20/20 Speculation: Hero for Hire #1 vs. Marvel Spotlight #5

by Ryan Kirksey

cage-and-ghost-rider-e1594949982547-208x300 20/20 Speculation: Hero for Hire #1 vs. Marvel Spotlight #5For the last half of 2020, I am going to try and put several blog pieces together that look back at popular speculative books with the full benefit of hindsight. In doing so, I will try my best to consider books from generally the same time frame and generally the same level of “key” status. This week I’m comparing Luke Cage: Hero for Hire #1 and Marvel Spotlight #5.

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

20/20 Speculation: Hero for Hire #1 vs. Marvel Spotlight #5

Introduced in the summer of 1972, both Luke Cage and Ghost Rider became popular Marvel staples over the rest of the decade. These two heroes who often operate on the wrong side of the law were known as innovative, unique characters, unlike anything Marvel had done before.

With GoCollect’s massive database of sales data, we can know precisely what would have happened if we had purchased book X instead of book Y at Z grade 10 years ago. Does that information help us going forward? Does it introduce bias? What new information can we use if we are dropping our hard-earned dollars on these books today?

Hopefully, the data and knowledge of the general popularity of a book can help guide our decisions going forward. Remember, this is not a total dollars and cents analysis, but rather the return on each book’s respective investment over time.

Let’s jump right in.

HFH1-199x300 20/20 Speculation: Hero for Hire #1 vs. Marvel Spotlight #5Luke Cage: Hero for Hire (June 1972)

Whether you know him as Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, or Power Man, the bruising, indestructible hero has defended the people of Harlem for nearly 50 years and has become an integral part of not only many superhero storylines and teams but also a popular Netflix series a few years ago. You know, it’s the one where Cottonmouth all the sudden decides to come back from the dead to become Blade, but whatever.

Consistent GoCollect data for a CGC 9.0 copy of this book goes back to about 2005-2008 when copies sold for only around $150. Can you imagine? Today, FMV on that grade is consistently over $700. Representing a 466% return over a little more than 14 years of growth. Looking back just 8-9 years, CGC 9.0 issues sold for right at $200. So according to our data, there was a relatively modest return between 2005 and 2012. But investors that held firm were rewarded over the next nine years, with 350% returns to those who bought around 2012.

Going down to CGC 6.0, data only exists back to about 2013. Copies in this grade typically sold for about $60 before umping up soon thereafter. In 2020, they routinely are selling for about $250. I’m no math wizard but that looks like more than a 400% increase to me. With Luke Cage’s MCU presence in limbo, it seems there could potentially be even more room to grow on this book.  6.0 grades in 2016 sold for well over $300 when we had news of a TV show. This tells me that the book has cooled off since the cancellation. Any MCU news would likely spike this grade back up to the $300-$400 range.

MS5-196x300 20/20 Speculation: Hero for Hire #1 vs. Marvel Spotlight #5Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972)

GoCollect has data all the way back to sales in 2006 on MS#5 CGC 9.0. While there is evidence that Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze’s first appearance sold for as low as $310 in 2009, most in the 2006-07 time frame sold for about $550-$650. So we will call it $600 for the sake of comparison. Today, the fair market value on this book is $3,000. If you bought in 2006 and held on, your investment would be worth 500% what you paid for it. A ten-year review of a CGC 9.0 shows almost identical positive returns. The average sales price in 2011-12 was a little more than $600. Assuming the same FMV of $3,000 today that is, at minimum, another 500% return on your purchase.

Hopefully, those who bought around 2006-2008 didn’t get trigger happy. There was little movement in the first four years. Hopefully, they waited out the comic book key boom of this past decade.

Let’s say you invested in the mid-grade, trying to get in at a more affordable level. GoCollect has data back to 2010 for a CGC 6.0, and it would have only set you back less than $100 at that time. Comparing to today’s roughly $700 FMV, that’s a staggering 700% return. Even in this middle grade, a 10-year hold on this book would net you more than any other timeframe for the books I analyzed here.

So it’s safe (and not surprising) to say that the value of the first Ghost Rider has exploded over the long term. He is such an intriguing anti-hero. Certainly helping this fact is the relatively cheap price tag this book held in the first decade of the century. In a post-Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider world, I wonder if we will ever again see some price softening. That will present a strong buying opportunity for investors looking to the long term. I mean if Nic Cage can’t kill the price of the book, probably nothing can.

Who Wins? HFH#1 or MS#5?

In this game of mega Bronze Age keys, there are no real losers. Even though Luke Cage has been muscling his ways through the years at an incredibly strong long-term rate around 400%, it’s clear Ghost Rider has been a better investment over the past 15 years. Not just in terms of the percentage of return but also total dollars.

If you had a couple hundred bucks lying around in 2005, I hope you bought into one of these books and have held it since. These Bronze Age beauties are some of the hottest books around.

This post is part of an ongoing series in 2020 where I will apply 20/20 hindsight to two books from a similar timeframe. From there I will determine which has been the better investment to this point and which might be the best book to own going forward. If you have suggestions for books to compare, please let me know in the comments!


GoCollect is the #1 comic book price guide for tracking sales data of all graded comic books in real-time. Prices are increasing Aug. 3rd – Lock in your low rates by updating your profile here. Get fair market values at your fingertips.

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