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Comic books produce super-sized returns

There comes a time when a kid leaves home — for college, a distant job, the service. No sooner is the kid out of there than the mother is in the bedroom, pitching out treasured accumulations of stuff, including the prized comic book archive.

If you fall into that particular category of maternal betrayal, it's probably not wise to tell you that recently a copy of the first Superman comic book sold for $1 million, followed a few days later by the first Batman comic, which went for $1,075,000.

These are returns on investment that would make even a Goldman Sachs executive blush. The previous record, set a year ago, for a comic book, also a first Superman, was $317,000. The seller of the Batman comic had bought it for $100 in the 1960s. All the original owners bought them for a dime.

Superman appeared in 1938, Batman in 1939, beginning the Golden Age of Comics. In short order, such American cultural icons as Captain America, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and the Green Lantern appeared. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Tarzan provided more conventional fare. The Golden Age was said to end in 1954 with hearings by a Senate subcommittee that blamed comic books for luring America's credulous youth down the dark path of juvenile delinquency.

Compared to home values and 401(k)s, comic books that go from 10 cents to a million dollars might seem like a good investment, but it would have taken a pretty farsighted kid, even for an incipient member of the Greatest Generation, to look 70-some years down the road.

And who's not to say the comic book market might not tank, just like the Great Baseball Card Crash. The young collectors believed the cards were increasing in value at an astronomical rate. Somehow those huge rewards never materialized and the cards migrated to the bedroom closet. But don't worry. Your mother threw those out, too.

© Scripps Howard News Service

Cost: 10 cents each

Now worth: $1 million each

Comic books produce super-sized returns 03/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 12:16pm]

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