Comic Book Investment Strategy: Silver Age or Bronze Age?

Comic Book Investment Strategy: Silver Age or Bronze Age?

Investing in comic books can yield powerful returns depending on your budget. Compare Silver Age and Bronze Age comic books in this guide.

Comic Book Investment Strategy: Silver Age or Bronze Age?
John Boitnott

Updated Sep 29, 2022

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Investing isn't just stocks or real estate, but also includes alternative assets and pop culture treasures like baseball cards or comic book investments. Investing in Wolverine, Venom, or The Avengers may seem quite appealing if you're already a fan of superheroes.

Knowing what makes a comic book valuable is essential when trying to invest. Buying comics before 1985 is your best bet.

When comic book investing, it's critical to understand the market and what makes a good investment. The value of superhero comics—or any collectibles—is highly subjective, and investing can be risky. That's why it's important to be familiar with comic book ages and know which comic book investments to make.

What are the comic book ages?

Comic book investors typically classify them into four distinct ages based on publication date. Each period has a different feel and tone. Understanding these ages is critical for determining value if you want to sell your comic books.

Lately, Golden Age investment-grade comics have matured and are wildly expensive.  The modern age of comics (from 2000 to today) has had a slower rise in value and has an over-saturated supply. Experts consider Silver and Bronze age comics the sweet spot for investment-grade comic book collectors.

Let's break down the three most popular ages:

The Golden age of comic books

Golden Age comics refer to vintage superhero comics printed from 1938 to 1956. During this time, great comics started becoming popular.

This era developed and defined the superhero archetype and debuted popular DC Comics characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as well as Captain America. The comic book business has boomed as rare comic book series like Action Comics entered the limelight. The first generation of authors, artists, and editors established the medium's artistic language and creative traditions.

The Silver Age of comic books

The Silver Age marked aesthetic progress over older comic books and financial success in mainstream American comic books, particularly those incorporating the superhero archetype. The Silver Age of comic books spanning 1956 to 1970 marked the emergence of new characters from outside the DC Comics universe.

What's notable about the Silver Age is that sales faltered due to controversy and finger-pointing, alleging a relationship between adolescent violence and comic book reading. Superheroes made a comeback during the Silver Age through the arrival of Marvel Comics and characters such as the X-Men and Spider-man, along with a rise in popularity of Golden Age greats like Superman. Those new (or freshly redesigned) superheroes are still widely popular today.

In contrast to the generally favorable heroes of the Golden Age, the Silver Age heroes were noticeably flawed. Many readers found the Silver Age superheroes more accessible because, in addition to their superpowers, they had human frailties and were frequently troubled by unsolved issues from their past. Many Silver Age heroes also had some connection to space and other scientific disciplines.

Bronze age of comic books

The Bronze Age is a time in the history of American superhero comic books that lasted from around 1970 to 1985. It comes after the Silver Age and before the Copper Age of comic books.

The Bronze Age maintained many of the Silver Age's norms, marked by classic superhero titles being the industry's backbone and the rapid growth of Marvel Comics' popularity. However, a return to darker comic book stories with themes exploring real social issues, such as racism, began to emerge, foreshadowing the later Modern Age of comic books.

Comic books from the bronze age can be suitable investments, although not nearly as much as superhero comics from previous eras. If you're lucky, some Bronze Age comic books could fetch six figures, but selling high-grade comic books from this era is unlikely to get you more than $10,000.

Investing in Silver Age vs. Bronze Age comic books

Knowing what makes a comic book valuable is essential when trying to invest. Buying comics from before 1985 is your best bet. Although newer comics may become more valuable over time, this is far riskier because it's unlikely to happen. Individual pages and classic cover artwork may also be profitable additions to your collection.

When evaluating comics, consider the following:

  • First issues and the first appearances of popular comic book heroes are usually more coveted and profitable. Issues with a new writer, artist, or a major story arc may be valuable.
  • Comics by well-known artists or writers are more likely to appreciate. For instance, Neil Gaiman's popularity has enhanced the value of his Sandman comics, which are in high demand (partly due to a recent Netflix show based on the work).
  • Collectors treasure older, scarcer titles, mainly high-grade copies. Modern comics are more likely to be maintained, making them more common and less valuable.
  • Comic book grading is essential for verifying condition and determining value. CGC and CBCS are two comic book grading authorities that assess them on a 10-point scale.
  • GoCollect.com is a pricing guide for comic books that aggregates sales data that can help you determine a comic book's value.

Titles featuring famous superhero stories tend to be better investments, but not always. Invest in very fine, near-mint, or mint condition comic books to get the best returns.

Titles featuring famous superhero stories tend to be better investments, but not always. Invest in very fine, near-mint, or mint condition comic books to get the best returns.

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Graph comparing Swagglehause Silver Age 100 and Bronze Age 100 comic book indices from Jan. 2018 to Aug. 2022.

Source: youtube.com/c/Swagglehaus

Should you invest in Silver or Bronze Age comic books?

The answer to this question mainly depends on your budget. Silver or bronze-age comics will typically outpace the S&P 500 in value. However, with greater investment comes greater reward. Silver age titles outperform the Bronze age almost every time, as illustrated by the chart comparing indices tracking the top 100 comics from each era.

You’ll do fine with bronze-era comics if you have a leaner budget. Some bronze-era comics are out there, netting six figures if you're lucky. For example, Incredible Hulk #181 (published November 1974) sold for as much as $150,000 because it's the first appearance of Wolverine.

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Chart of Incredible Hulk #181 trading on Public.com.

However, without a budget as a concern and strictly looking at what is the better overall asset, Silver Age is the way to go.

Silver-age comic books are generally more valuable and less risky than bronze-age comic books. They’re a better investment because they tend to feature more first appearances of key characters and are more scarce.

One benefit of Silver Age investing is that even if you do not have the budget for high-value comics, you can buy some lower-grade comics and, if scarce enough, still net a hefty return. For example, Action Comics #1. A CGC 6.0, which is considered next to worthless to most collectors, sold for a whopping $3,180,000 at auction in January 2022.

Despite all of this, Bronze Age has one major benefit: Paper quality. Newer comics are made with higher-grade paper, allowing them to age better without deteriorating. However, this can also be a drawback, as more comics will survive longer, and higher supply means less asset appreciation overall.

Silver Age is considered the stronger investment for those looking to make money with comic books. Even if you do not have a million-dollar investing budget, you can still net a prized, low-grade Avengers #1 for under $3,000. As another example, Marvel Spotlight #2 featured the first appearance of Werewolf by Night, Jack Russell, and Lissa Russell. Five years ago, about $20 to $50 would've been the price of a lower to mid-grade issue. Today, that same comic sells for $350 to 400 as a CGC-2 and up to double for a CGC grade of 5 to 7.

A comic book is only as valuable as the price someone’s willing to pay for it.

How to invest in the comic book market

During the 2008 recession, the notion of investing in comic books gained traction. People began to develop innovative methods to invest and generate money in the face of volatile stock and real estate markets and banks' next-to-nothing interest rates.

Many continue to make successful comic book investments, but it's not as simple as clicking "add to cart" and hoping for the best. It's as much an emotional investment as a financial one. You have to be like a kid in school that researches how to make a profit on what's still considered a child's hobby.

1. Get educated

Consult experts and comic book store employees. Check eBay and ComicConnect auctions to see what's selling. Study patterns, such as a character's popularity in a new movie or series.

Know your heroes. Comic books aren't just about Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. Diversifying your expertise can make you a more thoughtful investor. Catman, Black Terror, The Destroyer, and Phantom Lady remain popular despite being out of print.

2. Set a budget

Next, choose your budget. The market may accommodate investors with anywhere from $10 to several million dollars.

Determine how many comics you buy yearly and how long you keep them. You can make a 'want list' of comics and grades. Overstreet Price Guide, gpanalysis.com, and gocollect.com can help you find current market prices.

One tip is to reserve 10% of your budget for something that strikes your attention.

3. Buy, but do your homework

Beyond comic events, your best bet is dealer and auction sites.

ComicConnect runs four auctions a year, offering antique comics, original art, and other treasures. Many sites sell comics, namely eBay, but it's crucial to discover trusted providers since returns and accurate grading are vital. Auction platforms like Goldin are a great place to buy investment-grade comic books since they have high standards and offer mandatory shipping insurance.

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Goldin

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If you're considering selling comics, be prepared to address inquiries from seasoned collectors.

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