Great Analysis

The mighty Alex Sortensen has been at it again, the man likes to analyze the market, lucky for us he’s willing to share his findings and his insights. We appreciate your efforts, Alex! OK let’s turn things over to Mr. Sortensen.

Top 100 Comic Book Increases of 2023 and other assorted thoughts.

I wrote most of this in the first two weeks of December 2023, but decided to wait for 2024 so I could update and see if there was anything new.  To make the Top 100 list a comic should generally be worth $1,000 in 9.2 nm-.

I have been watching and reading graphical synopses from videos and websites that deal with sales.  Sales graphs, especially when they are spiking over the last two years, (the Covid-Promise years) represent the top price paid ever out of 8 billion people on the planet.  There are fewer comic collectors than that, but you see my point – these are not values, but sales.  Hopefully the information below can help gain perspective on where trends lie and that, no, comic collecting is not as bad as it may currently seem.

A comic book value, for the purpose of this list, is equivalent to 1/3rd of 2/3rd of the increase in any given year added to the previous year, back to 1975.  The sale spikes in 2021 and 2022 happen on individual comics periodically, but never so consistently to so many comics over a two-year time period.  The re-sale value of a quick flip, which we saw in 2023, is basically the winning bidder selling to the original second place bidder, if they are still interested, who needs to now beat the original third place bidder, if interested. Of course, new bidders may be interested, but there needs to be a reason.  Thus, the conservative values that I use and the almost guaranteed drop in many sales in 2023.

I have broken down increases into various categories based on where the top 100 comics appear.

Highest increases by year:

1952, 1954, 1953: these are the same first three years when I wrote a dissertation about comics for 2019 – these three years account for 45 of the top 100 comics, followed by 1950, 1949, 1951, 1944, 1947, 1946, 1942.

Highest increases by genre:

Romance, Superhero, Humour (mostly teen), Horror-Suspense, War, Crime, Adventure.

Romance is largely due to an awakening genre.  Romance comics that stand out tend to skyrocket as there is limited auction or published sales.

Joker Comics 40 and Comedy Comics 7 (both Humour) make the Top 30 with their bikini fishing covers.

Highest increases by Publisher:

Marvel/Timely, St. John, Star, DC, Novelty, Farrell, Quality, Ace, Archie/MLJ.

Before you think I am crazy with that number one publisher Marvel, I need to state that there are no Bronze Age comics and the only Silver Age comic is the Canadian version of Marvel Tales Annual 1 (rare).  Most of the Marvel comics consist of Romance and Teen Humour aka Millie the Model.  St. John is mostly Matt Baker, Star is L.B. Cole, DC is mostly superhero, with romance and horror thrown in, and Novelty is generally early Blue Bolt (non-horror). 

Marvel’s Teen Humour / Working Girl comics also account for seven of the worst twenty growth comics so this is not a way to make money list.

Highest increases by title:

I included the number of issues in parentheses.  This is indicative of how varied the collecting world is.

Lovers (Marvel) (4), Teen-Age Romances (6), Blue Bolt (3), War Report (2), Joker Comics (4), Exciting War (2), Diary Secrets (2), True-to-Life Romances (2), Plastic Man (Quality) (2), True Love Pictorial (2)

Four Favorites had three comics appear but was much further down the list. 

Highest increases by cover artist with number of covers:

The unknown artist (19) followed by Matt Baker (13), L.B. Cole (13), Vince Colletta (2), Reed Crandall (3).

The number one comic on the list is Blue Bolt Volume 7 #9.  There are two slabbed copies, the 9.2 Edgar Church and the 0.5 poor Okajima copy which just sold for $600.  And this is the lone Sports genre / Bob-Sled cover, of all the top 100.  Okajima copies usually outsell all other pedigrees by multiples.

The next top two are Lovers #49 and #61, please check out these two to see that there is a world of gorgeous and provocative covers yet to be discovered by mainstream collectors, including myself.

Fourth is Diary Secrets #nn.  Matt Baker art, two slabbed copies, led to a 2.0 good copy selling for $9,000 this year. 

The fifth and sixth were War Report 5 and 2.

The youngest comic on the top 100 list is 1970’s Ebon 1, an underground comic featuring an ebon superhero, the first in a lead role of a comic.  Check Ebon 1’s cover.  The only 1960s comic was the aforementioned Canadian Marvel Tales Annual 1. The oldest comics on the list are Famous Funnies 7 (1935) and Funny Picture Stories 2 (1936).

The most valuable comic on the list is All-Negro Comics 1, in 97th place with a 2024 value of $57K in 9.2.  Sub-Mariner Comics 11 comes in at 103rd with a 2024 value of just under $170K in 9.2.

The highest ranking first appearance comic is True Comics 55 with the first appearance of Sad Sack. One other first appearance made the list with Wolverton’s Powerhouse Pepper in Joker Comics 1.  Kitten in Cat-Man Comics V1 #10 was in 105th position.  Are there movies coming out?

The Promise collection:  Recent median resales are in the 60 to 85% range compared to the first sale.  However Plastic Man 16 resold for 3x original, a grade boost to 9.6 from 9.2 helps and this is the only Plastic Man comic book cover that has a female appearance – Jack Cole could draw women real well.  Other Promise re-sales outperforming original auction sales are Detective 108, Superman 57, Marvel Mystery 68, Captain America 5, and Mask Comics 1.  The lowest resale found so far was Detective 126 at 18% of original sale. Of the 215 Promise resales I have tracked 50 were at or above the original sale, while 165 were down.  This is no different than the quick resale prices paid for Edgar Church copies, for instance Flash Comics 6 – $65,725 in 2008, $35,010 in 2010.

I tabulated the total value of the top 6,600 comics on my list in 9.2NM- and for the following years these are the total values: 2020 – $56.3M, 2021 – 67.4M, 2022 – $81.2M, 2023 – $92M and a forecast for 2024 if trends continue of $99M.  2023 went up $10M over 2022 total values.  The top dollar gainers for 2023 were Action 1 – $950K, Detective 27 – $850K, Superman 1 – $700K, Marvel Comics 1 (October) – $275K, Flash Comics 1 – $215K, Detective 33 – $190K, Fantastic Four 1 – $175K, Marvel Comics 1 (November) – $130K, Batman 1 – $120K, Whiz 2 – $115K and Suspense Comics 3 – $115K.  These eleven comics make up 36% of the yearly increase.  The largest increase for a comic outside the top 100 most valuable was Diary Secrets #nn – $26K.

The largest decliners were Action 7, 13 and Detective 38 losing $16K to $26K.  The largest percentage decline was Gay Comics 32 down 25%.

There are other things at recent play in the comic collecting world but we will see how these play out.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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Chris Meli
Chris Meli
5 months ago

Lots of good work Alex, and jibes with my more general view that GA is where the action is and where to continue to focus. Romance has a lot farther to run if PCH is any indication. I think the Humor is arguably the same genre above, as generally the jumps are coming in GGA covers. I think non-GGA Humor (Big Chief Wahoo, etc.) is going to stay real dead. Conversely, it is hard to argue with PCH/GGA combos.

I found it interesting that in both 2019 and now you find the big appreciation in 1952-54, the years I focus on. I guess people are catching on. I would urge people to look at 55-56 as well – even if code, the early code period is very tough, and I think a lot of buyer give up when they see the code stamp. Look at these before those people figure out their error. This period is one reason I was talking up Batman #100 and Superman #100 in an earlier comment.

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