It's not so much a comic as an institution! Never be without a Beano, they say. So true. Very healthy back issue market for both comics and annuals pre 1970. Beware any restoration on early issues. Only a handful of #1's known to exist and so very hard to Price Guide. The last reliable estimate (from the inestimable and extremely knowledgeable Mr. Malcolm Phillips of Comic Book Postal Auctions) that I know of is about 16 or 17. Each time one surfaces, maybe it will impact on the value and cause a decrease. Or there could be a clutch of people out there wanting to own a number one issue and willing to spend money.
JAN 2016: I would say that 20 existing copies of issue #1 is correct at this date.
We shall see what the future holds. Basically it comes down to whatever someone wants to pay to own a copy of this famous comic. In March 2004, a then world record price was established of £12,100 for a Fine Minus and very bright looking copy. Had the pleasure of meeting it. A VG copy sold at auction in September 2006 for £7,750 - one of the three highest graded known copies. A GD copy plus the original 4 page advertising flyer sold at auction in March 2006 for £4,841. This flyer has sold on its own for £462 at auction in May 2005 (Comic Book Postal Auctions) and £230 (eBay UK Nov 2007).
The only known copy with the free Whoopee Mask was sold at auction in February 1999 for £6,820. The comic was graded GD. The highest known graded copy is Fine Plus which sold at auction in September 1995 for £4,200 which was a world record for a British comic at the time. Dec 2004 saw the third highest price paid for a Beano #1 at £8,470 for a VG copy with faded cover colours. Sep 2006 saw a nice VG copy with half inch tear at top margin to all pages sell for £8,525, the 2nd highest price ever.
The Beano celebrated its 75th birthday in July 2013 and there were guest appearances from David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson!
It is in no small part due to the sterling research, promotion and sales work by Mr. Malcolm Phillips of Comic Book Auctions Ltd that Beano's and Dandy's enjoy such a healthy back issue market. An honourable mention too for Mr. Phil Shrimpton and his past excellent Collectors' Club for Beano and Dandy and a more recent hardback collection/book of Beano and Dandy Christmas covers. Also huge thanks to Phil for supplying some great cover images. A #1 issue has been offered on E Bay a couple of times in Mar 2008 or so. Graded GOOD plus it had clear tape on the spine with tanning pages and was offered at £4,500 with no takers. It once belonged to the late great Denis Gifford (see illustration below left). A fluctuating market by Sep 2009 saw a VG Minus #1 fetch £3,500, below the £5,000 estimate. Malcolm Philips of COMPAL commented that this copy was around the 20th sold in as many years so I have revised my how many copies of #1 up from 15 to 20. In Dec 2009 Silver Acre Comics sold a VG run of very early issues from issue #2 onwards, all well photographed and presented for auction. Needless to say they were snapped up by eager buyers!
Issues from 1986 onwards are very common. Expect to pay 10-50p for individual issues and £5-£10 for complete years. Issues from the last few years seem to have free gifts every other issue! Makes for difficult storage, sweets melting because of central heating, and copies bent from the awkward-shaped sweets/gifts attached. Nightmare!
#21 (17th Dec 1938 ) - 1st Pansy Potter; 1st Christmas issue
#22 (24th Dec 1938) - 1st Christmas issue with snow cover
#74, #75 (23rd/30th Dec 1939) - Christmas issues; a VG copy of #74 sold in May 2005 for £331! A #75 in FN Minus sold in Mar 2005 for £235 (both Comic Book Postal Auctions)
#76 - propaganda war issues begin a regular run in Jan 1940 - Hitler and Goering start to feature on covers throughout this year
#100 (22nd Jun 1940) - anniversary issue; no big deal about it on the cover. COMPAL sold a VFN issue in Nov 2004 for £220
#130 (18th Jan 1941) - 1st Tom Thumb
#200 (27th Feb 1943) - 1st Shipwrecked Circus
#222 (1st Jan 1944) - 1st Jimmy and his Magic Patch
#327 (24th Jan 1948) - 1st Biffo the Bear by Dudley Watkins
#452 (17th Mar 1851) - 1st Dennis the Menace by David Law - Sep 2007 Comic Book Postal Auctions £291 for a VG copy. Nov 2007 E Bay sale £110 (VG ) , £399 for a Near Mint copy Sep 2008
#500 (16th Feb 1952) - anniversary issue distinctive cannon cover; a VG example sold for £39 on E Bay Dec 2007
#561 (18th Apr 1953) - 1st Roger the Dodger by Ken Reid - Nov 2007 E Bay G/VG copy £27. A VG/VG copy sold for £38.77 Mar 2008
#583 (19th Sep 1953) - 1st General Jumbo by Paddy Brennan
#586 (10th Oct 1953) - 1st Little Plum by Leo Baxendale
#596 (19th Dec 1953) - 1st Minnie the Minx by Leo Baxendale
#604 (13th Feb 1954) - 1st When the Bell Rings by Leo Baxendale (becomes The Bash Street Kids from 1st Dec 1956 - see illustration below); an E Bay sale VG/VG copy sold at £68.78
#680 (30th Jul 1955) - 1st Grandpa by Ken Reid
#817 (15th Mar 1958) - 1st Jonah by Ken Reid
#881 (6th Jun 1959) - 1st Three Bears by Leo Baxendale
#1000 (16th Sep 1961) - anniversary issue; full page birthday cake cover - Nov 2007 E Bay Fair copy ex bound with spine holes £20.61. What looked like a VG possibly VG copy sold for £38.20 on E Bay Jan 2010
#1097 (27th Sep 1963) 25th Birthday issue. A VG/Fine copy sold on E Bay for £13.50 in Feb 2008
#1139 (16th May 1964) - 1st Billy Whizz by Malcolm Judge
#1289 (1st Apr 1967) - 1st Billy The Cat by David Sutherland
#1363 (31st Aug 1968) - 1st Gnasher (in Dennis the Menace)
#1553 (22nd Apr 1972) - 1st Babyface Finlayson by Ron Spencer
#1677 (7th Sep 1974) last Biffo the Bear cover
#1678 (14th Sep 1974) - 1st Dennis the Menace on cover. A VG/FN copy sold on E Bay for £14.50 Apr 2008
#1768 (5th Jun 1976) 1st Dennis the Menace Fan Club page
#2000 (15th Nov 1980) anniversary issue. In 2003 a Slipcase version by Portfolio Editions was published. An example sold on E Bay for £6 in 2008.
#2674 (16th Oct 1993) - 1st all colour issue
#2402 - 50th Birthday issue with free poster
#3000 (15th Jan 2000) - anniversary issue
In March 2012 the Royal Mail featured a selection of British comics on 1st Class stamps and Beano #914 was one of the covers chosen.
Note: some PR issues may have no value. Selected issues in FN, VF or VF/NM may not exist in some titles.