Let's Talk Comics

 
 
 
Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
The Green Goblin has always fascinated me.
 
The Steve Ditko cover artwork of the Amazing Spider-Man 14 dazzled me as a youngster, oh, so long ago.
 
It shows Spider-Man clinging with the roof of a grotto in an impossibly gymnastic pose, by his sticky fingertips and the clingy soles of his feet, as this new-fangled menace flying a mechanical witch's broom threatens the greatest hero ever with a flaming hand.
 
I only owned a copy through Marvel Tales, which reprinted the story. The original book would elude me until my 40s when I would buy as a dealer a very low-grade copy in a collection. Still, it sold for what it was graded for, about $75 at the time.
 
When I was a dealer, I was exposed to sources of supply from clients who wanted to sell collections, runs (a number of comics in a specific title), or just a few individual issues. Every now and then, I would score a book I cherished and kept, a potentially dangerous trait among dealers of collectibles. What you keep, you don't sell. What you don't sell, you don't make any money on. I have quite a few books that fit that category.
 
And I wished that ASM 14 would one day magically appear in a higher grade that I could squirrel away. Alas, it was not to be. It's a book not many are willing to part with, as it is a key book in comic collecting.
 
But, I remember my quest for my personal holy grail.
 
It was listed for $50 mint in the Overstreet Comic Price Guide in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a perfect price for a very desirable book. It didn't fluctuate much in that era. I searched high and low for the book, in Canada and the U.S. In the days before the Internet, by the time I located a dealer who advertised one, the response would always be the same: "Sorry, sold."
 
The search lasted about three years, but then prices for ASM started to rise in the late 1990s, especially for high-grade copies. Prices for 14 in particular quickly soared and when it hit the $140 range, copies started appearing at Toronto shows.
 
That was a lot of money then and even dealers, who knew the value of the book would rise over time, were hesitant to reach into the pocket and pull out seven 20s. One show in particular, at Ryerson University, there were three of them, all in nice high grades, but not mint, and all out of my price range. Indeed, it was out of range for everyone who attended the show.
 
I watched one dealer pack the book into a box after the show, and a month later, I watched the same dealer take the book out of the same box and put it up for sale. Again, at the end of that show, ASM 14 was put back into the box.
 
Amazing Spider-Man is a key title among collectors, arguably more popular than Bat-Man and Detective, Action and Adventure Comics. A high grade copy of Spidey's first appearance - Amazing Fantasy 15 - burst past the $1 million mark in a recent auction, joining the club shared with Action 1, the first Superman, and Detective 27, the first Bat-Man. Really, an amazing feat for a silver age book.
 
Now, ASM 14 isn't approaching the million-dollar pinnacle, but it's still a pricey book. It's an important book as it's the first appearance of Green Goblin, who will play an important and sinister role in Peter Parker's life. He would be the first villain to discover Parker and Spidey are one and the same person. The Goblin is the father of Parker's best friend and, in issue 121, kills off Parker's first significant love interest, Gwen Stacey. In issue 122, Spidey exacts revenge with the death of the Green Goblin.
 
These deaths were significant in two ways: As a story line, and as an industry that was censored by the Comics Code Authority and prevented to depict death since the Great Comic Crackdown of the 1950s.
 
There's a very fine-plus copy of ASM 14 advertised right now by an American dealer who is asking for $2,500 (all prices in US dollars), just slightly over current guide. Another American dealer is offering a Good-plus version, meaning it's a well-read copy, for $253.
 
An investor of fine comics would consider the issue an important part of a collection meant to accrue in value. Higher grades command prices that are higher than the guide, which at near mint/mint is about $4,600. If you find one, don't be surprised if the asking price is about 1.5 times more than that for a near mint/mint.
 
Next: Rob's first article for the Wayback Times
 
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on his career as a not-so-mild-mannered crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a little bit of history the past three decades. You can reach Rob at lamberti@cogeco.ca
 
Comic illustration: TM Marvel Comics
 
 
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