There are many different reasons why you might want to know what your comics are worth. Maybe you're planning a major life change, like having a kid or buying a house, and you need an infusion of funds. Maybe unexpected expenses like a car breakdown or a medical issue crop up. Maybe you're reaching retirement age and want to liquidate some. Or maybe you inherited them, you don't want them, and you want to offload them in the best way possible.
Whatever the situation, you need to know how much your comics are worth, which means you need to get them appraised. You don't want to spend a bunch of money on it, though, since who knows if you'll even make that money back. So, what are your options for free appraisals? Let's dig in.
Option 1: Online Tools and Databases
The first option, and the one many people are likely to turn to first, is one of the many online tools and platforms used for collection tracking. After all, if you want to sell your comics, you need to know what you have, and that involves making a list. Why not make that list using a piece of software that can also pull in vital information about the comics, including pricing information?
I wrote a whole guide on how to build an inventory of your comics here if you're interested in reading it.
When it comes to pricing information from these platforms, though, you're generally not going to have a great time. Why? Several reasons.
- Pricing information generally isn't free. In fact, many of the best collection tracking programs aren't free to begin with, and harvesting pricing information is an added fee on top of the fee just to use the app. You can scratch this idea off of the "free appraisal" list right away just for that reason.
- Pricing information may be outdated. It's one thing to build a database of information about comics, like the artists, authors, year of publication, and salient details. None of that changes. It's quite another thing to build and maintain a pricing database. Price information falls out of relevance very quickly and needs to be kept up to date from a wide range of possible sources; it's a herculean task.
- These databases often don't take the condition into consideration. The difference in price of the same comic between an ungraded copy, a graded 8.5 copy, and a graded 9.5 copy can be immense. Can you tell which grade yours would be if it was graded? If not, your information may not be relevant or accurate.
Really, it just comes down to the fact that if you're looking for a free appraisal, you won't get it from a tool like this. Even platforms that offer some of their information for free, like GoCollect, still hide most of their info behind a paywall.
To be clear, I don't begrudge any of these services wanting to make their money somewhere. It's a huge task to keep on top of pricing, and even we professionals need to spend a lot of time on it. I just also acknowledge that some people don't have the budget for a paid appraisal or don't want to gamble on appraising unknown comics for money when they might not be worth enough to outweigh that cost.
Option 2: Local Comic Stores
The second option is to take your comics to a local comic shop and ask for an appraisal.
This method is fine, but it's also hit or miss.
- Some comic shops have experts on hand but will charge for an appraisal because it takes time that said expert could be doing something else for the business.
- Some comic shops don't have experts on hand, so their pricing information may be wildly inaccurate.
- Some comic shops may misrepresent their ability to appraise comics one way or the other.
- A local comic shop might be primarily concerned with their local market, not a national or global online market, and their pricing information might reflect local interest rather than national interest.
On top of this, obviously, a comic shop has a tangible interest in getting you to sell your best comics to them and may lowball you because of it. A good comic shop will tell you upfront and may even tell you, "This is what it's worth; this is what we'd pay for it."
There's also the fact that you need to bring your comics in, or at the very least, have a list of your comics along with their conditions, photos if necessary, and more. If your collection is relatively small or you're only trying to get a few books appraised, that's fine, but if you have a larger collection you want to handle, it's a whole other beast. Nobody wants to pack up hundreds or thousands of comics, risking their damage or loss, to shop around with appraisals.
There are also a handful of larger comic shops that have an online presence and are willing to do online appraisals. These have many of the same issues, but since you're working remotely, you can't be sure how accurate or relevant the information you receive is. I always say it's better to get multiple appraisals from multiple sources to compare, so if any of them try to rope you into a deal, put pressure on you to sell, or have a contract just for an appraisal, look elsewhere. There are plenty of other options.
Option 3: Legwork and eBay
You can, of course, always just do the work to appraise your comics yourself. It's free! If you consider your time to not have value, anyway.
In general, the process looks like this.
First, you need to make a list of your comics, top to bottom. What is the title, the issue number, the publication date, and so on? Make a note of whether or not they're graded and, if so, what the grade is.
Next, for anything that isn't graded, you need to determine what kind of grade range it likely falls into. If you're not experienced with comics, this can be very tricky; you need to know what the grading scale is and what factors impact it. The most common grading scale is CGC's scale, but it's frustratingly nonspecific and not useful for DIY grading. You can use resources like ours, but there's no easy pattern to estimate how much damage of what type makes a comic fall into what category, what can be fixed with cleaning, what is and isn't even worth grading, and so on.
Once you have this, your next step might seem like pricing, but actually, you're just looking to prune down the list. Unless you have a serious collection where everything in it is valuable, there's a good chance that a good number of your comics aren't noteworthy. Anything published after the mid-90s is probably not worth a whole lot, and even older comics might only be worth $10 or $20 unless they're important key issues.
So, your next task is to identify the key issues and MVPs of the collection. Usually, you can find lists with names like "the most valuable x-men comics of the 80s" and check to see if any of your comics are on the list, but this is still tedious and time-consuming.
This is where those collection-builder apps can come in handy. They can often tell you, if not an actual value, at least whether or not an issue is considered a key or not.
And hey, if it turns out everything you have is at least a minor key, great! You're sitting on a goldmine. On the other hand, the more likely situation is that most of your comics aren't valuable. You can still sell cheaper comics – bulk sales, curated selections with a key, complete runs, and other options all work – but it's good to be realistic. Remember the 80/20 rule; 80% of the value of your collection is likely to come from 20% of the comics in it.
Now, it's time to actually start pricing your comics. How do you do that? The most common source of information is eBay. Search for the specific comic issue, look for completed auctions, look for comparable grades, and see what those comics recently sold for. There's no easy way to do it; you just need to do the legwork.
It's no wonder that many people want to get someone else to do the appraisal process, right?
Option 4: Heritage Auctions
Heritage Auction is probably second only to eBay in terms of the number of comics that sell through the platform. Moreover, since Heritage is considered the go-to auction house for valuable collectibles, chances are they've done more value in comic sales than just about anywhere else. The only ones to give them a run for that category would be other high-end auctioneers like Sotheby's.
Why is Heritage on this list? This: they offer a free appraisal form. You can describe your collection, send in the form, and see what they say.
The problem with Heritage is that they're going to tell you what your collection is worth at their auction. This may or may not be reflective of what you would get if you listed the comics on eBay, and it's certainly not what you would get if you took the time to sell everything for market price to interested collectors.
There's also a pretty good chance that Heritage will get back to you with a message like "sorry, none of these meet our minimum threshold" and end up completely unhelpful.
So, sometimes Heritage will be good and accurate. Sometimes, they may even make an offer for a cash advance if you consign your comics to auction, and in rare cases, they'll even offer to buy them directly. A lot of the time, though, you won't get useful information out of them.
Option 5: Quality Comix
Alright, I'm a little biased here, but I'll say it: Quality Comix is one of the best options for a free appraisal of your comics collection available on the internet today.
The appraisal process is pretty simple. All you need to do is:
- Make a quick list of your comics. It doesn't need to be comprehensive, but the more information you have, the better. We can estimate what you have and what to look for based on quick descriptions, but a more thorough list helps with a faster appraisal.
- Take a few pictures of your collection. This helps us know if there's anything noteworthy you missed, it lets us spot-check for noteworthy issues not on your list, and it gives us a good idea of the overall condition of your comics.
- Let us know what your goals are. Do you want to sell for the most value or sell them all at once? Are you just looking for an appraisal, and you're shopping around? It's all good, but if you have no intention of selling, it's good to know.
- Click here and fill out our form. This is zero obligation. We'll tell you what you have, what we think of it, and if it's the right kind of collection, what our offer would be for it. You can take or leave it, use it to comparison shop, or whatever else you like.
We're not the only company that does this, but we have some of the best prices and offers out there, particularly for higher-value comics. Now, obviously, we're not going to buy your comics at market prices. We need room for our own profits, after all. But we take thinner margins than many other vendors, and we're more than happy to discuss and negotiate, particularly for valuable comics. There's no pressure and no obligation to go with us beyond a good offer.
So, whether you have an inherited collection full of unknown comics with values all over the board, a collection from your youth full of who knows what, or a carefully curated selection you want to offload for a great price, we're ready and willing to help. Just reach out, and let's talk!