Undervalued Spotlight #398

Batman #234, DC Comics, August 1971.

I remember reading Mike Huddleston’s recent post on Batman #227 and noting that on his little value chart there was only one book that didn’t even double up over the 10 year span of his example (his Batman #227 increased its value over tenfold), the laggard was this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick Batman #234.

Batman #234 features the 1st Silver Age appearance of Harvey Dent/Two-Face.

Batman #234 falls into all kinds of coveted collecting strains. First off it’s in the Batman title which is one of the top 2 collected titles in comics (Amazing Spider-Man being the other). Batman #234 is also a key Silver Age re-appearance issue and belongs with other 1st Silver Age Batman keys like #155 (Penguin), #171 (Riddler) and #189 (Scarecrow). Batman #234 also falls into the very heavily collected Neal Adams Batman collecting strain which includes issues like Batman #227, 232, #251 etc.

Somehow the Guide has Batman #234 at almost half the value of two other Adams issues whose values are driven by their sought-after covers, those being Batman #227 and #251. Even at their almost double up Guide prices, high-grade copies of Batman #227 and #251 get a higher percentage of Guide results in the marketplace. Even among the list of Silver Age 1st appearances I listed above Batman #234 lags behind the percentage of Guide values issues like Batman #171 and #189 are getting.

So Batman #234 represents the lowest Guide value of the bunch of books I’ve mentioned above and it’s the only one that straddles both the 1st Silver Age appearance strain and the Neal Adams Bronze Age Batman strain yet it is the underperformer.

You can’t blame the cover, it’s great and it’s Adams art featuring the principal villain and Batman, it’s even one of those 52 page Giant’s that always seem to do well.

I think Batman #234 just got lost in the shuffle a bit but I think it’s due for a re-evaluation and I think it will correct nicely.

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $147/$324/$500 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • 1st Silver Age appearance of Harvey Dent/Two-Face
  • Embedded in Batman’s heavily collected Neal Adams early Bronze Age collecting strain and in the 1st Silver Age appearance strain

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
5 years ago

Some U.S. picks are pure prognostication; some are based on aesthetics; some on getting ahead of movies (the two most recent picks). This one feels more like a pure numbers exercise (which I like!). As Walt points out, we are dealing with an extremely popular set of books that are not scarce, so this is all about comps.

I guess we first have to set our ranking of villains, as this is (almost) all about SA first appearances. The Joker is so far out in front that it isn’t worth talking about. I think the Riddler and Two-Face are neck-and-neck for second place, but I am going to give the nod to the Riddler, if for no other reason than Frank Gorshin’s portrayal. Two-Face maybe would have taken second in the late 80s/early 90s in the wake of DKR, but I think the current environment is definitely retro, and the unsuccessful oppressive darkness of some of the recent DC movies also works for the Riddler and against Two-Face. Penguin fourth, Scarecrow fifth. (In my opinion a distant fifth.) This ranking should be seen in the relative popularity/values of these books. (#232 could be brought into the picture but I am leaving it out. As first appearance it further complicates the analysis.)

I think the other ranking we should look at is the covers. Batman #227 doesn’t fit into the villain consideration, as this book is all about the cover. As covers go, I think we could agree that it is down to #227 vs. #251, and which you pick is very personal. I would pick #251 because it is truly original, a huge Joker cover, and full of action. #227 is enormously appealing a historical swipe of “the” Batman cover by “the” Batman artist, made more appealing by it being a hard black cover from a time of fairly low circulation, so I can see it being the top pick as “quintessential”. After these we have to give the third Adams cover (#234) the nod. I think the ranking from there is #171, then #189, then (far behind) #155. I could imagine somebody picking #189 over #171, but I think the bright colors and “crazy Riddler” of #171 win. (As I think about it, I’m willing to bet that people who like #251 better than #227 probably like #171 better than #189, and vice versa – “big” vs. “atmospheric”.)

With these two sets of rankings I think we can then argue for relative popularity of the books – here’s my try:
#155 and #189 tied (better villain vs. better cover)

Now we can look at the price popularity based on prices versus scarcity. Using my patent-pending method, I make these observations:

– High-dollar (>$2000) investors definitely like #251 best, then are surprisingly indifferent amongst all the rest except for #155, which is decidedly less popular. In this range I don’t think that #234 is undervalued, as its price holds up as grade increases better than some of the others. My guess is that these high dollar investors simply want one of the best of each good cover where possible, but certainly a #251, which equalizes the prices of everything but #251.

– Significant (~$500) investors show about these price popularities (on an arbitrary scale):

#251: 460
#234: 125
#227: 225
#189: 100
#171: 125
#155: 70

These are pretty much in line with my rankings above, so no real surprises. If we want to focus on whether #234 is undervalued, I think we need to think about it relative to #251, #227 and #171. I think these price popularity numbers pretty clearly support the undervalued conclusion.

First, #234 is clearly the “little brother” to #251. For this, the price discrepancy is too much. Yes of course we are talking about the Joker, but this is a latter-day Joker, not Detective #69. Here we are talking about the quintessential Adams portrayal of Batman’s key adversaries, so in that way we should expect fairly similar results.

Following this same argument, #227 fits into this picture as the quintessential Adams atmospheric swipe. A similar argument applies – at that level #251, #227, and #234 should be similar.

Finally, we have to be honest and agree that the covers of #234 and #171 are not even comparable. If I am arguing that the Riddler and Two-Face are neck and neck as villains, clearly the far superior cover for #234 should not lead to #234 and #171 pricing in the same way.

So in the rankings above, I am going to throw out that #234 should show about a 175 value, which translates into about a 40% price increase. But I think that this conclusion only holds about up to the 9.4 grade. After that, the spotty results suggest that 9.6s and 9.8s are fully-valued.

(One significant monkey wrench that I have ignored above is World’s Finest #173, “first SA two-face”. But this is of course Strange Tales #114 all over again, and as Avengers #4 just sold for $25k in 9.6 last night, I think we can all agree that nobody treats these fake appearances as meaningful. I own both WF #173 and ST #114 as I think they are cool road markers, but I don’t think they can derail the “true” reappearance.)

5 years ago

Definitely a highlight in the Neal Adams Batman run. True 1st app. of a major Batman villain since the Golden Age. CHECK. Great looking Neal Adams Batman with villain on cover art. CHECK. A tougher to find in true high grade due to being a 52-pg giant comic. CHECK. Especially needs a uptick on values VF and above IMHO.

5 years ago

Aside from all these great arguments, with which I fully agree, and I have had my eye on this book for two years for the same reasons… How in the world did nobody at DC bring back Two-Face until 1971?? This is one of the all-time great villains and origin stories. Crazy to think he was out of circulation for so long.

Chris Yarborough
Chris Yarborough
5 years ago

Batman #234 is not a silver age book.