Undervalued Spotlight #388

Batman #78, DC Comics, August-September 1953.

A guy brought me in some rat chewed old Batman comics from the early 1950s recently and while I didn’t buy them because the grades were simple not worth the asking price (in my mind) I did enjoy looking through the batch as decrepit as it was. The best of the lot happened to be a maybe Fair to Good copy of this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick Batman #78. I even tried to buy Batman #78 separately but was unsuccessful.

Batman #78 features the 1st appearance of Roh Kar, the 1st Martian lawman to visit earth. The green skinned Roh Kar is introduced in the 10 page story titled “The Manhunter from Mars”.

Picking Batman #78 to spotlight brought to mind Mike Huddleston’s recent post on prototypes, he was pretty harsh on iffy prototypes but I’m certain this one fits the bill. J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter famously made his debut in Detective Comics #225 (November 1955) over two years after Batman #78 was published.

Batman #78 really gets no love, the Guide has the common issues around Batman #78 at $1,500 hardly giving any premium for what I think is an important issue. The Guide is not the only one ignoring my book, on the markets a recent CGC 4.5 sold for $262, well below Guide. As of this post I found a CGC 6.0 for sale on line at around double Guide with no takers. Important Golden Age comics in higher grades like CGC 6.0 don’t last at double Guide.

Perhaps it’s the cover? A couple of Quebecois villains and a Mountie. Maple Syrup heist?

Obviously I think the market should be demanding this book a lot more than it is. The book offers a great prototype of a major DC character and its in the sequence of issues that are among the Batman titles’s hardest finds.

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $742/$1,271/$1,800 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • First Appearance of Roh Kar, the Man Hunter from Mars
  • Embedded in the coveted early 50s (very hard to get) Batman run

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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6 years ago


Chris Meli
6 years ago

Walt, I have so many thoughts on this one that I could write a book about it.(I will try not to.) Clearly Martian telepathy was at work when you chose this book.

Batman #78 has been on my eBay “saved searches” for years now. However, Roh Kar is not my main motivating factor – it’s that cover. Every crease or other imperfection in that black background is immediately apparent, and combine this with scarcity that you point out, and you are left with a very scarce book in any reasonable grade. It’s funny that you give the price breaks from 8.0 up, as the highest graded is a 7.5. Maybe some old guy has a better copy in a drawer, but I think any serious collector would have had a better copy graded by now, if for no reason other than bragging rights. There are many other positives to the cover as well: classical composition, Batman and Robin on skis (only beat by the World’s Finest where they are on surfboards), a mountie, and even a couple of happy little Bob Ross trees.

So undervalued? Absitively. I have been looking for a decent copy for years now. Let me give you another price point: a CGC 6.5 was offered in a ComicLink auction last autumn. I took this to $1000 but could go no further (there are currently eight copies graded at 6.5 or above) – it sold for $1100. I don’t know how Overstreet extrapolates down to 6.5 from the numbers you give above, but I’m guessing this is more than twice Guide. If there was an 8.0 I think it would get about 10x the Guide price that you cite.

When I say “I could go no further” it’s because I can’t really argue that this is a “key for the ages”, so you have to take the market into account when making the call. For the 6.0 that you note, I would say this should be about $650 based on the 6.5 price, and furthermore there is a date stamp across the skis, so I would knock about $100 off for that. (This of course has been argued ad infinitum, but there is no question in my mind that the lack of impact of these “retailer’s marks” on grading is a huge drag on the hobby.) I actually would pay a bit more than my estimate (the double guide you note), but I want to be able to really appreciate that difficult cover, so no date stamp or grease pencil for me.

Aside from just this book, my bigger focus is the mid-1950s DCs. (The scarcist period to me appears to be right before and after the Code was introduced.) Those in toto should be the subject of the gold-framed five-hundredth anniversary edition of Undervalued Spotlight. And while Batman gets love because it’s titled “Batman”, this was apparently the case in the 1950s as well, so Batman isn’t nearly as scarce as Detective during this period. This is similar for Superman vs. Action, and forget about Wonder Woman and World’s Finest. (For WF 60-69, from 1952 through 1954, only one issue is double digits in the census.) How about just one baseball statistic: there are more copies of Amazing Spider-Man #129 at 9.4 and above than all issues of Batman from 1951 through 1956 graded 6.0 and above! Maybe the market will wake up some day, but for now I will keep buying, because these are key titles of historical significance. You can have your skeleton on the cover of some also-ran publisher’s three-issue title, I will continue to choose these. Make Mine DC!