Why are Golden Age and Silver Age comics more valuable and why most issues after won’t ever reach that value?
Comic books have been around for many years and beginning in the late 1980’s to the present day, they have become of value to collectors and non-collectors alike.
So, why then are the so highly sought after, and what makes them this way?
The Golden Age of Comics (1933 to 1955) saw the early stages of creating something that would transcend an industry not yet created.
It began with DC Comics and the first Superhero to test the waters, Superman (Action Comics #1). Shortly to follow was Batman (Detective Comics #27) and Wonder Woman (All-Star Comics #8). The now powerhouse in comics, Marvel, would take a little while to join, but when they did, they launched characters such as The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner and the now very popular, Captain America.
During this time of exploration, both companies were creating something special.
So what makes them so valuable compared to that of newer comics?
First and foremost, there aren’t too many of them around and the ones that are, for the most part, aren’t in very good condition.
In the Golden Age of Comics, people were not thinking about the collectibility of comics, rather they were interested in using it for what it was meant for, as entertainment and a way to pass the time.
There weren’t too many people who had the intention to hold on to them in hopes that someday they would be worth something. Comics would be shipped in the mail, but to fit in the mail slots they would be bent in half, resulting in what is called a subscription crease. Not only that but, they would be carried around in the backpacks of children, teenagers and adults alike. They would not “Bag and Board” them so that they keep their integrity, as they do now.
Characters were created for very different reasons. Captain America as an example, is widely known and understood as a tool of propaganda during the war. He was used to rally the troops and create morale.
Wonder Woman became a symbol of hope, freedom and a new way of thinking for women all over the world. Wonder Woman paved the way for many of the justices we see today.
Both of these characters, among many more, transformed a generation.
While the Golden Age launched Superheroes into the popular culture, the Silver Age (1956-1969) was where the magic began to happen.
The Silver Age created a shift in the comic book industry. Characters began to explode off the pens of the creators and these characters came with everyday problems that the average person could relate to. Major characters such as The Flash (modern version), Spider-Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four, The Justice League of America, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), The Teen Titans, The X-Men and many others appeared for the first time.
The conclusion of the Silver Age brought the world into the Bronze Age of Comics. Within this time period of comics came a different way of thinking. Readers were still buying them for the stories they contained; however, they also began purchasing them with the thought that one day they may be worth something.
Suddenly the world realized that the issues within the Golden and Silver Age of Comics had value. Collectors, hobbyists, and anyone looking to make a quick buck began keeping all their comics in ‘mint’ condition. This way of thinking actually did the opposite of the intended effect and drove the price of comics down.
To capitalize on this trend, the publishers (Marvel and DC) began making comics as quickly as they could. This would lead to not only saturation in the market, but more importantly to the purists, it would lead to lesser quality stories.
This influx of stories also led to characters being created as quickly as they could. Backstories and histories of characters became a second thought and these new characters diluted an already filled market.
Not to take anything away from the creators, as, over time, we have seen some of the greatest story arcs in history happen after the Bronze Age, but they did release a lot of shit to get where we are today.
Finally, in today’s market, publishers have created what are called variant issues. These issues are shipped to the stores only if they meet quantity requirements of the normal issues. For example, if a comic has a variant number that says it is 1/100, this means that the store had to purchase 100 regular ones so that it may receive that one variant. Sadly, people are paying high prices for these variants, while at the same time, devaluing an industry.
As mentioned, there are numerous reasons that comics today will never be worth what the comics of yesterday will be.
- Comics were bought for entertainment and not collectibility
- Subscription creases
- Old comics were not kept in a place that would keep them safe
- Characters of old transcended an industry and changed the way we think
- Characters had interesting back stories and became relatable
- Collectors started buying up everything they could, thus, in essence, devaluing what they thought to bring value to.
- Companies started to produce meaningless shit as a way to sell books
Perhaps we are wrong, but my brother and I both think that publishers need to stop focusing on creating issues that collectors want and start focussing on creating issues that become sought after because of the value inside.