Shopping for Comics in Antique Shops

We just got back from an anniversary trip up the central California coast to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA and one of the things my wife enjoyed on the trip was visiting various Antique shops in towns such as Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Cambria.  While she looked at various knick-knacks, old dishes, and jewelry, I was fascinated by flipping through the inevitable boxes of comics each of these stores would have.

This may not hold true of all antique stores everywhere, but there were certain characteristics that held true in all of the dozen or so shops we visited over the past few days:

  • An almost complete lack of understanding of the value of comics – Just because a comic is a couple of decades old does NOT necessarily mean it is worth anything
  • They seemed oblivious to the fact that the condition of a comic actually affects its value – a totally beat up copy of DC’s totally forgettable MASK mini-series from 1985 (that should generously be in a 50-cent bin) would be priced the same as a Four Color from 1952 in fairly decent mid-grade condition.

I was mostly amused by the outrageous prices attributed 80s, 90s, and 2000s 50-cent bin comics as I perused the offerings squirreled away in boxes in the little stalls at these shops, but I found a couple of decent books that were worth picking up (see the pictures at the top of the page):

  • Four Color #413: Disney’s Robin Hood – the 1st Disney Movie FC comic.  This was $5 and somewhere in the VG to VG+ with really nice eye appeal.  This is about 25% of guide.
  • Four Color #433: Zane Grey’s Wildfire – This was also $5, similarly in the VG to VG+ range, which is about 50% of guide.
    These were both from the same dealer, and priced the same although one guides at twice what the other is valued at.  The same dealer had LOTS of other books that would generously be valued at 50 cents to $1 at the same $5 price.


In and amongst all the really overpriced and  forgettable comics, I did see a copy of Batman 244 in pretty low grade.  While not forgettable (It’s one of the most memorable Batman covers, IMO), I thought it was pretty overpriced at $40 for so low a condition book, but going back to the observations above, the sellers at antique shops don’t seem to have any idea how to correlate actual value to the prices they ask.

The lesson I learned: Don’t expect to find any $1 copies of key books featuring super-heroes that have been in the movies, but there are a few hidden gems (well semi-precious stones, if you’re into the weird/obscure) and  LOTS of laughs to be had while digging through everything being offered. 

As always: Your Mileage May Vary…

Bob Bretall: By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics


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