The market for top-quality comic books is booming. Over the past few years, the collecting world has seen the market rise from an overlooked specialist area into a thriving mainstay of many auction houses' calendars.
However, the top-end of the market is dominated by classic issues that are hardly affordable for those looking to join the market - a copy of the Silver Age classic Tales of Suspense #39 sold for $262,000 at Heritage Auctions over the weekend, while iconic cover art starring JFK from the highly collectible Action Comics recently made $112,000.
So where does the collector with a little less to spend turn when looking to invest in this potentially lucrative market? The usual rules of collecting apply: buy quality, buy rarity, buy the items all collectors want, and there's no reason why you can't make a decent return on your purchase over the long-term.
Here are Paul Fraser Collectibles' suggestions for five under $5,000...
5. Spawn #1
If you're looking to join the comic collecting world, you should know that the history of the medium is divided into sub-sections: Platinum, Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern. These "ages" represent certain time periods, their beginnings and endings defined by major events in the comic universe.
As previously mentioned, Golden (c.1938-c.1950) and Silver Age (1956-c.1970) key issues may be out of reach, and Bronze Age (c.1970-c.1985) comics are quickly gaining value, with the original cover art of the Amazing Spider-Man #121 The Night Gwen Stacey Died making $287,000 in February.
Following hot on the heels of its predecessors is the Modern Age, which is generally defined as the period spanning the mid-1980s to the present day. The Modern Age is known for the darker turn that storylines have taken, adding increasingly edgy, psychological elements to the previously clean-cut comic favourites.
Fantastic examples of this are Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's Batman series The Dark Knight, the cover art for which sold for $478,000 in August. Yet, there are some distinctly undervalued issues.
Todd McFarlane, a hugely respected artist who cut his teeth with Marvel, branched out to form Image Comics at the beginning of the Modern Age, releasing Spawn #1 in 1992. The comic's central character is the quintessential antihero of the Modern Age, and was a big hit, with the first issue setting a record for sales of an independent comic book.
With guest writers including Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Frank Miller, the series could prove lucrative in future years. What's more, a mint copy of the first issue can still be bought for less than $1,000.
4. Walking Dead
AMC's hit TV show The Walking Dead premiered on October 31, 2010, and was an instant hit. However, it is actually based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore, which was released in 2003 on McFarlane's Image Comics.
The show has received dozens of awards and set a record for the most-watched drama series telecast in basic cable history, and the comic book has also been garnering strong attention from collectors. The first issue of the series could have been bought for just a few dollars before the TV show was released, but is now scarcely seen below $1,000 in mint condition - one has already sold for $10,000 on eBay.
3. The Invincible Iron Man Vol. 4 Issues 1-6
Iron Man 3 was the box office blockbuster of summer 2013, with Robert Downey Jr bringing his electric Tony Stark back for a third instalment of the hit film series. Yet the plot of the movie is actually based on the six-part Extremis storyline originally featured in The Invincible Iron Man in 2004.
Anything connected to the Iron Man films is hot property right now, and writer Warren Ellis is likely to be called upon again to contribute material for future films, making these first six issues likely to gain value in the coming years.
For now, they are available at less than $10 each, but be warned - with such modern comics, you'll be playing a very long game before they reach any kind of impressive sum.
2. Tales to Astonish #27
While many of the Silver Age classics have already reached their true value, there are some issues and characters that have been overlooked.
Introducing�Ǫ Ant-Man! He doesn't sound too impressive, but this size-shifting superhero was an original member of the incredibly popular Avengers, and is due to star in his own movie in 2014 directed by Edgar Wright.
Those are some pretty impressive credentials, and once collectors realise Ant-Man's true worth, key issues are sure to rocket in value. However, a good copy of his origin issue, Tales to Astonish #27, can still be bought for around $2,500. His first appearance in the Ant-Man persona, Tales to Astonish #35, made $10,157 at Heritage Auctions on the weekend, though this was a pedigree copy from the collection of Don and Maggie Thompson and lesser copies can be bought for a far smaller sum.
1. Justice League Dark
If you are in the collecting and investing game for the long haul, or even just looking to make small yet frequent returns on your purchases, you might consider the most recent of comic books to make a profit.
In 2011, DC Comics overhauled its existing comic book line, naming the revamp The New 52. As well as transforming old characters, the dozens of relaunched series' have seen the introduction of new heroes and teams that could prove to be fan favourites in years to come.
One such team is Justice League Dark, a gathering of DC's most offbeat and occult characters: John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Shade, The Changing Man and Zatanna.
Constantine has already had his time in the limelight, played by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 film. However, DC Comics is looking to put its entire universe of characters on TV, in movies and in other media. One of the next films to be released will be based on Justice League Dark, and with the mighty director Guillermo Del Toro behind the project, it's sure to be a big budget blockbuster.
With only 21 Justice League Dark issues released so far, this could be the perfect opportunity to complete a run of the entire series with little effort and cost - the early issues are widely available for just a few dollars each. As the issues were only released two years ago at most, you won't make a huge sum, but "look after the pennies...".
Paul Fraser Collectibles has some fantastic comic and illustration art for sale, many of which are hand-drawn by some of the industry's top names.