Reprint Pricing: Of Masterworks and Archives

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Prices mentioned in this article were current when Barry originally emailed me this for review on October 25. Some have already been subject to change since then.–Running Behind the Times Roy)

Starting about 1990 both Marvel and DC (and later a whole bunch of companies) began to regularly publish hard cover collections of their comics. DC’s were called “Archives” and Marvel’s were called “Masterworks.” These started out as books 250-300 page books priced at $50. Now, many are far less pages and cost up to $75 ($45 at Amazon, Tales of Wonder and Cheapgraphicnovel.com). Both companies now have Omnibuses, larger editions with up to 1,000 pages which sell for $75-125.

The publication of these archives gave me a great opportunity to get to see wonderful comics without paying the high price for the originals. Also, these were usually printed on nice, white paper and I wasn’t worried about damaging them. They were also easy to carry. Many dealers have told me that they have seen their prices dramatically decrease on the original comics when these reprints come out.

These editions opened the door to three things:

  1. I finally got to read the Golden Age stories and origins of many Golden Age heroes. I also got to read these stories uncensored by the Comics Code.
  2. I got to restore part of my childhood. I couldn’t keep all my comics; the room I shared with my brother was too small. So I had to (sob) throw out so many comics. I kept my Marvels, so I am now able to “restore ” many of DC and Dells.
  3. Some of my Marvel comics are valuable and I don’t want to read them or even open them. Marvel, in the mid 1970s began to cut back on the quality of their printing and I found the comics hard to read, they were printed so badly. So, while I still have many comics that are not very valuable, such as the ones featuring Deathlok, they are no fun to read. So I picked up their Masterworks and enjoyed them.

I got a big batch of Marvel Masterworks in the early 2000s at mall in Westchester, NY, just down the road from where the X-Men live. I bought about ten used Masterworks, in perfect condition, for $6-11 each.

I am never selling these and if they are in great condition, I don’t care if they are used.

Over the years I went to “monthly” Comic Conns in New York and was able to pick up a lot of books for $15 to $20. If I wanted the books new, there were three places that I found very helpful and I suggest that you compare prices!

Amazon.com
Tales of Wonder aka TOW (great, especially when they are running sales)
CheapGraphicNovels.com aka CGN

Let me use two examples: Wonder Woman Archives Volume 5 (already out) and Volume 7 (scheduled for November). Remember that postage and sales tax often affect the price.

Wonder Woman Volume 5:
Amazon.com: $16
Tales of Wonder: $31
Cheapgraphicnovels.com: $20

Wonder Woman Volume 7:
Amazon.com: $36
Tales of Wonder: $37
Cheapgraphicnovels.com: $30

Some books, like Wonder Woman, Plastic Man and many of the Marvel Atlas Tales have mostly gone down dramatically in price, if you look for sales. For example, TOW and CGN sell those at half price or less. Amazon is a great place to find them used. But sometimes the prices of these go up, so let me surprise you with the “current prices ” for books already out, but hard to get. Originally they listed for $50-$60, but were originally available for about $40 at the stores I mentioned.

Wonder Woman Archive 6 $147/110 (new price/used price)
Batman Archive 7 $260
Sgt. Rock Archive 3 $110
JSA All Stars Archive $97

Below were listed at $100, but generally sold, on line, for about $65, but check out the prices now on Amazon and Ebay.

Fantastic Four Omnibus 1: $188
Fantastic Four Omnibus 2: $349
Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus $320/290
Iron Man Omnibus 1 $800/400
New Teen Titans Omnibus $140/120
Silver Surfer Omnibus $330/200
Uncanny X-Men Omnibus: $400/250
X-Men Omnibus $300/280
Wolverine Omnibus $200/175
Howard the Duck Omnibus $700/300
Tomb of Dracula Volume 1 $370/187

So there can be a risk involved with waiting and I would not wait for Omnibuses to go down in price. However, I wanted to get volumes of Creepy, Eerie and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and waited until TOW had a half-price sale.

Increasing prices are not confined to comic book reprints, but also many comic strips. The $25 dollar Mary Perkins Volume 1 now sell for up to $70 and many of the Prince Valiant volumes, which came out a decade ago at $20 sell for well over a hundred now.

5 thoughts on “Reprint Pricing: Of Masterworks and Archives”

  1. Wasn’t the point of the Essentials volumes to make the old books available to readers. Even though they were in B&W I find them a great way to re-read some of my favorites and read titles I missed when originally published.

    1. Steve, that’s how I’ve always used the Essentials. I use them to reread the stories, and occasionally I’ll supplement that by going back to the original colors for a different feel. I do like having the colors and the original ads there sometimes, though–I wish they’d include the ads more often in the color reprints.

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