Undervalued Spotlight #401

Tales of Suspense #59, Marvel Comics, November 1964.

Silver Age keys are one of the hottest segments of the market, Marvels especially and pre-65 Marvels especially. I think there are still a few keys that have yet to meet their full market potential, like this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick, Tales of Suspense #59.

Tales of Suspense #59 contains the 1st solo Captain America story since 1954, the 10 page “Captain America” story was co-written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with Kirby doing the art.

With this issue Tales of Suspense turns into a spit headliner book featuring Iron Man and Captain America stories all the way through issue #99, with the 100th issue famously converting to Captain America. Tales of Suspense #59 is the launch of Captain America in his own co-title, it’s the 1st Captain America #100!

As I mentioned above there was an Iron Man story in this issue, in the 13 page “Black Knight” we are introduced to Alvin Jarvis, the now famous Butler for the Avengers.

And what a fantastic Kirby cover, it’s considered a classic, with Cap and Iron Man both full frontal. The light backgrounds on this book can really make for a vibrant looking book if you are lucky enough to find a copy with thick glossy inks. It’s also hard to nail down a copy with good centring, where you get the view of the full M on the MARVEL at top left.

The markets are so ho-hum on this book, CGC 9.0s and 9.2s sell for well below Guide. I can’t figure out why the book in higher grades has true scarcity, there are less than 100 graded at CGC 9.2 or higher.

I consider this book a key issue and with the explosion in prices for the major keys, I don’t think we’re far off for this early secondary key to jump on the bandwagon. Tales of Suspense #59 meets all the criteria, the classic cover, the creative team, the principal characters being A-listers, the 1st appearance, the 1964 early Marvel time slot, the scarcity of grade, the 1st solos story since…, the launch of a character’s title, it’s all there and I don’t think it will be long before people mark this book as a neglected undervalued issue with good upside.

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $311/$706/$1100 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • 1st appearance of Jarvis
  • 1st solo Cap story since 1954
  • Launches Cap’s own title
  • Classic Kirby cover

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

As I certainly don’t undervalue Undervalued Spotlights, I started thinking about this pick the minute that it came out last night. My first thought was, “this is a repeat pick.” But I went through the very useful U.S. indices and didn’t find this issue. I’m not sure where this thought came from – maybe it was another mention here, or maybe it was a mention in the advisor comments section of the Guide. From this hazy recollection and constant auction presence (my sense is that Heritage in particular really likes to offer this book), I don’t think that this book is “overlooked”. I like this book too, and I can’t see why any superhero collector wouldn’t naturally be drawn to it. Clearly this book is not regarded as a “run” book by anyone. But is it undervalued?

I think the first step is to try to determine the key reasons for why the book stands out, then try to comp it to similar books. While not a run book, I think it doesn’t have any true “first rank” key characteristics:

– While the book technically has the first rank characteristic of a “first appearance”, Jarvis is no Alfred, with (in my opinion) about less than 1% of the character development. So at least third tier in terms of first appearances, on par or behind Willie Lumpkin, with a commensurate impact on valuation. I think the only valuation argument here is some kind of future bombshell that brings Jarvis to the fore (e.g. he’s really Kang – at some point I think every character is going to be revealed to be Kang).

– The “first solo SA Cap story” is the next characteristic noted, but this is pretty thin and meaningless to a lot of collectors who aren’t as interested in the history of comics. It seems that people really dig first SA appearance issues, but “first solo story” is far, far behind in interest. Adjusting for graded population, Avengers #4 is about 20x as in demand as ToS #59. Given this I think “first solo story” is not regarded as a stand-alone key characteristic, but can be lumped into the category of “significant character/storyline development”.

– I don’t think the “launches Cap’s own title” is any different from “first solo story”. The exact course of how characters got there own books is an even more obscure characteristic.

– Classic Kirby cover. Now we are getting somewhere. I think this is the real alchemy for this book – the combination of the cover and that it has meaning (the first SA solo story is inside). Given your often restated and completely correct assertion that given encapsulation, covers are a far larger key driver of value, this poster-like cover is hugely important. Great covers by themselves are, I think, awkward for legacy collectors, because they don’t want to “judge a book by its cover.” So while these collectors will pay up for great covers, there is sometimes a feeling that there’s no there there. This book has the beef (even if the beef is encased in plastic for eternity). Therefore your points about ink and centering are very important for getting full value. The downside is that it is not a battle cover, and of course that is a fairly big downside.

With these considerations, I believe the comps to consider are a) mid-SA major character/team books b) with a great non-battle covers c) containing significant but not monumental continuity developments (not first appearances, “real” deaths, etc.).

That’s not an easy combination, and I haven’t come up with a perfect example. However, there is actually a really nice comparable in Tales to Astonish #70, the first Sub-Mariner SA solo story. This parallels ToS #59 in two ways, and the Subby cover is pretty solid, although no competition for ToS #59. As far as “true scarcity” goes, TTA #70 wins at this point, with only 58 at 9.2 and above. Some statistics: adjusting for graded population, Avengers #4 is about 3x as in demand as FF #4, but ToS #59 is about 5x as in demand as TTA #70. The difference can be reasonably attributed to the quality of ToS #59’s cover.

So I come up pretty short and I don’t have a good argument for undervalued or overvalued at this point. After mulling over the above I’ll go with my gut:

– I don’t think ToS #59 is significantly undervalued, and more importantly I can’t see any near future situation where it appreciates quickly.
– However, it is clearly a “blue chip” book that is probably always going to be more liquid than most other ToS, TTA, etc. and should hold value.
– If you do want to bet on it, put great emphasis on the appearance of the cover – in this case “white pages” is not going to beat a well-centered and bright poster-like cover.
– And if you like it, pair it with a similar TTA #70, which parallels so many of the characteristics of ToS #59, and is similarly valued (adjusting for cover quality).

5 years ago

I have to lean with Chris on this one, Walt. Also, I don’t see the CGC census count as rock-solid confirmation that its tough in high grade. Be careful, as this issue was one of the ones to be among the unopened distributor cases in the Robert Bell collection. Its a nice book, and an easy entry-level key for collectors for a long time. There’s probably plenty unslabbed in nice shape in collections, and perhaps many copies in the warehouses of Dolgoff and Koch. Its a very liquid book, but I see no great reason for explosion to the upside.

5 years ago

I agree with Walt on this one. (Although I own a copy as well so I may be biased) Captain America 100 is considered a key book because it is essentially the silver age Captain America 1. But when the title was continued from Tales of Suspense and the solo Captain America stories started in Tales of Suspense 59, how can this be considered the #1? Too many people are clearly blinded by the “Big Premiere Issue” on the cover of Captain America 100 to realize that Tales of Suspense 59 is the more significant book (not to mention the fact it came out 41 issues or 3 1/2 years earlier). It boggles my mind that Captain America 100 typically goes for more than Tales of Suspense 59. In my mind, if Tales of Suspense 59 is not undervalued, then Captain America 100 is overvalued because there’s no way Captain America 100 should be going for more than Tales of Suspense 59. Same rings true for Hulk 102 versus Tales to Astonish 60.

5 years ago

The market disagrees, Carey, because a slot in an anthology book is not a first solo book. TOS 59 is not the #1 because its not a solo book. That’s why TOS 60, TTA 70 etc languish their 1968 counterparts. First appearances in an anthology title (TOS 39, ST 110, ST 135, More Fun 73 etc) are a different animal.

5 years ago

Walt, I’m not sure what age has to do with it, and how you know how old Carey is. I see the point too; I just don’t think its significant. Getting a slot in an anthology title is one thing; getting a solo title is another.
The unopened case is another factor; even if focus changes favorably, beware on this book. Raw and nice is just not that uncommon.