Revisiting the Marvel Bronze Age

Last December, in my first article for Comic Book Daily, I argued that high grade Marvel Bronze Age values were likely to stabilize after a few years of steep declines.  Bronze Age values have fallen for three reasons: 1) growing census figures, 2) the bursting of the movie hype bubble, and 3) the general economic turmoil experienced between 2007 and 2009. In late 2011, collectors had become comfortable with the new census figures and influence of pressing, the speculators who purchased comics solely to cash in on movie mania had all but given up, and the general economy was looking much better. So I thought the ingredients for price stabilization were in place and the violent price declines were over.

Well, what has transpired since? My call did not look too hot early in the year. The price declines continued in full force. In April an Incredible Hulk #181 auction cracked $9,000 to settle at $8,600. Also in April an issue of Giant-Size X-Men #1 threatened to crack $4,000 but settled just above at $4,100. Bronze Age? More like back to the Stone Age!

After this shaky start, the Bronze Age started to show signs of life after June. Here’s the performance of the key Marvel Bronze titles for 2012. We calculate the performance figures using the most recent auction data we have for each title and then compare these values to the last transactions we have recorded for 2011.

The average return for these titles was positive at 7.6%. However, excluding the 88% increase for Uncanny X-Men #129, the gain turns into a decline of 5.8%.

The most glaring number is the 29% decline for Incredible Hulk #181. This title continues to be a dog. Will the 2013 Wolverine movie help put a long-term floor in place?

Here are the charts for each title:

So, what’s the verdict? I think this one is a push. Apart from Incredible Hulk #181, most of the key Bronze Age titles did hold their own during 2012. But a near 30% for Incredible Hulk #181 —one of the most important Bronze Age titles— certainly casts a dark shadow over the entire Bronze Age.

What are your thoughts about where the Bronze Age titles are headed?


R.J. Steinhoff
R.J. Steinhoff

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

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Peter K
Peter K
11 years ago

R.J. – I noticed a Nov 25 eBay sale of Hulk 181 for $9,350. Comic Link has two sales pending at over $11,000 now. This looks promising. Yet with 60 Hulk 181s cgc graded at 9.8, and over 5,500 cgc graded options to buy, that’s a lot of inventory in a struggling world wide economy.

If Marvel movies continue to be high quality, long term interest can only increase in Bronze Age material, particularly if speculation materializes about Nova and Ms. Marvel appearing on the big screen. Disney’s 2015 Star Wars movie will certainly increase demand for the Bronze Age Star Wars comics.

11 years ago

I typed up a long analysis but then decided to delete it. The fact is, no one knows where the market is headed. However, not all books of a particular title are in decline. Certain grades seem to actually be on the rise… Hulk181’s below 9.4s have been steady. One of my favs, GL#76 has been slammed in the high grades… but below 9.0… especially around the 7.5 mark, the value is climbing.

I’m not sure what this means… perhaps the market is maturing and the speculative nose-bleed prices are finally normalizing, relative to the lower grades. Or perhaps the affluent are being more selective due to the abundance of choice. But the number of trades recorded on GPA year over year seems to be steady as well… again, at the mid to mid/high grades. This tells me that the interests remains the same… but no one is willing to bet big anymore.

By comparison, recent art auctions are facing similar challenges. Paintings by the Group of Seven and Emily Carr are ending at 50 to 65% of their estimated value. However, does anyone actually believe these works of art will remain at their current undervalued prices? Heck no! If I could, I’d love to pick up a Tom Thomson at 50% right now and let it ride for a sweet double bagger.

I do believe however, that the CGC market has limited time… but the baby boomers are a whole generation… so depending on how fast the economy can get back on it’s feet, there is time for yet another boom. But will it actually happen…? I’m heavily invested in the bronze age so I certainly hope so!

10 years ago

I NEVER recommend people invest in CGC 9.8 comics for any books that are COMMON which is the case for all and just about any comic post 1968. As more and more copies surface through CGC I dont see how short term any of these books are good picks. 10 years or more I think these are great picks as these books are the key books of the decade and demand will not die off likely ever.
The question is how much should Hulk #181 be worth ? Based on historical importance but also availability I think its propably right where it should be.