Undervalued Spotlight #461

Marvel Premiere #3, Marvel Comics, July 1972.

Someone was talking the other day of a strong sales result of a nice copy of Strange Tales #110, the book that features the first appearance of Doctor Strange. I’ve noticed the book has stabilized and looks like it’s poised to make some more gains.

I think there is currently a positive vibe around the Doctor Strange character, Benedict Cumberbatch has loads of charisma and is a great cast for the role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I covered Strange Tales #110 way back in Spotlight #26 so I wanted to come up with another Doctor Strange comic we can bank on in the coming months and years. Thus I present to you this week’s Undervalued Spotlight, Marvel Premiere #3.

Next to Strange Tales #110 the next books on the collectibility list for Doctor Strange seem to be the 1968 Doctor Strange #169 and the 1974 Doctor Strange #1.

I don’t think we pay enough attention to Marvel Premiere #3, it boasts a great Barry Windsor-Smith cover as well as a twenty-page Barry Windsor-Smith story and art.

Compared to the hot Doctor Strange #1 (1974) I’d say the Marvel Premiere #3 is the one to have, it predates Doctor Strange #1 by two years and it’s 20 cent price tag and it’s classic Marvel square picture frame cover assures collectibility and it just oozes that early Bronze Age feel.

The markets favour the 1974 Doc Strange #1, a Marvel Premiere #3 CGC graded 9.6 recently sold for #337 while a 9.4 sold for $165. while the #1s were fetching north of $400. The relative scarcity is quite severe for Marvel Premiere #3, as of this post there are 311 Doctor Strange #1s graded at CGC 9.6 or better while for Marvel Premiere #3 there are only 40 CGC graded at 9.6 or better.

The scarcity disparity is drastic, the 20 cent picture frame cover is fantastic, the jet black cover adds to the high-grade appeal.

I see Marvel Premiere #3 working some magic and working its way up in value.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $57/$111/$165 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • Doctor Strange series begins
  • Great Barry Windsor-Smith 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
4 years ago

This pick exemplifies why I eagerly await each Spotlight. This book has flown under my radar as it apparently has for most others, but with the Spotlight cast on it, it becomes a compelling buy.

Just to summarize the strong reasons above:
– Already beloved and key (those portals in Endgame) MCU character portrayed by a first-rate actor
– Founding Marvel hero
– Semi-key as first headlining after the initial series
– Smith cover/art
– Black (harder) picture frame cover
– Scarce?

The last point is a bit of a question because of the fairly low price point – there are probably a lot of ungraded fairly high grade copies out there. However I would guess that a lot of people with apparently “perfect” copies have sent them in and received back 9.4s or 9.2s, so there is probably some relevance to the current graded population at 9.4 and above. A good benchmark is Marvel Premiere #1, where the prices make it worth grading anything nice. At this point there are the same number of 9.8s (eight), and about twice as many 9.6s and 9.4s for #1 as #3, so I think that means that there are not vast numbers of super high grade copies of #3 out there. If the prices rise I would expect the population to come up, but not quickly enough to shock the market.

So scarce enough, and obviously far scarcer than Doctor Strange #1. On a graded population-adjusted basis, Doctor Strange #1 sells for ten times as much. As a simple benchmark for this disparity, I looked at Warlock #1 and Strange Tales #178, which is sort of an opposite situation, with Strange Tales #178 the later book but selling for more. On a population-adjusted basis, the difference is about a factor of two, so 10x seems way out of line.

Another book that wasn’t mentioned but is in the mix is Marvel Fanfare #1. There apparently is a Dr. Strange solo story in this which was the next step after the first series was canceled. This is icing on the Defenders cake, and the important point is that even with the first Defenders appearance, on a population adjusted basis, Marvel Fanfare #1 is in line with Dr. Strange #1, which seems patently ridiculous to me.

I think this points to Dr. Strange #1 being quite overvalued. I use that term in the spirit of this topic, but in price terms the market is what it is. I think I perceive what’s going on. There seems to be a group of MCU-ish collectors who are deep-pocketed and just want to hold a bunch of recognizable show-off books, to show off to neophytes or non-collectors. “Look – I have Dr. Strange #1!” The expected response is not “there are 114 of those in 9.8, not counting signature series.” The price moves from this effect wake up more knowledgeable investor types who then start a virtuous cycle by bidding the book up further. (The nice cover can’t hurt either.) From a “true” value perspective, however, I can’t understand valuing that book on the same level as Marvel Feature #1 (with an even nicer cover!).

Here I just start waving my hands, but let’s say Marvel Fanfare #1 is “fairly valued”, and Dr. Strange #1 is therefore about twice what it “should” be. Then still give Dr. Strange #1 credit for being #1 (additional show-off demand), and building on the Warlock comparison, say that Marvel Premiere #3 should be about half the value of Dr. Strange #1. If so, the conclusion is that Marvel Premiere #3 is _massively_ undervalued.

With that said, I would still be picky, because I think there are plenty more 9.4s and below to be had. So I would only go with a bargain 9.4, but paying on-market for a 9.6 seems like a very good play. That Smith cover has some good ol’ Marvel Tales going on, and you should brag if you have a 9.6 of this one.

Verdict: Strangely Undervalued

Chris Meli
4 years ago

CORRECTION – I guess I was channeling that I wished my Marvel Fanfares were worth something – but I obviously meant to write “Marvel Feature” above.

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

I always considered The Defenders as the lead in to the Dr. Strange feature so I have not kept tabs on their desirability status. I have all the mentioned Dr Strange issues and have only felt amiss that I don’t have the Submariner issues that extend the story (sort of) from where his own series left off and lead into The Defenders.