20/20 Speculation: Tales of Suspense #52 vs. Tales of Suspense #57

by Ryan Kirksey

BWHE-218x300 20/20 Speculation: Tales of Suspense #52 vs. Tales of Suspense #57For 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 Tales of Suspense #52 – the first appearance of Black Widow, and Tales of Suspense #57the first appearance of Hawkeye.

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

20/20 Speculation: Tales of Suspense #52 vs. Tales of Suspense #57

Black Widow and Hawkeye were introduced just five months apart in 1964. They have become, through comic storylines and Marvel Cinematic Universe pairings, a duo inextricably linked together for decades. They have shared Avengers membership in print and on screen. And both have become so popular through their recent MCU appearances that they will each have their own movie and TV series, respectively. With how much we have seen them paired over the years, it only makes sense that we compare their relative value in comics.

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 many 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.

Tales of Suspense #52

About a year after the debut of Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #39 in March 1963, Tony Stark was already a mega-hit and was battling villains from all over the globe. After the perils of the Cuban Missile Crisis and at the height of the TOS52-200x300 20/20 Speculation: Tales of Suspense #52 vs. Tales of Suspense #57Cold War, Marvel decided to introduce a whole series of Russian interventionists to the Iron Man story: Anton Vanko, Nikita Khrushchev, Boris, and Madame Natasha Romanova – better known as Black Widow

In the years to follow, she would defect from her Russian agency and join various Marvel teams, most notably the Avengers. She developed a reputation as one of the more empowering and strong female heroes in the larger Marvel universe. Her first appearance inside Tales of Suspense #52 in April 1964 has become a valuable piece of any Silver Age collection. Especially as her time in the MCU comes close to an end.

About 50% of the CGC graded copies of this book exist in the 4.0-7.0 range (with only about 15% at grades 8.5 and above), according to the GoCollect sales database. There are no known 9.8 copies in existence. The only 9.6 copy has sold in the past eight years. So it’s best for us to focus our analysis in that mid-range. If you have $10,000 to drop on a 9.0 graded copy, by all means proceed.

Consistent GoCollect data for a CGC 7.0 copy of this book goes back to only about 2012 when copies sold for only about $300. Today, FMV on that grade is consistently over $2,000, with a copy selling for $2,100 in August of this year. This represents about a 700% return over a little more than 8 years of growth. Looking back just 5 years, CGC 7.0 issues sold for right at $600 for most of the year. According to our data, investors from five years ago could easily triple their money if they held since 2015.

Going down to a cheaper CGC 5.0, data only exists back to 2013. Copies in this grade sold for as low as $173(!!!) that year (but averaged around $250). In 2020, this grade is routinely selling for about $800 in auctions and even reached $900 this past summer. Even in a short investment period, that looks like more than a 300% increase to me if you bought in low seven years ago.

Despite the upcoming stand-alone movie having its premiere pushed back over a year and several trailers already available, this book continues to hold strong value and see growth in most grades in 2020.  As we inch closer to a (hopeful) release date, more news will likely spike this book up one final time.

Tales of Suspense #57

Similar to Black Widow’s first appearance, the majority of Hawkeye’s debut in Tales of Suspense #57 end in up in the mid-range. About 60% of graded CGC copies live within the window from 4.0-7.5. There are about 35 copies TOS57-200x300 20/20 Speculation: Tales of Suspense #52 vs. Tales of Suspense #57somewhere out there at grades 9.4-9.8, including a CGC 9.6 that sold earlier this year for $12,000. The most recent 9.8 copy sold five years ago for almost $48,000, so I can’t even imagine what that price would be today.

GoCollect has data all the way back to sales in 2008 on CGC 7.0 copies. The most consistent sales start around 2012 where FMV landed at $550. Today, the fair market value on a CGC 7.0 copy is around $900. The most recent sale topped $1,100 for the first time. If you bought in 2012 and held on, your investment would be worth around 175%-200% what you paid for it. Jumping to 2015 in a 7.0 grade shows decent positive returns as well. TOS #57 ended the year 2015 with an FMV of around $650. Assuming the same FMV of $900-$1,000 today that is another 45%-50% return on your purchase in about five years. A good number, but less appreciation than we saw with TOS #52.

Let’s say you invested in a slightly lower grade of 4.5, trying to get in at a more affordable level. GoCollect has data back to 2012 here. It would have only set you back about $250 at that time. Comparing to today’s roughly $450 FMV, that’s a more-than-solid 80% return on average. Even in this lower grade, a five-year hold on this book would be considered a worthwhile investment.

So it’s safe (and not surprising) to say that the value of the first Hawkeye has seen sustainable growth over the long term. Always linked romantically with Black Widow, Hawkeye has become one of Marvel’s most relatable characters. That is due to the absence of superpowers and his strong family connection. Certainly helping this fact is the relatively cheap price tag this book held eight years ago. I believe we will see this book continue to rise in price, although it may be a BWHE-1-198x300 20/20 Speculation: Tales of Suspense #52 vs. Tales of Suspense #57slower burn than with Black Widow because of the long-term prospects of the television show. If so, the strong buying opportunity for investors is now.

Who Wins? #52 or #57?

In this game of of head-to-head battle between former Avenger lovers, there are no real losers. No one has to jump off a cosmic cliff to save humanity. Hawkeye has been a consistent strong buy with a solid long-term rate. It’s clear Black Widow’s first appearance has been a better investment over the past 7-8 years. The data at the CGC mid-range tells the tale in terms of the percentage of return. Black Widow probably also has the shorter path right now to spikes in prices with the movie coming (fingers crossed!) in 6-8 months.

For total dollars, TOS #52 is also the unquestioned winner. But like I said, no real losers here.

Did you have a couple hundred bucks lying around in 2012? If so, I hope you bought into these two books and have held since. These are Silver Age beauties for two characters who became linked over the years. Not only are they some of the hottest books around. They also look to have room to climb.

This post is part of an ongoing series in 2020. 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. As well as 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!

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2 comments

Warren S November 30, 2020 - 9:31 am

Interesting. I have both issues (my estimates at 4.0-5.0 or so, but unslabbed) and have for decades — all part of the Iron Man collection I began in the 70s as a kid, so starting at TOS 39.

Getting away from the values (which I understand you have to focus on in these articles), it is really, REALLY interesting to contrast how they both began with how they both evolved. Black Widow began as a stunning Russian spy with loads and loads of money, and not one superpower (at least that Marvel ever mentioned in any of the subsequent TOS issues in which she appeared, aside from this astonishing beauty which attracted even Tony Stark.) Hawkeye began as basically a circus sideshow-type with one superpower — he’s an excellent marksman (with a lot of different arrow types).

In TOS 57 they meet and she uses Hawkeye to get back at Iron Man so that she can, in turn, grab Tony Stark’s inventions for Mother Russia. Hawkeye was just so entranced and in love with her through so many issues of TOS, he blindly did whatever she asked.

Move to present day when they have both become actual superheroes, each in their own ways, and that what-now-looks-ridiculous one-sided love affair they had in 1964 is just in really bad taste. But those were the times: in comics women had nothing except for beauty, and males had … mostly everything else. Times, and reality, have certainly changed. For the better.

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Ryan Kirksey December 2, 2020 - 10:12 am

Great points all around here. It was fascinating to me to see how they were introduced literally within a couple months from each other and have been intertwined ever since. As you said, they have evolved quite a lot since then. I always feel people have a natural affinity with the non-superpower heroes (Batman, Punisher, Black Widow, etc.)

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