Batman; the Dark Knight; the Caped Crusader; the World’s Greatest Detective. No matter what moniker he goes by, Batman has been a fixture in pop culture since his introduction in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Possessing no superpowers but armed with a keen intellect, superior fighting ability, and infinite wealth, Bruce Wayne’s alter ego has delighted even the most casual fan of the genre for decades through comic books, cartoons, television shows, and movies. As with any pop culture powerhouse, Batman has been licensed to hundreds, if not thousands, of items. This guide will help you sort out the best Batman collectibles from an ever-expanding line of products.
When Bob Kane and Bill Finger created “the Bat-Man” in 1939, there is no way they could have imagined the story of a wealthy playboy avenging his parent’s murder by dressing as a bat at night would still be relevant many years later but there is something about Bruce Wayne’s struggle and his triumph over tragedy that will remain relatable until the end of time.
Over the course of thousands of comic book issues, Batman’s universe has expanded to include many characters as recognizable as Batman himself. This includes the Joker, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, Robin the Boy Wonder, Alfred Pennyworth, and Batgirl, to name a few. These characters help to ground Batman in a world much like our own and give many fans the fantasy that, had they been blessed with limitless wealth, they could possibly be Batman. Few comic heroes can have that much of a connection with their fans.
That connection has turned Batman into an enterprise that is even worth more than the fictional Bruce Wayne. Batman films have already generated over $3.6 billion in revenue — not including Batman vs. Superman — and a 2013 report listed Batman merchandising as a $494 million-per-year business. A lot of that revenue comes from licensing the iconic bat logo to wallets, bumper stickers, key chains, plush toys, and other low-end items but there has also been a fair amount of collectible, high-quality items released over the years. New collectors as well as die-hard fans will have their work cut out for them in tracking down all the pieces they desire but this detailed guide is a great place to start. Use the tabs above to check out more information about the key Batman comics, trading cards and figures.
As with any comic-based superhero, each comprehensive Batman collection should start in the world of comic books. Since his appearance in Detective Comics in 1939, Batman has appeared in thousands of issues as well as annuals and graphic novels. A complete collection of comics featuring Batman would be nearly impossible to compile at this point —and cost you millions of dollars — but that shouldn't dissuade new collectors from trying their hand at paperback collecting. Below are some of the most popular areas to explore in your search for Batman comics. Obviously, prices range dramatically based on the condition of the book and its rarity, but if you’re looking for vintage comics, expect to shell out some very modern prices.
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When DC decided to relaunch their entire catalog in 2011, Detective Comics was the longest, continuous publication in comic history. Batman was first introduced in issue #27 and remained a constant figure within the pages of that periodical throughout its run. Copies of issue #27 have sold for over $1 million and you’re not likely to find an original on an online auction. Despite most collectors not being able to obtain the most famous release, there are notable story arcs and issues that are still worth tracking down. Other key options include issue #523 which premiered the character Killer Croc — appearing in the Suicide Squad film — or any of the centennial issues as they were the first comic books to hit milestones like the 500th, 600th, or 700th issues.
The immediate success of Batman in Detective Comics inspired a eponymous comic to be released in the mid 1940s. The publication history of Batman is varied, not becoming a monthly comic until 1976, but ultimately finished with 715 releases, including dozens of character premieres like Ra’s al Ghul in issue #232 (1971).
In 2011, DC Comics relaunched their entire catalog of books and started from scratch. Some of the continuity from previous titles carried over while other bits of continuity were lost and the entire relaunch received mixed reviews from comic fans. With this fresh start, the original runs of Detective Comics and Batman were ended after 70+ years of continued publication but the titles were both included in The New 52 catalog.
While these comics aren’t particularly valuable now and are fairly easy to track down, you are afforded the opportunity of collecting an entire series, starting with issue one, for an iconic character. With the growing popularity of digital comic books, who knows what a complete set of The New 52 Detective Comics will be worth in 50 years. It may be a low-reward collection in the future but the risk is also pretty minimal. Plus, the new Batman comic has had some brilliant story arcs already.
There have been many trading card releases devoted to Batman since the first sets were issued in 1966 and, as a cornerstone of the DC Universe, the character and his extended family have appeared in many more sets not strictly devoted to Gotham’s avenger. In addition to the key sets and options covered below, a detailed guide to collecting Batman trading cards offers more information for cardboard enthusiasts.
Batman Trading Cards
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Topps, hoping to cash in on the popularity of the Batman television show, released five different sets devoted to Batman in 1966. Three of the sets, demarcated by either a Red Bat, Blue Bat, or Black Bat, used original artwork and have become highly collectible. The other two sets focused primarily on production stills from the Adam West-led Batman movie.
It is not difficult to find these cards on the secondary market and if you are okay with poor condition, you can even find them for a reasonable price. However, if your goal is to have a complete collection in perfect condition, it’s going to cost you. For a more in-depth look at the most noteworthy Batman cardboard issues from 1966, check out our guide to the Top 10 1966 Batman Cards.
In the 1990s, Skybox had a prolific bunch of releases revolving around DC comics and, although he did not appear in their Cosmic Cards release, Batman was very prominent in many other sets. The Skybox Batman Master Series still holds up as a beautiful collection of cards and their Saga of the Dark Knight series includes some fantastic and varied pieces of art. There was also a set that used artwork from the Batman and Robin animated series (Topps released a set for the Batman animated series) which included a chase set of pop-up cards.
Skybox started to add several chase sets throughout the 90s, many of which included Batman, and released a hobby-only set of hologram cards, too. Unopened boxes of the Batman Hologram set pop up online from time to time but usually illicit several bidders and can push well over $100. Chase cards from this set are in high demand, as well, so keep your eyes open for those if you can’t get your hands on a hobby box.
From 1989’s Batman film through to Batman Begins in 2005, several card sets were released to commemorate these cinematic masterpieces. The exception is Batman & Robin, because that movie sucked. The original Tim Burton Batman had two card releases, including 1989 Topps Batman, while Batman Returns had a standard set as well as a Stadium Club set. Batman Forever had three sets released, including the Fleer Metal set, and the 2005 Topps Batman Begins set included autographs and relic cards from the film.
Movie-based cards seem to have a more limited appeal and their value has remained relatively stagnant over the years. Perhaps due to their lack of original artwork or just over production, these sets are incredibly easy to find complete and unopened boxes can be found for very cheap. That said, they are a nice compliment to the art-based Batman cards that you’ll have in your collection and, for the complete collector, these movie cards are a must-have.
In recent years, Batman cards have been handled by Cryptozoic and Rittenhouse, both having released sets devoted solely to the Caped Crusader. Sketch cards are the big collectible from these sets with certain cards pulling in big money on online auctions.
Where does he get those wonderful toys? They’re not toys, they’re collectible action figures and Batman is one of the most represented comic characters in the action figure market. Since the 1970s, there have been dozens of Batman figures released in action form along with much of his extended bat family and the many villains. Obviously, some are worth more than others, but if you’re looking to start an action figure collection, it can be a fun trip down memory lane to begin with the figures that were popular when you were a child and expand from there.
Batman Action Figures
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Mego toys launched their line of action figures in 1973 under the World’s Greatest Heroes brand with Batman and Robin among the inaugural offerings. There are dozens of variations to this early Batman figure, ranging from costume color tones, packaging, and the logo on his chest, to a slew of other variations from other countries. Later in the decade, Mego released a smaller action figure, more similar to the modern figures we see today, under the Comic Action Heroes brand. This brand was pretty short-lived and the figures are much more rare.
While these are not the most attractive additions to a Batman collection, they are the earliest representations of the Caped Crusader in toy form we’ve got and no collection would be complete without them.
For fans of a certain age, these are the action figures that will bring about the most nostalgia. Not only did Kenner include Batman in their Super Powers line, which was an incredibly popular and long-running brand, but they released figures for all four of the Burton/Schumacher Batman films, the television cartoon, the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm movie, and a couple of independent brands in Legends of the Dark Knight and Legends of Batman.
Combine all those figures with the many playsets, vehicles, and penguins — yeah, they released a two-pack of penguin commandos for Batman Returns— and you’ll have a number of items to track down for your collection. The value on these figures varies greatly but you should be able to regularly find figures still in their boxes for a reasonable price.
Mattel has been handling the DC action figure market for a few years now and has released a number of Batman-related products, including a line devoted to Batman The Animated Series, Justice League, and the most recent Batman movies, including Batman vs. Superman. In many ways, these are the best action figures of the lot with more detailed molds, consistent coloring, and range of motion plus a wide array of styles and source inspirations. On the other hand, it is good to point out they are geared more towards adult collectors.
Where you’ll find things to be fun, in terms of collecting, is that many of these are shorter production runs or retail store exclusives so, in many cases, you’re forced to do your hunting online (where we can help you) or at conventions for anything more than a couple of years old. The Mattel lines may be a great entry point for someone who wants to establish a collection quickly and for relatively little expense, but for people who enjoy the thrill of tracking down a hard-to-find figure, starting with Mego or Kenner may be the more fulfilling choice.
The statue (or action-less figure) market is filled with truly awesome Batman figures. From detailed sculpts to fun and goofy plastic, there is no shortage of items to fill your display case when it comes to Batman. Because of the lengthy history of the character as well as the sheer number of official licenses issued by DC, we’re just going to hit on two main options for collectors to start with and will go into further detail in the future.
It is easy to dismiss the many Funko products as a novelty gift or a toy and not consider them a collectible but that is a fallacy that needs to be corrected. With so many figures and limited shelf space, not to mention discontinued figures, Funko figures are a great collectible, especially for those on a budget. Their Funko Pop! line includes figures based on the show Gotham, the Arkham video games, Batman vs. Superman, and the standard comics. Throw in some of their Wacky Wobblers or their 1966 Vinyl Idolz or their Mystery Minis and you’ve got quite a few of figures to choose from.
Retail and comic-con exclusives can get very popular on online auctions and it is not uncommon to see figures from the Pop! line sell for three times their retail value even before they are discontinued.
There are several companies producing scale statues of the Caped Crusader who have released dozens of highly detailed figures. Kotobukiya statues, available through DC Direct, are a great entry-level figure with a reasonable price point for a quality piece. For a little more of an investment, Sideshow statues are some of the most detailed and artistic pieces on the market and their limited release (each figure is numbered) ensures that their value is easily retained. Lastly, the holy grail of Batman statues is probably the 1:3 scale, Prime 1 Studios releases. While only releasing a handful of statues, this Japanese designer has some of the finest museum-quality Batman statues on the market with an online auction price that sometimes exceeds $1,000. Getting your hands on one of these statues would, undoubtedly, be the prize of your collection.
It is also worth noting that, more than virtually any other hero, a full line of ancillary characters are available to compliment the Batman figures, including Alfred, Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and The Joker. These figures are mixed in at every price point.