's dream 1957 Ford Thunderbird anytime soon.

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