A Comic Book Collector’s Top 15 Undervalued Or Overlooked Speculator Picks
This past weekend a buddy of mine asked me an interesting question. He asked me “What comics would I recommend for speculating/ investing in to hopefully turn a profit at a later date”? Now this was not the question of “Hey I want to get into comics, what you recommend I start reading?” that I typically get. This was a bit of a tough one. Now I know many of us Comic Bookers weathered the horrible 90s’ comic book speculation bubble. And many opinions out there seem to think that the industry is trying to re-create this speculation boom resulting in a lot of recycled gimmicks hitting the Comic Book shelves. But at the same time let’s be honest with ourselves, our hobby, our collections do have a monetary value to them. We hand over our money every week or month, and if we’re good collectors bag and board our purchases, and then store them in long-boxes. Our love is a love of a product that is bought and sold like many other products/commodities in the world, only cooler of course.
If we’ve been collecting for years then it’s safe to say that we’ve handed over a good percentage of our income over to this hobby. Some, more money than others… I’m pointing to myself here. Now yes we collect some issues or books because we genuinely love the characters or creators that participated in the telling of these stories and most of us posses a genuine passion for the medium. And I am sure that at one point or another we have had to monetarily justify our hobby/collections if not to ourselves, then to our parents, friends, siblings, or significant others. At some point in time when a stack of long-boxes was taking up a spare bedroom, corner of the house, parking space in the garage, or the basement we have uttered the phrase to the offending person “But some of them are worth money!” in hopes of said person seeing the light. Just about every other week or so while hanging out at my LCS it never seems to fail, someone walks into the store with a long-box or two filled with, Bloodlines, Spider-Man #1, Spawn #1, and all of the X-Men #1s; gatefold cover even and hollering how they got gold in them there boxes!! Sadly they usually get offered a few bucks or are simply turned down. I know it’s a bummer, and I’m sure about half of my own collection are these types of boxes-the good and fun to read issues, but filler issues none the less.
So when I was asked this speculator question I had to think long and hard about it. So I came up with a list of my top 15 speculator comic books. But I set some rules on this list mostly based on knowing where my friend and other typical comic collectors are most likely coming from.
So rule Number 1.) Was no gimmicky issues, no Variant covers (well except for one) no sketch covers, none of the usual COLLECTOR EDITION specials that always get touted here and there. None of the modern issues that are currently for the time being tearing up the charts, like Walking Dead #1 or #100, or Chew #1. No 1:150, 1:250, or 1:5,000,000 ratios!
Rule 2.) They had to be easily affordable, let’s say $50 to $60 bucks maximum, or cheaper of course. To me the price point was for two reasons the first being I think this is a price point that a casual collector or any collector really on a reasonable budget could swing, spread out over time, a few Paychecks here and there. As well as of course the whole point here is to spend as little as possible in order to gain as much potential profit as possible down the road. Buy low sell high, simple as that. So again no chart burners here like Walking Dead etc. we’re sniping for low priced overlooked targets here.
Rule 3.) No CGC/PGX issues, again this goes back to price point rule. But remember with all things comics its condition, condition, condition. So while we may not be getting Gem Mint issues here we are targeting issues in the good, fine, to very fine, and of course when possible near mint condition copies. Besides most of these issues are fairly old issues and many times you’ll be buying them in a secondary market like eBay , back issue bins at an LCS, or even a used bookstore, so we won’t really be expecting them to be in Super Mint condition but still in fairly decent shape none the less. I am by no means a professional grader but neither is the common collector so we all have to use our best judgment and experience in collecting.
Rule 4.) The issues had to be fairly common , they had to be issues that pop up pretty often. In other words, with a little bit of searching issues that can be easily found and obtained. Nothing crazy rare or obscure.
Rule 5.) You are going to have to do some work. Again this list in my opinion can easily be obtained in general but will take some time and leg work to do it. Most or all issues can be found on the internet namely eBay, but may take some time in watching various auctions for the price point and best condition that we’d want. Aim for cheap as possible and as near mint as possible. The hunt can also be continued at your local LCS if they have back issue boxes which most do, and of course if you are lucky to live in a town with more than one comic shop even better. Then of course there are the conventions, smaller regional comic book shows, used book stores (I’ve hit on a few treasures at Half-Price books) and antique shops. I actually like these best because many times the staff working there has no idea what an issue is worth, or just simply dismiss comic books all together as trivial and space wasters. So we may have to do some searching but really in this hobby the journey and the search are the real fun!!
Other notes for the purposes of valuation I am using Zap-Kapow’s comic book price guide app on my Apple iPhone. It’s a great app that pretty much puts an entire extensive price guide in my pocket and in my hands anywhere I go. Now I know for years we have used the Overstreet price guide as the gold standard but I’ve compared key issue prices between the app and the book and they have been very spot on with each other. At the same time for a small fee you can update your app/guide monthly or at anytime with the latest prices and most current issues added. For target or possible purchase prices I have of course used Completed Listings (items sold) on eBay which to me and many others pretty much sets the going market rate/price. In particular during these tough times where sellers may not always be getting the higher prices that price guides tell them, they should be getting undervalued deals can be found. But that’s a good thing for us.
So let’s take a look at what is my list of what I think are often overlooked and undervalued comic books are.
1.) Amazing Spider-Man issue #298 vol. 1. An important issue as it is artist Todd McFarlane’s first Spider-Man book on what winds up being a phenomenal iconic run within the Marvel universe. This book also is technically Venom’s/Eddie Brock’s first appearance. But really it’s a small cameo with a few of the last panels hinting at Venom, by showing just his hands. Zap-Kapow’s Near Mint value is at $75.00. Why I like it: 1st Todd McFarlane, 1st Venom, and it is often pushed to the side as Amazing Spider-Man #300 is what everyone wants. #300 of course being what everybody considers to be Venom’s true first appearance but is rarely found under $100.00 so it’s out. But we like #298 because it can still be found fairly cheap. Issues have sold from $10-$20 bucks. If you go to a LCS that has back issue bins I often see them still priced at $20-$25. I think most owners tagged them and bagged them years ago and just went on their way. Another reason we like this is Amazing Spider-Man is coming up on his 700th issue soon making this issue a little bit more of a milestone. So Spidey wins in my book.
2.) Is Amazing Spider-Man issue #299 vol. 1. Again for pretty much the same reasons as issue #298 above; Venom cameo, great artist, and it’s still cheap. Zap-Kapow puts a near mint issue at $36.00. Issues have sold anywhere from $5-$50.00. But that’s why I like it our guide says $36.00 but every now and then this issue will sell for above that. Even off line at a recent comic book show here in Seattle a few vendors were asking $40-$50 on this issue as well. I think that slowly overtime the demand for this issue will be going up and that’s why I like it. But with a little hunting around in the back bins and online a lot of nice condition issue can be had at $20-$25. Undervalued at times, I think so.
3.) Supergirl and the Legion of Super Heroes issue #23. Adam Hughes Variant cover. This is the only variant that I’ll include in this list but really if you had to pick ONE Variant Cover it would have to be this one. This comic has what I think is one of Adam Hughes’s most rare and true masterpieces on its cover; A beautiful image of Supergirl sitting on a meteor with a magical innocent expression on her face. This cover has often been called the Pin-Up style Supergirl, or the Coke Girl cover as it invokes the imagery of some of the old Norman Rockwell style coke ads. This amazing cover art has also been re-packaged onto T-Shirts, Posters, Limited run Prints etc. So why do I like it besides the amazing art? Well this variant is actually kind of hard to find. It came out in December of 2006 and was somewhat overlooked, and has a bit of scarcity to it. I tried to research how many of these variant covers were actually issued, but so far have found nothing. I don’t know the ratios or the print run, but I imagine it must have been low as it does take some searching to find this comic. Zap-Kapow! puts a near mint issue at $10.00. With some patience and searching this issue can be found as low as $15-$25.00. However many copies have sold for as much as $100.00. Which is why I like it a truly undervalued and overlooked issue with a guide price of $10 vs. actual selling prices near $100.00, as well as a story written by Mark Waid to boot.
4.) Shazam (1973) issue #1. Written by Dennis O’Neil. So this one is a bit obvious it’s a first issue, of Shazam, a.k.a Captain Marvel. This is recorded as the first appearance of Capt. Marvel and Company within DC Comics officially. I like it because Zap-Kapow has a near mint issue at $50.00. Issues in decent shape can be found between the $10-$20.00 ranges, and sometimes even lower. Beside the price point, I’d pick this comic because it is an older first issue of a popular character, and with the recent Shazam stories within the pages of the current Justice League run this character’s popularity will only increase. As well as simply with the passage of time and age I suspect the value of this issue to slowly creep up.
5.) Amazing Spider-Man issue #36. Vol. 2. This is a bit of a historical issue as Marvel comics issued this book with an all Black cover shortly after the events of September 11th, 2001, and the inside story contains the Marvel heroes dealing with and paying tribute to the heroes and the fallen of 9/11-WTC. Aside from the historical significance Zap-Kapow has a near mint issue at $40.00. Many are selling from $20-$30.00 per issue and at times lower. But I like this issue because slowly I’ve seen the valuation of this book climb over the past few years. When I picked up my copy about several years back the price guide valuation was at $25.00 near mint. Side note here there is a “newsstand” version of this issue, meaning the cover has a UPC /Barcode on the front cover and these are valued higher via Zap-Kapow at $80.00 for near mint. The kicker, I don’t think that’s widely known as one just went on eBay for $5.00. For sure overlooked.
6.) The Savage She-Hulk issue #1, 1980. Now this one is a bit of a stretch and many may disagree with me on this pick. Zap-Kapow has a near mint issue at $12.00. I know, I know not exactly breaking the bank here. But here’s why I like it. Issue number one of Savage She-Hulk is the only issue on this title run that Stan Lee actually wrote. In fact this character was Co-Created by Stan Lee along with John Buscema. So to me this is one of the last classic Marvel character books that Stan Lee helped to create and bring to life. And let’s face it, it does not have the price point of say a Fantastic Four #1 or Silver Surfer #1. For me this is a book that is easily accessible to all, but marks a certain point of time in the world of Marvel comics that is sure to one day become a classic. This issue can often be bought for as low as $5-$10.00. But for a 1st issue Stan Lee created book of a classic Marvel Heroine, what a deal!
7.) Incredible Hulk issue #180. Written by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe. This issue is technically the first appearance of the awesome mutant hero Wolverine. Really it’s a cameo appearance as Wolverine appears in just one panel on the last page. Really Wolverine at this point was simply supposed to be filler or D-list character to take on The Hulk and afterwards Marvel was a bit unsure as what to do with him, but later became the best he is, at what he does. Yes everyone wants Incredible Hulk issue #181, where Wolverine has his legendary battle with the Hulk, and goes down In Comic Book history as one of the most popular charters in the Comic Book world. But you’d be hard pressed to find issue #181 for under $1,200.00 bucks if not way more at times. However Zap-Kapow holds our issue #180 near mint at $135.00. With some patience issues can be found in the $50-$65.00 range, at times lower but for lesser condition copies. For me a classic issue that will slowly climb in value over time. It’s not the Ferrari issue that we’d all drool over but instead is the Fiero that will get us from A to B with a little bit of fun to kick around.
8.) Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man issue #1. Yes another Spidey book. What can I say the guy is popular. I like this issue pretty much for its timing. Published in 1976, to me it’s a 1st issue Spider-Man that isn’t super aged, so as to put its price out of reach, but is also not so new as many modern Spider-Man books are so as to make it a fairly common issue. Spectacular Spider-Man was the second Spider-Man monthly comic-book spin-off series, after Marvel Team-Up, which also featured Spider-Man along with guest star heroes. The monthly title ran 263 issues until 1998. So for me it’s right there in the middle that I see it becoming a classic issue because it’s sort of in a way the second Spider-Man titled book published by Marvel, but is still currently at an affordable price point that collectors can easily pick this issue up. Zap-Kapow put’s a near mint issue at $50.00. Really nice copies of this issue sell for about $20-$25.00, but I’ve picked up a few nice copies for as low as $10.00.
9.) Swamp Thing issue #1. This is a first issue published in 1972, and created by the masters of disaster Len Wein, and Bernie Wrightson. Swamp thing has a fairly large fan base and is currently experiencing some super popularity within DC’s current Swamp Thing run. So for a 1st issue of a cool character that inspired a funky B-Movie, Zap-Kapow marks this issue at $250.00 near mint. With some heavy searching copies can be picked up for as low as $50.00 But most usually go in the higher range of $60-$70. To hit our low price point rule a lot of patience and hunting for this issue may have to be done, but they can be obtained at a reasonable price.
10.) Avengers issue # 57, 1968. Behold the 1st appearance of the Vision. A pretty cool long standing Avengers team member , while he does not command the same price point as other 1st appearance Avengers such as Captain America or Thor, this is a good thing for collectors. Zap-Kapow has this issue at $400.00 for a near mint issue. What?!! You might ask? Oddly enough for some reason or another, this issue is very much overlooked. Completed listings for decent condition issues range widely from $25-$80.00 per copy. I suspect that this is based on the lack of popularity of the character, yet it is still technically an important issue. I would expect to pay $50.00 for a good to fine solid condition book, but most likely with a little hunting a collector could do well here. (Note: there was a later re-print of this issue titled Marvel Super Action, avoid this copy it’s just a re-pop.)
11.) Fantastic Four issue #52. The 1st Appearance of Black Panther was written by Stan Lee and Art done by Jack “The King” Kirby issued in July of 1966. Zap-Kapow puts a near mint issue at $600.00. Again completed sales have varied widely from $25-$75.00, of course based on the varying conditions offered. But an overall fine to very fine condition could mostly likely be had by a patient collector for around $50-$60. Again I suspect the cause of the wide variation in pricing to be similar to the cause of price variation for the Vision’s first appearance in Avengers. While still an important key issue, it is of a somewhat less popular character. But for a first appearance issue written by Stan Lee, and art completed by Jack Kirby, this is sure to be a great addition to any collection.
12.)Supergirl issue #1 Vol. 1, 1972. This is the first issue of Supergirl in her own monthly title/book, where as previously the “Maid of Might” had mostly appeared between the pages of Superman main title books Adventure and Action Comics. Zap-Kapow places this issue at a near mint price of $105.00. To be honest not very many of these are up for sale out in the auction market, and the ones that are don’t seem to be in such high demand. I have picked up several great condition copies of this book along the way and each one was under $20.00. I would expect to pay from $20-$30 for a book in pretty good condition. This pick I have to say is pure speculation as I don’t really see the demand online for this particular issue. But a first issue book of a fairly popular and recognizable character with a price guide valuation of a little over a $100, perhaps an overlooked book to snag cheaply and hang onto.
13.) Black Panther issue #1. Again we have here another character that initially held a “Supportive Character” role later gaining his own regular title. This issue was both written and illustrated by comic book legend Jack Kirby. For a near mint issue Zap-Kapow shows a price of $40.00. Online nice copies are easily selling for $10-$20. Why this is on my list, is of course Classic Marvel Jack Kirby. Again while some of the more popular Jack Kirby titles like Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer are higher priced we have a 1st issue still within a reasonable price point. Also having owned this book for several years I have seen it’s valuation slowly go up over time, which I suspect is having to do with Black Panther’s popularity increasing in recent years.
14.) The Forever People issue #1971. Again another great all Jack Kirby creation, that introduced a new group of super beings to the DC Universe. In fact this book was rather key for the DCU as it spawned many other titles and story lines essentially helping to create DC’s 4th world. Zap-Kapow’s near mint price is $110.00. While a couple of listings have closed at $50.00 a lot of great condition issues are selling pretty solidly at $20.00 per. Again a great Jack Kirby first issue along with a guide price point of $110.00. With this being an influential book within the DC Universe I really do see its value going in one direction, up.
15.) And finally Mister Miracle issue #1. Yes the Great Jack Kirby is pretty much rounding out my list here. But can you blame me? With such a large array of great works these are some of the more awesome books of the time that collectors can still grab easily. Spinning out of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World/New Gods and the planet of Apocalypse creations is Mister Miracle getting his own title. Again with what seems to be the going rate for Jack Kirby 1st editions a near mint price guide valuation is $110.00. But many copies are selling for about $30 per copy and at times a little less. Again another great addition that I feel will only climb upward.
Whether you are a casual collector or a hardcore comic book junkie I think that overall this is a pretty decent speculation list. Whether you pick these issues up, board them and bag them, and store them in a long-box, or you simply box them up and stick them in the corner of your closet for discovery at a later date I think a little profit could be made with these issues down the road. And of course if you were to take on the extra effort, and expense to get these issues CGC graded then without a doubt these issues will bring in some returns. But again this is just my own personal list, of my top 15 picks, that I ended up handing over to my friend. What are your top picks? Let us know, we’d love to hear what you think are some great issues to have in ones collection. Let us know what comic books you like for this type of collecting?
The Disclaimer: Please note this is the individual personal list of one long-time collector, hobbyist, and speculator. These suggested recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or advice of Comic Book Therapy; they are just very nice and cool as to give me some space to write. As with any type of speculation or investment there is an element of risk involved and in depth research should be done on the part of the investor. Overall at the end of the day this is supposed to be a fun hobby/pass time for us all.
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