The oldest comics, of course, tend to be the most expensive. Silver Age (generally thought of as 1956-1969) keys have recently seen a short-term boom in value that is unrivaled in the years since I returned to collecting and investing.
It won’t come as a surprise to you when I say comic prices — especially key comics — are starting to get out of hand. There are plenty of theories out there right now. Are people bored or restless because of the pandemic and looking for something to do? Are collectors spending all of their stimuli on comics? Is it the rise in popularity of Marvel and DC cinematic products? Or — what is probably the most relevant — Have comics become a legitimate form of alternative investment?
In reality, if more disposable income enters the hobby and prices get too much higher, there are going to be whole segments of the collecting community that are forced to the sidelines.
Silver Age Sleuthing
What are us Average Joes to do if we love the Silver Age but are priced out of Tales of Suspense #39 or X-Men #1? The ship sailed on Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15 a long time ago. Where can we invest in smaller increments but still hope for long-term gains?
Scouring the GoCollect Hot 100 list for Silver Age, I began researching recent sales for some of the more popular books. I found many – but these five specifically – which will likely see short and long-term gains, but won’t break the bank right now.
Incredible Hulk #102
When I wrote about the first six issues of the initial Incredible Hulk run a couple months ago, I was far from the first person to call out the high prices of each of those first half-dozen books. Even a CGC 1.8 of Hulk #6 recently sold for $375. Want issue #1 or #2? Fuggitaboutit.
But after Hulk regained some of his lost popularity as a short-term member of the Avengers, a few battles with The Thing, and co-leading Tales to Astonish for a couple years, there was appetite for the green giant to get his own title again.
Incredible Hulk #102 picks up where Tales to Astonish #101 leaves off and would then proceed to run for 373 more issues into the late 1990s. But this first issue retells the Bruce Banner origins while still managing to process through a storyline with Hulk on Asgard. Still recognized as the beginning of Hulk’s decades-long Volume 1 run, this is an underrated key to have when the first six are out of reach.
Recently sold prices:
- CGC 7.5 – $385
- CGC 5.5 – $185
- CGC 3.5 – $127
Doctor Strange #169
Doctor Strange #169 is an under-the-radar book that was featured in the last installment of Undervalued Comics for Spring 2021, and even though prices have ticked up slightly, it is still imminently affordable for a strong Silver Age Key.
We’ve seen and heard enough about the upcoming phase four of the MCU to know that Dr. Strange is going to play a MAJOR role moving forward. We knew about the movie and its tie-in to the upcoming Spider-Man movie and the just-concluded WandaVision show. But one of my favorite theories moving forward is that Stephen Strange is the order-magic ying to Scarlet Witch’s chaos-magic yang.
These two could be pitted against each other – or paired up together – for a long time coming, instantly making Strange’s first appearance in a solo title that much more interesting. Strange is in the MCU to stay and if the universe takes a sharp turn to more of the cosmic and horror angles as expected, the Master of the Mystic Arts will be front and center.
Recently Sold Prices:
- CGC 7.5 – $610 (last one before that was $384)
- CGC 5.5 – $301
- CGC 3.5 – $147
Marvel Super-Heroes #18
This is one of those books that I have never been able to understand why it doesn’t have more mass popular appeal. Marvel Super-Heroes #18 is the first appearance of Guardians of the Galaxy, but my best working theory is it doesn’t have the appeal of other major Silver Age keys because the squad on this book looks nothing like what we have seen on screen.
It’s true that the individual first appearances of Star Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, etc. fetch a fair amount on the open market. Investors haven’t been willing to pay for this first appearance of Charlie-27, Vance Astro, Martinex, and Yondu. At least not yet. Anytime a GOTG film starts coming our way, this book gets a spike, so why not invest now when the news is slim?
Marvel Super Heroes Volume 1 is a very strange run, with only issues #12-#20 getting original stories and then famous Marvel reprints taking over in issue #21. For that reason, it has become a somewhat overlooked book. But for such a short run it has several keys. In addition to #18, issue 12 features the first appearance of the new Captain Marvel. Issue 13 shows us Carol Danvers for the first time. And issue 20 is the first solo appearance of Dr. Doom.
But for me, issue #18 has the most room for growth, and won’t set you back too much right now.
Recently Sold Prices:
- CGC 7.5 – $400
- CGC 5.5 – $279
- CGC 3.5 – $125
In my personal collection, Daredevil #16 is one of my most cherished books. For so many reasons it is undervalued even as all things Daredevil have seen a meteoric rise in the last 12 months.
First, this book echoes Amazing Spider-Man #16. In that book, Daredevil (a new character then) makes a crossover appearance in Spider-Man’s book. Here, Spidey fills in the pages of Daredevil. It’s the first time Spider-Man crosses over into another titled series.
Second, since John Romita was the artist of Daredevil of the time, this was his first time to draw Spider-Man. The myth goes that Stan Lee was so happy with what he did with Spider-Man in Daredevil #16 and #17 that he eventually put Romita in the big boy chair – helming Amazing Spiderman.
I don’t expect this book to remain at relatively low prices for long. And if Matt Murdock shows up in Spider-Man: No Way Home as is rumored, then we can watch it go to the moon.
Recently Sold Prices:
- CGC 7.5 – $392
- CGC 5.5 – $195
- CGC 3.5 – $150
Tales of Suspense #50
This book is going to run you slightly more than the four above it on this list. But just wait until fall when the Shang Chi movie comes out and watch the value triple.
Tales of Suspense #50 features the first appearance of The Mandarin, who will actually show up in Shang Chi after faking us out in Iron Man 3. As an added bonus, it’s also a very early appearance of Iron Man and pre-dates both Black Widow and Hawkeye.
My opinion is a large enough player in Marvel villain lore that he could easily hang around past Shang Chi. If we get some longevity with the character the prices we see here in spring 2021 will look silly a couple years from now. Dig a little bit deeper if you have to, but this one should be worth the investment.
Recently Sold Prices
- CGC 7.5 – $1,275 (but is an outlier; something to monitor)
- CGC 5.5 – $440
- CGC 3.5 – $350
Of course, any of the books above can be found slightly cheaper if you buy them raw.
What Have You Found?
Not only am I interested in what Silver Age keys you have discovered to be mostly affordable, but I’m also interested in how you feel about the Silver Age prices today. Are you priced out? Do you think these books are still strong value at inflated prices?
I worry sometimes about this hobby that I love and its future. Will the future of collecting decades-old comics be reserved for only the wealthy? Will all of the stock market bros take their money elsewhere when they find a new interest? I have begun fractionally investing in very expensive comics on sites like Rally. Is this the future? To own pieces of comics purely for investment purchases? More on that in my next blog.
What are your thoughts on the rising prices? Good or bad thing? Let me know in the comments!