Are #1’s Overvalued?

The very high end of the comic collecting world is crowded with character 1st appearances. Of the top 10 Golden Age comics 7 are 1st appearances of a character, same thing for the Silver Age 7 out of 10 while in the Bronze Age 6 out of the top 10 comics by Overstreet Price Guide value are character 1st appearances. This all makes sense, the 1st Batman, the first Spider-Man, the 1st Superman should be among the most expensive comics. An easy formula (for the pre-speculative eras anyway) – culturally important comic book character + his or her 1st appearance = lots of money!

What are the 3 comic books that have cracked the $Million Dollar mark? Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27 and Amazing Fantasy #15 are the 3 comics that have sold for over $1 Million, 3 different copies of Action Comics #1 have done it alone.

Here’s the thing, if I read this to my buddy who is not into comics he wouldn’t know why they are worth some much. What the 3 comics have in common is that none give away the name of the character that makes them worth so much.

There are other examples of this, All-American #16, Brave and the Bold #28, Pep Comics #22 also illustrate this point.

Not only do none of these 6 very expensive comics mention the character they introduce 5 of the 6 are not even #1 issues!

Superman (Action), Batman (Detective), Amazing Spider-Man (Amazing Fantasy), Green Lantern (1941) (All-American), Justice League (Brave and Bold) and Archie (Pep Comics) all got their own titles with the inaugural #1s a short time after their 1st appearances and these #1s are also all very valuable comics.

The question is – are they overvalued?

The key to comparability for this argument is that the #1 issue comes out on the heels of the 1st appearance issue; my sample group below has a max time of 13 months between the compared issues. This way we are kind of comparing apples to apples. Books like Tales of Suspense #39/Iron Man #1 are not comparable since the character’s title #1 issue came out long after the 1st appearance and there were perhaps over 100 appearances of that character in between.

Books like Captain America #1, Fantastic Four #1, Hulk #1 and X-Men #1 are easy to deal with, the 1st issue represents the introduction of the title character and all is well. We get that drastic drop off in value for the second issues. This is a generalization but in simplest terms everybody wants X-Men #1, X-Men fans want #2.

Price drop offs are what you’d expect as you move away from important 1st appearances of a character into the domain of the run book. Easy to see the value when we realize these #1’s represent the intro of the character into popular culture. These can easily be collected (and are) as standalone important publications.

The 9.2 Overstreet Price Guide #41 values for:

Captain America #1/#2 are $240,000/38,000 – 15.8%

Fantastic Four #1/#2 are $80,000/$11,000 – 13.75%

Hulk #1/#2 are $75,000/$8,000 – 10.6%

X-Men #1 are $30,000/$4,200 – 14%

In this sample group we’re looking at an average of 14.4% as the value of the #2s vs the #1s containing the 1st appearances.

What I’d like to do is take a look at the values of 1st appearance issues vs. their titled series #1s. Here is a list of the books I will take a look at.

 

From the Golden Age:

Pep #22/Archie Comics #1 – $70,000/$70,000 – 100%

Detective Comics #27/Batman #1 – $1,200,000/$285,000 – 23.75%

 

From the Silver Age:

Amazing Fantasy #15/Amazing Spider-Man #1 – $125,000/$54,000 – 43.8%

Brave and Bold #28/Justice League #1 – $20,000/$15,000 – 75%

 

From the Bronze Age:

Marvel Spotlight #2/Werewolf by Night #1 – $425/$250 – 58.8%

Marvel Spotlight #5/Ghost Rider #1 – $550/$325 – 59.1%

 

Collectively this group has an average of 30% as the value of the #1 title issues vs the issues featuring the character’s 1st appearance. If we take out the Detective/Batman which seems almost an anomaly the average is a very strong 64.6%!

Let’s look at them individually and make the call.

Pep #22/Archie Comics #1 – $70,000/$70,000 – 100%

You are looking at a 12 month difference and you are looking a Archie #1 being the 16th or 17th Archie appearance (don’t forget the Jackpot issues) and you are still looking at Archie #1 being worth just as much as Pep #22. Heck Pep #22 give us the 1st Archie, the 1st Betty and the 1st Jughead while Archie #1 gives us the 1st Mr. Andrews! And though the guide calls Archie #1 scarce there are 21 universally graded (not restored) by CGC vs only 7 Pep #22s.

I look for a gap to open up between these 2 issues with Pep #22 pulling away over time.

Archie Comics #1 is overvalued.

Detective Comics #27/Batman #1 – $1,200,000/$285,000 – 23.75%

There is roughly 1 year between these two publications and Batman has already appeared 12 times in Detective before Batman #1 came out. Batman #1 brings a lot to the table though, the book retells the Batman Origin and it feature the 1st appearance of perhaps the greatest villain in comics, the Joker and Batman #1 gives us the 1st appearance of Catwoman, the 1st villainess in comics.

Of all the above issues Batman #1 by far brings the most to the table while surprisingly being by far the least valuable compared to it’s principle character’s 1st appearance book.

As I’ve said in the past Batman #1 is undervalued!

Amazing Fantasy #15/Amazing Spider-Man #1 – $125,000/$54,000 – 43.8%

There are 9 months that separate these 2 publications. Unlike all our other examples Spider-Man only make 1 appearance outside his character title, Amazing Spider-Man #1 represents the true second appearance of Spider-Man. The issue has a Fantastic Four cross-over – the 1st Marvel cross-over (with Fantastic Four #12).

The guide has this ratio right but it has been a long journey to fairness for 20 years ago in the Overstreet Guide #23 Amazing Spider-Man #1 was worth 97% of the Amazing Fantasy #15 value ($7000/$6800).

Amazing Spider-Man #1 is valued fairly.

Brave and Bold #28/Justice League #1 – $20,000/$15,000 – 75%

The Silver Age incarnation of DC’s superhero team first appeared over 3 issues of Brave and the Bold, #28, 29, 30 and due to the success of these issues DC launched the Justice League just over 2 months later. Basically this issue picks up where Brave and the Bold #30 left off. If they did this book the old Four Color way, where Four Color #596 and #656 were Turok’s 1st and 2nd appearance and the next Turok issue Dell published was #3, then JLA #1 should be JLA #4.

JLA #1 is overvalued.

Marvel Spotlight #2/Werewolf by Night #1 – $425/$250 – 58.8%

The same argument I presented above for Brave and the Bold/Justice League applies here. The character debuted over 3 issues in Marvel Spotlight #2 to #4. Werewolf by Night #1 came out 3 months later.

Werewolf #1 is overvalued.

Marvel Spotlight #5/Ghost Rider #1 – $550/$325 – 59.1%

I’m starting to sound like a broken record but the same argument I presented above for the above 2 books applies here. The character debuted over 7 issues in Marvel Spotlight #5 to #11. Ghost Rider #1 came out 13 months after the character’s 1st appearance but only 1 month after the 7 issue Spotlight run.

Ghost Rider #1 is overvalued.

Wow! I’ve called 4 of these 6 books overvalued!

This is what I think. The comic book collecting community has dictated terms since the beginning but our hold on power is diminishing. Non collectors are starting to put some money into comic books and they are gravitating to character driven comic books (1st appearances) and are not as impressed as we are with collector driven comic books (1st issues). In the above examples where one and the other is not the same I think we will see the #1s lose ground to the 1st appearances, its already happening.

The whole notion of #1s has lost its value though hasn’t it? What does a #1 mean after all in an age where Marvel resets their titles to #1 every several years, in an age where DC can just say we’re starting everything over at #1.

When bidding in the next auction keep this distinction in mind.