Hi-Ho Silver Age: Dumpster Diving

by Norman Robinson III

116622_ffb74ec56c02a4f7b60ec0b7e80de0883601dfdd-203x300 Hi-Ho Silver Age: Dumpster DivingThe Silver Age is not cheap to own. Take an early appearance of Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #42. The last recorded grade (9.6) sold for $10,755. Even the mid-grade 6.5 will cost you $300 dollars to buy-in. Can low-grade keys be the ticket to the high price entry fee for most Silver Age keys? Are low-grades cheap enough when compared to their long-term value? Let’s do some dumpster diving for Silver Age damaged keys and see if the numbers add up. I recently purchased Tales of Suspense #42  in a very beat up condition. Was this a bad speculation purchase or a really great long-term investment? Let us see if we can determine the efficacy of buying and investing with damaged keys, the low-grade stuff. You know the junk your pressing company won’t do because the book nearly has a detached staple or some such.

Tales of Suspense #42

This is the fourth appearance of Iron Man in Tales of Suspense. It was created by a massive team of artists and writers, namely Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber, and Joe Maneely (pencils). The script was all Stan Lee back in 1963. In my example, the book condition I purchased was below average either 0.5 or 2.0 at best. It had the greatest hints of damage: color fade, spine damage, abrasions, corner damage, ripples, dirt, the paper was only off white to cream. The cover depicts Iron Man bashing through a wall; if I didn’t know better it looks like he is trying to escape the comic book’s condition. Still, it is a gold suit Iron Man not exactly growing on trees nowadays.

1426102689388682639-1-198x300 Hi-Ho Silver Age: Dumpster DivingLong-Term

  • Grade 9.6 $12,000 FMV returns positive +40%
  • Grade 9.2 $2,500 FMV returns negative -31.4%
  • Grade 8.5 $900 FMV returns positive +29.9%
  • Grade 6.5 $260 FMV returns positive +21.6%


  • Grade 2.0 $100 FMV returns positive +28.3%
  • Grade 1.8 $95 FMV returns positive +57.1%
  • Grade 0.5 $80 FMV returns positive +11.2%


iron-man-gold-112229-300x281 Hi-Ho Silver Age: Dumpster DivingI paid $34 for Tales of Suspense #42 at my local retailer, more than likely too much. I got a ten percent discount and also paid tax. So now I am sitting there with a book that looks like crud and is making me no money. I send it in to CGC with several other books at a cost of $37 (Value $27 + Fast Track $10). This does not include shipping (but I am sending it as one of many books) and of course the dreaded tax.

CGC grades it a 1.8; slabs it, and sends it back to me. After several months I now own a beat-up copy of an early Iron Man, a story that people want, and a key that has value on the high end at $12,000 FMV for grade 9.6. But my key is only a puny grade 1.8 worth only a mere $100 have I made a good deal? Let’s take a closer look at the expected return on this dumpster dive.


Dumpster Dive Return

Cost = $32 price tag +37 CGC = $69

Value =The book returns a grade of 1.8 and has a current value of $100.

im9_16-295x300 Hi-Ho Silver Age: Dumpster DivingConclusion:

Not a bad deal in my book. After all, that is a $31 profit. It works out to about 20% after taxes give or take. But the current value is not what matters. The real value is its future value. That is what the dumpster divers are counting on. Grade 1.8 has a $100 FMV and returns net positive gains. Don’t worry about how little that gain is, any gain works. That is a 20% short-term return with very little risk after taxes and fees.

The future value we can expect for grade 1.8 is 57.1% not too shabby for such low risk. Now let’s say I overestimated the value of my book, and instead of grade 1.8, it returns grade 0.5 at $41. I cover the initial cost of my investment but not much of the grading and slabbing cost. However, I do retain the nice +11.2% return. The inevitable profit is only a couple of years away. Meanwhile, any Marvel movie or news is a potential selling event. Even Iron Man couldn’t rig a better system, right? Now, err, wait a minute; that is going too far. Tony Stark probably could build a better profit source. However, the efficacy of low-grades is gaining credibility, right?

Dumpster diving has its moments.


GoCollect is the #1 comic book price guide for tracking sales data of all graded comic books in real-time. Fair market values are now at your fingertips. Check out all the features at www.gocollect.com

You may also like


Evan October 26, 2019 - 4:05 pm

I just picked up a copy of TOS 42 for $150 and I’m hoping it gets a 5.5 or 6 from CGC. This cover is so iconic to me. The great thing about dumpster diving keys in bad condition is that people just let them go for nothing. A few years ago I miraculously grabbed a FF 48 for $10.00 in horrible condition. It ended up grading a 3.0 somehow. Keep up the great work Norman. Thanks!

Norman Robinson III October 27, 2019 - 2:14 am

Thanks, I appreciate the support one “dumpster diver” to another. You are right people let them go for nothing. Until about two years ago even big keys could be purchased cheap if they were seriously damaged. It was great I walked in at the $20 level on FF52…seriously FF52! Go figure. Thanks for reading. Norm

Andy M October 26, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Sorry Norman I like your work but this is a stretch. If the FMV is $95 that likely means there have been sales between $80 and $110. This is also a book that may have some minor demand but certainly not in 1.8. Depending on where you sell you have fees to pay (PayPal fee and shipping at the least or 10% or more from a dealer/auction house). On the high end with everything going perfectly and selling to someone for cash I could see you hitting the margin you noted. In any other situation this is likely a break even.

Norman Robinson III October 27, 2019 - 2:19 am

The margin is tight, very tight you are right Andy. However, I think you are missing half of my argument in your thoughtful response. Yes, the current value is very small but the future growth 5-10 years out is considerable. Thanks for reading. Norm

JASON HOOVER October 27, 2019 - 9:11 am

I have been a dumpster diver for years. I have picked up ASM 121 for $1 and xmen 32 for $6 as well as an iron man 55 for $1 which graded at a 4.0. Very happy with all 3.

Norman Robinson III October 28, 2019 - 1:10 am

Yes, you understand the power of the dumpster dive. Nice job!

Norman Robinson III October 30, 2019 - 9:43 pm

Iron Man 55 is one heckuva a pick. Nice Job! Thanks for reading.

paradoxtremors October 27, 2019 - 11:04 pm

I have a question. Maybe you can settle an argument between a friend and myself. It’s not exactly “dumpster diving,” but I think I scored a great deal. I bought New Teen titan #35 (1983) CGC for a total of $43.00 ( $25.00 base price + $16.00 for shipping and handling + $2.00 state taxes = $43.00). I think that’s a great price, my buddy thinks it’s not. He thinks I got ripped off. The Comic is secured in the case with no breaks or scratches; and the comic itself looks fantastic. For a comic 36+ years old rated a “9.8” by CGC, I think I got a great bargain…what’s your opinion?

Norman Robinson III October 28, 2019 - 1:08 am

If I am looking at the correct New Teen Titans (there are two: one is Teen Titans Siege #35); I do not think you were ripped off, because you knew what you were buying and you have a near mint copy.

Now for this year, the average price is $38.50 from a narrow sales of two books 2019. Now you have bragging rights over your buddy and can tell him the book is on average worth more than you paid for it.
My take on 9.8 that are non-keys purchased cheaper than you could CGC; that is a fair deal. It is not going to fly up the charts, but at that price, you won’t lose money. I hope you own keys as well because that is what most folks trade-in, probably your buddy as well. Thanks for reading.

paradoxtremors October 30, 2019 - 8:56 pm

“Siege” is the right one. I am putting the set together so I’m not planning to part with it anytime soon. I figure at that price I needed to get it now rather than later. I have the keys and now working to fill in the holes to complete the set. Since leaving my question I have managed to buy New Teen Titans #34 (Deathstroke appearance/ Terra revealed as a double agent) CGC 9.8 from a friend for $30.

Thank-you for settling the agreement for us.

paradoxtremors October 30, 2019 - 8:58 pm



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: