BY MATT TUCK
Barbie, the Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, and even Fraggle Rock all had their own comic series. While we may have scoffed at them in the past, they are serious collectibles in today’s market. Here are ten kid comics that deserve your attention as those old cartoon tie-ins have become serious investments.
Once upon a time, no one cared about cartoon comics. They were relegated to the back of the long boxes, if they even made it that far. These were looked at as meaningless kid fare that was simply there to capitalize on a cartoon show and sell action figures. Many times, they didn’t even make it into the collection and were the stuff of litter box lining. They were only slightly better than trash and treated as such.
Ever since Transformers became a million-dollar movie franchise, these cartoon comics have become serious collectibles. Now even the Thundercats’ first appearance is bringing over $1k for high-grade copies.
What other cartoon tie-ins should you be watching? Let’s take a trip down memory lane with some of the more cute and huggable cartoons and toys from the past and consider the value of their first appearances.
BARBIE AND KEN #1
The first comic on today’s list is the face of doll collecting even to this day: Barbie and her faithful sidekick, Ken. The plastic couple and pop culture icons made their comic debut back in the Silver Age in 1962. Published by Dell Comics, the CGC census data indicates this is a rare find with only 18 graded copies on record.
Not many Barbie and Ken #1s are sold each year. The only graded copy to sell in the past 12 months was a 6.0 that brought $150 last July. Before that, it had been three years since a 3.5 sold for $100 in 2017.
At the top of the heap, there is the mythical 9.8. CGC has just one listed in its census, and that copy has not swapped owners since 2012 when one sold for $1,758 that September.
CARE BEARS #1
If you bought an original Care Bears #1 in 1985, I pass no judgement on you. Believe it or not, that first appearance of the Care Bears is starting to heat up. The highest grade sold this year was a 9.4, and it brought $89 on March 21. A 9.6 broke the $100 mark last year, but the biggest values are for the 9.8 Canadian price variants. The last time one sold, it earned $455 in 2019.
The thing about collecting the Care Bears is their first appearance is bound to get hot at some point. This is a relatively rare comic, at least when it is graded. CGC has just 25 total copies on record, and only three of those are 9.8s. If you happen to have one at that level, you could be in for a decent pay day.
CARE BEARS #7
When it comes to collecting those Care Bears issues, the one to have is #7. The cover alone is just so odd. In the center of the art is a Care Bear portrait (don’t ask me which one), but it has the Marvel 25th Anniversary border. Why would Care Bears #7 be part of the anniversary celebration? While they had nothing to do with superheroes, this issue was printed by Marvel, so it is in the family, so to speak.
There have not been any sales this year, but three grades did make moves last year. First, there was the 9.8, which brought $219 in July. That was followed by a September sale that saw a 9.6 sell for $120. Down the ladder a few notches, we find a 9.2, which earned $86 in June.
What is going on here? Just this month, the first comic appearance of the little blue people who are three apples high nearly broke its single-sale record. Back in 2013, a 9.8 set the bar at $237. Only days ago, another 9.8 reached $200, the highest sale in that eight-year span.
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE #1
There are only 72 copies of 1985’s Strawberry Shortcake #1 on record with CGC. That helps explain why higher grades of this kids’ comic has been hauling in triple figures for years.
So far this year, there have been just three copies sold - a 9.8 and two 9.6s. That 9.8 swapped owners in January for $100, and last year, three out of four sales were for $120 or more. As for those two 9.6s, one brought $70 in January while the other sold for $45 in February.
RAINBOW BRITE AND THE STAR STEALER #1
This is a clue that printing the cartoon adaptations of 1980s cartoon series was big business in the mid-1980s. While Marvel/Star Comics did most of the work, DC got into the game with Rainbow Brite. Her first comic from 1986 was a one-shot based on the animated movie of the same name, and it is one of the more rare comics on today’s list. According to the CGC’s census data, there are just 21 graded copies in circulation, and two of those are Canadian price variants. Of all 21 copies, only six have been graded 9.8.
It is not often that we see copies of Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer being bought and sold online. Last year, only one 9.8 traded owners, and it was for $175. Most recently, there was a sale for a record $250 in February. Past that, there have been no recorded sales for any 9.8s.
FRAGGLE ROCK #1
Back in 1985, Stan Kay was a busy man. He wrote basically all the scripts for the cartoon adaptations under the Star banner. Next to Thundercats, this could be his masterpiece.
Again, there are not many high-graded copies of Fraggle Rock #1 floating around the internet, at least not compared to the superstar superheroes. Compared to the others on this list, having 30 graded 9.8s seems like a ton.
This is another comic that has been earning respectable price tags recently. So far this year, there have been four 9.8s that have sold online, and none sold for less than $140. Just last month, one set a new record with $194 sale on March 4.
We can’t talk about cute and cuddly teddy bears from the 1980s without mentioning the Ewoks. Certainly, everything in the Star Wars universe of collectibles is seeing a renaissance at the moment, and that includes the polarizing kid-pandering Ewoks from Return of the Jedi. The huggable furballs had their own cartoon series and two made-for-television movies, so we were inundated with Ewoks in the mid-80s, and that included their own comics.
If you happen to have their first self-titled comic in a 9.8, you will be happy with this news. Back in December, one sold for $195, which is the highest price it's seen in three years. More recently, a 9.6 sold for $150 on April 7.
Back in the 1980s, we loved our sitcoms, so much so that even a puppet alien life form, nicknamed “Alf,” would star in his own hit show. Of course, Marvel/Star picked up the comic licensing.
While Alf’s first appearance in Alf #1 is not much to discuss, there is the infamous issue #48. What makes this issue collectible is the hilariously inappropriate cover art featuring Alf and a distressed seal. Because of the sexual overtones of the cover (whether or not it was intentional on behalf of artist David Manak, I cannot say), this issue was recalled.
In the past year, this issue has been gaining popularity. Even at the lowest grade sold in the last 12 months, the 5.0 is still earning $150. On the high end, a 9.8 sold for $830 in January. Prior to that, it had never sold above $350.
MORE TO COME
There are many more kids’ cartoon comics that are worth mentioning. With the booming market for virtually all collectibles, getting those first appearances of cartoon characters is a hobby in and of itself. All it takes is a new movie or a series revival, and they are suddenly popular again. It is worth the time to scour your collection and see if you happen to have any of these potential gems.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.