Thanks to Superman, comic books hot items Andrew Leckey

Andrew Leckey

June 18, 1993|By Tribune Media Services

Comic book collectors won't be making a big killing from the death of Superman.

Last November's Superman No. 75, in which the Man of Steel was supposedly bumped off by the underground creature Doomsday, had a huge press run in the millions.

So, while the black poly-bagged collector edition now sells for $15 or more compared with the original $2.50 cover price, that plentiful issue's value could soon be settling back down to earth again, some experts believe. The subsequent "resurrection" issue No. 500, in white poly-bag, was similarly run in massive quantities.

On the other hand, the visibility that the dramatic events involving Superman brought to the comic book collectible market is having major impact. Everybody wants to get into collecting.

"Comic books are the hottest collectible, with prices skyrocketing on many old and new comics," said Robert Overstreet, publisher of the Overstreet "Comic Book Price Guide" (Avon, $15) and the monthly Overstreet's "Comic Book Marketplace."

"While you don't have the problem of counterfeits as you do in coins, antiques and art, in the case of the new comics the risk is high because prices that go up quickly can come down quickly."

Most valuable comic of all is the 1939 Detective Comics No. 27, which introduced Batman. It's valued at $85,000, an increase of 42 percent from a year ago. The 1938 Action Comics No. 1, introducing Superman, lists for $75,000, which is 50 percent higher than a year ago.

"The comic book collectible market continues to show support and has survived every recession in America since its inception in the early 1960s," said Jerry Weist, author of "Original Comic Art" (Avon Books, $15), a price guide to comic art, and a consultant to Sotheby's auction house. "However, I believe the real rarity and value will continue to be in the original comic art, and that's an emphasis in our auctions."

The so-called "silver age" of comics, beginning in the 1950s and carrying through the 1960s and 1970s, is hot as baby boomers draw on childhood memories. The 1963 Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 commands $6,800 and is expected to appreciate further.

"The death of Superman and his resurrection have put the collecting business in a tizzy because it's brought in many new mainstream consumers," said Gary Colabuono, owner of Moondog's, a collector shop in Elk Grove Village, Ill. "These new consumers look at the comic art form as a collectible, not just entertainment."

Looking through the Overstreet guide, the value of a wide variety comic books that feature the same characters can range from thousands of dollars to a very few dollars, depending on significance of the story line and how rare the issue is.

While many comics do appreciate in value, the vast majority are worth little. Best bet for value in a comic book issue is if a character is introduced, undergoes a dramatic change or dies. A first issue can also be important. Condition of a comic book when you try to sell it is crucial, for even a classic comic valued at hundreds of dollars is worth little if torn or wrinkled.

"Look for beautiful condition, with near-mint or mint always pulling top dollar," advised Maggie Thompson, co-editor of the weekly "Comics Buyer's Guide." "I'm talking about the same quality you'd find if you were buying the original book off the newsstand."

"Comic Buyer's Guide" predicts some comics likely to rise in value are Batman No. 500; Catwoman No. 1; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; and Mr. T and the T-Force.

New issues of Image Comics, a company formed by former Marvel Comics artists, are expected to appreciate, according to Overstreet. An example is Youngblood Strike Force, which features two separate cover designs on back and front.

Comics can be bought through dealers, publications, conventions and auctions. "Conventions are the best way to buy if you're serious, because inventory is enormous," said Cory Smith, a collector from Schaumburg, Ill., who owns 10,000 comic books valued at $65,000. "The best way to sell is directly to a collector."

Overstreet's "Comic Book Marketplace," P.O. Box 2610, Cleveland, Tenn. 37320, has a 10-issue subscription rate of $24.95. "Comics Buyer's Guide," Krause Publications, 700 E. State St., Iola, Wis. 54990, is $34.95 for 52 issues.

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