Comic Ephemera: All that Stuff in Your Comic Book Shop that aren’t Comic Books

If you’ve recently stepped into a comic book store for the first time, or the first time in a long time, you may have noticed; they don’t just sell comics anymore. Like any good hobby, the comic collecting business understands the importance of merchandising, which is why you can find your favorite heroes on everything from shoe laces to toothpaste.

Like any good hobby, the comic collecting business understands the importance of merchandising, which is why you can find your favorite heroes on everything from shoe laces to toothpaste, or highly detailed statues or a particular Norse god.

Like any good hobby, the comic collecting business understands the importance of merchandising, which is why you can find your favorite heroes on everything from shoe laces to toothpaste, or highly detailed (and articulated) posable statue of a particular Norse god.

There’s enough of this comic-themed ephemera out there to boggle the mind of the new collector (old pros, like me, just tune it out) but the main thing to remember is, just like comics, the vast majority of this stuff is junk. Junk that could one day pile up to dangerous heights only to collapse and bury you. It’ll make a great local news snippet, and maybe get you’ll on an episode of Horders; Nerd Edition, but it’s no way to die.

So today we’re going to push the comics aside and talk about some of the other stuff you’ll find at your friendly neighborhood comic shop.

Comic Cards: I know what you’re thinking. “I had a ton of those growing up and they were so cool.” I did, too, and you’re right, they were. Not anymore. Just like baseball cards, there was a boom and a bust. You can still find comic cards—old and new—in almost every comic shop out there. But I’m telling you, unless you’re buying them for sentimental value, forget it. I know someone is reading this and pitching a fit about their Magic the Gathering gaming cards, but I’m not talking about collectible card games. That’s a different beast altogether.

Comic Hero Banks: think piggy bank but made of PVC plastic and shaped like Wolverine, Superman, Spidey or just about any other comic character you can think of. This one of Deadpool is fun, but they’re produced by the millions and sold everywhere from comic shops to Wal-Mart.

Comic Hero Banks: think piggy bank but made of PVC plastic and shaped like Wolverine, Superman, Spidey or just about any other comic character you can think of. This one of Deadpool is fun, but they’re produced by the millions and sold everywhere from comic shops to Wal-Mart.

Banks: Think piggy bank but made of PVC plastic and shaped like Wolverine, Superman, Spidey or just about any other comic character you can think of. They’re fun for little nerds to save their change, but don’t plan on them becoming too collectible. These get produced by the millions and sold everywhere from comic shops to Wal-Mart.

Mini-figures are cute and look fun on your desk, but don’t plan on selling them someday to put your kids through college.

Mini-figures are cute and look fun on your desk, but don’t plan on selling them someday to put your kids through college.

Mini-figures: There was a brief craze in the late 1990s and early aughts (the 2000s for those of you not in the know) of tiny collectible figures. Some came in mystery boxes (like the cards that no one buys anymore), some were cute Japanese caricatures of popular characters (called Super Deformed). There were a million of them: Mini-mates; Kubricks; Mugz; etc. They’re cute and look fun on your desk, but don’t plan on selling them someday to put your kids through college. Today, most mini figures come in the form of collectible game pieces called Hero-Clix, which about the size of a quarter and, like their predecessors, still come in mystery boxes to encourage you to buy more.

Brand-new action figures can fetch a hefty price and, for various reasons, some newly released figures can instantly sell for two to three times suggested retail.

Brand-new action figures can fetch a hefty price and, for various reasons, some newly released figures can instantly sell for two to three times suggested retail.

Action Figures: You had them when you were young. You buried them in the sand box, blew them up with firecrackers, melted them with matches (probably without parental supervision), and now, you walk into a comic shop and there’s your childhood toys smiling at you in mint condition with amazingly high price tags. Yep, little psychos like you are the reason Star Wars, He-Man, Thunder Cats and all the other classic figures bring in the bucks. But it’s not just classic figures. Brand new action figures can fetch a hefty price, too. Due to shortages of certain figures in case packs, or figure variants, newly released figures can instantly sell for two to three times suggested retail.

Desk-top busts can sell for anywhere from $50, like a Bowen Designs Marvel busts, to upwards of $300 for large statues.

Desk-top busts can sell for anywhere from $50, like a Bowen Designs Marvel busts, to upwards of $300 for large statues.

Statues: Collectors who want to get serious about their favorite characters can drop some serious dough on highly detailed and stunningly painted statues. You can find statues of almost any hero or villain you can think of, ranging from desktop busts to full-size heads and, of course, heroically posed full statues. These can sell for anywhere from $50 for a small bust (I was collecting the Bowen Designs Marvel villain busts for a while there) to upwards of $300 for large statues. Like all comic memorabilia, statues are always limited in production, usually numbered in edition, and get crazy expensive in the aftermarket.

These are just a few examples of the comic book merchandise and, it seems, every time I visit my comic shop, there’s more. Last time I saw a display of Super-hero USB thumb drives. Come on, who doesn’t need an Iron Man thumb drive?


Matt Baum is Worthpoint’s comic book Worthologist and Co-Host of the Two-Headed Nerd Comic Book Podcast. If you have questions about these comics or any others feel free to post them in the comments section below or hit him up on Twitter, where he’s constantly yelling about stuff even nerdier than what you just read.

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