12th May2021

eBuying Comics: Week 57

by Ian Wells

Last weekend through a contact I made via an eBay purchase I was sent a PDF of the first edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide from 1970. I felt it was my duty to put it under the microscope. In doing so I took some inspiration from Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg on their excellent Youtube series Cartoonist Kayfabe. What follows is a less cool, written version of what they do when they look at old Wizard magazines. Unfortunately when I opened up the file it wasn’t a complete scan. The articles proceeding the price guide section were all left out. I did find however there was still plenty of content to dig into, especially regarding the people behind this first edition. My research also took me on a discovery. I found out that last year a facsimile edition of the first ever Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was released to commemorate its 50th birthday. Tempting as it was to buy a copy I really wanted to get rolling with my commentary of that milestone first issue.

Cover: Right off the bat the cover is very uninspiring, it is just a collage of publisher logos of the time. Looking at it now it provides a snap shot of comics history. Of course I’m guessing they didn’t have the cache to get the top artist of the day to draw a stellar cover like McFarlane did last year with his Spawn/Spider-Man cover.

Acknowledgements: We get a brief intro from Robert M. Overstreet himself. It gives the whole project the feel of a passion project and thats very much what it was. Overstreet was a collector of coins and arrow heads as hobbies. He saw a gap in the market for some sort of publication to grade and value comics. Looking it this introduction I bet he could never expect the price guide to have the impact it did and become a cornerstone of the industry. Its quaint how he even thanks his wife! Within this section Overstreet takes time to thank a number of associates in helping put this first edition together. So I had a look into each guy online and it provided a real insight into a past era of comic collecting. First up  and by far the most interesting is Jerry Bails. He himself has a pretty healthy wikipedia page. He was known as the ‘Father of comic fandom.’ This is a title he earned by over seeing a number of ventures come to fruition in the 50’s and 60’s. As well as establishing a wide array of contacts within the industry and treating the subject of comics as serious academia. Coincidently Bails and Overstreet began working separately on versions of a comic book price guide when a mutual friend happen to mention it to each other. So they got in contact, pooled their efforts and the rest is history. Ten years previous he had published Alter Ego along with Roy Thomas and later would publisher other fanzines such as The Comiccollector and The Comic Reader. Another name Overstreet thanks is Bill Spicer. Spicer along with Bails wrote the book ‘America’s Four Color Pastime’ an excerpt of which makes up one of the articles in this publication. He originally trained professionally as a letterer in 1955. This led to him getting the creative book and he self published a 500 copy run of Fantasy Illustrated in 1964. He also created Grpahic Story Magazine and continued to work as a letterer well into the 80’s working for Dark Horse and manga adaptations for Viz. Both Spicer and Bails were recipients of the Inkpot Award in 1979 and 1981 respectively. Sonny Johnson and Harry Thomas were both thanked by Overstreet for ‘consultation’ and for loaning their collections for photographing. Sonny Johnson also gets the only ad space in the book. With  last page advertisement for Golden Age Comic. His Tennessee based business. It carries the tag line “If it’s in the comic line, I may just have it!”

Contents: This first instalment of the price guide is 228 pages. With the price guide section running from page 11 to the end. Before getting into the price guide we get eight articles. As I said they are missing from my PDF but they are as follows:

  • A brief history of comics and comics fandom
  • How to collect comic books
  • How to condition comic books
  • Newspaper reprints comics of the 1930’s
  • The first heroic age of the late 1930’s and 1940’s
  • The funny animal, love, western and war era of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s
  • The crime, horror and science fiction  era of the early 1950’s
  • The second heroic age of the late 1950s’ and 1960’s

I find it interesting that the main focus of the articles ins between the 30’s and 50’s. When you consider the popularity of comics in 1970 as the Bronze Age was beginning. Again it gives the publication that feel of a passion project. It’s like the people involved saying this iswhat we know and love so this it what we are going to write about.

Condition of Comic Books: The big take away from this section is there are only six grades. There are no +/- and no numerical grading. The breakdowns of each tier remain consistent with what still applies today.

  • Poor (P)
  • Fair (F)
  • Good (G)
  • Very Good (VG)
  • Fine (FN)
  • Mint (M)

A Message From The Author: Here we get some details on the conception of the price guide. They state a price guide in the 60’s would have been impractical owing to an unstable market place and rapid increases in price for all categories. They briefly outline how the price guide will work, with values determined by taking averages from various dealer catalogues. They go on to say books of little or no value have been excluded. Very ‘rare books’ like Batman #1 and Superman #1 have been given arbitrary prices as they are ‘seldom offered for sale.’ They wrap things up by saying something I abide to today. That is that everyone connected with the price guide ‘…advocates collecting comics should firstly be for fun, pleasure, nostalgia and art/cultural values. Investment is secondary.’

The Price Guide: This section is much as you would expect. Lists and lists of comics with the odd picture here and there of key issues. Not a major departure from what is still in the price guide today. On the contents page the book makes the claim of having books from 1933 – To Present (1970) listed. The biggest difference from how the price guide is today is that here they only give values for Good, Fine and Mint grades. I’m sure for its time this editions 218 pages of price guide were a valuable tool for collectors of the era. To put things in perspective in the one other Overstreet Price Guide I own, the comic price guide runs from page 398 to page 974! There is also a 15 page Platinum Age price guide, a 14 page Victorian Age price guide, as well as guides for promotional comics and ‘big little books,’ In this edition the guide offers values for grades at Good, Very Good, Fine, Very Fine, Very Fine/NM and NM-. Now I couldn’t look at price guide and not look at the values of some of todays key issues.

  • Action Comics #1 Mint – $300
  • Detective Comics #27 Mint $275
  • Whiz Comics #1 Mint – $235
  • Marvel Comics #1 Mint – $250
  • Captain America #1 Mint – $150
  • Fantastic Four #1 Mint – $30

All I can say is I wish I had a time machine!

Sales Update

My 99p sale is now going into its first week. I have so far sold two items so found two more items to list. They are Hyperion #6 and New Teen Titans #39. In the second week I added a few of the trading card listings I tried towards the end of last summer. I only listed a few of the Marvel vs DC sets as well as the assorted Shazam/Black Adam cards which have so far garnered 19 views! Going into the third week I have a few watchers on items. I think after this week I will either drop the comics to 50p if they get a lot of eyes on them or take them out of rotation completely. With the trading cards I will run them for a third week, adding a few listings and again look at reducing the price if they have eyes on them. I found a nice Venom vs Moon Knight cards which are getting some attention and also randomly listed the 3 checklist cards from the Complete Avengers trading card set from 2006. Also from this set I listed the wedding of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones card as it depicts Stan Lee as the priest. To be honest I thought it would have had more views! Here are the items I have sold so far:

  • Deadpool Pulp TPB – £1.46 + £1.80 P+P
  • Marvel Team Up #117 – 99p + £1.50 P+P
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