Undervalued Spotlight #383

Tales of the Unexpected #16, DC Comics, August 1957.

This Spotlight pick was inspired by a chat I was having with Mike Huddleston (come to think of it a lot of my Spotlight picks come to me while chatting with Mike Huddleston). I like blurring these conversations to the point where I can’t recollect which of us came up with said book, though I’m sure you can guess.

I love my chats with Mike and we always make sure we throw some comics into the conversation, this time we got on about prototypes, check his great post on prototypes, and while I get his argument I do think that not all prototypes are created equal. I do think that if a plausible line can be drawn from the prototype to the ultimate creation then that book deserves some consideration.

For this week’s post I want to avoid the whole Marvel Monster prototypes and switch over to DC Comics and offer up my Spotlight pick as Tales of the Unexpected #16.

Tales of the Unexpected #16 features a 6 page Jack Kirby drawn story called “The Magic Hammer” about a guy named Gerald Bald who find’s Thor’s Hammer and uses it to make rain. It’s all fine and dandy til Thor comes around to collect his hammer. The story features Loki as well.

I know that Thor and Loki are Norse mythology figures and I know that in this book they don’t look like our Marvel Thor and Loki but I still like this book. Had the book been pencilled by anybody else I might not think as highly of it but it was Jack Kirby and 5 years later Jack Kirby helped usher in Marvel’s Thor and Loki. The grand comics database does not assign a writer to the book so I’m not sure how much Kirby was involved with the story.

So while obviously not a prototype Tales of the Unexpected #16 is a great book to add to a well-rounded and diverse collection, the Kirby/Thor connection is too appealing to pass up. I’m not saying that his book is a must have that will skyrocket in price but what I am saying is that it deserves some separation in the Guide. Currently the Price Guide has all 8 Kirby drawn issues lumped in at one price. Like I said above I think the book is a great talking point, it’s a fun piece of trivia that merits some extra attention, it’s a comic that will make any Kirby fan, Marvel fan, Thor fan or 50s DC fan all the richer for owning it.

These early Tales of the Unexpected are tough to track down but they are out there. There has only been one CGC tracked sale in the past 3 years and the CGC census only shows 13 graded as of this post but for this book CGC is not the way to go simply because you won’t find any. Tales of the Unexpected #16 is waiting for you in some old time dealers Silver Age DC bins and its posted on line on some eBay stores by sellers who have come across random 50s DC comics.

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $164/$362/$560 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • Thor and Loki by Jack Kirby

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 Meli
6 years ago

Walt, my punch line is – this time I agree 100%. You are the master, and finally I have some evidence that the grasshopper is learning.

The longer version: first, given my comments to Mike’s previous post on “prototypes”, you know that I support the generalized prototype argument. In most cases characters and stories didn’t spring fully formed from the temple of Kirby or Lee (or whomever). While in most cases these “prototype” books/stories are not strict prototypes, I believe that they illustrate the continuity of thought that finally led to key characters we hold near and dear. Hence relatively more attractive.

Second, in early January there was a MyComicShop.com “prime” auction that contained a run of raw higher grade (F to VF) Strange Adventures from the late Golden Age (maybe into early Silver, I forget). I was intrigued because you don’t normally see these, and there were few of each on the census. GPA sale prices weren’t exciting where they existed, and I wasn’t sure whether the scarcity in the census was simply due to low values, so I just watched, figuring I might bid up to $100 or so for one or two of them. They went for around $500 apiece – it’s pretty clear somebody thought these were really scarce once-in-a-lifetime finds. This does make sense – generally the non-hero late GA/early SA DCs are hard to find in higher grades. Just as in many other situations (in particular the X-Men reprints in the early 70s), the assumption that these books would not be collector’s items and so were readable/disposable is what made them collector’s items.

A week or so later, the ComicLink auction rolled around, and in the GA session there was Strange Adventures #59 CGC 9.0 (the only higher grade Strange Adventures in the session). Having seen this in the earlier auction I knew it was rare in this grade and had fetched a high raw price, so I was watching for a bargain. It was not to be (at least not by my estimate) and it went for $600.

Now, for some odd reason, ComicLink finishes up these lower-end auctions with a session containing mixed bag of mostly “undesirables” combined with a few decent books. As I quickly perused that session’s offerings, I saw something that looked a lot like a higher-grade mid-fifties Strange Adventures: Tales of the Unexpected #16 CGC 7.0. I knew nothing about the book, so I first looked up its price history (ho hum) and then its census numbers. The 7.0 is in the top five, and after the Strange Adventures experiences I had a strong feeling that there probably weren’t a ton of >6.0 copies out there, so it seemed like it was worth a shot. Then I read the CGC comment: “Story entitled ‘The Magic Hammer’ with, character named ‘Thor’ by Jack Kirby”!!!!

Wait – what? Alarm bells in the shape of Strange Tales #97 started ringing. That book has a character named Aunt May (_I_ had an Aunt Mae, and I never thought she was a prototype) and a top five copy could fetch $3k-$4k. What was going on with a Thor by Kirby, predating JIM #83 by five years, seemingly scarce, selling for $100-$200? As your post indicates – I had no clue. Well, to make this long story a bit shorter, still nobody seemed to care through the auction, and the final price was $143.

As Mike wrote in his post – you’re kidding right. Even without the Kirby Thor story that is a defensible price for a 7.0 DC from this period. (My read is that immediate pre and post code books are the scarcist, but 1957 books are still reasonably tough above 6.0.) With the Kirby Thor story it’s totally baffling. My suppositions:

– Most importantly, coming in front of your post, the word is not really out on this book.
– Some serious buyers might not even look at these these ComicLink end session mixed bags, and I got lucky.
– There is clearly a Marvel bias when it comes to valuing “prototypes” of Marvel characters, and I think there are many Marvel collectors who just don’t process the dynamics amongst creators and publishers that led to today’s world.
– Finally there are prototype heathens, such as Mike, who are not buying any of this. (They will be crying all the way to somewhere other than the bank.)

I don’t have high expectations for the book, but like you say, this is one book that is not mostly an investment (at least at this point), but mostly a cool piece of history. And I won’t be shy to say that I will gladly participate in an “orchestrated move” to turn this into more of an investment. Let me know who I should send a bottle or two of club soda to to grease the wheels.

6 years ago

Whoa… $8365 for an FF#1, 3.5. That’s almost $11,000 CAD. Patience is being well rewarded:


6 years ago

Not gloating… just sharing the news. Educated guesses over emotional picks. More info we have the better. Besides, I thought you were pro FF#1 as well? The other book that’s on the move is FF#48, as any logical person would have surmised considering that all the books around it has shot up. Speaking of which, it might be time to let go of #52 while it’s riding high and place that cash on the next undervalued contender. It’s just nice to see some momentum for good books that’s been largely ignored for lack of movie prospects.

Chris Meli
6 years ago

I am still bullish on FF #52 because as I said earlier today in yet another comment, I think Black Panther is truly a mainstream film. As such I think there will be people who never owned a comic in their life who will be interested in getting a nice FF #52 (similar to AF #15).

6 years ago

“As such I think there will be people who never owned a comic in their life who will be interested in getting a nice FF #52”

Come on Chris… let’s be real here. Do I really have to bring up my stamp collecting analogy again?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still hot for FF#52 long term as well. But now that the movie is in our rear view mirrors… I expect values to soften as we move on to the next spectacle. I just think there may be more potential with a book like FF#48 as the momentum builds.

What I like most about the BP movie is what you don’t see… With Chadwick Boseman on the cover of Time, suddenly BP is a social movement? I love the thinking behind advertising and Disney is a master strategist.

Oh… I’m very sensitive. Just ask the ladies ^_^