Undervalued Spotlight #474

Superman #78, DC Comics, September/October 1952.

This week I had a guy walk into the shop with a couple of rat chewed old Superman comics from the early 1950s, these were barely hanging in there condition wise but they’d sell nice and cheap and fast because they were from that early 1950s – DCs are scarce – era. The worst book of the batch condition-wise, I’ll generously call it a 0.5, was actually the best book of the batch collecting wise and the moment I saw it I knew Superman #78 had to be this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick.

Where do I start, probably at the most important part, Superman #78 fits the criteria of my highly scientific and market-proven technique for flushing out undervalued Golden Age comics. Great covers generate demand in today’s cover driven market and like Col. Sanders’ recipe the ingredients to D.E.I.G.A.C. (Durajlija’s Equation for Iconic Golden Age Covers) are simple but together they are irresistible. Notice the small hero on the left and the big nemesis on the right – gold!

Superman #78 features the first appearance of Snagriff, the Kryptonian dragon. Monster covers are rare in the annals of Superman so this cover is a breath of fresh air and nicely stands out from the mundane covers around it and presents itself as a collectible onto its own. Yeah, I know it’s a stretch but a Kryptonian dragon, how hard would it be to resurrect these things in some future storyline or animated series.

I did not know this until I started digging into this issue but Superman #78 is where Lois Lane and Lana Lang first meet. Yes, we have this cover to curse as fodder for a bunch of lame future covers, though there were a few good catfight covers if I recall correctly.

Superman #78 is also the last of the 52-page issues, back when you really got 10 cents worth of comics. There have been articles written on how comics going from 10 cents to 12 cents or from 15 cents to 20 cents hurt kids allowance money but what about losing 40% of your content and still paying the same price!

Like I mentioned above, this era of DCs is ridiculously hard, the highest-graded copy of Superman #78 is an 8.0, there are 3 copies of Action Comics #1 graded higher. This scarcity makes current market prices all the more puzzling, recently a CGC 7.5, one of the top 4 copies out there, sold for $1,020, a solid and for this book considered high-grade CGC 6.0 recently sold for $320. Bargains, both.

I’d love me a tight, crisp CGC 7.5, with high gloss and a good register, maybe my next walk in will have one?

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $603/$1039/$1475 in the 6.0/8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • First appearance of Snagriff
  • First Lois Lane and Lana Lang meeting
  • D.E.I.G.A.C.!
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 was about to complain about this one – along the lines of Green Lantern #3 – but I did a review, and I fournd that generally your Undervalued picks have been either off my radar or in my portfolio. Unfortunately this one is neither. I guess my behavior with respect to this pick indicates that I don’t fully agree with your “undervalued” call – but just.

I don’t have an acronym or explicit methodology, but there are a few factors that come together for me:

– “core” DC: Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman
– 1952-1956
– good cover

This one hits on all cylinders and I identified it years ago, but as you point out, it is scarce in any decent grade. I have only seen a couple of these above about 5.0 for sale since I have been looking for it. I don’t know who sold any of the 6.0, 6.5, or 7.0 that show from this year – I can just say that that 6.0 and 7.0 weren’t on eBay. (The 6.5 might have been because it was in January, but I doubt it.)

However, I think I know the 7.5 very well. You can still look at that one on Heritage. Note the reddish/purplish stains in the upper left quadrant, above the dragon’s wing up through the logo. I believe that this copy came from a run of 1950s DCs that were stored for a long time in a stack. Some of DC’s color inks from this time appear to have been prone to dissolving into the paper or into the surrounding ink, so I am pretty sure that these stains came from the back cover inks of the book that was stacked on top of it. All the books that were in the stack show the same sorts of stains. Lucky for the owners of these books that CGC doesn’t mark off much/at all for this sort of thing.

The stack was auctioned off (raw) on eBay in 2015. Two problems: I woke up to it mid-sale, and I couldn’t see the future. The first problem hit me with this book – it was already gone by the time I noticed the books up for auction. Not being able to see the future caused the second (worse) problem, which was being fairly conservative in bidding on the books that were still available. Some of the other ones that got away still stick with me – two Detective Joker covers. At the time they went “too high”, but now I would pay those prices no questions asked. (The good news is that Superman #76 didn’t get away, as did a non-Joker Detective. Still raw.)

This September I had my second chance with that 7.5, but again it went “too high”, and so far I stick with that call. If you think all of the prices are too low, fine, but that 7.5 price of $1020 puts it in line with the lower grade sales. I was the next bid down, but that was it – while I love the book, I think this is an aficionado’s book – most buyers are going to see “7.5” and “Superman” and move on. If I didn’t have anything else like this I might have been more aggressive, but there is the #76…

So I am absolutely on board with “undervalued” as in “underappreciated”, but I think the price is on-market right now. If I see signs that people wake up to how ridiculously scarce these mid-fifties DCs are (I have written about this before), I will quickly change my tune.

Verdict: DEIGACus Interruptus

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

I love the early to mid-fifties DC comics! I have to say tho… as I browse them on eBay… the Superman titles seem the most affordable. I wonder if this was because the Superman titles were more apt to be saved from the scrap heap as opposed to the Batman and Wonder Woman titles or if its that Superman is slightly less desired then the others…

Chris Meli
4 years ago

Gerald, it is mostly about the latter not the former. My observation is that Batman and Superman are relatively plentiful, Action and Detective scarcer, and Wonder Woman the scarcist – particularly for the latter half of the fifties. Batman has been cool at least since Frank Miller, and Wonder Woman is cool because of Gal Gadot. Superman is not cool because of whats-his-name and what-his-name, who played him in the other movie. I think Superman will have his day and the book above is one of the crown jewels.

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

Thanks Chris! I agree they beed a Superman who looks like a mild mannered reporter in is off time rather then sine guy who looks like an insurance man who just sold you a policy you probably didn’t need.