April 6, 2013 10:27 pm

A comic shop owner’s guide to investing in comic books

Vintage Marvel comics are seen for sale at St. Mark's Comics August 31, 2009 in New York City.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

TORONTO – Comics continue to provide a fertile playground for film and television – just look to the break-out television hit The Walking Dead and blockbuster giants like Marvel Comics’ The Avengers and DC Comics’ most recent Batman trilogy as proof of the medium’s ability to transcend its traditional format of panels and speech balloons.

But that doesn’t mean that tried and tested format is dead yet. The ubiquity of tablets and smartphones have given rise to digitally-distributed comics.

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Mainstream adoption of digital comics hasn’t made the old paper-and-staple comics obsolete, either. In fact, it only serves to increase the value of older books, says Jay Bardyla, co-owner of Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton, Ab.

Happy Harbor Comics made headlines last year when it hosted an auction of thousands of vintage comics with a combined estimated worth in the tens of thousands. While sales of the collection are still ongoing, he said that he’s already sold about $12,000 worth of comics on behalf of the private seller.

“When people ask what I should buy, I say, ‘What movies are coming down the pipe in forthcoming years?’ They’re a massive driver to value,” says Bardyla.

He uses The Walking Dead comic book as an example. The first issue was released on Oct.8, 2003, at retail price of $2.95 US. Ten years later, Bardyla says that in great condition, that issue would be worth $800 today – an increase of 27,000 per cent.

The Walking Dead’s success is one in a million, though, cautions Bardyla.

Like any piece of popular culture, it’s hard to tell what will become a pop culture sensation (Twilight, anyone?) versus financial sinkhole. Before deciding on an investment, Bardyla offered these tips:

  • Look for upcoming cross-media tie-ins (movies, television, video games)
  • Invest in quality rather than betting on new, cheaper books (a vintage Spider-Man comic is a pretty sound blue-chip purchase)
  • Before making a purchase, always check auction sites like eBay. A comic book, like any collectible, is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it

© Shaw Media, 2013

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