Undervalued Spotlight #464

Tales to Astonish #27, Marvel Comics, January 1962.

I was talking to someone recently about how stale the big Marvel Keys have been lately. Stale can be a good thing, especially if you’re in the market to buy. So what Marvel key is too soft? For me the answer is this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick, Tales to Astonish #27.

Tales to Astonish #27 features the first appearance of Hank Pym, AKA Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket even AKA the Wasp. I can’t think of a more central character in the Marvel Universe (MU) than Hank Pym, the man has seemingly had a hand in on everything that ever happened in the MU.

While there is no disputing the importance of Hank Pym there is and has been market confusion in pegging a price on Tales to Astonish #27’s Hank Pym in the ant hill versus Hank Pym the costumed Ant-Man (that first appeared in Tales to Astonish #35). I think that Scott Lang being the current Ant-Man helps tip things towards more value being put on the Hank Pym character especially considering all the characters he had become. I think we have been focusing too much on the costumed Ant-Man and should put more weight on Tales to Astonish #27 for what it is, the first appearance of one of the most important characters in the Marvel Universe, one of the cornerstone character which the Universe was built around.

Tales to Astonish #27 is also a 10 cent comic making it exceptionally rare, don’t try collecting Marvel hero 10 cent books, you’ll be done at three books and it will cost you a bundle. Fantastic Four #1 (11/61) and Fantastic Four #2 (1/62) are the only other 10 cent hero books from Marvel. For Marvel collectors at least these 10 centers are important and very exclusive.

So the above argument is more a hunch, a feeling that tells me the book could hold more value, now I’d like to look at some comparative market numbers.

Recent sales of CGC 2.5s, CGC 3.5s and CGC 4.5s all came in under the 2017 market average for Tales to Astonish #27. The CGC 4.5, for example, averaged $2,620 in 2017 but registered a sale this month at $2,355. There were some price increases into the higher grades, a CGC 7.5 sold in 2017 for $9,800 and last month sold for $11,100. The CGC 7.5 grade is an interesting one, there are only 56 copies at CGC 7.5 or better and a copy in this grade gets you into the 7.5% percentile when considering there are 742 graded Universal as of this post. Being in the top 7.5% of any census population and when you consider that generally more valuable and more in demand books get graded having one in that very top tier is a desirable spot to be in.

I compared this to other Marvel keys in grades that deliver approximately a 7.5% percentile of the census population and this is what I found;

  • Fantastic Four #1, a CGC 7.0 gets you in the top 7.5% but it will cost you about $40,000.
  • Amazing Spider-Man #1, a CGC 7.5 gets you in the top 7.0 % but it will cost you about $36,000.
  • Journey into Mystery #83, a CGC 7.5 gets you in the top 8.0% but it will cost you about $25,000.
  • Tales of Suspense #39, a CGC 8.0 gets you in the top 6.4% but it will cost you about $32,000.

Let’s not forget that these books listed above all have higher absolute copies available at their top 7.5% mark and that all, except for Fantastic Four #1, all were published after Tales to Astonish #27.

So the math could tell us that Tales to Astonish #27 has some room to appreciate but it could also tell us what the market thinks of Hank Pym. What I think is that as time goes by the characters stature and importance will only be reinforced. Hank Pym is central, he’s a character that is not going to go away.

Brought to us by the ultimate creative team, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $1,900/$3,800/$11,550 in the 4.0/6.0/8.0 grade splits.

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

  • First appearance of Hank Pym, the Ant-Man
  • One of only three 10 cent Marvels
  • Lee/Kirby creative team
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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Danny Champ
4 years ago

Hey, cool piece Walt! I hope you’re doing well? Danny Champ – [email protected] AKA The OG intrepid reporter from way back… “I say”.

Very broad question… Do you think the collectable mechanism in comics feeds the creative process? Are creators aiming to be ‘collectable’? Or are they just trying to tell good stories? In your opinion… are those 2 things synonymous?

Chris Meli
Chris Meli
4 years ago

Walt, you are stealing my thunder with all of these numbers. You are supposed to say something like “the character is just one announcement away from the big screen (again, I guess?) and ant covers is a collecting strain.” Then I do the heavy statistical lifting.

So I will just go stream of consciousness:

– I heard this kind of argument before, when reading Guide commentary in 2014 or 2015. I kept my eye on it and got one at a “low” (post-movie of course) price in late 2015. I don’t think I would get what I paid if I sold it now. Not a good starting point it would seem.

– This is Ant Man we are talking about. Regardless of historical meaning, “Is it too late to change the name?” “The Atom” is very coincidentally EXACTLY THE SAME CHARACTER INTRODUCED EARLIER with a much better name, and he is similarly going nowhere. The little guys don’t get the girls.

– All of your comps above have the hero(es) on the cover, in costume, with their names in bold, two of these with the name as the title. Here we have some seemingly random guy who is “The Man in the Ant Hill”. At least you would have more of an argument if his name was “Ant Hill Man”.

– Furthermore the cover is kind of visually confusing, and Marvel did us a great disservice with that brown title background. If the background had been black I think the book would be worth 10-20% more. (What is very cool though is the ant at the top and the blue text box – notice that the box falls on top of the title area, but that the ant’s leg sits on top of the blue box – super understated and very thoughtful.)

– The “Hank Pym is a central character” is basically assumed at this price level. I don’t perceive much value being placed on characters showing up in a lot of stories through history. The book is going to live or die as “First Appearance of Ant Hill Man.”

– I think your looking at the very expensive 7.5th percentile is upside down. Years ago we talked about a dropoff price point, and my observation is that it is only getting worse. One-of-a-kind Golden Age 9.4s will sell for maybe twice what 8.0s of the same issue will sell for, even though there are ten or more copies at 8.0 and above. Most people give up in the $1000 to $2000 range, and even big money buyers balk at paying up for what you are describing – a $10,000 book for which there are sixty copies in that grade or better. Yes for first tier, but I have the sense even JIM #83 and TOS #39 are under some pressure at these levels. These days I think that percentage appreciation versus storage/transactions costs is optimized around the $1000 price point.

Lots of negatives above because they have to be noted. The good news is that taken together, in my totally subjective opinion, they still don’t beat the “undervalued” contention. This book is cheeep relative to those other keys. This is the very dawn of the Marvel age, an ur-book that belongs with FF, ASM, and Hulk. Yes it is the least of these, but you can’t have the complete set without this one. So if you are bullish on comic collecting, you should be bullish on this one.

I am not planning to sell mine any time soon, but still talk it up as I would like to get back into the black (not brown) on paper.

Verdict: Let me tell you, while I still can – this is Undervalued.

Danny Champ
4 years ago

Hey Walt!

Yes, I’m still here in the Uk. I love your answers, thank you. Being collectible ‘by design’ is an interesting one hey…

I look forward to the return of the show! It would be my pleasure to jump on a Skype call… I’d love to figure that out with you guys.

Let’s make it happen!

PS: Check out my new YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX0eLH-RQbv1MiwunMBcSrQ
Arty-farty comics stuff.

Until the next time, Walt…

Danny Champ

4 years ago

Walt, I completely agree on this book. There has been a tendency among some to want it to be a prototype book (vs 35) but it is the first Hank Pym, and 35 reads quite sequentially if you read them back to back.
The analogy I use to help explain this book’s importance is Tec 225. Pym is to Marvel as the Martian Manhunter is to DC — the quintessential supporting character . Not only did Pym give us his incarnations, he gave us the wasp, Black Goliath, Scott Lang Ant man, thenBlack Knight, the Vision, Ultron….
Like MM, he’s the biggest character to not steadily carry his own title, but essential to the Avengers and to Marvel mythos. Major key.

Alex Sorensen
Alex Sorensen
4 years ago

I apologize for being late. Great write up and comments!
Completely agree. 2015 saw 9.4s sell for $200,000 and $116,512, while 9.0s were at $47,678 and $34,000. Back then I placed the 9.2, if there was on sold that year, at $87,000. 2016 saw the high price of $205,501 reached for a 9.4.
Today I put the 4.0/6.0/8.0 split at $2,050, $4,600 and $16,200.
The issue here is that low grades are not worth much, but the higher grades are. Definitely undervalued.