5 Comic Book Series That Could Be Excellent Investments

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Marvel comics sit on display at Midtown Comics in New York, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 31, 2009. Walt Disney Co. said it agred to buy Marvel Entertainment Inc. for about $4 billion in a sytock and cash transaction, gaining comic-book characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
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Hollywood executives have never been more interested in comic books than they are right now. Why? Fans. They're spending more on comics, sci-fi, and fantasy than they have in years.

Look at "Iron Man 3," which has thus far brought Walt Disney (DIS) more than $1.1 billion in worldwide box office grosses. More than 81,000 people weighing in at reviews site Rotten Tomatoes say they want to see the Superman reboot "Man of Steel" when the curtain rises next week. Time Warner (TWX) hopes the character's 75th anniversary in comics will fuel a record-setting theater run.

Movies aren't the only outlet for fans. Tens of thousands are attending conventions, where dealers sell sci-fi and fantasy memorabilia, and back issues of comic books. More than 48,000 attended Denver Comic-Con last weekend, up 20,000 from last year's inaugural show.

DCC, which raises funds for the children's literacy program Comic Book Classroom, is one of a growing number of fan-fests around the country. None so thoroughly represent the pop-culture zeitgeist as San Diego Comic Con, which kicks off next month.

Big Bucks in Little Books

It's an important time for collectors and investors. Each year, Hollywood executives attend SDCC to introduce new comics-themed movies and TV series, dramatically altering the price action on comic books that may have been attainable in years past.

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In 2010, AMC Networks (AMCX) had a booth promoting its new show based on the comic book series "The Walking Dead." Three years and several ratings records later, you can't buy a copy of the first issue of that series for less than $1,000.

3 Rules for Building a Better Portfolio

Fortunately, the rules for investing well in comics aren't so different from the rules of investing well in stocks. Before getting into my picks -- made with help from Jay Katz, founder of InvestComics -- here are three general rules for creating a profitable comic book portfolio.
  1. Buy quality. On rare occasions, you'll find a screaming deal in a bargain box or at a garage sale. More often, the best bets are made on high-quality comics that are valuable because they're tied to something in the broader culture (e.g., "The Walking Dead") or because they introduce a new character or signify some other major change.
  2. Buy rarity. Sometimes, special events are so well-advertised that everyone buys the same comic book. I can think of no better example than "Superman" #75 from 1992, in which the titular character dies. A special bagged edition is guide-valued at $20, but you'll find plenty of copies on eBay selling for far less. Why? Millions are still available. By contrast, when "The Walking Dead" first hit comic book shops in October 2003, you had to be one of the lucky 7,000 to buy a copy.
  3. Don't be afraid to sell. Comics get hot just like stocks. Assess whether the spike is due to an unsubstantiated rumor (e.g., someone's cousin showed this comic to a studio executive!) or a new character or major event that's suddenly taken on wider meaning. Hold only the comics likely to maintain or grow their value, and harvest the rest to raise cash for new buys.
How can you tell when a comic book has intrinsic value? Take "Iron Man" #55 as an example, which introduces the cosmic villain Thanos. The 1973 comic sells for $1,000 now that Marvel has established Thanos as a big-screen adversary who could next appear in 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Which new series are most likely to bring enterprising investors these sorts of riches? Here are five worth checking out.

5 Comic Book Series That Could Be Worth a Fortune Someday
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5 Comic Book Series That Could Be Excellent Investments
Alcon Entertainment recently picked up the TV rights to to the series, described as a horror comic for non-horror fans, and self-published by creator Terry Moore. The drawback, says InvestComics' Katz, is that there's no showrunner or network partner yet. Wait for more news regarding the TV show before buying Issue No. 1, which already guides above $50. Instead, try picking up a few later issues and then scour eBay and specialty sites such as ComicsPriceGuide.com for sales.
Another horror comic book from creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez that is released in story arcs collected into miniseries. The first, released in 2008, sold out quickly enough that a second print was commissioned immediately. Expect to pay upward of $50 to get an early edition. Nevertheless, Katz says investors should be in "buying mode" for this series, saying it's only a matter of time before News Corp.'s (NWSA) 21st Century Fox -- which authorized a pilot -- or another studio brings the series to TV.
Writer Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov teamed up to create the Extremis storyline that informs "Iron Man 3." Don't be surprised if Ellis -- whose film credits include providing the source material for "Red" and the forthcoming sequel "Red 2" -- is asked to develop material for future films in the "Iron Man" series. Most of these issues are selling for $10 or less right now.
When Marvel and Disney bring "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" to the big screen next April, they'll be drawing from an acclaimed four-year run of the "Captain America" comic book series authored by Ed Brubaker. Most of these issues can be had for $20 or less.
This is a more speculative bet, since "Walking Dead" co-creator Robert Kirkman has optioned the TV rights to this comic book about a master thief trying to start a new life. Prices vary for early issues, but this is a hot book, so don't be surprised if you have to pay $70 or more for Issue No. 1. But even then, the price may be worth it, says Katz, who argues that there's "no doubt" AMC will bring Kirkman's creation to life on television.

Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns shares of Walt Disney and Time Warner. Connect with him on Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. The Motley Fool recommends AMC Networks, eBay, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of eBay and Walt Disney.
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