Comic book collecting can be a great and rewarding, though sometimes expensive, hobby. Some people just like to pick them up, read them simply for the love of the stories, and toss them in a box or pass them on to others, with no regard for condition or any potential monetary value. Many others are collectors, preserving their books for future resale. Or maybe they just don't like damaging their property. Whatever the reasons, most comic book readers tend to fall somewhere between those extremes. What follows is a brief overview on what to look for when collecting comics.
This is something that many collectors, both old and new to the collecting game, want to know. There is a great misconception about the value of comic books, and it partially stems from the idea that anything with "#1" on it is a collector's item. This is not entirely true. While some first issues can be worth money, it's really the rarity of a book that can jack up a price. If you print 2 million copies of a comic, it's going to be fairly easy to come by. But what happens when there are only 100,000 copies or less, and that book surprises everyone by becoming a runaway hit? The demand will outweigh the supply, and the issues in circulation spike in price. Remember this above all: a comic book is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
Condition is a huge factor in establishing a comic books value. There are eight general grades given to a comic book to judge its condition: mint, near-mint, very fine, fine, very good, good, fair and poor. A truly "mint" comic is very difficult to come by; most comics in good shape are classified as near-mint or very fine. There are further breakdowns for condition as well, such as VF+ (very fine plus) or F- (fine minus), and there are even numerical values assigned to comics, if you're using the CGC (Certified Guaranty Company) grading system. A typical near-mint comic is a 9.2 on that scale.
A near-mint book has a firm, glossy and bright cover. Its pages are bright, white and crisp, and the staples are centered properly and free of rust. There are almost no markings or dings of any kind on the cover; only very small ones are permitted for this grade. The further you go down the scale, the worse the condition of the book. For example, a book that is good, fair or poor is one that has been pretty beaten up over the years. The colors have faded, the cover is torn or missing pieces (or may not even be there at all), and the pages are yellowed. It might even have some writing on it.
You'll need a few key items to store your books and keep them in the best possible condition. First of all, you need bags and boards. Comic bags come in several sizes, such as Golden Age, Silver Age and Current, and the backboards also come in matching sizes. Boards must be acid-free to preserve the book, and bags are made from polypropylene. Ultra-Pro is the industry standard brand for these supplies. You will also need somewhere to store your books, and a comic book box is just the thing. These boxes are made out of heavy cardboard and are perfectly sized to hold your comics. They come in several lengths, but the 25-inch (roughly) boxes (longboxes) are most common. You can also get plastic dividers to place between the different comic series in your boxes, and for the hardcore, you can store your books in Mylar bags.
There are several programs available that can help you keep track of your comic collection and its value. Comic book collecting software such as ComicBase or Comic Collector can organize your comic books by title, price, creator, year, publisher and much more. These programs can calculate how much your entire collection is worth, and they can take the condition of your books into account. They can also download information and cover images about the comics you input, and can even track storylines. If your comic book collecting involves reading many different series or picking up a lot of crossovers, then software like this is invaluable.