Undervalued Spotlight #469

Chamber of Darkness #7, Marvel Comics, October 1970.

Happy Halloween everybody, this year I’m encouraging you to give out comics, not cavities!

There is one comic I’ll recommend you don’t give away on Halloween and that is this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick Chamber of Darkness #7.

Chamber of Darkness #7 features the first comic book cover drawn by one of the true masters of all things spooky, macabre and horrific, the great Bernie Wrightson. Mr. Wrightson was destined to draw frightful things being born just four days before Halloween on October 27, 1948. He left us too early in 2017 at the young age of 69. He would have celebrated his 71st birthday two days ago had he still been with us.

The late Mr. Wrightson did leave us quite the legacy, he was one of the greats, a Giant of the Bronze Age and perhaps THE Giant of the genre.

Bernie Wrightson covers are celebrated, revered and highly collected, there are literally too many favourites to pick from.

The Spotlight has often featured the first works of the great artists, most recently I shone the spotlight on the first works of Frank Frazetta and Todd McFarlane. Great artists earn themselves large fan bases and to these fans items like the artist’s first comic book cover matter and they do become collectibles.

Bernie Wrightson’s first comic book work, art for a backup story can be found in House of Mystery #179, a good book to pick up in its own right, but today I’m recommending we go after Wrightson’s first cover. On the cover to Chamber of Darkness #7, we see right away those distinct lines and that distinct drawing style that would make him one of the greats.

The play here is a nice tight, crisp copy with high gloss and a good register. Go after a CGC 9.6 White pager if you can. There were 2 CGC 9.6 sales in the spring of 2017 at $158 and $179, bargains for such an important piece of comic art history.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $35/$63/$90 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • Bernie Wrightson’s 1st comic book cover
  • Late Silver/Early Bronze Age Marvel makes it all the more collectible
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

I like the idea subjectively, but objectively I can’t support it.

I speak first from experience. A few years ago, early in the resurgence of my interest in collecting, I thought the first DC Adams hero cover should be a milestone. It turns out this is a tie between Action #356 and Lois Lane #79, and there was a 9.6 of the Action up for auction. I bought this at the 2004 level, and as of late 2018 (the last sale I know of, on ComicLink), it is still there. Snore.

Even if you go back to the Golden Age, the market just doesn’t care for this “first cover” argument – maybe not even the “first art” argument. As I’ve commented on previous Undervalueds, the sad (or maybe not-so-sad) truth is that the comic market is focused on the stories and characters, not the real world linkages or milestones. So Adams or Wrightson art might get you a premium, but it is because the art enhances the experience, not because of some particular real world occurrence such as their first cover.

This is my main complaint, because I can’t see how you could get rapid appreciation from this book for that reason. But if you want to make this kind of play for first cover by an artist, I don’t think this is the one to pick. Look at the CGC population – 2 in 9.8, 16 in 9.6, 9 in 9.4. As a book from 1970, we know that there were a ton of true believer Marvel collectors at that point – ASMs in 9.6 from this period have maybe three times that number of 9.6s, go for less than twice what this book does, and have done nothing forever. A further complication is that while the ASMs were generally read, probably proportionately more of these Chamber of Darkness #7 were simply filed away as collector’s items, making it that much more likely that pristine copies are out there. A true population distribution would be expect to increase down to around the 4.0 level, so the drop-off at 9.4 tells me that there are many many more ungraded 9.4s out there, so probably a lot of 9.6s as well. If this book were to see significant appreciation to around $250 or so, I would expect the population to really start climbing, countering further appreciation.

Somebody liked the idea of this book in November 2018, paying $1100 for a 9.8 (ComicLink so not on GPA). Unfortunately for them, there is the recent (only GPA recorded) 9.8 sale for $495 on eBay. (To be fair this was a “buy it now” sale, so it is possible that it was mispriced.) If a 9.8 is $500, I don’t think an eight times more available 9.6 should be much more than $100. So while the ~$160 9.6 sales might be subjective bargains, I would say they are objectively rich.

As I say, I like the idea subjectively, and this is a very meaningful cover, so if you really dig it I would a) take your advice on a 9.6, but try to keep it to $100 or below, or maybe $125 for the white pager you recommend; b) keep your eye out for a really really nice ungraded copy for about $20. The latter is probably impossible – I notice that raw books of this type tend to be priced way above what they “ought” to sell for – I think preying on people’s overestimation of their ability to assess grade. I think this is not much of an investment but it is a cool book and should retain value relative to most other books because of its significance.

Verdict: Wrong, son.

tim hammell
tim hammell
4 years ago

My first comment here. Thanks for your comments Chris. Trying to educate myself on this aspect of comics and occasionally pop in to see what’s what, not that I have current plans to go down this particular rabbit hole. I do have one “Undervalued Spotlight” in new Airboy #5 with the Dave Stevens cover of Valkyrie. Woohoo! Bought very inexpensively ($5-$6 I think) just because it was a Stevens and I like his art (and its high grade to my eyes at least).

Anyway, wanted to ask a question. What do collectors see as your end result/expectation of investing/collecting for spending hundreds or thousands on value graded comics, and the continued flipping and upgrading to the next better copy? Retirement plan? Hitting on that next million dollar comic?

Hey, I’d love to find an Action 1 or Amazing Fantasy 15 at the church sale for $1 each but… and I have had some comics never kept that are now commanding 3 digit $ so yes, that is disappointing but would I have ever realized it? Or sold them other than to pay bills?

Anybody chime in. Curious as I haven’t been bitten by that bug. My only bug is not to spend money on ratty comics and buy the ones that look like fun.

Been out of the loop so didn’t know that Mr. Wrightson had passed away. I remember his work from Web of Horror and some of the DC’s (not this one) and did have his overlarge art book at one time. I might buy this one for reasons Walter and you put forth but don’t know if I’d consider it as investment. I might get a bug to collect Wrightson again as I’m the odd collector who does collect for artist (or reading), now building a collection of pre-Hellboy Mignola covers and stories but not all of them.

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

I like this cover and would consider putting it in my collection but I AM an older collector who appreciates gold thru bronze age books… BUT… as you Walt and Chris Owen have pointed out in your radio show, the majority of new collectors are picking up books from the past 15 years and Wrightson, as good as he was had no influence on that portion of comics publishing. He is now relegated to an artist from an older generation and therefore is basically forgotten to any but we old duffs. I on the other hand … who love displaying my books ( I change the theme every couple months) might consider putting together a group for my annual Halloween display!

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

Tim… in answer to your query, I plan on making my next hobby to selling off my comics for an affordable price. Yes there are I should have graded to increase their a value… haven’t decided. Eventually I will have get rid of everything but am still an active collector today! People like Walt got me interested in Romance comics and now I am down another avenue….