Silver Age Decliners: COVID-19 Only Tells Part of the Story

by Ryan Kirksey

FF3-204x300 Silver Age Decliners: COVID-19 Only Tells Part of the StoryTypically, we as collectors view Silver Age key comics as solid, low-risk investments. They are the blue-chip stocks we can count on to maximize a return on investment, and in the worst of all scenarios, they at least hold value over time. Well, I don’t know if we are living through the worst of all possible scenarios right now, but it certainly couldn’t look much different. Massive unemployment, stocks, and investments in the tank, local comic shops closed, comics not being published. These are dark times for many aspects of the comic collecting experience. Many Silver Age keys have not been immune from these times.

It’s easy to look at some key Silver Age books that have significantly dropped in sales and scream “Pandemic!” and walk away, confident in your analysis. But I think there are a lot more variables that go into Silver Age decliners than just COVID-19. In fact, since stimulus money has started to roll out, I have actually seen an uptick in buyers on Instagram, eBay, and other platforms, not just for my own comic sales, but across many sellers I follow.

Looking at the most recent GoCollect monthly report on Silver Age comic purchases, let’s spend time evaluating some of the biggest decliners in the top 250 overall and try to ascertain why that may be and if there is a corresponding buying opportunity.

Fantastic Four #3FF3-204x300 Silver Age Decliners: COVID-19 Only Tells Part of the Story (down 125 spots)

The first family of Marvel’s Silver Age sees a drastic drop for this early key issue, falling all the way to #214 in sales over the past month. But a deeper dive into Fantastic Four books show that this is a common trend for their early books. Fantastic Four #2 (down 102 spots), FF #4 (down 59), FF #6 (down 31), FF #9 (down 31), and FF#12 (down 85) have all fallen off a cliff this past month. Part of this is because these are among the highest dollar Silver Age books that one can find. With any decline in the market’s disposable income, these high dollar books will be the first to fall, but there seemingly are other factors in play.

First, for such an early key, the only introductions this book provides are ancillary: first costumes, first Fantasti-Car, and first Baxter Building. While issues 1, 2, 4, and 5 all offer up MAJOR character intros or re-introductions, the third issue stands out as less important in that regard. But this does open up a strong buying opportunity for anyone interested in this early key. This book in a CGC 4.5 – right about the 50th percentile in terms of the total number of graded copies – recently sold for only $960 at a Heritage auction. That is the first time this book has sold for under $1,000 since the middle of 2018. Two copies in a CGC 7.0 sold this spring for less than $3,000 each, a price not seen since January of 2018. If you are a Fantastic Four collector, you have the cash on hand, and this one has eluded you over the years, this looks like the time to buy before the inevitable rebound.

Justice League of America #1JLA1-204x300 Silver Age Decliners: COVID-19 Only Tells Part of the Story (down 57 spots)

Much like the Fantastic Four books, there is potentially a lot of Justice League fatigue out there. Not only is JLA #1 taking a dip, but the Brave and the Bold #28 (the first appearance of the Justice League) also fell 30 spots in 30 days. Published in the earliest days of the Silver Age (October 1960), JLA #1 is also one of those mega-dollar books that are likely to be hit hardest – a CGC 9.6 was bought at auction in summer 2019 for $125,000 to give you some context of what kind of book we are talking about.

After the Justice League movie became the most expensive bomb in the history of movies, and there being no clear direction for the DC extended universe, there seems to be some Justice League selling off among speculators and investors. While the highest graded copies still command top dollar, the bottom is falling out of the lower grades on this book. At a ComicLink auction that ended on March 26th, a CGC 5.0 copy sold for only $1,204, the lowest that grade has sold in at least five years. A CGC 3.0 copy sold in February (pre-pandemic for the U.S.) for $530 which is noteworthy because that grade sold for under $600 a total of one time in the last four years. The buying window is currently open for low grades of this book.

Amazing Spider-Man #66ASM66-197x300 Silver Age Decliners: COVID-19 Only Tells Part of the Story (down 28 spots) and Amazing Spider-Man #13 (down 13 spots)

It’s a two-for-one special on Mysterio books that are on the downslide. This one is on-the-surface quite easy to interpret as Mysterio had his day in the MCU sun and is now old news as speculators look towards the next big thing. But is he really gone for good? One thing comic historians know about Quentin Beck is he is the master of deception and illusion, so it would not be a stretch for the MCU or Sony to bring Mysterio back for future projects – cough, Sinister Six, cough. Until that happens, however, the first appearance of Mysterio and the famous Mysterio cover art by John Romita, Sr. seem to be in a cooling-off period.

Focusing in on ASM #66, it’s nowhere close to the same ballpark as early Fantastic Four or JLA #1, but that is currently allowing the highest grades to be within reach for just about anyone. In late March, a CGC 9.4 (one of only 115 blue labels) sold for just $278, a whopping 31% discount off of the previous 9.4 sold back in November. If mid-grade is your thing, a CGC 6.5 sold for only $97 on March 20. For a strong Silver Age Spider-Man key, this is almost unheard of, so grabbing a high-grade quality copy of this book is highly advisable right now. Once the world pivots back to normal, and especially if Mysterio reappears in the future, these books should quickly spike again.

Batman #121Batman121-203x300 Silver Age Decliners: COVID-19 Only Tells Part of the Story (down 25 spots)

There are several Silver Age Batman books that have taken a nosedive recently, including massive keys like the first appearance of Poison Ivy. But I point out #121 – the first appearance and origin of Mr. Freeze (Mr. Zero) – to highlight that even the earliest, most famous Batman books are not immune from wavering demand and value. A book like this could be considered one of the cornerstones that helped build the Silver Age. It was published in February 1959 and helped kick off the most famous decade of comic history but has been put on ice (pun clearly intended) in recent weeks among many grades.

With only seven copies available at a CGC 9.0 or higher, I glanced right in the middle at a 4.5 grade. In early April, a copy sold on eBay for $1,425, more than $400 lower than the average from sales in 2019. If you want to jump up all the way to a 7.0 – where only 30 exist in that grade worldwide – a book sold at the end of March for $4,012, despite last selling for $5,000 and $6,275 in 2018. A buyer will have to dig deeper into their pockets for this book than many other Silver Age keys, but like the issues listed above, there is a strong buying opportunity for Batman lovers.

Silver Age keys are valuable for a reason. They are desirable, they are rare, they are old, and they introduce the most famous characters and artists we’ve ever known. There is no doubt these and many other Silver Age classics will rise in value in the months and years to come, so start digging into your wish list and see what values you can find. Have you run across any great deals in the past two months? Share them in the comments!


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