And then there are the collectors. It's hard to get exact figures; there's no Nasdaq of vintage comics, and many large sales come from private collections. But Jeff Smith, who was a cataloger with Heritage Comics, says the company has sold $30 million to $40 million worth over the past two years, including a record-setting $5.2 million auction involving the collection of actor Nicolas Cage. At that auction, one fan/investor shelled out $125,000 for an All-Star Comics #3, which chronicled the first appearance of the Justice Society of America.
Stephen Fishler of New York City-based Metropolis Collectibles says the used-comics market could be as large as $100 million a year. According to Fishler, many investors prefer comics, "a hard asset," to the vagaries of the stock market. Metropolis has sold numerous copies of Action Comics #1, Superman's 1938 debut, for prices ranging from $125,000 to $250,000, depending on condition. A 1963 Spider-Man #1 in "horrible" condition could fetch $300, says Fishler, while a near-mint copy couldn't be touched for less than $75,000.