New to comics and want to know how to collect comic books?

While most comic book collectors can vividly remember the comics they read cover to cover and collected during their childhood, some collectors might not have discovered comic books until they were an adult. That’s okay! Collecting comic books is a very exciting hobby for fans of all ages with dozens of huge comic cons around the United States every year as well as smaller local cons. Maybe you’ve been to a comic con and saw an awesome comic mystery box and thought about getting into collecting but you are not sure where to begin. That’s why we have created this step-by-step guide to collecting comic books.

1. Start Collecting Comics Slowly.

Take your time learning about popular superheroes and their key issues. Key issues are more likely to increase in value. When you start purchasing comic books it’s best to buy the ones you really like because then you’ll always be happy about your purchase. Decide on a monthly budget and stick to it, or you may find yourself running out of comic book funds and storage space way before you have the collection of your dreams. Pace yourself in the beginning is our #1 piece of advice.

Let’s begin by introducing some crucial terms every collector should be familiar with:

  1. Issue — This term is used to describe a single magazine-style publication of a comic book, typically ranging from 20–30 pages. For instance, seeking the first issue of Spider-Man means you’re in search of the series’ initial single publication.
  2. Series — This refers to the complete collection of a specific comic book’s publications. Taking The Amazing Spider-Man as an example, the series encompasses every issue released under that character and story arc. A series can either be ongoing, continuing until the publisher decides to conclude, or a limited series, set to end after a specific number of issues.
  3. Variant — A variant denotes a unique version of a comic book, showcasing alternate cover art or designs different from the standard issue. These editions are typically more sought-after and valuable to collectors. It’s common in the current comic book market to find multiple variant editions for many series’ issues.
  4. Grading — The process of grading evaluates a comic book’s condition, ranking it on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 representing pristine condition. Further information on grading can be explored at CGC or CBCS, organizations that specialize in comic book grading.
  5. Key issue — A key issue is identified as a comic book of particular significance or value, such as marking a character’s first appearance, the death of a character, or a pivotal storyline.

Notable Companies Among Comic Book Collecting

Having introduced some basic terms, it’s time to delve into the notable companies within the comic book realm.

Marvel Comics stands as a leading name in the comic book sector, commanding nearly 40% of the market share. This top-selling entity has brought to life many beloved iconic characters, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. Marvel is distinguished by its interconnected universe, facilitating interactions among characters from various series.

DC Comics emerges as another key figure in the industry, famed for birthing superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. DC is recognized for its darker and more intense narratives, often unfolding within the mythical Gotham City.

Image Comics, established in 1992 by a group of renowned comic book artists, marks a fresher presence in the industry. Celebrated for its creator-owned approach, Image Comics offers artists enhanced creative freedom over their projects. Noteworthy publications from Image include The Walking Dead and Saga.

Adding to these giants, IDW Publishing, established in 1999, has carved its niche within the industry. Known for its diverse range of licensed and original content, IDW has become a staple for readers interested in everything from classic franchises like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to innovative original series. IDW’s commitment to both creator-owned projects and partnerships with major entertainment properties highlights its unique position in the comic book market.

collecting Marvel Comics

2. Get Familiar with Popular Artists and Writers.

As you sit down and read your first handful of comic book stories, you’ll be exposed to several writers and many art styles. When you find a favorite artist or writer, turn back to the beginning of the issue and write down the author’s or artist’s name. Search online for other issues written or illustrated by the same person to expose yourself to stories and possibly key issues you wouldn’t normally find. Sometimes comic books can be key issues if their is something very special about to cover art like the first the artist has drawn a particular character.

  • Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, Kevin Eastman, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, and Mark Millar are all popular comic writers.
  • Jack Kirby, Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller, Steve Ditko, Jim Lee, Neal Adams, Alex Ross, John Byrne, Kevin Eastman are popular comic book artists.
comic book cover by popular artist among comic book collectors

3. Only Buy Paper Comic Books.

Most comic books are first published in short installments called issues, which are about 10–20 pages long. Issues can be either in physical formats or digital formats. Digital formats will not increase in value over time and in most cases cannot be sold or exchanged.

If money is an issue and you are willing to wait, you can often save money by purchasing a trade paperback (TPB)) containing five or so issues in one volume, or a graphic novel containing a complete story arc, but graphic novels rarely ever increase in value. Obviously, trade paperbacks and graphic novels are also easier to store than single issues of comic books, if you already have a bookshelf or table to place them on.

  • Some independent artists only publish as a graphic novel or digital comic book.
  • If you’re looking to build a comic book collection that increases in value over time then stick to physical copies.

4. Hunt for Comics in Other Places Besides a Comic Book Shop.

Once you have started collecting comic books, you may enjoy hunting for older key issues or issues to complete a series. Try visiting flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores, and antique shops to see what’s available. You never know, you might find the holy grail of comic books at a garage sale, an Amazing Fantasy #15!

how to start collecting comic books

5. Network with Other Comic Book Collectors.

It’s great to make friends with other comic book collectors browsing shelves at the comic book store or at a comic con. Trade comic books with them, or loan and borrow books so you can read a comic book without having to buy a copy. Many collectors have reader issues and issues that they don’t read and protect with various methods and won’t mind lending them to you. Some of the best comic book deals you can get are from fellow collectors you meet on social media, but be weary of scammers.

6. Attend Comic Cons.

There are dozens of comic cons each year in the United States focused on collecting comic books that draw thousands of fans to meet the people who create comics, take pictures with actors of superhero movies, find deals on new or rare comics, or hear announcements about upcoming comic books and movies. The most famous is San Diego Comic-Con, but it is by no means the best comic con for serious collectors. Comics are typically top dollar at comic cons but if you dig through all the boxes you might get lucky and snag a good deal because the vendor forgot to keep up with current prices. You should become familiar with key issues and have the covers and issue numbers memorized to make quick work of these short and long boxes.

7. Search for Comic Books Online.

Search on eBay, Facebook groups, and other comic book retail websites for specific comics that will add value or round out your collection of a particular title. On eBay, always look up the seller’s ratings and reviews before purchasing, and search for past sales of the same issue to tell whether you are getting a good deal. make sure the seller knows how to package a comic book so it does not get damaged. Condition is everything.

  • Whenever you buy a comic book from a seller on ebay, demand that they package the comic securely with extra cardboard on all sides and let them know you will return it if it arrives damaged to deter them from doing a poor job protecting the comic book.
  • Can’t find past sales history on an item on eBay? Try looking up the comic’s price at ComicsPriceGuide.
how to start collecting comic books

8. Know the Grading System.

Individual comic books are graded for quality to give a score relative to the condition the comic book is in. Graded comic books can get a rating of 0.5 (Poor) means there are pages or part of the comic book’s cover is missing, or that the comic has been heavily damaged by spilled substances, which might be acceptable for Golden Age and Silver Age comics, but rarely every okay for Bronze, Copper, and Modern Age comics. A rating of 10.0 (Gem Mint) means the comic is in perfect condition, with no blemishes. Comic books with a higher quality grade are much more valuable.

However, Modern Age comic books drastically lose value if they are graded a 9.6 or below in most circumstance so be aware that if you are buying a comic book that came out after 1990 it needs to be a 9.8 to make sure it holds its value. To make sure you are getting what you pay for when collecting comic books, there are trusted companies such as CGC and CBCS that will grade and encapsulate comic books as shown below. Just because a comic recently came out and it is on the shelf that does not mean it is 9.8. Inspect it for any damage as 1 spine crease that breaks color can be enough to drop it to a 9.6.

9. Search for Key Issues.

The truly rare key issue comics can be worth hundreds or thousands or even millions of dollars and be the holy grail of a collection. While older comic books like those from the Golden Age are worth more in general, the most valuable ones involve a key event in a popular series. Older key issues are usually a better investments than modern key issues and typically a better investment than modern variants. Our advice is to no go crazy buying variants unless they are a key issue. Here are a few types of key issue events:

  • The first issue of the series (e.g., Giant Size X-Men #1, Iron Man #1, The Amazing Spider-Man (ASM) #1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1).
  • The first appearance of a major character (e.g., The Green Goblin in ASM #14, Spider-Gwen in Edge of Spiderverse #2).
  • The first appearance of a popular weapon/item or new costume (e.g., the symbiote suit in ASM #252).
  • Low print run issues, which are usually toward the end of a series but not always.
  • Low print run variants such as high ratio variants (e.g., 1:1000) or artist/store exclusives.



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10. Flip Modern Key Issues

Every Wednesday is new comic book day (NCBD) so your local shop will most likely be filled with comic book collectors looking for that week’s hottest comic book. Often an issue will come out on Wednesday that has a 1st appearance of a new superhero or something significant happens in that issue and it will start trending among the community. If you can get the issue for cover price then you can flip it on eBay and use that money to buy a Silver or Bronze Age key issue. Flipping can be risky because many sellers do this and supply might outweigh demand. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to collecting comic books and flipping comics for a quick score so make sure to pay attention to demand and price action. Usually if you hold a new hot key issue for to long the price will fall back down to around two to four times the original cover price until some news spikes the price again. The prices of key issues are typically driven by news of a new movie, tv show, or video game related to them so keep an eye on pop culture news.

Hopefully now you have a good grasp on how to start collecting comic books and which comics to buy that increase in value over time.


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