Year after year auction sales of vintage comic books have continued to climb, hitting a record number of $79 Million in 2019 reported by Heritage Auctions.
The Comics and Comic Art Department at Heritage has been seeing a steady climb in comic sales since its inception 18 years ago:
"Our bidder base of collectors, both seasoned and new, has been expanding at a rate beyond our most optimistic expectations," Heritage Auctions Comics Consignment Director Aaron White said. "Comic books, comic art and related memorabilia have never been more popular. Characters originally popularized by Marvel, DC and other publishers have become the basis of some of today’s most popular streaming shows, movies, toys and games, enjoying an unprecedented international appeal among all age groups and demographics, especially Millennials and younger.
There has never been a better time to collect comics. Last years’ comic auction sales at Heritage reached a record $79,332,770, with sell-through rates exceeding 99% as measured both by value and by number of lots. That’s a jump of more than 35% above the department's previous record of $58,544,323, set in 2018.
The Egyptian Queen by Frank Frazetta
The biggest seller was from the Eerie comic collection form 1969, made famous by iconic publisher Jim Warren of Warren Publishing. Known for their killer storylines and best-in-the-biz artwork, issue #23 features the Egyptian Queen, rendered by well-known artist, Frank Frazetta (February 9, 1928 to May 10, 2010). Comics by Frazetta are highly sought-after and extremely valuable.
Frazetta is an American artist famous for his Sci-Fi and fantasy creations. He started working in the comic business in 1944 at the young age of 16 and produced an impressive portfolio of masterpieces over the course of his career, earning himself a massive fan following. You can find his artwork on the covers of comics, paperbacks, vinyl record covers, and posters. His paintings and cover art stand out in their artistic impression and depth of tone and colour.
In 2018, another fantastic Frazetta cover, Death Dealer 6, smashed the world record for any piece of American published comic book art when it sold for $1,792,500. Last year at Comics & Comic Art Auction in Chicago, Frazetta’s Egyptian Queen sold for three times the previous price record, reaching a final auction value of $5,400,000.
Frank Frazetta Creepy #17 Cover Painting Original Art
It wasn’t the only Frazetta comic cover to find its way to the auction block last year. Frank Frazetta Creepy #17 Cover Painting Original Art (Warren, 1967) realized $264,000. The painting depicts The Executioner stands in readiness to deliver the final blow and give the reader a collection of "Haunted Fear and Sheer Terror Illustrated" tales. The story for this cover was "Heritage of Horror," written by Archie Goodwin.
Simon & Kirby Superheroes
Another highly collectible comic book from one of the most famous Captain America collections created by the equally famous duo, Simon & Kirby, this Captain America Comics #1 San Francisco Pedigree (Timely, 1941) CGC NM 9.4 fetched $915,000 at auction. It is revered as "Simon & Kirby's most classic creation; a patriotic paragon, a trend setter" of its time, depicting a classic heroic figure that went on to unprecedented success to become the Holy Grail of the superhero business.
Artwork by Jack Kirby is always highly sought-after in the comic book world. Kirby brought to life the character of Marvel’s Doctor Doom in 1962 in his original splash page for the Fantastic Four Annual #2. This particular piece of cover art sold for $288,000. His cover work of The Red Skull (#103) is one of the most iconic from the Captain America series. It also sold for $288,000.
Neal Adams The Joker Original Art #251
Other highlights include original artwork from comic book artist, Neal Adams, known for his modern portrayals of DC Comics Batman and The Joker. The #251 cover features The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973), marking the crazy villain’s return from a four-year hiatus in a "more lethal than laughable Joker." Adams worked with writer Denny O’Neil to create the unforgettable story, The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge! The Neal Adams cover sold for $600,000.
There’s never been a better time to start collecting comic books
Overall, the comic book auctions realized a total of $15,121,405, breaking last year’s record of $12,121,036. This heightened interest in the market points to an interesting new development in the world of collecting. In November and December, auction sales for comics, comic art, and animation art reached an astounding $14,744,367 and $2,965,596, respectively.
Vintage Video Games Are Skyrocketing
White believes that these extraordinary sales records point to a growing number of interested collectors, and is opening doors for similar artistic endeavours to be recognized. Video games, for example, are enjoying a huge surge in popularity at the moment. What started out last year as a $75,000 sale of a sealed copy of the 2019 video game, Mega Man (Dr. Wright, First Release), has ballooned into what some experts believe is market distortion and unsustainable hype.
Sealed video games from early Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) are the hottest selling items among collectors. After months of collecting video games, one collector flipped his $1,500 video purchase for $12,000, and spent another $50,000 amassing as many sealed NES video games as he could find.
One rare copy of a Super Mario Bros game fetched $100,000 and private sales are pushing the number ever higher. Rare NES games like the gold copies of Nintendo World Championships, only 26 in existence, are predicted to sell privately in the $100,000 mark.
However, experts warn not to buy just any old NES game. Do your research before you buy. This kind of market spike might not last long and you could find yourself out of pocket.