Undervalued Spotlight #378

Fantastic Four #5, Marvel Comics, July 1962.

This week I gave myself a big challenge, to pick a huge Marvel book that still has tons of upside. One can argue that lots of them still do but I set about trying to narrow it down to one for this week’s post.

So without further ado I present this week’s Undervalued Spotlight as Fantastic Four #5. Fantastic Four #5 features the 1st appearance of Doctor Doom.

Walt! Haven’t you been picking a lot of Fantastic Four books lately, you buy a big collection?

Well yes and yes but I’ve been buying FF collections for decades and the FF run has been so neglected for so long leaving me a lot of catching up to do.

Fantastic Four #5 is ancient Marvel, July 1962 makes it predate Spidey, Thor and everybody else really, except the Hulk. Marvels from 1962 are like 1930s superhero comics, the rarest of things.

I once covered FF #2 on a Spotlight arguing that it was the beginning of the whole Cosmic Marvel thing. Fantastic Four #5 then was surely the beginning of the Mighty Marvel villain machine. Marvel has produced some fantastic villains, 6 of the top 10 villains on the IGN top 100 villains list are Marvel Villains with Doctor Doom taking up the #3 spot.

It’s hard to understate how big a character Doctor Doom was/is in the Marvel U. I read that he was one of the most published character in Marvel. Doom is among the elite of Marvel villainy, Comic Book Resources voted him Marvel’s 4th best favorite character and Stan Lee once called Doom his favorite villain.

Let’s look at the top 4 villains on the IGN list. Lex Luthor – fully realized and used very close to his potential, Magneto – also fully realized and used very close to his potential, Joker – beyond realized and the template for all. Then we get to Doom and I realize that this character had his heyday decades ago that this is one character that Marvel can stull flush out and get a lot more from. All this really hits home when we start to think about Marvel/Disney recently getting back the rights to the Fantastic Four and the team’s related characters.

Fantastic Four #5 has always been a heavyweight in the collecting community, it’s earned a lot of street cred by being tough to find, especially in grade and by always getting top dollar whenever a copy does surface.

I think Fantastic Four #5 is about to be launched into another stratosphere. This is and will be the biggest non hero Marvel key, it is and will be even more so one of the early grails of Marveldom.

I think I’m about 2 months late with this post as the market is really liking Fantastic Four #5 right now. Recent sales at CGC 6.0 and 6.5 have produced double Guide sales but a very recent (this month) CGC 7.5 sold for just $5019 or about Guide, A CGC 5.0 also recently sold for just over 1.5 x Guide.

Even with the current heat I think it’s still early and there are deals still out there, I think these above sales will look like bargains in the near future.

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $1100/$2000/$6000/$13000/$20000 in the 4.0/6.0/8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • Origin and 1st appearance Doctor Doom
  • Biggest non hero Marvel key
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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Chris Elliott
Chris Elliott
6 years ago

Walt , I think this is a great pick ! Dr.Doom has always been my favourite Marvel villain ! after Thanos appears in the next Avengers movie , Dr. Doom would be a logical pick to be the main villain in Avengers 4 ! when he gets his movie debut , guess what’ll happen to his first appearance ! so my advice to people who don’t already have a copy of FF 5 is to not be tardy , go out there and buy one today ! we all know what happens when rumours of an appearance in an up-coming movie does to a books value ! remember FF 44 anyone ?

I always enjoy your columns Walt , even though I don’t write in too often !

Chris Meli
6 years ago

Now THIS is a sink-your-teeth-into pick. While it’s not possible to tire of the entries on Archie’s Christmas list, we can quickly note the ins and outs of these. (Hey – this is a family show!) FF #5 is however worthy of a shelf of Ph.D. theses – addressing the nature of fiction, graphic storytelling, psychology, black magic, the devil, robotics, Earth-616 (huh?), surfing without surf, etc.

But the topic of this thesis is whether FF #5 is undervalued, and here I concur with Herr Professor Doctor Durajilja. While he might be late to the party as described, there is good reason to think the party will not break up soon. That CGC 7.5 sale is reason for pause (and I followed that sale closely), but my further consideration after thinking about this Spotlight has turned this pause to regret.

To think about this comic, first I had to narrow my thoughts down to desirable grades. In general I like top 10% of graded, but for solid keys I will take top 100, and for super-keys like this I will go lower – so in this case I chose top 250. Top 10% is a CGC 8.0; top 100 is 7.5, and top 250 is 6.0. While there is no recent 8.0 sale to look at, an 8.5 sale from 2017 can be used to roughly infer a level (at least one of a few months ago).

Up until recently, performance had been weaker as you moved to higher grades. In 6.0 the price had about doubled over the past decade, while in 8.0 it had been about flat (so negative after inflation and selling costs). How bad is this? Well I think Journey Into Mystery #85 (first Loki) is a pretty good comp. (Before the movies it of course would have been folly to put Loki on the same plane as Doom, but I think that approach is defensible now.) The comics were published within a few months of each other, and the graded populations are similar, down to the CGC 8.0/7.5/6.0 categories working equally well. In contrast to FF #5, JIM #85 in 6.0 is up 250% during the past decade, and in 8.0 up 150%. Yes, of course that is driven by the movies, but that’s the point – for Loki those are in the past, while Walt (Disney and Durajilja) see Doom as an even bigger character for the future.

There is one problem, which is that regardless of relative appreciation, JIM #85 is about twice as affordable as FF #5. While this reduces the investor base, as we have evidence that people are willing to pay ten times these prices for an AF #15, there should be some spare change left to buy a $5k FF #5.

I had saved some CGC census data for this book from 2015, and this added some interesting information. The population of Universal grade books increased from 750 to 954 over that time, so it’s not like all copies were (or are) graded. However, there is almost no addition to the population at CGC 7.5 and above, and reduced population growth in the 5.5-7.0 range. So I think my 6.0/top 250 is about the lowest entry point that you should aim for, but the 7.5 that just sold was a better investment candidate as it should stay as a top 100 book forever.

Finally, Walt didn’t bring up the importance of the cover for a graded book this time, but the iconic cover is clearly a plus – given the relative prominence of Doom and his name, this seems almost like a Tales to Astonish (half Doom, half FF).

Going into the 7.5 sale I had strong concerns that the pops in lower grades were flashes in the pan, but after thinking further about this Spotlight I’m willing to believe that, as usual, the market got ahead of me. It now seems like it would have been good to chase this book to at least about $6k, with the idea that it’s probably worth $7k or more. Hence regret – I don’t think that we will see that level of sale again. (I comfort myself by believing that the buyer still would have outbid me…)

Great call Walt – I am going to check the couch for coins tonight and prepare for the next opportunity.

Darren Graham
Darren Graham
6 years ago

This is my favorite pick of yours this year, Walt! A big juicy porterhouse of a pick. Once that Fox-Disney merger gained steam the first place my brain went was Fantastic Four and especially, Dr. Doom. I think we are going to see a lot more Victor von Doom in comics very soon, now that it benefits Disney’s bottom line. The big baddie is back.

With Doom I think MCU has a challenge ahead of them:

1. How do they bring in FF into the MCU? In my opinion (and I know I’ll be in the minority), they should separate them from MCU. As the premiere Marvel superhero team, find a way to put FF in it’s own universe… make it special. I’m sure that won’t happen, so, maybe make them the first super-heroes in the MCU… put them in the Cold War Kennedy era during the space race, and really Kirby it the hell up! Add a little time travel element to bring them into modern day MCU.

2. How do they make Dr Doom relatable? His origin and agenda is kind of all over the place. He’s a genius inventor and a sorcerer and completely vain and egotistical and wants to rule the world. Kinda douchey and not relatable, right? Make him care deeply for his immediate family and his countrymen. Make him a tragic figure, like the big screen Magneto, and give him a compelling reason for being Doom… not just from a pissing contest with Reed Richards and having a scar on his face. And most definitely, make it a point to differentiate him from Darth Vader… Doom was Vader’s inspiration so make it a point to do something new and special with him.

I’m all in for FF #5 and am kicking myself for not grabbing this months ago before it became so damn expensive. Sellers know Doom’s potential and are price gouging already. For a cheaper Doom pick, how about Marvel Super Heroes #20? Iconic Doom cover, 60s Marvel, qualifies as the first self-titled Dr Doom book and has important backstory for the character. I think this will get a similar uptick that Iron Man 1 ’68 got. Unbelievably, it’s going for less than Guide.

Don’t forget about Silver Surfer either. You know Disney is going to take him for a ride, pun intended. Very tragic character. Who among us can’t relate with his dilemma (talk about having a job from hell). Cool character who will definitely look incredible in these movies and fits perfectly into cosmic and mystic MCU. Take Walt’s advice back in Undervalued Spotlight 251 https://www.comicbookdaily.com/collecting-community/undervalued/undervalued-spotlight-251/ and snag FF #48 before it skyrockets!

Chris Meli
6 years ago

Lots of great ideas Darren. You should keep a record of this post to make a case for a share of the residuals. I think the FF plot idea is brilliant but unfortunately most viewers have at best a murky picture of the historical framework, so it might be a tough sell to Disney. I agree that MSH is a buy – and at this point this makes all of the original MSH (12-20) a buy, similar to how the non-key Showcase books are in demand simply to fill in the early run. Of course FF #48 is always on the list, but I doubt that it can skyrocket – it is already so high and easily available that it is difficult for me to see it moving a lot. (Of course I have felt that way about ASM #129 for a long time, so even I take my opinions with a grain of salt.)

A problem with Doom in my opinion is the mask (sort of along the lines of the Darth Vader problem). Masks work in comics because of the medium, but they don’t work well in live action films. (It is quite obvious from the films that Disney is pretty uncomfortable with costumes as well – e.g. Michael Keaton’s vulture, with costume replaced by technical apparatus.) My bet is that they find some way to suppress the mask, or put a completely different spin on it (a la Two-Face in Dark Knight Returns).

6 years ago

I have to add I’m a big fan of Marvel Super-Heroes #20 as well. On top of Darren and Chris’s points this book also leads to Doctor Doom’s first comic series in Astonishing Tales, the split book with Kazar. Marvel Super-Heroes #20 also has the full add page for Starhawk who doesn’t make it the pages of MSH #21, but shows up years later in Guardians of The Galaxy. What I like about Marvel Super-Heroes #20 is you can still hunt down high-grade copies raw. The low value of the books stops many people from having them slabbed.

How about that Comiclink result on Fantastic Four #5 PGX 9.2 for $9900 this week? Less than 50% of guide. I can’t see how the buyer could wrong with that book even if it was slightly over-graded.

Chris Meli
6 years ago

One more Doom book to plug – the “prototype” issue Tales of Suspense #31. I don’t understand why a “prototype” came out with the same publication month as FF #5, but maybe somebody can enlighten me with the backstory.

ArcRun’s question on the 9.2 leads to another question of mine – has something recently burnished PGX’s reputation? I see a lot more PGX books showing up, so it feels like the auctioneers are finding them more acceptable. However, similar to the FF #5, they seem to sell well below what the same grade CGC book would sell for. (So far I have avoided them, except in very particular situations where even a restored copy would be worth the price.) This general avoidance is clearly why the 9.2 went so low – too much history of PGX books being sent to CGC and receiving a restored grade. On the seller side I can’t understand why you would send a book to PGX unless you knew something was wrong, because you are clearly setting yourself up for a bad price – thus even more reason to avoid or impose a large discount.

How about this for a vote of confidence, from that book’s listing:

“Note: There has been an inquiry regarding whether or not ComicLink guarantees anything regarding this item’s condition if it is submitted to CGC or CBCS for recertification and does not come back matching the condition specifications on the PGX label. As per the terms and conditions of every ComicLink auction, no certified grade for any certification company is guaranteed by ComicLink. The sole recourse for the purchaser, if any, regarding the condition lies with the certification company, in this case PGX.”

Except for the recent pop (and the CGC 7.5 discussed above didn’t see a real pop), prices of FF #5 in high grades have been stagnant for years, and GPA shows a restored 8.5 selling for about 2k in 2016. It’s not too hard for me to believe that if the PGX 9.2 book came back as restored in ~9.0, you would take an $8k loss from the $10k final price. I’ll pass.

Darren Graham
Darren Graham
6 years ago

Does anybody know the circulation numbers for these early super-hero Marvels like FF #5? I wouldn’t want to rely solely on CGC census data. I visited Comichron.com, which is pretty great for silver age circulation data, but the only non super-hero Marvels have data around them until 1966 when FF, Spidey and other Super Hero Marvels finally cracked the top 50 and therefore getting listed on the site.

Chris: Been enjoying your comments and insight in the last few Spotlights. Great point about Doom’s mask and the problems around filming that, or getting an A-lister to star in the role. I always thought the “heads up display” in the Iron Man movie was a brilliant solution to that problem. And the “fixed but still damaged” Harvey Dent from TDKR is a brilliant idea for Doom, great call. You’ve got me rethinking FF #48 a bit after checking circulation data on FF that year… lots of copies printed and surviving, to your point. Surfer would have to reach Deadpool, Iron Man, Wolverine popularity levels with the masses to really make it skyrocket, but I’ll stand by it simply being a solid investment book.

Mike: I think you answered your own question about PGX. I think their brand got destroyed by some stories regarding lazy grading and not detecting restoration. I personally would only spend slightly more on a PGX than a raw book. Encapsulation works against it bc you can’t have it inspected without cracking it. Also, CBCS sealed raw grade service has been getting some success out of the gate — I seen these getting top dollar over standard raw. In my opinion, I wouldn’t buy one. It’s also sealed and since that service doesn’t check for restoration, it seems like it has potential to be a the premiere haven for trimmed books.

Also, Mike, when are we going to get another Overvalued Overstreet, been loving the column 😀

6 years ago

Last thing first. I have another Overvalued in the works and ironically Chris’s Tales of Suspense #31 is one of the books featured in the post. Thanks for the support on the column Darren.

On PGX I have heard all of the stories about the company and it would certainly make me nervous about buying a book of the value of Fantastic Four #5 in the 9.2 grade. It would be interesting to understand the rationale behind using PGX to grade the book in the first place. I understand the grading cost is a consideration, however you are playing with big bucks on this book why cheap out? I have purchased two PGX books in the past and cracked them both open. Both were 6.5 copies of Amazing Spider-Man #11 &12 purchased in different time frames. The #11 looked like a 6.5 and I later traded it for that grade value. The ASM#12 looked better than advertised and I thought maybe it had some undetected restoration. I recently had the book sent to CGC and it just returned last week in a blue label with an 8.0 grade.. My lucky day! That said I wouldn’t have been happy with PGX if I had sent my book there in the first place and received the 6.5 grade.

Chris I couldn’t stop laughing when I read that disclaimer on the C-Link auction. I am certain Comiclink would have discussed this with the seller before accepting this book for consignment. What a vote of confidence for PGX grading ^-^!