Undervalued Spotlight #410

Marvel Spotlight #5, Marvel Comics, August 1972.

Oh my goodness, the back issue market has been on fire recently. Bronze Age keys from Marvel have fared particularly well with Incredible Hulk #181, Amazing Spider-Man #129, Giant Size X-Men #1 and Werewolf by Night #32 all running up solid gains.

There is one book that seems not to have been invited to the party and that is this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick, Marvel Spotlight #5.

Marvel Spotlight #5 features the 1st appearance of the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, the character was one of the 1st out of the horror/macabre block after the relaxing of the Comics Code Authority (thanks in part to Amazing Spider-Man #96).

Ghost Rider was an instant success, his run on Spotlight lasted through to #11 and then he jumped over to a successful 80 issue Ghost Rider run.

The character achieved mega pop culture success with the Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider movies. The movies were not the best super hero films ever made but they did attract a bit of a cult following and did make Ghost Rider a household name.

Marvel Spotlight #5 really does have it all when it comes to the ingredients needed for a nice strong value appreciation, fantastic cover with our principle hero front and centre, the 1st appearance of a major character, embedded in the much coveted by collectors early Bronze Age, mass pop culture exposure thanks to feature films and the book itself belongs to that short list of iconic Marvel Bronze Age keys that seem to be must haves right now.

Yet the book is flat and has been for the past couple of years. I’m betting that is going to all change in a hurry, there should be some extreme price pressures working on this book. Like I mentioned above, the Bronze Age keys are going crazy right now.

I think I can best illustrate by doing a quick one on one comparison to one of Mike Huddleston’s favorite books – Werewolf by Night #32.

I was surprised to find out that the 48th Overstreet Price Guide has Werewolf #32 at $1,350 in the 9.2 grade while it has out Spotlight #5 at $1,250. I was also surprised to see Werewolf #32 market prices at the CGC 8.0 and CGC 9.0 grades stronger than their Spotlight #5 counterpart.

Currently CGC 9.4 Werewolf #32s are getting $2,600 and climbing, the last Spotlight #5 CGC 9.4 got $3,700, stunning results considering the scarcity of Spotlight #5s at 9.4 or higher. As of this post there are 110 Universal CGC 9.4s or better of the Marvel Spotlight #5 compared to 252 copies of Werewolf #32 at 9.4 or better. Even checking tonight’s GPA links to copies for sale I see that there are links to 15 Spotlight #5s versus links to 32 Werewolf #32s.

I don’t think you can argue that Moon Knight is the stronger character, I’d argue the opposite. I think this might be a good time to grab a nice higher grade copy of Marvel Spotlight #5.

The 48th Overstreet price break for this book is $138/$359/$805/$1250 in the 6.0/8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • 1st appearance of Ghost Rider
  • One of the big Marvel Bronze Age keys
  • Black cover makes this book extremely tough in higher grades

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

I started writing a very long meandering comment about this pick because it led me to a bunch of other thoughts, but I decided to just hit the essential question, and then maybe I’ll follow up with the residual thoughts for posterity.

I think there are two arguments here:
– Spotlight #5 was not”invited to the party”
– Ghost Rider is a stronger character than Moon Knight

I looked at a number of picture frame key first appearance books from this early seventies period, looking at fairly high but not stratospheric grades, 8.5 and 9.2. For all of these books the peak of the grade population distribution is around 8.5, so I don’t think the prices are too distorted by lots of ungraded copies. Over the past two years, here are the appreciation (or depreciation) results:

AmSp #129 8.5: 50% 9.2: 50%
GS XM #1 8.5: 30% 9.2: 50%
IH #181 8.5: 100% 9.2: 115%
Iron Man #55 8.5: 40% 9.2: 30%
M Premiere #15 8.5: -30% 9.2: -20%
M Spotlight #2 8.5: 0% 9.2: 40%
M Spotlight #5 8.5: 100% 9.2: 100%
Werewolf #32 8.5: 30% 9.2: 50%

(I think including Premiere #15 is a useful cautionary entry to show that even in this market, not everything is hitting new highs.)

I think this is enough to refute the “not invited to the party” idea. Hulk #181 and Spotlight #5 own this. For Spotlight #5, this very much seems to be the catch up move relative to the other books. If the proposal was to “get in before it moves”, that train left long ago.

The second argument is relative value, Moon Knight vs. Ghost Rider. This is a matter of opinion, but from my perspective this part of the call is spot on. Even with the catch up, on a population-adjusted basis, prices suggest Moon Knight about 50% more valuable than Ghost Rider. This is very unlikely – Ghost Rider has a lot of unique hooks and lots of potential for mystical/cosmic storylines, while Moon Knight is mostly Batman with a different backstory (and a white costume – great for skulking around at night). And as a book to look at and show people – come on, is there even an argument? So while I think Spotlight #5 has been the life of the party, I think there is a good argument for that to continue until it edges ahead of Werewolf #32.

My final conclusion is this: while I buy the argument that Spotlight #5 is relatively undervalued with respect to Werewolf #32 in particular, I am not strong enough on this pick to put the necessary money behind it. I think if you are going to pick this book you shouldn’t go for anything less than a 9.0, and that is still going to set you back at least mid four figures for a book about what I can’t stop seeing as a b-lister. And I think those skyrocketing appreciation charts will give pause to others like me, possibly slowing appreciation in the near future. So I’d prefer to bet on something that’s not as hot and is scarcer, with some good “Undervalued” arguments to consider. (Spotlight #2: red nearly as hard as black/25-cent/Adams cover/etc. & etc.)

5 years ago

Chris makes some very valid points. I’m good with my mid-grade copy I got for under $100.

Ed Dee
Ed Dee
5 years ago

Unfortunately I think this a a case of the tail wagging the dog. The bad Ghost Rider movie was the deciding factor on how this comic would/would not appreciate. Just like what the horible Green Lantern movie did to GL #76, and the Inhuman series did to Fantastic Four #45. They all lost value and the only ones that are valuable are the cream of the crop, (9.8’s).

5 years ago

Agree with Ed that the lack of movie anticipation, the sense that Ghost Rider is ‘done’ as a big or little screen character is why this book is flat, whereas ASM 129, Hulk 181 and Werewolf 32 all have that huge anticipation still. Punisher’s TV series is doing well, and could expand into movies. Wolverine has yet to fight Hulk on screen but just might in a few years, and Moon Knight will be Marvel’s Batman, or so the thinking goes. But Ghost Rider was a bit-part in Agents of Shield which makes him only slightly more interesting than Deathlok. It’s a blessing and a curse that values are so tied in to TV and movies – they can go up and down so much depending on perceptions, but that’s the way it seems to work now for many titles.

5 years ago

Having said that, the ‘real’ value of this book is that it’s great, with a fantastic cover, art, character, story, etc, and a first appearance, so movie madness aside, yes, it will surely appreciate!

Chris Meli
5 years ago

A 9.0 just sold on eBay for just over $2000, which is 30% over the previous GPA high for the year at $1550. I think we have to give up the “undervalued” concept at this point.