I forgot to mention the con where I saw a table with a stack of Police Academy #1s being given away for free.

§ April 3rd, 2024 § Filed under collecting § 13 Comments

EVERYONE, HOLD EVERYTHING: I’ll get back to movie comics next time, but first I must address this inquiry from Matthew Murray:

“…Ignoring condition, what is the ‘least valuable’ comic? Or, since that question is more or less unanswerable, what would the criteria be that you could use to narrow down this search?”

It’s very hard to point to a specific comic as being “least valuable,” because as Thom H. says further down in the comments

“…Someone somewhere will pay money for any first issue.”

And if I may amend that, someone out there could pay money for any comic so long as there’s someone out there filling holes in a want list. Even Thom’s example of Brigade #9, just some random issue in a middle of a run…even that might be picked up by a fan who needs it. You never know. Granted, probably not very often, maybe one time a year a fella going through a back issue bin might pull a bagged and boarded copy out and declare “dear God in Heaven, at last, it’s Brigade #9! My collection is complete…COMPLEEEEETE!”

Basically, you have the (forgive me for using this term) “key” comics, the ones with current collectors’ value, sought after by fans and speculators, the often command premium prices. They regularly sell and trade in the marketplace. Things like first appearances, (some) first issues, Big Event issues…you know what “key” means, you don’t need me to explain.

Then you have the stuff that isn’t necessarily “key” but will regularly attract sales. Like pretty much any issue of Batman or Detective or Amazing Spider-Man or Sgt. Rock, or appearances of certain villains, or stuff with cool covers, or produced by certain creators, or sometimes just first issues in general. I mean, whatever reason that would attract a reader to pick up a comic outside of pure “hotness” of the issue. Not necessarily expensive…could be pricey, might not be, but are in higher demand than your average comic. Speaking of which…

…there are the “box-fillers,” just issues not in any particular demand, just there to fill out runs and be there just in case someone pops in looking for Sun Devils #2 and lo and behold, here you have it! Not comics that have any sort of immediate turnover, maybe you’ll only ever sell the one in your lifetime, but they’re there in case anyone needs ’em. A lot of recent comics come to mind, especially on series that ended quickly and were replaced right away by a relaunched version of the same title. Sometimes not much separates these from…

…the bargain bin comics, stuff which you’ll be happy to get anything for, and enough people want cheap comics that they’ll likely sell more quickly there than they ever will in the regular back issue stock. Frankly, I should probably put that Sun Devils #2 in there. Anyway, they’re usually cheap, and possibly cheaper if you buy in bulk. My boxes start at $1 each, or 15 for $10, and so on, all the way to $50 for 100. This is kind of the “last stop” for comics in the shop, and I try to put things in there that are overstock, or maybe damaged but readable, or things that were dumped on me in collections.

This isn’t necessarily as cut and dried as all that. Comics can shift between these categories all the time. I remember after the 1989 Batman movie came out, we started fishing around in the cheap boxes at my previous place of employment, looking for all the copies of the once-moribund-now (then)-hot Joker #1 (1975). Or once hot comics getting relegated to the bargain bins (sorry, Pitt).

And then there are the comics that price out at even cheaper-than-bargain-bin prices, stuff that maybe grade as a, I don’t know, Good Plus and costs $0.65, but it’s a Name Book That’s In Demand (like say a What If) and will sell much faster in the regular bins than mixed in with the chaff.

I’m sure this quick list doesn’t cover every nuance and possibility, but it should get across the idea that nearly every comic (assuming sellable condition) has some value, at least to someone. Even vastly overprinted comics like Valiant’s Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1 has some demand now. Black and white boom comics that were cranked out by the truckload, mostly moldering in backrooms or in forgotten bins, now see some demand from folks interested in that particular period of the industry.

The trick is learning when a comic moves from one “level” to another. Usually that’s decided when it’s time to throw stuff in the dollar box, and sometimes it’s keeping tabs on the market when a forgotten $3 book in the bins suddenly shoots up to $35 because it features the elbow of a background character who might appear in a forthcoming movie.

I believe someone mentioned Woody Woodpecker comics. Well, believe it or not, I had a couple of different people regularly buying those from me a while back. The Warner Brothers comics, like Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, are traditionally very slow sellers, but I have a recurring customer who pops in every few months to grab one or two. Back at the old job, I had a customer in Japan who’d regularly mail order stacks of Tom and Jerry from us. So you never really know.

Chick Tracts were also mentioned, and I’m not going to link them here because more often than not the supposed “loving” “religious” messages are reprehensible, but you can read them in full on the official site. And everything else aside, a handful of those actually have some excellent cartooning, a detailed grotesqueness that wouldn’t be out of place in MAD or any other EC Comic, for that matter. And while this is a very close candidate for “least valuable” comic, given they are often found “distributed” in public areas for potential converts to pick up for free. They are printed in large numbers, easily thrown out without much thought, and mostly quickly forgotten. That said, there are a number of collectors who acquire these out of ironic interest.

The comic I want to say is the least valuable, mostly due to personal experience I had at a convention decades ago, involves the comic pictured at the top of this site. Shadow of the Groundhog, released in 1986 during the Black and White Book, was one of those titles cranked out to get a little love following the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was a lot of “investing” and “speculating” and other…shenanigans going on in the industry at the time, and long story short, I saw some poor bastard at a comic con with a full long box of them. I should’ve picked one up, because now I do want one in my collection, an example of what some dubbed “the worst comic book ever.”

But I look online now? $5, $10, a copy? That’s…well, $5 isn’t too much, but I didn’t check the shipping cost which is probably stupidly high. So there’s either demand, or some retailers think there is demand, driving those prices. Which means this person with the long bx full of ’em is rich, rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Anyhow, I’ll get one someday.

So, I’m sorry, I wish I had an ultimate answer to this question of “which comic is least valuable,” just so I could say, “it’s this one, Purgatori: Goddess Rising #2:

…but it seems there’s even some measure of demand, even for this.

13 Responses to “I forgot to mention the con where I saw a table with a stack of Police Academy #1s being given away for free.”

  • Oliver says:

    Wow, never heard of ‘Shadow of the Groundhog’! I know that around the same time, Eclipse put out ‘Guerrilla Groundhog’, which only lasted 2 issues. A shame, as it had some nice ‘toony action and wasn’t slavishly following the Turtles template.

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    And let us not forget the worst comic that I ever picked up because I saw it discussed on PR, the legendary THE QUADRO GANG.

    I was hoping it would be something like the classic JACKY’S DIARY, but I was wrong. Oh my, was I wrong.

  • Chris V says:

    Yes, I can’t say there is a correct answer for this type of question. It depends on the price at which each particular comic store is willing to sell each particular comic.
    I have picked up some comics as cheap as 12 cents during a half off sale where the store owner decided to clear out his quarter boxes during a 50% off everything (excluding newly released comics) sale. It doesn’t mean the books I picked up for 12 cents were valued at that price, as another store might have been trying to sell some of those particular issues at $3.00 (or whatever).

    I remember after the speculator boom of the early-‘90s imploded, one of the local comic stores was trying to unload their overstock of once “hot” comics in quarter boxes. I found a lot of books to fill in my collection for a quarter. He had nearly full runs (up to that point) of X-Force. I found almost the entire J.M. DeMatteis run of Dr. Fate in there (which, as far as writing quality was worth far more than a quarter). The post-John Byrne issues of Alpha Flight from the 1980s were there.
    Of course, none of those books’ values had dropped to being 25 cents. It was simply his supply was taking up too much space for the current market (multiple left over issues of X-Force), or he was simply making room in his boxes for the comics collectors were still looking for now that every #1 issue was no longer a key item.

    I see a copy of Shadow of the Groundhog is priced at $5.10 on a certain internet comic seller’s site.
    Police Academy #1 is currently out of stock there, which tends to mean that copies are getting scarce at this time. So, that may be a “hot comic” in 2024’s market. Maybe.

  • Matthew Murray says:

    Thanks for the answer!

    I think that any “legendarily bad” comic also gets an aspect of appeal to some people. I mean, people will have collections of pretty much anything.

    For a while I was collecting comics that featured librarians and picked up some pretty bad stuff and I’ve occasionally debated picking up any dollar bin comic that came with a free trading card (but have, thankfully, so far avoided doing this).

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    This doesn’t answer the original question but that final image reminds me that porn-posed demon woman covers and presumably the comics inside are probably comics’ most worthless genre. I guess they are meaningful to somebody and they must make money for the creators and publishers, but just to see those images kinda rips the soul out of me, and I’m grateful neither of my LCS’s carries that kind of book, at least not on display.

  • chasdom says:

    Shadow of the Groundhog #1 [1st – prototype Shadow the Hedgehog] SONIC SEGA *HOT* $999.99

    Instant sale!

  • Daniel T says:

    I’d like to give this some decent thought at some point, but my top of the head answer for least valuable comic would be a random issue of one of the Star Comics titles.

    Which means there’s probably a dedicated group of Starheads out there buying copies whenever they get the chance.

  • Back in the ’90s, I wrote a black-and-white one-shot called GLORIANNA, which was published through a small indy imprint. Back in the days before print-on-demand or Kickstarter, the minimum number of copies we could have printed was 2000. We only sold 300 through Diamond. The artist and I split the remaining stock. I think he gave away most of his copies at conventions, and I unloaded mine through an auction house (along with a lot of other junk) when I moved house.

    Years later, the publisher told me he’d been contacted by someone who was looking for copies of that issue. Apparently, they’d been the one to buy my stash at auction, and were looking for more, for what reason I can’t even guess. So yes, even the most obscure, unloved comic means something to somebody.

  • Oliver says:

    “So yes, even the most obscure, unloved comic means something to somebody.”

    That is indeed true. And it means there’s hope for my own comic yet! ;-)

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Daniel T–For the Warren Kremer art? Yes, absolutely (some) Star Comics are worth it! ;-)

  • Thom H. says:

    I’ve felt the same completionist’s joy as that Brigade #9 buyer, so I get it. I suppose this is largely a game of radical empathy where you have to work to really understand why someone would buy a comic that you have no interest in whatsoever.

    Along those lines, I can second the notion that those Dell/Gold Key funny animal books are still collectible. At the last comic book store I worked at, there was a small but quite dedicated fanbase for those comics. We never discounted them.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Chick Tracts”

    I know the D&D one is kind of iconic, but the ones I’ve found have all been trash. Neither imaginative nor interesting. One or two had good art, the rest, not so much.

    “I found almost the entire J.M. DeMatteis run of Dr. Fate in there (which, as far as writing quality was worth far more than a quarter).”

    Agreed! that was an underrated title.

    “The post-John Byrne issues of Alpha Flight”

    I rather enjoy the Bill Mantlo era.

    “Dell/Gold Key funny animal books”

    I imagine it’s hard to find those in top condition, as they were mostly read by little kids, back when they were new.

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    “Chick Tracts” hold a certain appeal if one can enjoy the wackiness of conspiratorial and religious paranoid thinking.

    It’s like Goofus and Galant on meth.

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