Keys are important in comic book collecting and investing. These books have something significant that makes them important. This can be a plot device or something significant about the creative team that is of such importance that the issue is desired by people. The problem is that keys can become hot or not based upon the whims of the market. Here are a few key books that appear to be forgotten in the comic book marketplace. That does not mean investors and collectors should not add them if they come to market.
1. Adventure Comics #247– 1st Appearance of Legion of Super-Heroes
This book was a super key for years during the 80s and 90s. The price of this issue was fighting with other super keys like Fantastic Four #1, Amazing Spider-Man #1, and other books for the most valuable book. Those books took off and yet this book never kept pace. These characters still appear in comics and on television, so when these books come to market, they do sell. The problem is, you rarely hear it mentioned as a “hot” book.
This book was chosen because of older comic book fans I know who actively seek out this book in the marketplace. They say it is undervalued and I agree.
2. Our Army at War #83- 1st Appearance (?) of Sgt. Rock
There are other books that some would say have the first appearance of Sgt. Rock, but this is the one that demands top dollar. Sgt. Rock was a character who became so popular that he went from frequent guest to his own series. The character is important but this book rarely comes up for sale. When it does, it goes for a premium. The book is forgotten because Sgt. Rock has not appeared in many DCEU media projects. That does not diminish the character’s importance, and thus this book’s potential.
This book was mentioned because at an auction I was observing, the auctioneer (who has a history of selling comics) did not know why this book was the top target of his two whales. Please note I review many different auction houses and that was now the 2nd time this happened at two different auction houses!!!
3. Detective Comics #400– 1st Appearance of Man-Bat
Collectors and investors for the most part are priced out of Batman and Robin’s first appearances. That has made targeting the first Golden Age and Silver Age appearances of his villains and allies the next best thing. Man-Bat was originally introduced as a villain, but subsequent appearances have made him an antihero that now frequent comic book universes.
This book is a key issue not only because of the issue’s numbering but also because of this introduction, and yet for many it languishes well beyond other Batman characters. This book is still an important chapter in Batman’s mythology and thus should be sought after by collectors and investors alike.
Horror is king and yet this character is all but forgotten by fans. One auction had multiple Batman character first appearances and yet this was the one book that did not receive any mention of being a key book.
4. Justice League of America #21– 1st Meeting of JLA/JSA
No matter how hard they try, DC Comics always seems to come back to the theme of different versions of Earth. Comics and the Arrowverse television shows have all had the different versions of Earth as plot issues. That makes this book an important pin in DC Comic’s themes because of the meeting between two landmark superhero teams. The meeting became so important that it became a regular occurrence in Justice League of America.
DC Comics are not that hot when compared to their Marvel competitors. Justice League of America books are even more forgotten in the DC Comic pantheon of keys. Again, a book that once was treasured now remains forgotten by most.
Black Adam demonstrated that the JSA is important. Sadly, even with the movie, this book did not see much of a move on the “hot” market.
1. Amazing Spider-Man #96– Drug Issue
Mention the drug comic book issue and most people immediately think of Green Lantern #85. Speedy shooting up is right there on the cover. Most forget that Marvel dealt with drug use a few months before in Amazing Spider-Man. Most would assume the Amazing Spider-Man issue would be the drug issue because of the Spider-Man vs. Green Lantern discrepancy in popularity.
The Green Lantern issue was drawn by Neal Adams, but John Romita and Gil Kane are no ham and eggers. This book is important because it was an important comic book story on drug usage, and yet it is all but forgotten when compared to Green Lantern #85.
Collectors and investors chase most Spidey keys, except this book.
2. Uncanny X-Men #95– Death of Thunderbird
Deaths of comic book characters are always key issues. Even if the death will not stick, the issue is important, nonetheless. The problem with Thunderbird’s death is that he had only been recently introduced to X-Men fans. His death could have been avoided and another character could have been chosen to make the ultimate sacrifice. Imagine though a world without Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, or Nightcrawler.
Add the fact that this book is also an early issue of the new team and one would believe it is a key target of many buyers, but it is not. I have attended live auctions and watched online where issues were being sold for fractions of what this book should be worth. The reason may be that he was not beloved, but that does not mean this book is not important.
This is one of the few X-Men characters that has not graced the big screen. A minority character who never had a chance still is important and yet gets very little mention now.
3. Amazing Adventures #11– Beast Mutation
If a person wants to add the first appearance of the Beast be prepared to take out a second mortgage for a high grade copy of X-Men #1. This book was once within the reach of many, but that is not the case anymore. Even filler copies sell for a lot of money. Beast does have another key book that is important. Beast changed for his normal human appearance to his furry appearance many know him by now.
Even Fox Films incorporated this into his film’s character. The methods of that change may have been altered, but the animalistic appearance was preserved. This change did not appear in a X-Men issue, so it may not have been as important, but that does not mean it should be ignored either.
This mutation was significant, but fans note that his fur was not blue in this issue. Is that the reason collectors and investors rarely mention this book?
4. Defenders #1– 1st Issue of Series
Most Bronze Age first issue superhero books command premium prices. One would suspect that a first issue of a team consisting of Namor, Dr. Strange, and the Hulk would be a very important book. Sadly, the Defenders were viewed as the junior varsity Avengers even with a heavy hitting lineup that would later include the Silver Surfer. This team had, in fact, more powerful members than the Avengers and yet prices for this series pale to the Avengers.
Many think a Young Avengers team is in the MCU’s future, but what if instead the team is more in the nature of the Defenders? Even if not in the cards, this book is still important, but ask the casual fan about the Defenders and they will think of a video game more than a superhero team.
Fans thought the Defenders, and not the Thunderbolts would be the next big MCU team. Substitute She-Hulk for Hulk and they had a perfect opportunity to add a team with some fresh blood, but Marvel went elsewhere.
Miracleman was originally Golden Age British hero Marvelman. Sadly those darn attorneys get involved and necessitated a name change for copyright purposes. A character with a rich history that is re-introduced at a later date under the supervision of noted writer Alan Moore normally would be on the target of most collectors and investors. Instead, this book can sometimes be found in bargain boxes at shows. A book that Todd McFarlane, Alan Moore, and Marvel Comics have fought over at one time or another is evidence the character and this book are important. Most reading this article probably have never heard of Miracleman, and even fewer own this book.
This book was originally produced for Marvel’s Epic line. Epic books rarely get mentioned online.
2. The Addams Family #1– 1st Appearance of the Addams Family
Movie and television properties drive up the price of related comics. “Wednesday” is a popular television show on Netflix that draws critical praise. Both of those accolades should make this issue important.
Most forget that the Addams Family was originally one panel comic stories in published in magazines like the New Yorker by cartoonist Charles Addams. Their first appearance in a comic book was this book. The cartoonist portrayal of the characters appears to have diminished collector and investor interest in this issue.
Characters that are over 80 years old and have appeared in film, television, cartoons, comics, and on various products deserve better than this treatment.
The series was targeted toward younger fans. Finding higher grade issues then becomes more difficult because younger fans tend to be harder on these books than others.
3. Beatles Yellow Submarine #1– Beatles Comic
The Beatles are one of the most famous bands of all time. Their songs are still popular decades after getting their first play on radio. Collectors soak up everything related to this group and yet this issue is forgotten as a tie-in to the film of the same name. Books that have cross-appeal are important to both collectors and investors. Fans seek Beatle appearances in more mainstream comics and yet this book is ignored because of the lack of interest in the publisher. That is a mistake.
Unless one is a Beatles fan, this book is all but ignored as a key. Even those fans are only drawn to it because of the characters, so is it a key?
4. Four Color #178– 1st Appearance of Uncle Scrooge
A Disney character’s first comic book appearance is very valuable. One drawn by legendary Disney artist Carl Banks is even more desirable. The problem is that Four Color books are viewed as for children and thus do not receive a lot of interest. These books are seen all the time raw and draw very little interest among buyers.
A .5 copy sold for $140 in 2018, so there should be no excuse for raw books being ignored. Most collectors and investors could identify keys by their covers and yet how many reading this article could identify the cover of Uncle Scrooge’s first appearance on sight? That is a problem for a book that is this valuable both in price and for its historical significance.
Several auctions reviewed had this book tossed in with other “common” books. One auction several years ago included this book that only could be identified by savvy buyers who could identify the book by it’s corner image. Four Color books are all but ignored EVEN with super keys like Disney characters and Carl Bank’s art.