Undervalued Spotlight #445

Famous Funnies #27, Four Color, October 1936.

My pal Christian as been quite the source for solid Undervalued suggestions these past few months. His latest offering is a doozy and comes with a nice little story.

Christian was rummaging around the Toronto comic shops and happened upon a run of old, early Four Color Famous Funnies comics. He called me up all giddy talking trash about how he made out like a bandit snagging a half dozen or so early issues including Famous Funnies #29 with that early Santa Clause cover. As I normally do when Christian goes off like this I set the phone down for a minute and go make myself a coffee and most of the time when I get back to the phone he’s still talking. Anyway when he finished I asked him what else was there, what did he leave behind? That’s when he mentioned this week’s Undervalued Spotlight Famous Funnies #27.

For some unexplained reason, Christian did not pick up Famous Funnies #27. “You dope! That’s the best book of the bunch! That’s the first photo cover in comics! That’s the first true crime comic book!” I yelled. We both agreed that he should go back the next day and grab the Four Color #27.

This is where the story gets good, Christian and I have held a lot of comics over the years, lots and lots of six-figure copies, some truly amazing books. This copy of Famous Funnies #27 was a lower grade copy the shop had priced at $45 so it’s not like he left an Amazing Fantasy #15 there. The next day Christian went and grabbed the book and a few days later brought it to Hamilton for me to look at. “Walt, I had trouble sleeping the whole night! I kept thinking about that damn book!” he said to me. That’s when I knew I had this week’s Spotlight.

This is the power of comic collecting, of discovery and of instantly falling in  love!

Famous Funnies #27 has a fantastic cover, look at it! It’s the first photo used on a comic cover and as I mentioned above it’s the first true crime story in comic books. Considering how huge a comic like Crime Does Not Pay #22 is and considering how monstrous the whole crime genre grew to be it’s a wonder that Famous Funnies #27 does not hold more value or even have more demand than it does.

The regular feature that began in Famous Funnies #27 was “War on Crime” true stories of G-Men in action that were reprinted from newspaper strips. “War on Crime” was a long running feature and certainly paved the way for Charles Biro and the boys to run with it a few short years later.

The Overstreet Guide has the issue noted as the first true crime but the book is not separated nor given a premium in value vis a vis its neighbours.

The play here is just to find a complete copy, my ploy of offering Christian $50 didn’t work so I’m in the same boat as the rest of you desperately wanting a copy. Forget crisp, forget tight, forget gloss and forget the register, just find a copy!

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $360/$693/$1025 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Strengths that make this comic a good long-term investment are:

  • The first true crime comic
  • The first use of a photo on a comic 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
Chris Meli
5 years ago

You know how I feel about these kinds of picks. In this case I will give you some slack as there is an actual $45 sale of a book that should sell for more, hence “undervalued”. No question that that any (decent) complete copy of this book is a literal “collector’s item” and you should be willing to pay more than $45 for it. However there is no market and no reason to believe that a similar copy will be offered at that level, that just seems like somebody making a mistake. The Guide prices are clearly worse than guesswork, so talking about them serves no purpose.

So: let’s re-frame to the last CGC market level, which is let’s say a round number of $350 in 6.0. There are seven graded copies at this grade and above. My smell is that there are more to come. To start, Famous Funnies is a core title. Next, a lot of the books from the thirties seem to be more common because by the time the war rolled around, anybody who wanted to save these was older and was less likely to have mom recycle them. Generally I don’t think this book would have been that attractive to kids coming along later, helping to preserve those that had been saved. This style of book was mainly of interest to “old school” collectors and has been out of favor forever, which creates the double whammy of lack of grading due to the owner being out of the market, and lack of grading due to lack of price upside.

I’m having trouble coming up with a good comp for this book, and I think the reason is that regardless of its “first” designations, it has a lot going against it: bad title (conjures up visions of covers with no-name goofy cartoon figures), cover with no-name goofy cartoon figures, not a #1, photo cover (regardless of it being the first), genre that remains out of favor except for lurid violence covers. Because again and again we see that the comic book market doesn’t prize historical relevance unless the book itself is inherently cool, and because I’m guessing there are more of these to show up graded if the market price moves significantly, I can’t see much upside even at the $350 6.0 level.

So my feeling is that this is mainly a cool piece of history, and if it is of interest, work one or the other end of the spectrum. An 8.0 at $1000 will provide the largest absolute return if the market ever wakes up to this, and there is probably at least one other history-minded collector who would pay nearly $1000. At the other end, follow your advice and try to find one of these $45 specials for something around 4.0. That will give you the collector’s item with the unlikely upside potential of multiples of your purchase price. I think around $100 is about the ceiling for this kind of bet – but of course you could pay more on a consumption basis if you like holding this “first” in your hands.

Verdict: Nerf Gun, not Tommy Gun.