Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library Books

by Patrick Bain

Spider-Man-Bound-Volume-209x300 Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library BooksWith great power comes great…” well you know… Amazing Fantasy #15.  Besides being a comic EVERYONE would love to have in their collection, it rises above all other Silver Age comics.  The first appearance of Spider-Man is the landmark of all landmarks from the era.  So you might think I had webs in my head If I offered you a near-high grade copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 for under twenty grand.  You would do a spider-flip if I offered to throw in Amazing Spider-Man #1 and the next nine issues.  Also in superb condition.  And just for good measure Strange Tales Annual #2 PLUS Stan Lee’s autograph.  All this for just under $20,000.  Oh, there is a catch.  You can’t offset the cost by selling just some of the comics, like maybe that Strange Tales Annual.  That’s because the whole group comes as one book, just the greatest set of Silver Age Bound Comics EVER!  AND yes, in 2019 someone bought the whole set for $19,200 through Heritage Auctions.  Overstreet VG 4.0 value: $24,966 IF able to purchase separately for 2018 list values.

Silver Age Keys Bound like Library Periodicals

Daredevil-set-for-the-library-shelf-203x300 Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library BooksIn Part 1, I focused on some unbelievable Golden Age treasures.  Even though I argued bound volumes of Action Comics 1-24 were possibly as unique as original art, clearly the demand failed to rival expectations.  Is the same true for bound Silver Age comics?  The Spider-Man set suggests that possibility.
Daredevil-1-75-Bound-Comic-Set-of-3-203x300 Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library Books
However, let’s review some captivating past sales and some items currently in the market.  Perhaps you will describe the offerings as novel but nothing you would collect.  Alternatively, you may decide these fifty and sixty-year-old tomes could hold a place of distinction in your personal library.

A set of three books collected the first seventy-five issues of Daredevil.  Though they appear to belong on a university library bookshelf, I bid on them hoping to get them on mine.  The VG 4.0 appraisal reflected a supposed value of $2,786.  The eventual sale price of $1,680 finished below where I was willing to go, yet I wavered since the earliest issues had some damage.  Could this be one of my collecting regrets, or will other opportunities come around?

Some Sets are Organized Differently Than Others

Marvel-Silver-Age-Annuals-231x300 Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library Books

Not every bound set is one through ten or organized strictly based on publication year.  The Marvel Silver Age Annuals set is comprised of specials from multiple years for various titles.  Pictured is the Fantastic Four, issues 2 – 8 included.  But annuals for Spider-Man, the Avengers, Thor, and others join together to form a novel survey of Marvel in the sixties.  At VG 4.0, the list value for the individual comics tops $650.

The final sales price including the buyer’s premium of $338 betters the halfway mark by just a little.  Bound comics selling at a discount is a recurring theme.  Great for buyers, not too good for sellers, and a question mark for investors/speculators!  Again, these comics appear to be much nicer than VG 4.0, BUT they suffer in condition from the trimming and binding process.

Sneaking in a Silver Bronze Age Bound Set

Adam-Warlock-bound-set-217x300 Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library BooksContinuing the theme of organization, one collector pulled together key issues related to Adam Warlock into two bound volumes.  The contents included Fantastic Four #66 and #67, issues of Thor, Marvel Premier, Warlock, and others.  Of course, one thing you can’t do with an investment-grade slabbed comic (most people anyway): crack it open to read it with your morning coffee.  Perhaps this collector adored Adam Warlock, especially with his morning “joe”.  That is one of the beauties of binding, it preserves the contents and allows reasonably easy reading.

Was it a good financial decision?  Well, like grading and protection services, binding is not as cheap as buying poly bags.  Heritage Auctions must have thought highly of the condition of these comics.  Unlike its typical approach of providing only a VG 4.0 value, they also indicated the FN 6.0 value.  Those amounts came to $548 and $822, respectively.  Even though I rarely drink coffee, I wouldn’t mind having these two books on my coffee table for the final hammer price with a premium of $156.  So, it appears likely someone suffered an opportunity-loss compared to keeping and selling the comics individually.

In the Market for Silver Age Bound Comics?

EbaySeller-of-Bound-Comics-300x225 Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library BooksI can’t give away all my secrets.  Despite the gloomy prognosis from a speculative point of view, there’s still some magic in collected, readable books.  So, just to make sure you are not bidding against me, I’ll hold back a little info.

However, I reached out to one collector with a lot of bound books for sale in the past and present.  This eBay seller expressed a little regret in his descriptions about the opportunity cost of binding his Silver/Bronze age comics rather than keeping them in their original high-grade condition.  If he is willing, I will share his story later and direct you to his future sales.

My observation is that he is reaping good returns based on a VG 4.0 outlook, but not as good as if they were sold separately.  For example, Iron Man issues 51 through 60 sold for a final bid of $271.  Who knew that Thanos would become HUGE back when he was introduced in issue #55?

An Afterthought on Graded vs. Bound

I’m sorry that I’m 900 words into this blog and just getting around to talking slabbed vs. bound.  I think the differences are clear.  For investment potential, do NOT bind your comics!  For readability, bind them and LOVE them–or just polybag them.  With this type of collectible, it’s better to be a buyer than a seller.  Unfortunately, at some point, we ALL become sellers.  There are as many ways to organize your binding as there are ways to organize your bookshelf.  Big difference, once bound, don’t bother changing the order!

Even though I try to focus my articles on original art, there’s more to say on this topic.  In Part 3, I’ll talk about bound comics as readers.  Be sure to check out Part 1 on Bound Volume Comics. Just be sure you are in a comfy chair, it’s the Homer’s Iliad of blogs.  By the way, today’s feature image comes from a listing in 2019 for Twenty-One (21) bound volumes of Amazing Spider-Man running from issue 32 to 283 with a bunch of annuals thrown in.  This guy left a lot of money on the table, BUT WHAT A  BEAUTIFUL SET!  The final price with a premium of $2,760 compared to a notional value of $3,929.  What a great collection!

Check out our newest collectible price guide – concert posters!

Concert-Poster-Footer-Option-3 Silver Age Bound Comics: Grails Disguised as Library Books

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Patrick Bain February 1, 2021 - 9:33 am

I was excited to hear back from the eBay seller mentioned in my article (I guess I’m revealing my secrets)! EBay user j.bradford created an amazing collection. He is now selling it on eBay. My interest began with the bound comics he was selling (just wish I had seen his sales from the beginning). However, he also has many raw comics worth checking it out.
I asked him a little bit about how he got started with ‘bound comics’. Here is his story:

“I believe I got the idea of my binding my comics after reading bound research journals in the college library. I thought that binding my comics would allow me to put them on the shelves and easily go back to earlier stories whenever they were referenced in a current story.

Well, life gets in the way. My wife certainly wasn’t going to allow our bookshelves to be filled with comics and we didn’t have that much space anyway. The bound comics got boxed. There was no reason to continue binding comics (and paying the cost to do so). At this time I never really thought of them as potentially valuable collectibles.

Until recently all my comics, bound and unbound, sat quietly biding their time. After all these years my wife (same wife, so I made a good decision there) and I have retired and downsized. The intermittent, gentle pressure she had been applying to get rid of my comics became more acute because of space limitations. I told her that I was sure my comics had value and that she should give me a little time. The idea of selling them was a little overwhelming at first but I’m now really enjoying the process. I get to “go back in time” as I review the comics and I’m making a little money in the process. Obviously, binding comics has cost me money but I’m very pleased that there are others out there who appreciate them and I hope they will get years of enjoyment from them.”

Thanks j.bradford for your story!

I thought it was especially poignant that Jim is hopeful for the years of enjoyment some fortunate bidders can look forward to. So, go check out his eBay listings (and hopefully you’re not driving up the prices of what I’m bidding on)!

Patrick Bain December 31, 2021 - 3:51 pm

Inspired by my investigation into bound comics, I’m starting a group/non-profit called the Comic Reading Library. The goal is to bind donated comics to make a reading library open to public.

patrickbain2012 August 16, 2022 - 11:49 am

As a follow up to the story of J.Bradford’s bound comics, I finally snagged some of them. Unfortunately, I was not aggressive enough at the time of his auctions and have since spent a WHOLE lot more money buying some the second time around. But, still a great keepsake with long term potential.


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