That’s So Yesterday

A couple of weeks ago I was stressing about a box coming back from CGC. On shipment tracking, it was showing “delayed” for days and I was starting to get antsy. There was good reason to be nervous: inside the box was a nice higher-grade copy of Chamber of Chills #19, the famous skeleton through the wine glass cover used on a Misfits album, I think. All ended well, the book came in safe and secure and the submitter was pleased as punch. A few days after he got his book back my submitter was telling me about all the great offers he was getting for the book, I thought WOW, those offers seem high! Apparently not high enough for him as he’s opted to keep it for now, “Walt! It’s one of the top covers of the Pre-Code Horror (PCH) genre!”. But it wasn’t always.

I remember 20 years back one of the best PCH books to have was Black Cat Mystery #50, the Irudium Bar cover. There were a few other mainstays but I don’t remember Chamber of Chills #19. I did some digging on GPAnalysis to try and grab some quick comparables. I know it’s a singular sample and doesn’t constitute proof but it is indicative of a few of the other grade comparisons I looked at. Back in 2008 a CGC 8.5 copy of Black Cat Mystery #50 sold for $1,500, in the same year a CGC 8.0 copy of Chamber of Chills #19 sold for $355. This past November a CGC 8.5 copy of Black Cat Mystery sold for $27,600, and in the same month a CGC 8.0 copy of Chamber of Chills #19 sold for $37,200. The Chamber of Chills increased over 100 fold in the past 15 years while the Black Cat did not quite 19 fold.

My presentation of the data above was hurried and not well presented but it’s only there to prove a point and a possible opportunity for comic book investing going forward. The Chamber of Chills issue was only recently “discovered”: it took a new crop of fans to dust it off from the secondary pile and see it for what it is, a classic. I’m thinking there are so many more books like this out there, the realization that leads to appreciation doesn’t have to be on the scale of the example above but I’m sure there are great, overlooked comics still hiding in plain sight. I’m now on a mission to find them and bring them to light. For a project or a mission to sound important, it needs a name or a moniker, perhaps the “proofing project”…?

OK, let’s hit that “to eBay auctions” pile and see what we find…

My Splash of the week belongs to Sal Buscema’s two-page splash introducing us to the diabolical band of no goods, the Zodiac, from Avengers #72. This art is in that sweet spot of the “the Marvel Way”: its the traditional way I like seeing comics drawn.

Our ad of the week comes from the second print of New Mutants #87 in early 1990. Here we have a full-page ad for Cons. Cons really proliferated in the late 1980s and started taking on the air of the events held today. The late 80s was around the time I started doing most of the North East US shows on an annual basis: Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and sometimes Boston and New York. The amount of great old comics and ridiculously cheap prices available at cons in those days makes me want to cry!

I’m not sure if I’m having deja vu or if I’m showing this cover all over again but I’ll make the bold assumption that I would have remembered using this cover before. Talk about a cover that is “of a time”, Bill Sienkiewicz’s cover to Batman #400 screams 1980s. I’ve always liked this cover and enjoy those little details engulfing Batman on all sides.

The latest icecollectibles weekly eBay auction just ended and here’s a result I’d like to highlight, Action Comics #363 CGC 6.5 sold for $231.50. I was pleasantly surprised with this result; nice clean cover with lots of Bizarros on it! This is one of those books you don’t really know about or remember but when it pops up you say – hey, I want that!

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

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

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Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
1 year ago

Could the increased price point for the Chamber of Chills 19 be partly blamed on the difficulty of obtaining the 50? I feel like I have noticed the same price increases on Fawcetts Worlds of Fear. The final two issues have covers in great demand that I rarely see them for sale and when I do their up there… the other issues with their much tamer covers are now commanding much higher prices even though most of them are readily available.
I think I went to the Marriott Albany show that was advertised in the Eastern Shows ad.
Sienkiewicz is a cultivated taste. Sometimes I like his work and sometimes I don’t, and this one just doesn’t grab me for some reason.
Bizzarro is one of those wacky early silver concepts that has an endearing quality to it… but don’t ask me why… must have something to do with my age.

Chris Meli
1 year ago

I agree with you that there are many many other books out there that stand to appreciate, but my interpretation is maybe a bit different.

Don’t tell me Chamber can hold a candle to Black Cat. Therefore: the difference in appreciation is not due just to “discovery” of Black Cat, but to the observed ceiling in comic prices. Imagine if we average your numbers (100x and 19x) to 60x. Then Black Cat would now be at $90k. This is a level for only the tippy top, and given the few participants in this range, they would rather pay a lot more to add a Chamber to their collection, than a WHOLE lot more for a slightly nicer Black Cat.

SO the point is that I expect them to appreciate/depreciate a lot more in tandem in the future. AND that you are better off buying ten other special PCH books for $20k than one nice Black Cat/Chamber for the same amount, IF you are indifferent. You have more random upside from the former. (If you think Black Cat or Chamber is going to further cement its position as a classic, then by all means.)

The price ceiling is pervasive. This kicks in pretty reliably around $1500 for run books (higher for keys). Run books priced below this level show a reliable supply/price relationship, but above this level this shows that a lot of people refuse to pay above about $1500 for a basic comic, regardless of how much cash they have. Only the diehards are playing above $1500, and so increasing scarcity in grade does not mirror price increases. The good news is that while this falloff exists, its impact is not volatile. Also the ceiling is moving up – my level for this to kick in used to be $1000.

—–

Love the Zodiac splash. A good argument for buying beat-up/coverless readers (NOT an argument for not slabbing pristine copies).

I really don’t like the Sienkiewicz cover. Batman looks like a carnival freak. I liked Sienkiewicz when he was a much-better-than-Grell Adams knock-off, and when he moved to “his” style I was not thrilled (although I did continue to buy him, because he was good and the style was different).

I remember the Action #263 cover – but more people remember the swipe of #286. Regardless of being a swipe, super-villains are cooler than a bunch of identical Bizarros.

Alex Sorensen
Alex Sorensen
1 year ago

I took a look at my year end 9.2 values for 2022 among horror-suspense and Chamber of Chills 19 is in 15th position at $31,000, and Black Cat Mystery 50 is right behind at $30,000.

In 2008 Black Cat Mystery 50 was in 47th position at $1,900, while Chamber of Chills 19 was in about 364th position at $375. I probably need to add a few Horror-Suspense comics so position is likely lower.

I see Chamber 19 on T-Shirts, etc. It is definitely hot right now. I also saw a photo with Chamber 19 amongst a load of other file copies of the same comic.

Chris Meli
1 year ago

19 is stylish but 50 is hideous. Think of Crime Suspenstories as the king of PCH – hideous is what we want.

Chris Meli
1 year ago

Above meant to write “Crime Suspenstories #22”.

Bud Plant
Bud Plant
1 year ago

Well…I dug out my vg, vg+ copy of Chamber of Chills #19 and I think it’s going off to Heritage or MyComicShop. Thanks Walter!

I don’t have a Black Cat #50, but if I did I’d off that in a heartbeat also. I’m happy to take the money and put it into what I consider to be more desirable books, like primo wartime More Funs or pre-war or wartime Adventures…I could get two or three for the price of one lone Harvey comic. I like the Black Cat cover much more.

Unfortunately that issue of Black Cat is very much like many of the 1940s Hitler covers. I tend to collect runs, and those particular issues tended to be priced higher than others over the years, so I’d end up picking up ones before and after, since the contents inside were virtually the same. Why pay 2 or 3 times as much for another run of the mill issue? So that explains why I’m missing those key issues like Big Shot #46 and Blue Beetle #32, Champ #22, Capt. America #36, Fantastic #22. Fortunately I picked up some of the others before prices started going wild on them.

I’d rather just have a good solidly drawn cover by Raboy or Lou Fine or one of the greats, than someone minor who happened to throw Hitler into the mix. That said though, there are a few great ones those, Boy Comics #4, Great #3 is among the best, Hitler in bed on Thrilling #41, Headline #8, what was once a sleeper, Real Life #3….

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Looking forward to this new column – The Undiscovered gems of Walter’s genius! or perhaps…


You unlock this door with the key of imagination.

Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas.

You’ve just crossed over into… the Durajlija Zone

Alex Sorensen
Alex Sorensen
1 year ago

Chamber of Chills 19 was the second fastest growing Horror-Suspense comic between 2008 and 2022 between Ghost 6 and Tales of Horror 8, which is a recent climber. The sad thing about Black Cat 50 and its numerous great experimental covers of the time is that there were only three more Horror issues before the Comics Code helped create the short lived genre of One-piece swimsuit Westerns.

Bud, the Fantastic 22 with Hitler’s head as a furnace and a woman being slid into the mouth of fire has some ugly connotations to it. And this is September 1941. This comic is well on the way to being a Top 100 most valuable comic.

Chris Meli
1 year ago

I am with Bud halfway – in a vacuum I would trade all of these for Lou Fine covers. (Raboy was talented but not really a _comic book_ artist in my opinion.) But it’s a market…

Also, if you are willing to be a contrarian, I think the Adventures/More Funs are strong calls. We might not live to see it, but I think these books are going to hold up as Americana better than random gruesome PCH books.

The Hitler covers are another matter – I think these will also hold up well as Americana, as will most explicit war covers, particularly battle covers.

I have no understanding of the demand for Tales of Horror #8. It seems like this is following on Spellbound #3 and The Thing! #15. None of these seems like PCH to me – these are more like the Kirby monster covers, which are nowhere near as prized.

Timothy Crack
Timothy Crack
1 year ago

Crime Suspensestories #22 and the others are a bit crude.

How about Vault of Horror #37 – A hanging, maybe a suicide, on a comic book cover!

Even better is the Sub-Mariner Comics #33 cover – Namor killing a Russian frogman by cutting his air hose!

Now this is PCH!!

Chris Meli
1 year ago

For Walt and Alex – I hate to let the cat out of the bag, but it’s already out, so I will bring it up. Astonishing #30. When I came across this cover during the Covered 365 exercise I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t prized. It is very similar to Black Cat #50. But there are only half as many universal copies. I was on the lookout for years and finally scored a 3.5 in 2018 for about $700. I now estimate that to be about $2300, and a CBCS 5.5 finished last night at $4650. I think I get one notch on “overlooked” for this one. Of course I have others – but they haven’t moved yet – so the Black Cats will remain in the bag.

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

I paid $3.00 for my Astonishing #30 back around 1986. It is also a GVG copy. This is a Maneely cover with colours by Stan Goldberg [ of Archie fame!]. If Archie books looked like this, I would be buying a lot more of them !!! This is a fun cover, but I think the Harvey covers that you are discussing are better orchestrated, more memorable. However, Crime Suspenstories #22 is in a league of it’s own [ and then Crime Suspenstories #23- a cover of horrible beauty ] !! Hey Meli- let the cat out of the bag about Mystic #18 willya??- don’t keep this one under your hat ! Share the fun with everybody !! With the Russian forces [& Wagner] losing men by the hour in Bakhmut, they may have to start digging up their dead & putting them back into the ranks !! Woop !

Harvey horror comics were never rare back in the 1980’s when I was running around the conventions- the Harvey warehouse was discovered a few years earlier & put a lot of uncirculated books of all genres into the market. The horror books were plentiful & cheap & we all thought they would last forever. I bought quite a few, but not enough apparently. Since they were so common, I focused on other PCH books that showed up less frequently. Given a choice, I would sooner spend $4.00 on a Fiction House or Gleason comic and that is what I did. I liked 52-68 page books for $4.00 as opposed to those 36 page Harvey comics for $4.00 ! The 1980’s were a fun time to be collecting- this was the last decade where you could have fun at a convention with only a few bucks in your pocket. This period is memorable as EC comics were dead & simply not selling – read your old Overstreet market reports from that time and you will see that I am right! I was one of very few collectors running around looking for Mad, Two-Fisted or Frontline combat. The market began to explode in the late 1980’s & we have not been the same since.

There really are no surprises left in the PCH market. Every neat book is fought for with tooth & claw! Comic books are heavily studied & analyzed & nothing remains a secret for long. If you want to actually make some discoveries, you may wanna try the pulp market where there still are a lot of sleepers. Check out GALACTIC CENTRAL & start taking notes. Don’t just look at the Spicy’s- there is other gory stuff out there, far worse than the Spicy’s! [Where do you think Biro got the idea for the cover of Crime Does not Pay #24 ???] Ah, what the hell…it is probably already too late…the comic book crowd is already in there, rooting around like pigs searching for truffles !!! Drink heavily!

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

OK- I am on Galactic Central right now…scrolling through HORDES of crime & horror covers. Good Lord!- there must be HUNDREDS of gory, nasty & brutal covers to put on your want list! But….once you have made up your list…what do you do ??? Where do you go to find these things ??? Heritage ? Ebay ? My Comics Shop ??? Nope- many of these books just do not turn up for sale all that often! I have been at this game for over forty years & have never seen most of these books in the flesh! It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how badly you want some of these books…you can’t just go out and buy them or even bid on them whenever you feel like it! Check out ’10 Detective Aces’ or ‘Clues’ alone [the nasty stuff starts around November 1934] & see how many vicious covers there are in those runs ! Unlike Black Cat #50 or Chamber of Chills #19 of which you will see dozens of copies before you die, you may never see a copy of some of these brutal pulps as long as you live ! Hyperbole??? I think not ! If you want a quick ‘fix’, then seek out issues of ‘Dime Detective’ as they are a bit easier to find [ just a bit] and just as brutal as the very worst. These guys don’t come cheap- but if you’re willing to pay $20,000 for a Chamber of Chills #19, then $200.00+ for a nice copy of a 1930’s Dime Detective issue should be chump change for you! Oh yeah, watch out for those Chandler issues of Dime Detective- they’re not $200.00!! They’re a little bit more than that!

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

There’s about 168 Dime Detective on ebay right now including some early issues . Some are well priced but a few you should avoid. About 15 copies of Ten Detective Aces [ with covers by Saunders] & four or five issues of Clues including one nice, earlier ‘yellow peril’ cover [this appears well priced]. Go to it tigers- before the ‘cat is out of the bag’! Sorry Meli- none of these are slabbed so you’ll have to read ’em!

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

Bruce Hershenson just sold a copy of Venus #19 in about VG/F [ he doesn’t subscribe to Overstreet or CGC grading ] for $9178 USD. This looks to be a nicer copy than the CGC 4.0 that Heritage sold for $16,800 USD on Nov 19/2022. Venus #19 has let the ‘cat out of the bag’ a long time ago. I will have to stay satisfied with my G copy that I bought for pocket change about 35 years ago !