Undervalued Spotlight #173

sup 75I remember having a conversation with Marc (the guru that runs Big B Comics) maybe two years back about the Death of Superman trade paperback. We were unpacking our weekly order and I pulled out about 5 or 6 copies of this trade and asked if we’d made a mistake on the quantity. Marc informed me that this indeed was the correct amount and that we re-ordered them regularly because it was a strong and steady seller.

The Death of Superman story arc a strong seller? Who was buying I asked. Guys that grew up with it and new fans hearing about it and discovering it for the first time he said.

At that moment I started thinking about the possibility of there ever being a resurgence in demand for the actual Death issue, Superman #75.

Superman #75, you know, the comic that almost shut down the whole comic book industry.

Some comic pundits put much of the blame on Superman #75 for causing the collapse of the comic book market in the mid 1990s. Much has been written on this subject, on how Mike Carlin came up with the premise, on what events led to the creation of the story, on the marketing blitz, on the speculation bubble that allowed this book to succeed, on the eventual crash etc. I won’t go into any details but I will try to spell out the books effect in a paragraph.

The gimmick of killing Superman caught the general public’s imagination, media were all over it and local comic shops had massive line ups on day of release. The comic back issue market was already heating up with speculators but this issue perhaps brought in more outsiders looking to make a quick buck than any book before it. Fast forward just a little bit and you have Superman back, alive and well, you have a sizeable portion of the 3 million copies of Superman #75 out there trying to be “flipped” for some easy cash and… there you have it.

I looked at the comic industry’s sales data from the early 2000’s and they were at a about a quarter of the levels of 1992. In this lost decade the industry took a beating, Marvel was driven into bankruptcy, thousands of comic shops closed, tens of thousands of comic readers were shed and tens of thousands more  new readers were never gained in those dark days where hardly any new fans were coming into the hobby.

Superman #75 may have been the worst thing ever to happen to comic books; it is possibly the most detested comic book of all time.

Perfect! I think I want one.

So about a year ago I picked up this big chunk of books from the 90s, I think I paid maybe a dime each for several long boxes worth. Who pays more than a dime each for boxes of 90s books?

In this pile of 90s kayf (is that how you spell it?) there was a stack of those black polly bagged Superman #75s.

We put a couple out at $5 and they sold quickly. Huh? Again that same thought that came to me that I had while unpacking the trade paperbacks, could this book ever be “hot” again.

This summer during con season, I attended 5 cons, I took notice of Superman #75’s on dealers walls (the sealed polly bagged ones). Most were asking $20 (one ambitious sort had $40 on his). I did not ask to see if any were moving, I sold the last of mine for $10.

Which brings me to my next point, there are not as many of these coming into the shop anymore. I used to see piles of these everywhere, not anymore.

Current sales figures show CGC 9.8s of the polly bagged issue (opened and out of the bag for grading) go for about $50 while you can pick up nice tight 9.4s for $27.

The sealed polly bagged issues are the way to go as far as I’m concerned. This is the “collectors” state for the book. It should be available to the collector/investor still sealed.

Completed eBay listings show these sealed polly bagged going for $9-$12 dollars. So you factor in shipping and $20 at the con doesn’t seem a stretch anymore.

I think we should all own a copy of this book, for its importance, for what is represents, for its immense power.

Projecting out into the future this slow build the book has quietly enjoyed over the past 5 years should continue.

At the moment Superman #75 resellers are in a pretty good spot. New inquisitive collectors don’t mind shelling out $10 to $20 for a copy. These are mostly purchases of convenience at cons or on eBay. Seasoned buyers with a little bit of digging can still can find the book in abundance for a few dollars each. A little bit of work at a moderate pace can produce some strong returns albeit on a small scale.

The 43rd edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide shows $11/$16/$20 as the 8.0/9.0/9.2 price splits.

Strengths that make this comic book a good long-term investment are:

  • “Death” of Superman
  • Historically significant and influential comic book
  • Can still be found in abundance for below current market prices
  • Polly bag hold other goodies like poster, obituary from Daily Planet, postage stamp and arm band

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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Marc Sims
10 years ago

FYI We’ve been selling this book in the store for $20 for at least a year.

10 years ago

Walter…from a historical point of view, it is interesting you chose to spotlight Superman #75 in the year of his 75th birthday!

10 years ago

The platinum edition is the key book to get. Collectors are all over that

10 years ago

Great pick Walter. Recently, I sold a fine copy of the news-stand version of #75. The first appearance issues of Doomsday are also starting to move.

Tom Berry
Tom Berry
10 years ago

Got one of these for old times sake; yep, still in the bag. Wouldn’t let it go for less than $25 because I bought it the day it came out. Don’t see it ever going for more than that, but who knows.

Thor Odinson
Thor Odinson
10 years ago

Can’t remember if I still have mine or not…and don’t care.

I remember reading this brand new and thinking how poorly it had been done; how DC had completely failed to present a death befitting the godfather of all superheroes. (In contrast I thought “The Breaking of the Bat” and its lead-up were done quite well).

Before your article, Walt, I’d never really considered this issue’s possible role in comics’ overall ’90s downturn…so come to think of it that’s just yet another reason to hate this piece of crap comic.