Are First Cover Appearances Undervalued?

by Jestin Davis

First-covers-Overrated-300x157 Are First Cover Appearances Undervalued?Why has Incredible Hulk #181 always been a key Bronze Age book, while Wolverine’s (controversial) first appearance/first cameo, Incredible Hulk #180, has lagged behind? The cover of course! Let’s take a look at first cover appearances and why they matter. Or don’t! With the introduction of CGC and other third-party grading organizations, the comic book cover has been just as important, if not more important, than the contents of the book. It seems that the comic book community can’t fully make up their mind when it comes to first appearances and values. The shining example is the controversial Incredible Hulk #180 vs #181. For sake of conversation, let’s take a look at a few other examples as it relates to first interior appearance vs first cover appearance.

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Doctor Strange’s First Cover Appearance

Everyone has seen the meteoric rise of Strange Tales #110, which is the first appearance of Doctor Strange in the Marvel Comic Book Universe. There is no debating that. However, I find it fascinating when a character’s first appearance is so far distanced from their actual cover appearance, as in this case. While Strange Tales #110 is the first interior appearance of Doctor Strange, he isn’t seen on the cover of Strange Tales until issue #118 (8 issues later!) which features him on the bottom. When it comes to price comparison, Strange Tales #110 in 9.2 CGC has a fair market value of $33,000.  A 9.2 graded copy of Strange Tales #118 has a fair market value of $850. These numbers aren’t even in the same universe!

It’s easy to see why a Tales of Suspense #39 in 9.2 goes for $74,000 when you have a now-iconic character like Iron Man in his first appearance front and center on the cover. The same could be said for Superman on Action Comics #1 and on and on. My point is, when you have a first appearance of a character and they also appear on the cover, it’s a no-brainer why they rise in value.

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When Will Cover Appearances Appreciate?

All of this information begs this question. When will these cover appearance issues that don’t correlate with first appearances start to rise in value? I would say that two things need to coincide for these books to really start to rise in value.

  1. The comic book collecting community which really holds the power when it comes to pricing.  (If Reddit and GameStop have taught us anything.) They need to agree on a first cover appearance for a character.
  2. Third-Party graders need to start including first cover appearances on their notes. To my knowledge, most don’t yet.

If these two things happen, I believe you will start to see these books rise tremendously in value. Think about this for a second. If you are a collector, do you want to pay $33,000 for a book with Paste-Pot Pete on the cover? Or would you rather spend $850 for the first cover appearance of Doctor Strange? One that you actually get to see on display? With the advent of CGC and other grading companies, the option to flip open your key book is no longer there. You are left with the front and back covers in terms of display.

I am a fan of displaying my key books, mostly for my own satisfaction, how about you?

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11 comments

xxx February 21, 2021 - 12:08 pm

it is the market place that decides what comics are worth. CGC is mainly what to look at.

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William Mark Oldroyd February 21, 2021 - 12:40 pm

Good article ! Had a quiok look on Ebay and found a VFN- copy of Strange Tales 118 for £90 – and snapped it up.

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Jestin Davis February 21, 2021 - 8:07 pm

Nice grab!

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msteele583 February 21, 2021 - 1:04 pm

Why is Hulk 180 vs 181 as Wolverine’s first full appearance controversial? Hulk 180 is a classic example of a cameo appearance, with Wolverine only showing up on the final page. It seems to be almost universally acknowledged as just a cameo appearance.

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stevetinker6 February 21, 2021 - 1:05 pm

I’ve often wondered about this phenomenon as well. It’s funny, I was just looking at Spectacular Spiderman 98 and 99, the 1st appearance of Spot, (on the off-chance he appears in the next Spider-verse movie) and noticed the price for 98 (1st appearance) was significantly higher than 99 (1st cover appearance). I grabbed a copy of SSM 99 for $15 and have a bid in on 98 for $42. And since you asked, I display my keys as well, just not in a prominent place in my home.

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Jestin Davis February 21, 2021 - 8:15 pm

Good example!

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Doug February 21, 2021 - 1:53 pm

I like the idea of 1st cover appearances but I think that could open another pandora’s box. For instance…Kitty Pryde, non cover 1st appearance, shows up inconspicuously on #131. Would that be a cover cameo and #139 full first cover? Venom might be another. Maybe not many more, but those popped up in my head.

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Jestin Davis February 21, 2021 - 8:15 pm

Good point, I would leave the details up to CGC and others but would like to see them at least take the first steps in recognizing first cover appearances.

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Norrin Parker February 21, 2021 - 3:55 pm

I completely agree! I love your take on the matter. And I’m all for grading companies to start including the 1st cover apps on the label!

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Bugbear 40k February 21, 2021 - 4:07 pm

The other books strange tales 118 compares to is ff 49 and or 50 which are the first cover appearances of the silver surfer after his first appearance in ff 48. Their both silver age from similar time periods. This would make strange tales 118 incredibly undervalued. There are only 14 9.2 in the census with fmv of $850 For st 118. The ff 49 9.2 has an fmv of over $6700. It has the advantage of also having galactus first appearance. Ff 50 may be a better comparison. Ff 50 9.2 has an fmv of $4200 with 48 in the census. Still lots of room for st 118 to run.

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Jestin Davis February 22, 2021 - 7:51 am

Great example and FF 49 has such an awesome cover!

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