Undervalued Spotlight #457

Amazing Spider-Man #129, Marvel Comics, February 1974.

I’d like to come right out and introduce Amazing Spider-Man #129 as this week’s Undervalued Spotlight.

Amazing Spider-Man #129 famously features the first appearance of the Punisher, the book also features the first appearance of the Jackal.

Let me gush a bit, Amazing Spider-Man #129 is a true blue-chip comic, a mega key, a cornerstone of the hobby, its comic book currency offering liquidity that only a handful of books can match.

The cover to Amazing Spider-Man #129, featuring Gil Kane pencils and John Romita inks, is the definition of iconic, instantly recognizable across the hobby and even far outside the hobby. This image has become an ambassador for comic books and I can’t overstate its importance.

Amazing Spider-Man #129 combines a top tier cover with a top tier first appearance adding up to a top of the food chain collectible.

The Jackal makes his debut in this issue and while the Jackal may not be the Punisher he sure is a heck of a lot more sought after than he was a few years ago, we can expect strong demand for this character in the future.

The Punisher is A list material and the current lull in activity for this book gives us a rare chance to acquire this key at soon to be bargain prices.

I’ve always loved the Punisher as a character, I think he’s a much more versatile character than Wolverine, he’s a character that could be written into full out superhero mode or into a more noir crime mode. The fact that the character is this big without really busting through with a key film and or key actor gives me the sense that he is a pent up dynamo ready to pop at any time.

As I alluded to above the market for Amazing Spider-Man #129 is inexplicably soft these days. Did you know you can get a CGC 9.4 for under $3000, a friend of mine just picked up one for $2800. By comparison, a CGC 9.4 Hulk #181 (first Wolverine) set a recent buyer back $10,700. It’s a scary thought but A CGC 9.4 Hulk #181 is worth almost 4 times what a CGC 9.4 Spidey #129 is worth.

CGC 9.6 prices are similar, an Amazing Spider-Man #129 at CGC 9.6 can be had for less than $5,000 while a CGC 9.6 Hulk #181 will cost you over $13,000. All this while scarcity is comparable (475 ASM #129s at 9.6 or better versus 412 Hulk #181s at 9.6).

As of this post, even Giant-Size X-Men #1 has shot well past our Spotlight book in value. Today you have to pay $5,400 for a CGC 9.4 Giant-Size X-Men #1.

I’m saying that Amazing Spider-Man #129 is a relative bargain at today’s prices and I’m saying that this book will soon enjoy a nice price appreciation due to all the above-mentioned factors and due to a character just ripe for continued development.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $850/$1275/$1700 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • First appearance of the Punisher
  • First appearance of the Jackal
  • Iconic cover
  • A true blue-chip comic
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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1578

14 Comments

  1. Just about 20 years ago I picked up a run of very nice Spideys at around $10-30 a pop over a few weeks at a local comic shop. This was one of the issues and I was surprised at how its gone up! Now you telling me Walt its not worth enough! Oh well, I will never have a Hulk 181 or a Giant Size X-Men 1 (although I do have a very nice 94) so I will have to be satisfied!

  2. I am really glad you brought this one, but I can only agree with “not overvalued” at this point.

    Your comments about the meaning of this issue to the collector market are of course spot on and only scratch the surface. By the time that I really started collecting, this was already a key that I didn’t want to pay up for, and it stayed that way for forty years. When my interest was reinvigorated it was one of the first high dollar books that I bought because of its emblematic status more than my particular interest in the book. (The funny thing is that given the education that I’ve received from following Covered 365, I’ve been thinking “I really need to get some Kane covers”. This one had completely slipped my mind!)

    If you pick a run or semi-run book as undervalued, then it makes sense to do some comp work, but when you pick a mega-super-key I think we enter the realm of raw supply and demand, and comps are meaningless except for order-of-magnitude. We know that we are already in order-of-magnitude range with Hulk #181 as you point out, so that’s covered. We are left with focusing on inherent desirability, meaning, and future potential demand.

    For collectors there is no question about inherent desirability as an iconic book. While there are probably many collectors who don’t have a copy, I can’t believe there are any who wouldn’t want one (regardless of value). Even if you don’t care about Spidey or The Punisher, this book is like the everyman’s Detective #27 as a symbol of the hobby. While FF #1 is moving into the stratosphere, I would still argue that this book is more meaningful and recognizable as a symbol of _collecting_ (as opposed to, say, The Marvel Universe).

    As I wrote the above I realized that it points to a value driver: the prevalence of “true” collectors. Investors will view this book through different lenses, but collectors will pay up to have a big piece of collecting history. So if you believe that the number of “true” collectors will continue to grow, that supports the undervalued argument. For me the jury is out. Clearly the younger generation digs the characters and concepts, but I see mixed signals on whether they will put the kind of money into back issues that the older generation continues to.

    Aside from above I think we need to go back to “fundamentals”, and unfortunately I think there are big issues on this front. There are two interacting considerations, and I will tackle the lesser one first, which is the nightmare of Sony/Disney interactions. Clearly FF and X-Men moved almost entirely due to the Disney/Fox deal, but nothing of the sort is publicly in the works between Sony and Disney. Disney has The Punisher, but The Punisher without Spidey is like a jelly sandwich. It might taste good, but it’s not the real thing. The fanboys will go ape if this is tried and that could torpedo the character. Etc. The lack of clarity about how this classic character could be successful given these corporate considerations is certainly dragging on the book.

    The bigger problem is The Punisher. Dirty Harry was released 23 December 1971. Death Wish was released 24 July 1974. That was the atmosphere that generated The Punisher. Today we have El Paso and Dayton. While Thanos wanted to wipe out half/all of living beings, he is a fantasy. A normal human outfitted with guns and ammo is unfortunately a reality. Nobody is going to support such an anti-hero in these times. Further, treating him as a realistic villain would go completely against the reason that TMU movies are hits. The only avenue of rehabilitation would be to radically reboot the character, and with plenty of other characters to choose from (The Porcupine?), why try to thread that needle?

    This doesn’t mean the book is a dead letter. There is plenty of offensive material in WW II books and pre-code horror books and they are still coveted, but not for their popular culture potential. As a forever key, embedded in the most collected run, with a dynamite cover, there will be plenty of support. But comparing it to the first appearance of Wolverine, battling The Hulk? That is just not not a realistic position. The sky continues to be the limit for those characters.

    Recently this book has seemed tired to me, like a version of Yogi Berra’s comment – so popular that nobody wants it anymore. I think part of that is the toothpaste tube problem – the money has been running to the ex-Fox properties, and there is only so much money in the world. But another part could be a reconsideration based on above in light of the steady run-up of the past five years. If my copy didn’t have meaning to me as a collector, I think I would cut and run.

    Verdict: The Punishing will continue until morale improves.

  3. Sorry typo, duplicate word, “not not a realistic position” was not intended, should not be read as “a realistic position” by logic aficionados.

  4. I remember around 2006/2007 buying both ASM 129 & GSXM 1 from the same comic shop around the same time. They said they just got both issues in the day before and I had to snag them because I knew they both wouldn’t last. They were $80 bucks each. The ASM 129 is around a Fine+ and the GSXM 1 being around VG+. I really really regret now not buying that VG copy of Hulk 181 they had for $200. It was the best opportunity I’ve ever had at getting one. At the time it seemed overpriced to me so I passed on it. I did have a Hulk 180 until I sold it too early. ASM 129 is currently more stagnant because of the show being cancelled and less certainty about the media future of the character. Hulk 181 has been going bonkers for awhile now. More people are paying top dollar for GSXM 1 because the X-Men are coming to the MCU movie universe and Hulk 181 being too expensive for most to purchase.

  5. I agree totally with Walt’s description and appreciation of ASM #129 as a top tier blue chip comic book.

    However, as a collector I do not think the argument for ASM #129 being undervalued rests on it comparison to Wolverine appearances in HULK #181 and Giant Size X-Men #1. Each of those books have extraordinary appeal based on numerous factors such as the HULK Wolverine rivalry that has played out across the Marvel Universe, and the re-establishment of the “new” X-Men that took the title to the front row of the comic industry and fathered the wide variety of X titles that followed. And Wolverine has rightly taken his place among the top tier of Marvel heroes.

    My question, as a collector, is why ASM #129 has remained on the same price range shelf that is now occupied by the first appearances of significantly lower tier Marvel characters such as Moon Knight (Werewolf #32) and Ghost Rider (Marvel Spotlight #5) that arose around the same timeframe. The first appearance of the Punisher should rightly and justifiably create significant price separation from these comics.

  6. Derrick, I think what you are mostly seeing is the effect of relative scarcity. Few people bought Werewolf or Spotlight relative to ASM. Also ASM is probably easier in grade, especially with respect to Spotlight (there are only three 9.8s of that one). Adjusted for scarcity, ASM is worth about 3.5x Werewolf and 5x Spotlight. I think the market prices Spotlight lower on an adjusted basis because the character has already seen a not-so-successful movie treatment, while Moon Knight still has virgin potential. Personally I like Spotlight a lot more as a cooler character with cooler cover art and relative scarcity.

  7. Chris, I agree. I have some of the same feeling about comparing Spotlight to Werewolf, because Ghost Rider seems to be a MUCH better character and deserves a position above Moon Knight’s first appearance.

  8. Excellent insights Chris, as always. Good discussion too in general. I know I focused too much on the Hulk and Giant Size comparison and I like you bringing in Spotlight and Werewolf Derrick. I know a few guys hunting down ASM #129s at the moment so I’m not alone in my belief that the book will see a value appreciation sometime soon.

  9. I think the Punisher really needs to check his sighter. He’s fired 3 shots at Spidey and missed every time even though he’s aiming for Spidey’s heart.

  10. I still have the copy I bought off the stands in ’74, so I wish I could agree with Walt about its prospects for a nice price appreciation, but I can’t. As Chris notes, as an anti-hero or villain the Punisher is a complete non-starter in the Marvel universe. I’m quite certain that there won’t be any film or tv development for this character and that investors will continue to put their money elsewhere.

  11. six months ago I bought a cgc 9.4 white pager and then a few weeks later I bought a cgc 9.6 white pager . both books have perfect spine alignment and perfectly placed staples . so , Walt , I am totally on board with your assessment of this book being under-valued ! I am hoping in the next 3 to 5 years to capitalize on my investment .

  12. After reading every Edgar Rice Burroughs novel I could find I drifted to other authors and characters hoping for similar entertainment. Lets try Louis L’Amour, how about Perry Rhodan, wait I’ll try this Don Pendleton, he writes the Executioner and Mack Bolan.

    Then the Punisher arrived and I saw Pendelton’s characters had helped make the Punisher.

    (Ok, now a brief interlude with some quick internet research)

    From Wikipedia.org’s Don Pendleton entry:

    “Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway, (who went on to become a show runner on Dick Wolf’s Law & Order series) has acknowledged that his creation of Marvel’s Punisher character was directly inspired by Pendleton’s Executioner, in perhaps the most blatantly direct adaptation (or less politely, “lift”) of Pendleton’s character. Originally conceived as a villain for the Spider Man comic book series, the character proved incredibly popular and the costumed version of the executioner that became a comic book hero has taken Pendleton’s original idea to comic-book-ridiculous extremes in comics, cinema and television, all carefully sidestepping any issues of creative ownership.”

    I picked up ASM 129 in a used book store for about 20c back in the mid 1970s. I read it and shook my head. Had I just read an Executioner comic? Yes it was that obvious and wiki was still decades away to agree with me.

    Nonetheless, ASM 129 has separated itself from the other ASM comics of the era.

    My own value calculations have it as 2,300, 1,800 and 1,150 in 9.2, 9.0 and 8.0. My pricing for 9.4: 3,200, 9.6: 5,300 and 9.8: 12,600. All up about 5% from last year.

    If there are recent sales showing some lacklustre I believe it is the very recent lull in continued upward pricing. (See Heritage Auction’s recent Dallas auction) It is time to buy if you can get the prices Walter mentions above. These continuous lulls bounce back, and Chris Elliott is right – 3-5 years.

    The other item is that we have had Punisher movies. And they are not that good. Disney can’t even bring in a humourous mascot for this character. Wait…. maybe….

    A comparison to Incredible Hulk 181? Wolverine is the 4th greatest comic character ever. Punisher is the….. wait I don’t even see him.

  13. I would agree in general that this book has potential to rise and I think it’s valid to compare its price relative to IH 181 and GSXM 1. You’re talking about the Big 3 of the Bronze Age. Whether the characters are like-for-like or not may factor into a head-to-head comparison, but I think it’s also important to look at it as a “rising tide lifts all boats” scenario; I think AF 15 was the major factor which boosted 181 (before the merger hype) as people started looking to the biggest BA key in relation to what the biggest SA key was doing. GSXM was long overdue to rise after 181 caught fire — it really shouldn’t have taken the merger to make it happen, but that finally got it the attention it deserved. Meanwhile, I think the demise of the Netflix series stunted 129’s growth as it had already jumped a good bit because of the show and probably could’ve deflated much more in the aftermath instead of holding fairly steady.

    I will say, though, that I disagree with your point about the Punisher’s versatility in relation to Wolverine: I’ve been saying for a long time that the reason the Punisher always stalls out in the comics is that the character is not nearly as versatile as Wolvie. You can’t send him to space, he doesn’t have fantastic powers to hang with many of the big Marvel villains and he mostly only functions well against other “normal” characters, so there’s a limit to the believable storylines you can run him through (apparently you can Frankenstein him, but I haven’t read that arc so don’t know how well it works). Generally, though, he’s got to be grounded in a reality we, as normal people, can relate to — it’s both a strength and a weakness of the character. Chris’s point about how he works in today’s society is profound and something I hadn’t considered. Have the self-appointed vigilantes of real-life made this a distasteful angle for a comic character or does he still work as a foil for those who exist on the wrong side of law and order? Hmmmm.

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