The most valuable comic books share one thing in common: they’re the first of something. They can be the first introduction to a character you love, like Batman. Or the first issue of a new series. However, modern editions have the potential to become just as important as those from the Golden Age. In this list, we’re going to look at some of the most sought-after issues of Western comic books from the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Copper Age, and Modern Age.
Golden Age Comic Books: Action Comics #1, 1938
The Golden Age of comics took place between 1938 and 1956. Many iconic characters were introduced during this time; Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman, among others. Action Comics #1, published in 1938, tells the origin and is also the first appearance of Superman.
It has the honor of being the most expensive comic ever sold. In 2014, an eBay auction for a pristine copy of the original 1938 printed version sold for a whopping $3,207,752. The Certified Guarantee Company (CGC) is a well-respected 3rd party comic-book rating and verification service with a number system to rate the quality of vintage comics. They gave the sold copy a 9.0 rating on a 10-point scale, making it the highest score that an original Action Comics #1 issue has ever received.
If you were around in 1938, you could buy the issue of the shelf for just 10¢. According to eBay, there are only around 50 unrestored copies of it left, making it as rare as a picture of Batman smiling.
Silver Age Comics: Amazing Fantasy #15, 1962
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This 1962 publication came during the Silver Age, the period from 1956-1970, during which comics became mainstream in America. Amazing Fantasy issue #15 takes the honor of introducing one of today’s most popular characters: Spiderman.
To this day, its highest sale value has been $1,100,100. Similar to the original Action Comics, the issue was only worth 12¢ during its original release. In 2011, a private collector bought this edition in near-perfect condition for the million-dollar price tag. Prior to that, the highest result was $250,000.
Luckily, you can still snag another crisp copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 as of 2019. John Dolmayan, the owner of the Torpedo Comics shop, had a CGC 9.4-rated copy of it on sale for the same $1 million price tag in this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Bronze Age Comic Books: Incredible Hulk #181, 1974
The Bronze Age (1970 to 1986) brought a return of darker plot elements and storylines more related to relevant social issues. Wolverine is typical of the many tough antiheroes that emerged in American popular culture after the Vietnam War. The Incredible Hulk #181 was the issue that introduced Marvel’s first Canadian icon: Wolverine, and its current record sale has been listed at $150,000.
Although this price isn’t as high as its counterparts did from ages before, many comic enthusiasts consider this one of the most important issues to come out of the Bronze Age of comics. This Age is characterized by its focus on real-world issues and themes such as poverty and drug use. Wolverine fits into this mold a little bit as a heavy drinker, although his real struggles in the story are internal.
However, Wolverine, who was born in Alberta, Canada, was created by Marvel Editor Roy Thomas specifically to break into the Canadian market. Artist John Romita Sr. helped him create Wolverine by drawing him out. The character was given a teaser introduction in the #180 issue. Before his true welcome to the world came in the next edition.
The $150,000 copy was sold through comiclink.com and got a near-perfect rating of 9.9 by CGC.
Modern Age Comics: Walking Dead #1, 2003
The Modern Age of Comic Books is generally considered to have begun in the mid-1980s and continues through the present day. The comics brought much more serious content, and of these, the first publication of the famous The Walking Dead series stands out. In 2012, a CGC 9.9-rated edition of the original 2003 copy sold for $10,000.
This series is one that many fans have watched come to its life and end. After 16 years of working on the story, writer Robert Kirkman has finished the 193rd and last issue of the popular comic series. Yet The Walking Dead has enjoyed an extremely prolific audience and the wide universe.
The Walking Dead has gotten several spinoffs, video games, and even board games. AMC’s website offers 6 short web series, each based on other perspectives of the zombie outbreak. One of them is The Walking Dead: Flight 462, which tells the story of passengers onboard a commercial plane during the first virus outbreak.
One day it will be worth just as much as the Superman comics judging by its current popularity. Its 100th issue alone sold 375,000 copies on its first day of release, making it the best-selling comic book issue of the 21st century.
Most Recent Comic Books: Edge of the Spider-Verse #2, 2014
At a record sale of $3,500, this cover is the newest comic to make the top 25 most valuable comics of the Modern Age, this issue portrays an alternative universe where one of Spiderman’s famous love interests, Gwen Stacey, is bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker.
Gwen Stacey was first featured in the 1965 edition of The Amazing Spiderman # 31. In the original storyline, she dies during a battle between Spiderman and the Green Goblin. Her death is noted as one of the most important events in Peter’s character development. Many fans argue that there’s evidence to show that Gwen was Spiderman’s one true love, more so than Mary Jane.
This alternative, tough version of her comes from Edge of the Spider-Verse, the 2014 online comic series by Marvel. The series is about alternate universes where different characters become Spiderman. This idea was adapted into the 2018 film, Into the SpiderVerse, which features several of these other SpiderMen. They include other figures named Miles Morales, Spider Noir, Spider-Ham (a pig bit by the spider), and of course, Gwen Stacey. The film did very well and won an Oscar in 2019 for Best Animated Feature.
The next time a new Marvel or DC character makes the newsstands, it may worth grabbing a copy, if only to see what it’ll be worth in 10 years. You may also enjoy reading: How Did Pop Art Get Its Name? and What is Pulp Fiction? (More than Just a Movie).