INVESTING IN LOWER GRADE SILVER AGE KEY ISSUES
With comic properties from the “Big 2” (Marvel and DC) on the big screen as well as TV, we are seeing more and more investors and collectors entering the market place. Some are new investors coming over from Art, Antiques, Stocks, or Real Estate market. Others are just collectors looking to get into the hobby. This has resulted in a couple of interesting by-products. The first being new record prices realized for high grade Key Issues as the “Big Boys“ look for safe places to park their cash. The second being the steady to drastic rise in price on lower grade examples of these Keys as the average collector still wants to own 1st appearances of their favorite character but simply can not afford even mid graders.Personally I really like lower grade (Fair to Very Good) Keys. They are usually grossly undervalued in OSPG vs. actual market prices. They are the perfect entry level book as for most it is far easier to justify spending 1,000.00 on a book than it is to pull the trigger for 2500-5K. More importantly they have shown a nice steady to wild appreciation in price over the years.
It’s important to note that when I say “Key Issue” I mean true and proven “Blue Chip” comics, not the minor “keys” that see a price bump due to an announcement about a movie or TV appearance, and a year or so later experience a market correction back to the pre-inflated price.
Ideally you want to find a shop or dealer that uses the guide and knows how to accurately(or under) grade a book. I have had the best luck with folks like this, especially at smaller shows when you can find a “dealer” that is actually just a collector looking to off load their collection. Also, cash is king! I can not count the times I have gotten impressive discounts for paying in cash. And of course a strong relationship with a store owner can only play in your favor.
Marvel seems to be showing the best annual growth in the lower grade market for true “Keys” while DC is still performing well, and might actually have more room to grow in the long term. Marvel’s success is probably due to all the Marvel Studios and Sony Films being released. DC might catch up to Marvel, but it is a completely different market as almost all of DC’s 1st appearance and big keys are from the Golden Age. This leaves collectors and investors alike, scrambling for “1st Silver Age Appearances” for most of the bigger Super Heroes.
One last thing to note before I get to the books is in this age of “slabs”, appearance is everything. A more attractive 3.0 example of any given book will typically sell for the same if not more than the same issue in a 4.0 that has less eye appeal. Keep that in mind when shopping around.
MARVEL TOP KEY ISSUES
Not much else needs to be said here. This is hands down the #1 Silver Age book and has been the biggest mover over the last 5 years, appreciating in value each time a copy comes to market. Even Poor and Fair condition slabs and raw examples are quickly moving out of the reach of common collectors.
A FAIR 1.0 condition copy in auction will run you over 5000.00 and while I want to say that seems expensive, I honestly believe this book is going to keep moving up and up.
I thought this had peaked last summer when Good copies were ending at 3K or so and VGs were around 7K. Sadly I was very wrong. Even incomplete POOR copies are ending in the 2-3 K range.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 – 1st Issue of series, tied for 1st Marvel crossover
Solid #1 issue of the most popular Marvel Super Hero. Also ties Fantastic Four #12 for the first Marvel Crossover.
Prices slowly creeping up on this as collectors and investors alike are finding Amazing Fantasy 15 out of reach. Expect a solid annual gain on this issue for years to come.
The time to buy this book is when you see it. It’s not going down…
Avengers #1 – 1st Appearance of the Avengers
Though the movie really brought this book into the spotlight, it is also very early appearances of Ant Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Wasp.
What was once a tier 2 key at best is now among the top Silver Age Marvel Key issues and looks like it is not going anywhere. Even once all this movie hype dies down and other “Movie Books” experience a market correction, I do believe this will remain one of the top Marvel Keys to own.
Prices seem to have finally settled down on this book, at least in low grade. With more movies coming, this feels like a safe book to place in your investment portfolio.
Avengers #4 – 1st Silver Age/Re-Intro Captain America
Timely’s #1 Superhero revived for the Silver Age and thawed out to lead the Avengers. What’s not to like?
Conveniently enough, Jack Kirby was on this issue, one of the original creators of Captain America. Throw in another Timely Character(Sub Mariner) discovering Steve Rogers frozen in a block of ice being worshipped by Inuit and you get the rebirth of a classic “All American Hero”.
Prices on this issue have been up but stable for the last few years and should continue to climb steadily in low grades as more folks clamor to add this to their collection.
Just making the cut but not making any top 10 Silver Age lists, is the coolest of the blind super-heroes. I personally think this book is undervalued or at least overlooked in the marketplace for now and has plenty of room to grow.
Prices are very affordable for Good to Very Good examples of this Marvel Key. A perfect investment book for those who want a #1 issue but can not afford the other big Marvel issues.
Great time to buy if you are looking for a copy, as this book spiked then settled but seems to be slowly creeping up again.
Fantastic Four #1 – 1st Appearance of the Fantastic Four, 1st Marvel Super-Hero team
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wrote and produced this masterpiece after hearing from their editor about the success of DC’s JLA and were told to make a superhero team book.
Officially ushering in the “Marvel Age”, this was the start of it all. Before this issue, Atlas/Marvel was pushing out “Big Monster” comics and Sci-Fi issues.
Prices on this book actually took a dip in 2012 as it appeared it was more common an issue than previously thought. Market has been recovering slowly though and sales still bring in slightly over guide prices, which one should expect to continue.
Fantastic Four #5 – 1st Appearance of Doctor Doom
The only villain 1st appearance to make the list. Marvel’s 1st original(Sub Mariner was reintroduced in issue 4) “Big Bad” and a mainstay in the Marvel Universe, this book is a must have for most collectors and surprisingly tough to get.
Another stable but slowly growing book, though lower grades seems to be appreciating quicker over the last 2 years than the last 5 year’s average.
Those looking for a copy of this book, now is as good a time as any to grab one.
Incredible Hulk #1 – 1st Appearance of The Hulk
Hulk Smash! Another pillar in the Marvel Universe, this book is an absolute bitch to find. Originally this series only made it 6 issues before being canceled and Hulk being brought back in Avengers for a while and then Tales to Astonish alongside Giant-Man.
The market is finally starting to take notice of how rare this issue actually is. In the last 12 months alone this book has easily doubled in price in all grades below VF. I do not think it will ever out price Amazing Fantasy, but I think this will be damn close once the dust settles.
Copies can be had, but again, tough to find and be ready to pay up or hope to find a store pricing by guide.
Journey Into Mystery #83 – 1st Marvel Appearance of Thor
The second Super Hero to come out of the “Marvel Monster Books”(Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish) and the same release as Amazing Fantasy 15(even though the indicia says a month later) this was long considered a tier 2 Key issue. Obviously the Movies have changed this and I do not see this ever reverting back.
After the initial spike in pricing from the movie announcements, this book has settled comfortably in the 1200-1500 bucks for a Good range copy.
This is another book I see slowly appreciating over time and a safe investment if you can grab one at or around guide price.
Tales of Suspense #39 – 1st Appearance of Iron Man
Following the success of Tales to Astonish with Ant Man and Journey into Mystery with Thor, Iron Man made his debut in March of 1963, only 6 months before Avengers #1.
Sharing the spotlight for some years in Tales of Suspense with Captain America before they both got their own series in the later 60s.
The first comic that enjoyed a nice spike from the Marvel Studios films, copies are still being bought up at decent prices but can be found with some ease for what seems to be a standard 1200-1500 in the Good range.
The first Marvel Monster book to debut a super-hero, TTA 27 has always been considered a key, though has long been debated that issue #35 is actually the first appearance since it is Ant-Man in costume.
Also one of the few Marvel Key Issue comics to sport the 10 cent price tag.
Though the Ant Man movie has led to increased interest in this book, the market is still somewhat soft, given how difficult it is to find a copy that presents well. The tough brown cover and the poor paper quality have lead to a lot of these hitting the market in Fair to Good+ condition. Might not be the best time to buy at market, but at guide prices, I feel there is a lot of room to grow.
X-Men #1 – 1st Appearance of The X-men, Charles Xavier and Magneto
Always a tier 1 Silver Age Key issue, X-men 1 has recently been overshadowed by the price spikes of all the Avengers related books on this list.
The market is not as soft on this book right as it was a year ago, with Good to Very Good examples seemingly affordable compared to the other comics on this list.
If you want a solid investment book, or have been debating buying a copy, act now. This book is far overdue for a market correction and is starting to experience an upward trend in pricing.
DC TOP KEY ISSUES
Classic early DC Silver Age and wildly popular amongst collectors and investors alike. While some might want to argue this is not a true key, it always has and always will be a Blue Chip…
Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy(Later changed to Lightning Lad) and Saturn Girl are the Legion, they travel back in time, initiate Superboy and he becomes the newest member.
As with most DCs, a very tough book to find, but more common in Good or worse condition.
A solid investment book, no major spikes or dips in the past 5 years or so, just solid and steady appreciation in price.
Brave and Bold #28 – 1st Justice League of America
A revamping of the Golden Age Justice Society of America with a few modifications and Silver Age versions of Flash and Green Lantern.
With the movie coming at some point in the near future, this book has shown minor spiking, but has always been considered one of the top 5 DC Silver Age books.
While prices are on the rise now, I would still consider buying this book in any grade VG or below. Once the movie gets closer and people really start chasing it, you will see real spikes in pricing.
After the success of the “New” Flash in Showcase, Barry Allen gets his own titles, picking up the numbering, where the golden age series left off 17 years earlier.
Book is seeing a nice increase in price recently due to the TV show. With the success of the show on the CW, it seems like this book will remain a main stream, attention grabbing key.
Another factor will be the JLA movie, so even with prices going up a bit, this is still a safe book to buy and sit on for a few years.
Same with Flash 105, successful Showcase run leads to Hal Jordan earning his own title.
As with Showcase 22, this book made a very large price jump when the Green Lantern movie was announced a couple of years ago. Prices have come back down to earth, though they are still healthy and the book has shown a steady increase in price over the last 3 years.
With the JLA movie coming out at some point, I would be comfortable buying this book in any low grade and sitting on it for the long haul, or getting out around the movie if I feel the price is inflated enough.
Yet again, we see a successful run in Brave and the Bold lead to their own title. Also the 1st appearance of Despero.
The market is, as expected, starting to heat up on this issue, just like B&B 28. I still think there is plenty of gas in the tank, and this issue can be had for what will seem like a steal 2 years from now.
Low grade examples are affordable, even better if you can find them priced at guide.
For years there was, what seemed like a never ending debate on what the first actual appearance of Sgt Rock was. Once the prototype issues were dismissed, it came down to OOAW #81, 82 or 83. As of 5 or 6 years ago, the market seems to have finally decided that it is issue 83. I will not go into why it has landed here, but it has and I accept it.
That said, this is one of the toughest Silver Age comics to find period. Pair that with a tough black cover, the cross interest between Investors, Key Issue Collectors and War Comic Collectors and you have the only War Book that can stand its ground against the likes of B&B 28, Showcases and the others on this list.
The time to buy this book is when you see it, it’s only going up.
After more than 17 years without the Flash, DC Comics debuted Barry Allen as the Flash in the 4th issue of their new comic which would quickly develop into a venue for the reintroduction or introduction of new characters.
Considered to be the official start of the Silver Age, Showcase 4 has always been in the top 5 Silver Age books to own(behind AF 15, Hulk 1 and FF 1). While shifting its place on that list, it has never dipped below #5 and with good reason. As of now it seems to be in a dead heat with AF 15 and Hulk 1 as low grade examples climb higher and higher.
Tough book to find in any grade and always selling well above guide pricing, now might not be the best time to buy this book as it is experiencing an upward trend with the Flash TV Show and JLA news.
Realizing Showcase #4 was a success on the newsstands, DC quickly put The Flash back into Showcase and gave him another cover and story as well as a villain to fight. The success of this issue led to 2 more appearances for Barry Allen in Showcase #’s 13 and 14 before continuing in The Flash #105.
Much more affordable then Showcase #4 but still an expensive key, lower grade examples can be had in auctions for reasonable prices. And as with most of the pre #25 Showcases, a rarer book than other DC titles from this period.
Trying to get more female readers, DC did a 2 issue try out for Lois Lane in Showcase #9 and 10. Demand was high for both issues and Lois was actually the first Showcase character to get her own title with Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane.
Pricing is all over the place on this issue, some sneak through the cracks and end well below guide, while others end well above. Not sure what is causing the volatility of this issue, but if you can find a raw copy or even a low grade slab in auction, don’t hesitate to throw a bid down, you might get lucky.
After the success of The Flash in Showcase and the first few issues of his own series, DC decided to reintroduce another almost forgotten Golden Age Hero. Just as with Flash, the new Silver Age Green Lantern was a new character as well with Hal Jordan wielding the ring instead of Alan Scott.
Prices on this book went sky high in all grades a few years back when the movie was announced, but just like with Green Lantern #1, they have come back down to earth again.
I think there is a lot of potential for this book to, at worst it appreciates slowly over time, and best case, it spikes up again with the JLA movie and perhaps another GL film.
There are a number of books that could make this list in the near future. I am keeping my eyes on a number of them as potential candidates for books I would start to pick up in low grade as investments. Of course there are numerous other key issues within the silver age that might be worth picking up in any low grade, especially if the price is right.
Those books will be outlined in the next write up along with others that at this point are considered tier 2 and 3 books.