The Usual Suspects #19
Welcome to this week’s edition of The Usual Suspects. As the calendar turns to a new month and fall ushers itself in, I thought it was a good time to take a look back at our old friends The Uncanny X-men. Granted both books I want to look at actually predate the “Uncanny” but when I think of the adjective-less “X-Men”, I immediately think of Jim Lee and the 90’s.
However we aren’t looking at that dollar bin filler. That’s a different article. What do you think this is? Thursday? But don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Jim Lee’s X-men #1 and continually grab it when I see it for a buck. It brings me back to the aspiring comic book artist teenage me. Plus, I just want to add to my 0.0000025% portion of the 8 million copy print run. I don’t know why.
We can only hope this upcoming relaunch is half decent. Honestly, I miss looking forward to reading my X-books. It’s been years since I’ve really felt that connection to the team. Maybe it’s the constant relaunches, or the arbitrarily color coded titles, or the lack inspiration. X-Books these days just seem so blah. I keep picking them up, but I truly miss the old Blue and Gold teams. I miss the softball games. I miss the banter and comradery. I miss the high collared, headband wearing, sleeves rolled up leather jacketed Rogue.
Suffice it to say, the X-men have had their fair share of ups and downs over the decades. From being relegated to reprinting their own material back in the 70’s, to being the biggest selling comic book of all time in the 90’s. They helped usher in the comic movie genre we all know and love in the 2000’s, and they’ll be coming back to Marvel and hopefully done right in the MCU in the 20-teens? Twenty-tens? Is that a thing? How would you abbreviate this decade?
Regardless, for this article, I want to go back to the 70’s and focus on the X-men’s comeback from cancellation. So the mighty mutants hit a rough patch at the end of the 60’s. Starting with issue #67 they began reprinting old material. I guess it was cheaper than paying creators for new material, or maybe they just ran out of ideas. I mean they had already crossed over with other marvel characters like Spidey and the Hulk, they ventured to a crazy jungle land, fought a telepathic flying dinosaur man named after a Lord of the Rings Big Bad, and even crossed paths with Frankenstein by that point. I guess that’s all the story they had.
I don’t know the real reason off the top of my head. Sure I could “research” it, but I prefer to work off the cuff. Besides…
Anyway, the reprints continued for about 5 years up through issue #93. So we got to see many of those stories like the Frankenstein crossover one more time. And then in the Summer of 1975, Marvels’ Merry Mutants came back with team of international characters with some familiar faces and a few brand new characters.
And with that…let’s get into it.
1st appearance of Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus & Thunderbird,
This book has a lot going for it. Start of a legendary run, new team, new characters, and an iconic cover. This is a real gem. Do I really need to sell you on the importance of this book?
I still remember when I got mine. I bought it off some rando guy on Facebook. Negotiated for this and my 1st copy of ASM 129 for $600 total. So I made the deal and sent this guy 600 bucks through Paypal. I’m not even sure if it was through Goods and Services. My memory is kinda fuzz. I could’ve been burned completely sending it Friends and Family for all I remember. It wouldn’t surprise me.
It could’ve been a potential Pete’s Problem (not to be confused with Paul W.’s Paul’s Problems from Tales from the Flipside). Actually it was. I was intentionally ripping it off. You caught me. I’m ashamed. But seriously if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you need to start listening to the Flipside.
Wait, wait, wait. Finish reading this and then go listen.
Anyway, thankfully the books arrived safe and sound and I didn’t have any Problems. And that truly was a bit of a miracle in itself as the books were shipped inside bags and boards inside glass frames. Yeah because why not add that extra level of danger in having only a thin polyurethane bag protect the book against potentially broken glass shards shipped in a cardboard box? Let’s kick the danger level of shipping books up a notch like Ultimate Fireball.
I should also point out that they weren’t the best copies to begin with, but I knew that going in. The ASM 129 was pretty rough. Maybe Good condition, 2.0-3.0 at best. Cover was wrinkled and brittle like Clint Eastwood’s face in Gran Torino.
I ended up selling that ASM soon after for X-mas spending money. I knew I’d eventually find a better copy one day. Which I did, but that’s a tale for another time. Anyway, I recouped about half my money back and was left with my GSX #1 in Fine condition for about $300.
Still debating on sending it out to CGC. I don’t feel comfortable pressing it myself, or any square-bound book for that matter. That takes a bit more technique and finesse than I possess at this time. But it’s my copy and I’m content with it as it is. So regardless of the grade, it’s not going anywhere.
Active Listings: A quick eBay search returns over 100 results. This isn’t a hard book to find. Whatever you are looking for you can easily find it; whether it be a slab, and high grade raw, or a low grade reader.
Right now the most expensive listing is a CGC 9.8 available for $19,999.99 plus $69.99 shipping.
Ok, my long-standing shipping gripe on big ticket books aside; there’s another CGC 9.8 available for $11,995 with free shipping. And yet a 3rd CGC 9.8 copy for just under $11k. Will that copy sell for $20k when there are comparable books available at a 40% discount to start?
So, super high grade slabs aside, the top raw copy listed is looking for about $2200 which finds itself in line with a few CGC 8.0 and 8.5’s. Pricing can be crazy sometimes. Say you have a grand to throw down on this book. Right now that $1000 can get you a CGC 6.0 or a CGC 3.0 based on the listings.
At the same time $500 can also get you some other listed CGC 3.0’s or just raw reader copies. But when you consider the recent gains on this book, many sellers don’t want to leave $$$ on the table. So some of the asking prices may seem high right now, but that could be where the market finds itself before you know it. Once those comparable “better deals” are gone, and you are the only one left on the market; there’s a good chance someone will ask you to dance.
Market Analysis: Sales are up over all grades. No matter what grade you have, there is a market for this book and that market has been increasing since the merger was hinted at a year or so ago. Now that the acquisition of Fox is approved, speculation has driven up the price of many key X-Books. I’m not much of a CGC Signature series guy, but I also threw the numbers in for anyone interested. Go ahead and take a peek.
But outside of the CGC SS 9.8 for $12,500, the most recent big mover was a blue label 9.8 sale for $9k in August. That was one of 14 CGC 9.8 sales last year. Sales ranged from a high of just over $10k and a low sale down around $5700. That said, most sales were in the $9k range, but they are trending up.
And this isn’t an impossible 9.8 to find, just an expensive one these days. The Census shows 157 CGC 9.8’s and there are even 3 on eBay right now. Mix in the other grading services and the other comic auction sites, and you can get this book in 9.8 relatively easy all things considered. Again, that is if you have an extra $10k to burn.
Ok, I don’t ever play around at that level of book, so let’s look a few grades down and see what’s happening. The most sales seem to be in the 8.0-8.5 range with sales averaging around $1500. CGC 8.5’s in particular seem to be gaining ground on the 9.0’s as the last 3 sales were for over $1800 each.
Still too rich for your blood? Mine too. But sometimes you just have to window shop.
So looking at the cheaper copies, you really are talking about at least $600-800 for anything from CGC 2.5 to 6.0. All prices are creeping up. This isn’t quite Hulk 181, but this book is trending up across all grades. The cheap copies are getting harder and harder to find.
1st Chris Claremont on X-Men.
2nd appearance of Nightcrawler, Storm, Thunderbird, & Colossus.
Nearly forgotten about in the wake of Giant Size X-Men #1, this book is truly the start of something great. This marks the beginning of Chris Claremont’s legendary run on this title. The team starts to take shape and we begin our journey, in earnest, with Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Banshee, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Thunderbird.
Oh poor Thunderbird. We barely get to know you. Sure you make it through this issue, but we lose you next issue in just your 3rd appearance. You truly left your mark on all of us in your short time in the funny books.
But seriously it was pretty messed up to introduce us to James Proudstar and then to vote him off the island after 3 issues. I’m sure it was done to add that level of suspense that any character could be lost at any time. But what’s with the comic industry being so inconsiderate with their Native American characters? I mean look at what they did to Slipknot in Suicide Squad. They basically used his character as a plot device to prove how they were all stuck working for Waller.
I know, Slipknot wasn’t a Native American character in the comics but Adam Beach, the actor who played him, is. And I also realize these events were separated by nearly 40 years, but I thought if it while I was writing so her it is. No filter or good sense sometimes.
Active Listings: Looks like over 140 listings up on this one. Granted some of these are the reprint copies and even a Spanish edition that looks pretty cool actually. I don’t read Spanish, but it looks like this is referencing Spider-man in some way. And what’s with blue faced Iron man in the indicia? It’s only like $60, so if it isn’t there by the time you read this, then I may have bought it.
But outside of that, it looks like the highest grade copy is 9.4 for issue #94. Mind Blown.
Seriously though, there are 9 copies of this up at the moment in 9.4. Granted one is a PGX and another is a CGC SS, but the prices on those 9 copies range from $2,000 to $3,750. If you wanted to you could buy this nine times.
That’s just kooky talk. But if you were in the market for a high grade raw copy, then you have 3 choices each about $1,700 or so each. And the cheapest copy, that isn’t my future random Spanish copy, is available for about $150. There are a few readers and low grades in that range, but this book isn’t really cheap anymore.
My personal copy of this, however, is a cheap reader that I dropped about $90 for a while back. I’m not afraid to buy an old beater until I can eventually upgrade. I’d rather have a beat book to fill my run rather than not have it all. Any my copy is very rough. It’s also got that wrinkled craggily look like an old catcher’s mitt.
Market Analysis: So not quite as many sales over the last year as GSX 1, but sales have still been strong. With 318 sales over the last year, that breaks out to over 25 sales a month on average. Not bad for a book from 1975.
In fact a CGC 9.8 sold a few days ago for a massive $12k, which was $3k more than the last GSX 1 sale in 9.8. Not bad.
Now I couldn’t say this book truly is gaining on GSX 1, as many sales have actually been down. But considering there are only one fifth the amount of 9.8’s by comparison, it appears the scarcity is driving the super high grade prices up on this book. Look at the discrepancy between a 9.8 and a 9.6. The last 9.6 sale was way back in July and it was for only $3,400. Seems buyers of this book only want to put out the big bucks for the top of the line.
But outside the big boy prices, it looks like $200 may get you anything from a reader all the way up to a 5.5 judging from the recent sales and averages. Again another attainable book, and one we should all try to have in our collections
Well, I hope my X-men bias didn’t taint this article too much. But outside of my personal feelings on either of these books, I don’t think anyone can argue that these aren’t keys in every sense of the word. So it doesn’t matter what I have to say, the market and history has spoken for me. If you don’t have them, now may be the time to act before they appreciate even more.
Once concrete news of a new X project hits, these will jump again. For that surge alone it may be worth buying, even just to flip in a year. But I still believe in these books as long plays. These are market proof books that will always have demand and will survive the eventual market pullback. Safe plays, like precious metals.
Don’t just play the hot new variant game each week. I don’t care what Ghost Spider #1 is doing. I don’t have the stomach to play chicken at those prices. If I had it I would sell just for the profits. Making $ is great and all, but that’s not why I am in this personally. If I made that profit, it would only be to turn it into a book I always wanted. So that’s more about the sale than the buy. More about the money than the book.
I suppose that makes me more of a collector than a speculator. But we can be both. There’s room here for all kinds. No need for definitive declarations. No lines to be drawn. In these ever adversarial times, especially during election season, just remember. This community has room for us all. Just as Bill S. Preston, Esq. says, “Be excellent to each other.” and…
“Party on Dudes!” – Ted Theodore Logan