Treasure Hunt

Some of the veterans will remember the Overstreet Price Guides back in the old days with their big blocks of issue numbers getting lumped in under one price, Daredevil #41-60 $4 etc. Over the years though the Guide kept breaking down and highlighting more and more issues. Looking at the Guide today it’s really hard seeing any kind of run lumped in under one price for marquee titles like Amazing Spider-Man and Batman.

It’s funny how we just take things for face value when we are young, I remember going through these old Guides and thinking nothing of all the newly separated issues when the new Guide would come out. Looking back now of course I realize that our hobby was still developing, people were constantly discovering important information about certain comic book issues and this in turn would end up driving demand and prices. The thing was that these discoveries did not all get flushed out over a 3 or 4 year period in fact they are still not completely flushed out and that is what I want to talk about with today’s post.

How much more is there to discover when we look back through almost 90 years of comic books?

Have we flushed out all the first appearances? I say we are not even close? Will some of these new first appearance discoveries go on to become highly collected issues? I think they will.

I’m not talking about some recognized cheap first appearance of a minor character that gets a boost because of a movie, I’m talking about discovering a new first appearance. I don’t even know how the verification process would go? I have seen in the past books recognized as first appearances get demoted the year after because it was discovered that it was another comic that contained the first appearance.

It’s not just first appearances though, it could be first cover appearances, first Wonder Woman in bondage, the first woman in a war battle scene, first rainbow on a cover, first sexual innuendo in comics, the first mention of this or mention of that. Under time constraint I’m not coming up with some very good ones but you get my point. What is there still to discover in our old comic collections. You may be sitting on a very important book and here you are using it as padding for some other fancy books.

Obviously it’s getting harder but you can’t tell me that we know all there is to know, that we’ve discovered all there is to discover. Perhaps there are even new “first ??? in comics” things to discover.

Any of you sitting on a discovery and willing to share? You’ve squirreled away enough copies buy now.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

Articles: 1702


  1. Walter here is concentrating on “first” this and first that…perfectly valid. But take it a step farther, and include the fabulous, exceptional covers that were also once lumped into these long runs in the guide. Particular covers being in extra demand took a huge leap forward with Gerber’s Photo-Journal. Before the internet, that was the first time we could look at a run and pick out favorite covers. Overstreet ran a few covers, and other publications highlighted others, but there was nothing like Gerber. Or today, GCD and online sources.

    Special coves became coupled with higher prices for the first time. When I started out, so many of us were “completionists.” We wanted every issue of our favorite titles. And at one time, this could be affordable, particularly if you settled for lesser grade copies. I put together a virtually complete Fiction House collection many years ago (ok, missing a few oversize Jumbos, and Jungle #1, if you must know). I was willing to buy copies as low as Good, and in the early seventies, you could buy many, many issues for $2-$5 each. $10 or $15 even, a little later.

    Michelle Nolan had an early agenda unlike anyone my “completionist” buddies…she would track down a very good example of a great many Golden Age, just one issue, in order to have ONE sample of a title. She still was a completionist on Green Lantern, and most of the Nedor/Standard superheroes…but DC, Fawcett, and others, a prime early sample would suffice. I pried a few of these away from her, like a wartime Raboy Master issue.

    But in the the last few decades, fewer collectors go after runs of pre-code titles. You high grade guys look for great books, and great covers, in exceptionallly great shape. But obviously not every issue of a title. Many other collectors settle for great covers…Frazetta Famous Funnies, Batman and Detective Joker covers, and other villain covers, LB Cole covers on otherwise nothing-books, sexy Feldstein, Matt Baker, DeCarlo covers on what used to be neglected teen titles….and they will settle for lesser condition, driving up prices on even low grade books.

    Terry Stroud and Dave Alexander, when partners in the American Comic Book Company in the seventies, coined the term “esoteric comics” to detail this phenom…the wild covers, decapitation stories, sexy stuff, offbeat craziness…much of which is now detailed in the guide and highly sought after. Before they pointed it out, and raised prices in that stuff, many of us paid little attention to weird titles from minor companies, particularly pre-code crime and horror, but even teen stuff and most particularly, “headlight” covers. That term was not around when I started collecting in 1965.

    Walter’s example of the Heroic issue above happens to be from one of my favorite runs, for the Bill Everett covers and for good content…and for reasonable prices, even on high grade file copies that have turned up. I wanted to show you guys my favorites (#5 is a great one) but we’ll have to settle for this link to the first 15 issues on Grand Comics Database. It’s an impressive run.

  2. Covers! Yes Bud covers are an obvious one but even there we can find “new” topics on covers that have not caught on yet. As social norms change covers that were just random overlooked covers could now be seen as provocative or plain wrong in contexts like the Me Too Movement. I recently sold a comic that had a Confederate Flag on the cover, the book sat for years and all of a sudden there was this demand. So maybe there are new cover themes that can be flushed out as new collectibles. Perhaps there will be a new “Great American Comics Company” catalyst opening up newfound demand to what we now don’t see – maybe we’re doing it right here on this post!

    I scanned those 15 covers last night when I was on fishing this cover out, great stuff.

  3. With all the collectors who have poured over comic issues I would be surprised if any big revelations are still to be had! I know people grasp at straws… such and such an issue has a panel with say Thanos’s toenail clippings prior to his big reveal… but big firsts…only if the films focus on an obscure character these days! I do like Buds take cover firsts however!

  4. Speaking of GCD, longtime contributors Jerry Hillegas and Gary Watson passed away recently. My condolences at the loss of these two great comic historians.

  5. Thanks for passing this sad news along Klaus, Bud and I were talking about unsung heroes like colorists but we have to make room for people like Jerry and Gary, they’ve made it easier for us to dig through and find the info we need. My condolences to the families.

  6. I hadn’t heard Gary Watson had died, doggone it. I remember hearing about his collection going to a University library. It was supposed to be something amazing.

    Walter’s right about the fan pioneers. Just this last May I have been corresponding with Jennifer DeRoss, who wrote a very good book on Gardner Fox for Pulp Hero Press…another long story, I am trying to get some. The only reason I know of her or her Fox book, Gary Carter referred her to me about fan legend Jerry Bails (Founder of Alter Ego, and the Who’s Who of Comics). Jerry Bails is the subject of her next book.

    Regretfully, I didn’t know Jerry personally…he attended almost no conventions, and was evidently a fairly private person beyond his fan work. But I referred her to Michelle Nolan, and, no kidding, just last week they met and hit it off immmediately. Michelle met Jerry at the one NY Con that they both attended, in 1969. Jennifer is already working with Roy Thomas, who must have known Bails better than anyone.

  7. Bud !

    I saw Jennifers’ book advertised last summer in an issue of Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego and I ordered it thru Amazon . she did a really great job on the book and I’m looking forward to her upcoming book on Mr. Bails ! if you’re into comics Golden Age thru Silver Age , you owe it to yourself to read this book !

  8. Thanks, Chris, glad to hear you liked the Gardner Fox book. She sent me a copy just last week and I just started it. I like it very much so far. Fox is not unlike Otto Binder: prolific, and not ashamed to say that he wrote for comics. It was tough on these guys during the Wertham/Comics Code hubub ib the late 1950s.

    Bill Schelly’s book on Binder has always been a favorite of mine, too. And his opus on Kurtzman, and his last book, on James Warren, too. Fascinating, I love reading about these guys.

  9. Bud !

    it’s too bad Bill passed way so young , he’s a terrific writer , I ordered the Kurtzman book from you back in February , another great read . I was very surprised it was still a first print that I got from you ! a pleasant surprise there , indeed ! I’ve read his Binder and his last ever book , James Warren bio . another talent lost too soon , imho . only the good die young , as the saying goes .

    thanks for all your comments in all the different posts , they are always informative reading !

  10. Thanks Chris, I’m glad my comments are welcome.

    I know I get carried away at times. I love to share…my buddies and I get together every so often (they are mostly an hour away, I’m in the boonies) and we do a show and tell most times. I always bring more than I should.

    Yesterday, I had to show my buddy Jeff, who collects Lone Ranger and Davy Crocket, amongst other things, a collection of Bronc Peeler and “On the Range” single panels by Fred Harmon, who just after he drew these in 1934, started doing Red Ryder. Great Sunday Strip work, I like his early stuff. But I can’t recall where the heck these ugly scrapbooks of great work came from…aughh…

    We’d like to think these “On The Range” big single panels, about 1/3 of a Sunday page may have influenced William Allison, who drew a series of centerspreads of cowboy scenes just these 2-3 years later, in Western Picture Stories for Centaur/Comics Magazine Company. Maybe for Star Ranger, too, their other western title.

    Not much on the web, but here’s a couple images:

    Here’s a typical Allison centerspread:

    He did covers, too:

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