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Comic Book Cash, Issue #007 -- Focus on Potential Bronze Age Investments
October 13, 2014

Comic Book Cash #7 -- Bronze Bargains: Alternative Investment Picks from 1970-1982

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More than any other era (though a strong case can be made for the Copper Age), recent years have seen an EXPLOSION in interest in Bronze Age books.

One could speculate about why this is. A list of theories might include:

1) improved earning power of kids from the Bronze generation – working collectors and/or investors in their mid-40s, who fondly remember reading classic Bronze series in their youth;
2) an improvement in the general economy;
3) a huge boom in interest in Silver Age mega-keys, making them unaffordable to casual collectors and investors;
4) the surge in TV and movies tying into these Bronze storylines and characters;

and on and on. Most of it is guesswork. Perhaps the hobby is simply maturing.

This newsletter would be a snap to write if I were to recommend the same couple of dozen keys everybody already knows. The list would probably look a bit like this:

  • Amazing Spider-Man 101 (first Morbius), 121 (death of Gwen Stacy), 122 (death of Green Goblin), 129 (first Punisher), 194 (first Black Cat)
  • Batman 232 (first Ra's al Ghul), 251 (classic Joker cover)
  • Detective Comics 400 (first Man-Bat)
  • Fantastic Four 112 (classic Thing vs Hulk)
  • Green Lantern/Green Arrow 76 (first Neal Adams on the title)
  • House of Secrets 92 (first Swamp Thing)
  • Incredible Hulk 180-181 (first Wolverine)
  • Iron Fist 14 (first Sabre Tooth)
  • Iron Man 55 (first Thanos)
  • Marvel Preview 2 (Punisher origin), 4 (first Star Lord)
  • Marvel Super-Heroes 12 (first Captain Marvel), 13 (first Carol Danvers), 18 (first Guardian of the Galaxy)
  • New Teen Titans 2 (first Deathstroke the Terminator)
  • Star Wars 1
  • Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen 134 (first Darkseid)
  • Tomb of Dracula 10 (first Blade the Vampire Hunter)
  • Werewolf by Night 32 (first Moon Knight)
  • X-Men 94 (first new team in main title), 101 (first Phoenix), 120 (first Alpha Flight), 141-142 (days of future past), Giant-Size 1 (first new team)

Probably there are a few others that could make a case for being on the list above, but it's more or less just what everybody else is looking for right now.

Most smart investors look for value that the herd has overlooked. Sometimes, it's too late to jump onto a bandwagon once you see it rolling. Of course, there is still plenty of money to be made flipping Bronze Age keys like the ones above.

(Will a buy and hold strategy work? Only time will tell, but my instinct tells me that, while it may work well for Silver Age keys, there is plenty of supply to meet demand in the Bronze Age.)

So what about finding a slower bandwagon, one that has not yet gathered the same kind of momentum as an ASM 129 or Iron Man 55?

Some Safe, and Not-So-Safe, Alternative Bronze Age Comic Book Investment Picks

Here we go then. Start looking out for these potential sleepers.

DISCLAIMER: it's never an easy job to predict future value. I've purposely selected books here with upside potential.

The word "potential" is very important. These books are in some cases already popular; and many are showing signs of life in the market, with prices moving up as investors take positions on less-known minor keys.

A big TV deal, or a new movie plot line or villain confirmation, could send one or more of these into the stratosphere. I've tried to select books with appeal, even if the jackpot payoff never arrives. Always buy what you like, and what you can afford.

Amazing Spider-Man #149: Spider-Man Clone

Wouldn't the clone story make a super-cool Spidey movie? Yes, Marvel's writers messed up the original comic to the point where readers could never be sure whether the real Spidey or the clone survived; but that detail aside, you have (a) a Bronze Age Amazing Spider-Man issue (a sought-after minor key in the world's most collected comic book series), and (b) something that Hollywood might wake up to one of these days.

Prices are already going a bit crazy on ASM #149, but that's true of many of the Bronze spideys. There is lots of demand and a limited supply.

Amazing Spider-Man #149 features a broken storyline -- did Spidey or his clone survive?
Amazing Spider-Man #149 features a broken storyline -- did Spidey or his clone survive?

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $480
2014 Average: $1,250
Percentage increase: 160%

Action Comics #419: First Human Target

The Human Target has been featured twice on TV series, and presumably rumor has it that he might be overdue for a comeback.

What's more important (to me, at least), is that there is SOMEthing to look for in the Superman-related boxes at shows! Superman #233 (first new Superman by Neal Adams) is another, but generally interest in ol' Supes is pretty low from the 60s onwards.

Human Target has featured in two TV series, with strong rumor of more to come
Human Target has featured in two TV series, with strong rumor of more to come

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $178
2014 Average: $400
Percentage increase: 125%

Man Called Nova #1

Okay, no prizes for originality here, along with Ms. Marvel #1 and Hero For Hire #1. But the dizzy rise in prices of Nova #1 doesn't inhibit the fact that it's both becoming a legit Bronze Age key, and also that there is big potential for a place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for this character.

Marvel seems dead set on pursuing the sci-fi angle in the near future, and the success of Guardians of the Galaxy showed that this book may not be a wild gamble. Nova the living rocket is a quirky character, for sure, and might be a surprising movie subject; but who would have backed Star Lord, Groot, Gamora and Rocket Raccoon to be stars a few years ago?

A living rocket... any more ridiculous than a gun-toting raccoon?
A living rocket... any more ridiculous than a gun-toting raccoon?

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $295
2014 Average: $695
Percentage increase: 135%

Captain America #180: First Nomad

Whenever a book is routinely missing from the dozens of collections we're offered every day, from a series as pervasive as Captain America, my spider sense starts tingling. In fact, there are plenty of Caps which are difficult to pick up from general collections:

Captain America #180 is becoming as desirable as Batman #386 (first Black Mask), and prices are rising to match. Definitely one you need to get in 9.6 or 9.8, and well worth putting aside some high grade raw copies too.

Nomad

first appears in Cap 180
Nomad first appears in Cap #180

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $131
2014 Average: NO SALES DATA
Percentage increase: ???

Daredevil #131: First Bullseye

It almost feels like a cliche to mention this book, as along with #158 (first Miller on the title), this book is well-established on dealer and collector buy lists alike. But I still see plenty of upside in this character. What if Marvel revisits Daredevil in the movies? And fans for the Netflix show continue to be won over to the blind superhero.

Bullseye is one of the few memorable villains in the run of Daredevil from 100 to 181, and this book has plenty of room to move up in value still.

Bullseye is a classic Daredevil villain, and his first issue is already a hot ticket
Bullseye is a classic Daredevil villain, and his first issue is already a hot ticket

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $739
2014 Average: $830 (only one sale though!)
Percentage increase: 12%

Detective Comics 359: First Batgirl

Definitely one that should have been on the above list of well-known Bronze Age key issues. But on reflection, couldn't this one still break out from its pattern of steady interest to become a mega-key? DC keys are always in shorter supply than their Marvel equivalents, and tend to be relatively under-valued in comparison.

Sure, a crisp, well-centered 9.6 or 9.8 will cost you a pretty penny, but this book has a ton of potential. We don't yet know where Batman's going after the Superman/Batman fuss has died down; if Batgirl appears in the much-rumored Justice League of America movie franchise, then the sky's the limit on her first appearance.

Batgirl is already a hot item, but could it break out?
Batgirl is already a hot item, but could it break out?

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $15,000
2014 Average: $18,250
Percentage increase: 21%

Marvel Premiere #15: First Iron Fist

It's easy to predict an Avengers sequel after the second movie; a third Captain America movie; a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel; and some kind of move to further develop Thanos, perhaps as part of (finally! please!!) a successful reboot of the Fantastic Four.

So much for traditional super-heroes and sci-fi: but what else could Marvel develop? The obvious answer is the martial arts/spiritual angle. Doctor Strange is already virtually a cert to appear in a movie theater near you soon. The price rise of Marvel Premiere #15 would indicate that a lot of the upside is already priced into this book.

Mid-grade copies are easy sells to collectors who cannot afford better, but there's still big potential in this character. Prices of Premiere #15 are relatively low when compared to other Bronze Age keys, so buy the best copy (or copies) you can afford, and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Grab a nice copy of Special Marvel Edition #15 (first Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu) to hedge your bets.

Will martial arts movies be the next big wave in the Marvel cinematic universe?
Will martial arts movies be the next big wave in the Marvel cinematic universe?

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $1,138
2014 Average: $2,839
Percentage increase: 149%

Marvel Spotlight #32: First Spider-Woman

There is a shortage of female superheroes in the movies, and with the huge success of Spider-Man (not to mention Marvel's inability to control that part of their movie franchise), the logical step seems to be to make a Spider-Woman movie.

The bad news is that other people have already had this idea, and prices on this key first appearance have already jumped. The good news is that, without solid confirmation of all the rumors, the prices have not yet broken through the glass ceiling.

While you're buying this book, invest in a few sharp copies of Spider-Woman #1.

How could Spider-Woman NOT be really popular?
How could Spider-Woman NOT be really popular?

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $407
2014 Average: $954
Percentage increase: 134%

Iron Man #118: First Jim 'Roadie' Rhodes

Another of those books which has suddenly appeared on buy lists everywhere, and so it should also be on yours. Rhodes is hot, with Iron Man #169 (first Rhodes in armor) also jumping in price in 9.8 grades.

Be very selective. This is one book which needs to be in the high nines; there are plenty of average copies around, but so far for me it's been quite elusive in high grade.

Another Iron Man to watch from the same period is #128, the Demon in a Bottle alcoholism story, which is ridiculously hot right now.

Will Jim Rhodes be the next Tony Stark?
Will Jim Rhodes be the next Tony Stark?

CGC 9.8 2012 Average: $240
2014 Average: $300
Percentage increase: 20%

Your Opinion Matters!

If you have any ideas for extra books that might deserve a place on this list, then please write to me. I'll happily include them in a future newsletter and credit you for the help.

Want to Save Money on eBay Purchases?

As usual, buy what you can afford and enjoy, and you can't lose. Don't overlook the key issues -- obvious is not always a bad thing in investing -- but these have a chance to spring a few surprises in the years to come.

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Cheers

Ashley Cotter-Cairns Editor, Sell My Comic Books

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