The Usual Suspects #5
Welcome back to another installment of The Usual Suspects. While many are still getting over SDCC and rushing to get this week’s hot books, another bit of news from last week kind of got lost in the shuffle. Comcast has officially bowed out of the bidding war for Fox paving the way for Disney’s acquisition.
Since Disney put out its first bid to acquire Fox earlier this year, speculation has driven up the price of quite a few classic key issues related to Fox properties. One in particular has seen tremendous gains in 2018. Now I typically try to cover 2 or 3 different books each week, but this book demands a bit of a deeper dive and a wider scope. So without further pomp and circumstance, let’s get into it.
1st full appearance of Wolverine
One of the few club books. Who else is in the 181 club? Such an iconic cover. What other character created after the Silver Age is more important to the medium and hobby than Wolverine? This is a book that defines a generation and the Bronze Age.
This is not a hard book to find. You can usually find one at any show and in many LCS’s. While relatively easy to find; it may, however, be hard to afford. After these last couple months, it may be getting even further out of reach for a lot of collectors.
I would also say this is one of the few completely liquid books. If you price it right, you will have no trouble turning it into immediate cash. You can’t say that about a lot of books. Plus this book just continues to rise in value. Even if you take out the recent bump, 181 still has had steady gains despite the one true Logan being effectively on the shelf for a couple years. Hulk 181 is a cornerstone of many collections.
Active Listings: A quick eBay search shows that there are 94 Active Listings currently. Granted, some of these are reprints, homage covers, foreign editions, and various other memorabilia utilizing the cover image. But of that 94, there are 53 graded copy listed. This is a book that nearly everyone gets graded regardless of the condition. Look at the census numbers below. Over 120 9.8’s for a book that has recently sold for over $20k and there are still only 2 listed right now. No one wants to part with their copies unless they are upgrading. Demand is still far exceeding supply. And all grades move whether it be an 8.5 or a 2.5.
Right now there are two CGC 9.8’s available with one listed at $35k and the other at $40k. Yes, you can almost buy a 2019 Mustang BULLITT for that price. I’m not a car guy but this was an easy example, so you get the point.
If you are looking for something a bit more reasonable, you can currently grab a pair of 9.6’s for used car prices @ $15k. There’s even a raw up right now asking $8,000. Crazy? It might be if there wasn’t a raw auction that ended back in May for $9,000.
Looking for something cheaper, well then consider a CGC 5.5 that’s about $1800 at auction with one day left. Right now the cheapest copy is what looks to be a VG copy that’s missing the Marvel Value Stamp (MVS) with a starting bid of $799.95 with 4 days left. The days of finding a cheap copy in any grade may be behind us.
Market Analysis: Only one Graded 9.8 sale the last 3 months and that was $21k on May 12th. Considering that was 2 months ago, and now there are 2 available copies nearly double that price, you can see where the market is headed. I realize those are asking prices, and they may not sell. But it’s probably not out of the realm of possibility that one goes for $30k in this market.
That would still be a 42% gain from that May sale. Looking back a bit further on the 9.8 sales, we can see that in May 2017 one sold for over $15.5k. In June 2016, one sold on Comic Connect for $11,900. There were other sales around $12k in both 2015 and 2014 as well. So $12k looks like a plateau it sat at for a while. But now prices are exploding back to values it hasn’t seen in nearly a decade back when Fox was pumping out Hugh Jackman X-men flicks.
Ok, let’s be realistic. I don’t know anyone personally who can play in the 9.8 playground on this book. I asked my wife to guess what a 9.8 goes for and she said “$4,000?” After seeing the look on her face when I pointed out the $40k copy, I can see the divorce papers being drawn up if I even joked about buying that book.
But if you look at the numbers below tracking actual sales, the real movement has been in VG-VF range. Many of the last sales set the recent high price points and show an increase of 20-40% over the 3 month average. High grade raw sales show the most recent sale at a 127% increase over the 3 month average. Absolutely insane gains going on right now.
Personally, I purchased a copy for $700 back in December 2017. I had a budget and I didn’t care too much about condition, but I certainly wanted the MVS intact. This one has the MVS; but there’s a small post-it size piece missing off the back cover. Front presents beautifully, but the back cover capped my grade at 2.5. Below are pics of my copy before being slabbed.
That tear breaks my heart every time I look at it. They couldn’t find another piece of paper to wrap up their gum in or jot down that phone number? But alas, if that tear wasn’t there I wouldn’t have been able to afford that copy and I would still probably be looking for a 181. But what really shocks me is that in the last 3 months, there have been two sales of 2.5’s for about $1,500. Yes, 2.5’s now have a going rate of $1,500. We’ve reached a point where any grade, even a 1.0, will run you a grand.
Mid-grade 5.0 and 7.0’s are selling for around $2,000-$2,500. Want a bit nicer copy to upgrade? Either an 8.5 or a 9.0 will cost you $5k these days. A 9.2? About $7k. A 9.4, however, will only run you about $8k. The better the grade, the price rises exponentially.
Slabs aren’t your thing? Well then you have a very open field in front of you as High grade raw copies have sold from anywhere between $2k and $9k these past couple months. You read that correctly. There have been 2 separate sales of RAW copies selling for $9,000.
Raw copies have had the most traffic in that mid-grade range. For this particular book and at these prices, I lowered my normal range so and considering anything VG-F as “mid-grade.” Any book from a 4.0 to a 7.0 has been selling for about $1,400. With highs of $2,300 and lows of $750, you really need to analyze those pics like they’re the Zapruder film.
Reader Copy Sales: You are not likely to find a true reader copy of this book. Not the original at least. Sure there are Marvel Milestone, True Believer, German, and other foreign editions to be had at decent prices. But if you want a true 1st print copy, it won’t be cheap. The below copy was missing the MVS and sold for $585 just a couple weeks ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I would be more than happy if this was my copy. I love a good “used” book. Wear and tear adds character as long as it isn’t mildew ridden or flaking to pieces. However, it would give me pause if I had to choose between this and a high grade raw Marvel Spotlight 5 at that price.
So what is driving the mad rush to get 181’s right now? Are people really into the half dozen different “Search for Wolverine” Mini’s? Are they eagerly awaiting his return to his own solo title? Is everyone super stoked for Hot Claws?
I have to imagine it’s mostly excitement for Disney to add Wolverine to the MCU. Sure we may be years from an X-men in the MCU, but the wait will only continue to drive the prices up. I have to imagine they will plateau near these recent sale prices for a while, but I don’t see them dropping much anytime soon. In fact, they will probably be in line for another surge once Hugh Jackman’s heir apparent is announced.
Personally I would’ve liked to have seen Tom Hardy take it over and give us the gruff Wolverine I remember from Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s X-Men run. But with Hardy playing Eddie Brock, I have to imagine that Logan is off the table for him. But you never know. I loved Jackman’s Wolverine, especially in Logan where I feel he really hit the notes I wanted. But in many of his earlier appearances he was just too darn charming to be my Wolverine. But who wouldn’t want to see Hardy’s Mad Max as Wolverine?
And if he played it strong silent badass type, we would hopefully only get a tiny bit of a weird accented mumbling Wolverine. But whoever plays him next, these books will spike again. I firmly believe that. Marvel could cast Uncle Rico as Wolverine and everyone will still be on board. Wolverine has proven over the years that he is bulletproof. Even when the storylines are horrible, people still love him.
Until next time I leave you to consider the above article’s connection to…
“Wolfman’s got nards” – Horace (aka Fat Kid)