Charting Marvel’s Big Guns

Our Bronze Age Index comprises some landmark titles that feature the first appearances of The Punisher, Hobgoblin, Sabretooth, Wolverine, Phoenix, and Emma Frost. And now is probably not a bad time to get your hands on them, considering as a group they have declined in value by about 50% since 2009.

Any collector would consider these Bronze Age titles must haves for their collection. However, I’m sure most (if not all) would gladly exchange these Bronze Age keys for a dream collection that includes the debut titles of Marvel’s Big Guns—Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, and The X-Men.

Marvel’s beginning dates back to 1939, some twenty years before these characters made their debut. First publishing under the Timely Comics name, Marvel introduced the android hero Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, and Captain America.  But it wasn’t until the sixties—the Silver Age—that Marvel was truly born. The Marvel we know today was born in the early sixties, a magical time for the House of Ideas.

We’ve put these six titles into an index we call the Silver Age #1 Very Fine Index. Unlike our Bronze and Modern Age indices, we do not include grades in the mint range (CGC Grades 9.0 – 10.0). Unfortunately mint copies just don’t trade frequently enough. On a practical note, the mint grades are out of reach for all but the wealthiest collectors. So the Silver Age #1 Index includes the Fine/Very Fine grade range only (CGC 7.0 to 8.5).

It’s no surprise that these titles continue to do well today. These characters are arguably more popular now than ever, appearing in a steady stream of animated series, movies, books, and toys. As the chart below shows,  these titles have appreciated by 6.5% in just the last nine months.

All of the individual constituents have increased in value, led by Avengers #1’s 15% gain.

While these titles have done well over the past nine months, the Modern Age has left them in its dust. The Bronze Age continues to tread water, down about 5%.

It’s going to be exciting to see where these main indices go from here!

R.J. Steinhoff Written by:

RJ Steinhoff is a lifelong comic book fan and when he’s not working for a living he runs the comictrend.com website.

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33 Comments

  1. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 16, 2012

    Oops, your strong bias is showing again.There is a
    steady connected history with Timely! You drive me
    crazy! Why can’t you be more objective!!

  2. April 16, 2012

    Hi Stephen,

    Sorry, could you please elaborate? Of course there is a ‘connected’ history with Timely. Timely’s first title was ‘Marvel Comics’ in 1939. Goodman then used Atlas throughout the 50s. Superheros became popular again in the 60s so the ‘Marvel’ name emerged again, this time as the publishing name for Journey into Mystery, Fantastic Four, etc.

  3. Peter K
    April 16, 2012

    RJ – Around 2004, I made some Modern Age investments that seem to have gone nowhere i.e. Astonishing X-men 1 and variants (Josh Whedon), DC Countdown 1 (or 0?), Superman/Batman 1, 2 & 8, Ultimate Fantastic Four 1, Marvel Knights – Spider-man 1, Marvel Knights – Fantastic Four 1, Ultimate X-men 1, Teen Titans 1, etc. Do you see these prices as low and stable for years to come? Do you have some suggestions of good Modern Age investments?

  4. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 16, 2012

    too much emphasis on Marvel SA as a center of gravity
    in establishing the comic book market!!

  5. April 16, 2012

    Well, the article is called Charting Marvel’s Big Guns, not Charting the Comic Book Market.

    Don’t worry, DC charts and data is coming down the pipe!

  6. Mot Yrreb
    April 16, 2012

    I think you are doing a pretty good job so far R.J. Looking forward to more information about other Silver books including DC, Gold Key; maybe others. I also love Marvel, in my opinion they dominate the Silver age, but they aren’t the only show in town.
    I’m also glad to see you aim for the non-mint market dominated by the wealthy with too much money and time on their hands. Personally, I hope that market crashes and they lose their @$$.

  7. Charlie
    April 16, 2012

    RJ… what books are in your “modern” index? NM#98, ASM#300… anything else?

  8. April 16, 2012

    MOT YRREB: Thanks… although I certainly don’t hope that any segment of the market crashes and burns 😛

    Charlie: The Modern Index includes:
    Amazing Spider-Man #298, Amazing Spider-Man #300, New Mutants #87, New Mutants #98, Punisher Limited #1, Uncanny X-Men #266, Wolverine Vol 2 #1, X-Factor #1.

    I’m going to be adding more books to all the indices soon from not only Marvel but other publishers as well.

    The primary reason that I have stuck with Marvel so far is that these books dominate the back issue market. This means that there’s more historical auction data out there and updating the indices is easy because auctions are always going on. Auction data is hard to find for even the biggest keys. Once you move beyond the keys, #1 titles, etc., very tough to find.

    You can see the indices here:

    http://www.comictrend.com/Indices.html

  9. Charlie
    April 16, 2012

    I’d love to know what your rationale is for X-Factor #1. Why not X#283, 1st Bishop… which would fit well with, 1st Cable, Deadpool and Gambit.

    Walt, I think you might be off the hook for X-Force #2…

    ^_^

  10. April 16, 2012

    I’m going to include Uncanny #283 retroactively. Just don’t have the data set up yet.

  11. April 16, 2012

    RJ and I are working a deal to get the X-Force #2 onto the Index. He doesn’t know this yet but…

  12. April 16, 2012

    X-Force #2. Ah, a key Marvel title indeed!

  13. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 17, 2012

    sorry guys,we collect and invest in comic books,
    not grades!! I say to go back to the foundation
    i.e. determination based on inherent value like
    the first few decades of collecting. I’m sick of
    a cabal of people pushing a tiny portion of the
    comics out there especially Marvels!!!

  14. April 17, 2012

    But isn’t that what people care about? Aren’t Marvel Silver Age keys what most people want to collect? There are some very rare books from the Platinum Age but only a handful of collectors know or care about them so they don’t necessarily have the value of Silver Age keys. It seems that people don’t really care about non-Marvel or DC books, especially Golden Age titles. I am not trying to be facetious here, all of you in this discussion know more about the subject than I do, but I assume that the books follow supply and demand. And the most demand seems to be for Marvel Silver Age keys. I am also unaware of R.J. and Walt’s membership to a cabal of any sort, but further investigation may be necessary.

  15. April 17, 2012

    Hi Stephen,

    1) Comics don’t have any inherent value.

    2) I’m not part of any cabal “pushing a tiny part of the comics out there.”

    Anthony hit the nail on the head. There are about 40,000 CGC comics for sale right now on eBay. The vast majority of them are from Marvel with DC second. These comics don’t represent a sliver of the market–they ARE the market! They’re the most frequently traded and most culturally significant titles.

    To be sure, there are tons of fantastic books out there that fall between the cracks. Walter does a great job highlighting these titles in his Undervalued Spotlight articles.

    My focus, on the other hand, is examining the back issue market from a quantitative angle, trying to find patterns and trends. This analysis helps people make better decisions about what to buy and at what price to buy (or sell).

    Unfortunately, the data beyond DC and Marvel Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age keys just isn’t there to do the analysis. So I have to pick my spots.

    No conspiracy here!

  16. Charlie
    April 17, 2012

    Stephen >> No one is a bigger critique of CGG and Overstreet than I am but Anthony is quite right. CGC is mainly for investing and when it comes to investing, it’s all about the keys because that’s where the demand is. Like it or not, right or wrong, monthly auctions clearly show that the weight is toward Marvel.

    Being the multi facetted collector that I am, my graded books are for eventual resale down the road but I also have tons of raw VG books for my own personal pleasure (oops, that sounded dirty). The name of the game in this area is to pick up books dirt cheap. I don’t expect to recoup any money here.

    “Buy the book, not the grade” is the mantra amongst CGC collectors but why should NM copy hold the same value as a VG copy. Where demand is concerned, NM is simply more desirable. I agree that the difference between 9.2 and 9.4 can be splitting hairs… and often, CGC gets it wrong. Wrap all this up in the politics of the game and the stress of growing a business and the result is nonsense or what I like to call “comic book propaganda”. These people have to try and convince you how “important” comics are in order for them to survive.

    It’s no different then any other hobby or area of interest, be it stamps, coins, art or even the stock market. People in a position of influence will always try to sway the masses. After all, the money has to come from some where.

    We come to this particular hobby because we enjoy it. There are better investments vehicles out there and you can’t change mans nature, so all we can do is… have fun, and be careful not to fall prey to the wolves…

  17. Charlie
    April 17, 2012

    No conspiracy here!

    Considering that Overstreet numbers are pulled out of thin air… I hope you don’t mind if I disagree with you on this point ^_^

  18. April 17, 2012

    Hi Peter,

    Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I didn’t see your comment for some reason.

    Astonishing X-Men #1 is a great book to own and the Whedon run is cherished by a lot of people, myself included. The Avengers movie looks to be a big hit so Whedon’s stock is rising. It’s definitely a keeper.

    I don’t see any reason why the other titles you mentioned would appreciate in price. I think they’ll definitely be stable, just kind of meandering around sideways for the next few years.

    The Modern Age is a bit tricky. Some question the point of even slabbing Modern Age titles. Plenty of supply out there.

    Here’s what I suggest when it comes to Modern Age titles: focus on Signature Series books. If you take a title like New Mutants #98 or Amazing Spider-Man #300, there are hundreds and hundreds of books in the census for each grade. So by owning a signed copy, or even better a multiple signature copy, this is a great way to differentiate your collection. I love buying multiple signature versions of the big event books like Civil War or World War Hulk because it’s rare to get all the big writers/artists together. I would definitely grab a signed copy of any of the New 52 titles like Batman #1 and Justice League #1 while they’re around $100. These could easily double over the next few years.

    RJ

  19. April 17, 2012

    I can’t speak for Overstreet or any other price guide. They have their place.

    I calculate my own comic values using transaction data.

  20. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 17, 2012

    Fellow collectors,i understand your comments and
    concerns.I believe the comic market.is a reflection
    of the sub-prime mortgage,flipping properties etc,
    bank bail outs(Socialism once again comes to the rescue by the way, Social Darwinism for the rest of
    us).I can only recommend checking out Richard
    Muchin site tomorrows treasure’s

  21. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 17, 2012

    i mean to say read his text on issues we’re debating.
    There are significant numbers of us who agree!!

  22. Charlie
    April 18, 2012

    Stephen >> I just read through Richard Muchin’s write ups but there isn’t much there that we haven’t already discussed on CBD. I agree with what Richard Muchin is saying but the internet has changed the game…

    Slabbing
    CGC is essential a spin off of eBay. Anyone who’s received a VG raw book, initially described as NM, has experienced that sinking feeling of have been ripped-off. The seller claims… “hey, that’s just how I see it” and on goes the process of trying to get your money back. Enter: CGC. Universal acceptance means less misunderstanding… however, it brings up other issues like accountability, transparency and conflict of interest. The problem is, CGC is basically a monopoly that operates above the “collector” law. But considering the shift to online trading, in principal, their service does add value (I’m grinding my teeth as I type this). Consider if you will antiques, cars, diamonds and coins… They all have a certification process to validate the authenticity… and you pay extra for this service. I mean… how else can I know that the diamond I’m planning to buy is truly 24k… they all look shiny to me.

    Scarcity
    I’ve said many times… “a rare turd is still a turd”. Scarcity is only relative to demand. There are hundreds of NM#98 9.8s out there but it’s one of the fastest risers in the market because the demand is there. To me, it’s a typical 90’s bum book but it will only get hotter in the coming years.

    Pedigree
    I couldn’t agree more! What a dumb concept… Fine for dogs and ponies if you have a preference for pure breeds but what value does a single owner bring to comics? I mean, a 9.0 is a 9.0 no matter who owned it right?

    We can discuss how things can be improved… but like most things in life, you can love it for what it is… or not.

  23. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 18, 2012

    Hi Charlie,I’ve long been aware of what you’re saying.
    I’m suggesting a balance between the two extremes!
    A new group consisting of collectors/investors as some
    sought of check and balance? And another Price Guide?
    I’ve tried to persuade the folks over at The Grand Comic
    Book Data site to handle that.

  24. Mot Yrreb
    April 18, 2012

    I’m with you on that Charlie; particularly about ‘Pedigrees.” I’ll buy a 9.4 because it’s a 9.4, not because it was Edgar Church’s 9.4 or it once belonged to a movie star. The history of the book is what is important, NOT THE OWNER.

  25. April 18, 2012

    Wow, is it possible we all agree on something????

  26. April 18, 2012

    I don’t know guys?

    A colorful history to any collectible can and will add value.

    “… there are only 7 of these left but this is the one that survived the Titanic”

    “… this is the copy that Bogart gave to Bacall as an anniversary gift”

    “… this is the copy that Nick Cage…”

    All these things add history/back story/character to tings that would otherwise be one in the same. These things can also influence demand.

  27. Charlie
    April 18, 2012

    From my talks with others, I find that most people are in agreement with the issues presented here. I think we are all saying the same thing… but because most of us are, **a-hem**, middle aged and the world is changing rapidly… the rate, and willingness, to accept this change varies.

    We all have fond nostalgic memories of the books we used to read. They represent a more simpler time when the future held promise as we basked in the glow of our youth. None of us want to let that go… Clearly not Richard Muchin. Now that I’m married with children… and it’s nothing but nag! nag! nag! Charlie do this… Charlie do that. **slaps Charlie across the face** “Snap out of it man! Focus…”

    Okay… I’m back. **pant, pant.** So where agreement is concerned… it’s always been a behavioural issue, directed by emotion. Have a listen to yesterdays program (April 17):

    http://www.cbc.ca/q/episodes/

    I’d also submit that the commentary is the real content for most blogs. Your write up RJ is very insightful and provides the premise for discussion, but people are social creatures… So it’s the interaction, the sharing, and yes, the disagreeing that becomes food for our thoughts.

    Anthony, none of this is negative. With good news, there is not much to add, other than… “Good job guys”. With controversy, we become explorers… trying to map uncharted territory. It writes itself because there is more to say here…

  28. CandyAppleFox
    April 18, 2012

    Like.

  29. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 18, 2012

    Charlie,i listened to the 1st 10 minutes of that
    CBC show before my laptop conked out. Yes i am
    aware of the gist of his basic premise. One problem
    with the nostalgia argument though. Yeah Ritchie
    myself and many other long time collectors grew up
    reading S.A. books but most of us held GA comics in higher regard, more desirable to collect! So the old saying that the GA is the time period that one is
    reading them brand new is not always the case!

  30. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 19, 2012

    All leading to the following points. I am firmly in
    touch with the realities of the comic market. Sometime around 1977 a small group of dealers and collectors hi-jacked and started this S.A. crusade
    especially with Marvel. How many times have i heard
    the same old tired tirade about how silly and out dated G.A. comics are.In today’s world those Marvel
    S.H.’s of the S.A. appear stupid and silly to younger
    readers! Peter Parker!?! In today’s World Corporate
    Values,situational ethics etc. Let’s be honest and
    as possible in determining a comic books value!

  31. Charlie
    April 19, 2012

    I’m not sure I understand your point, Stephen… RJ responded to your concern about an imbalanced representation… was it not satisfactory? No one here is discounting GA books or their significance. If you’ve come to appreciate GA books over SA, it doesn’t mean there’s no nostalgic value there… It may not be from your era but I doubt your fondness occurred over night.

    I think it’s fantastic that you have a broad repertoire when it comes to vintage books. Perhaps you can share some insight with us…

    As for Jian’s interview, I would go back and listen to it in it’s entirety and possibly buy the book. This is the kind of research that corporations spend billions on each year. With information becoming mobile and access immediate, every decision you make is being tracked in order to gage your preference. With Web 3.0 dubbed the Semantic Web, basic search is evolving into artificial intelligence.

    It fascinating stuff and has profound implications for the future of all media, including comics.

  32. Stephen B. Keisman
    April 19, 2012

    Hey babe, am with you.Read Tim Leary’s books all through the 70’s and 80’s. F—king genius.Helped
    me with my P.T.S.D from Nam!Anyway,American Flagg!,
    Fables,Little Lulu,Plastic Man,Crumb,it’s all great
    comic books!! Love to my follow collectors!!

Make It Good.