Before the Marvel Super-Heroes series came to be known by that name starting with issue #12, the first eleven issues in the series were an anthology of reprinted stories from Marvel’s Golden Age. These issues were titled: Fantasy Masterpieces. The Golden Record reprints usually get all the reprint attention, so let’s broaden that a little bit more.
Unlike the straight-up reprints like the Golden Record books and True Believers, the Fantasy Masterpieces contained a mixture of stories from different books. With that, the covers were new ones that showcased the variety of stories within each one. For instance, Fantasy Masterpiece #1 had a small panel of ghosts from Strange Tales #76, Joe’s Ants from Journey into Mystery #60, a human robot from Tales of Suspense #5, etc. Representing a nice mix of the great artists Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Ayers, and Sinnott. It does make one wonder if the Fantasy Masterpieces are technically the most eclectic covers.
The first two issues of the series only reprinted the sci-fi and horror stories. It wasn’t until issue #3 that the superhero stories entered the mix; starting with Captain America Comics #3. The cover of which features Cpt. America very prominently. The subsequent issues continued to feature the popular heroes over the sci-fi and horrors.
The most interesting thing with a lot of these reprinted superhero stories from the Golden Age is that changes were actually made to accommodate the contemporary content requirements of the Comics Code Authority. These changes included things such as the softening of excessive violence, removal of monster-like features from characters, dialogue changes, etc. Collecting the original and these changed reprints could be an interesting niche.
THE MARKET FOR FANTASY MASTERPIECES
The most popular and valuable issue of the series is easily Fantasy Masterpieces #1. Only a single CGC 9.8 slab exists in the CGC census; and it changed hands only once (that we know of), selling in 2005 for a whopping $1,265. Suprisingly high for the first graded slab, that’s right the first, of Fantasy Masterpieces #1 to hit the market. For the next few years, the volume of sales was rather low, until after 2016. That’s when a majority of sales for the book occurred. Quick reference, CGC 9.6s of FM #1 goes for around the $300-400 range with the latest one sold in 2016.
Sales at the CGC 9.8 grade are relatively uncommon for the subsequent issues (#2-11). When they do occur they tend to fetch sale prices at the $400-500 range. An interesting piece of information here is that across the Fantasy Masterpiece series, no CGC 9.8s currently exist in the census for Fantasy Masterpieces #2 and #3. Do I smell opportunity? If you can accomplish the easy task of finding a 1966 book at a 9.8 quality, at worst the floor seems to be set at around the $400-500 range, and at best you might be able to set the price, which if FM #1 is any indication, it can be at least four figures. The opportunity might be better with FM #3 than FM #2 due to the Captain America factor. Either way, time to sharpen the grading skills and dig through some long boxes for these easily overlooked books.
“I don’t have inspiration. I only have ideas. Ideas and deadlines.” – Stan Lee