'Kind of Revenge of the Nerds': Comic book collecting skyrockets during pandemic

The comic book industry has been thriving during the pandemic, and comic book collecting is making a major comeback.

Mike Bartus has been collecting comic books since he was 10 years old. Now, some of the books he used to get for a dime or a quarter are selling for thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.

"Demand for comics has gone crazy. I can't believe how nuts it’s gotten," he said. "It's actually turned into a rich person’s hobby, and I can't afford my own hobby anymore."

Bartus says since the pandemic, many people have had more time to go through their old comic books and either want to complete their collections or realized their collectibles are valuable and are selling them at auctions.

A well-graded issue of "Amazing Fantasy 15" - featuring the first appearance of Spiderman - recently sold for more than $3 million, breaking the previous records for the first appearances of the granddaddies of all superheroes, Superman and Batman.

"I think people were bored during the pandemic," said Greg Ketter, owner of DreamHaven Books & Comics. "They needed to find something to do. Collecting is always a fun thing. I also think the movies and television shows have driven that as well because people are more aware of these characters."

DreamHaven Books and Comics in south Minneapolis says sales of its vintage comics issues have doubled in the last year. The owner says in addition to wanting a good investment, the stories about superheroes also offer collectors an escape during the pandemic and social unrest.

"I think people like to see these stories and these heroes. It's something we need these days. We need our heroes," Ketter said.

Bartus says he kept his hobby a secret growing up because it wasn't considered cool. But now that the comic book market is more powerful than a locomotive, he hopes there is no kryptonite anywhere in sight.

"It’s kind of ‘Revenge of the Nerds.’ I was always right and look at me now. I've got all these valuable comics."