Undervalued comics #35 – Marvel Vs DC Comics Value (Bronze Age)

This article compare the comics values of Marvel vs Dc comics. I choose the bronze age as their difference is more obvious relative to the Silver age.

I picked 9.0 and 8.0, instead of the higher grades of 9.4 and above because:

  • More data: Many of the pre 1974 books are hard to come by in 9.6 and above. This restricts the amount of data available that might skew the analysis.
  • Lower investment entry: 9.0 and 8.0 books are more affordable and easier to obtain. This makes any future investment more actionable i.e. it is easier to spend $200-300 on a book than thousands if you think the book is worth investing.

Hopefully, the following analysis can give you a different perspective and more important, different investment opportunities.

Value comparison between Marvel and DC bronze age comics

Lets’ begin with a look at the prices of Marvel vs DC comics. I have reproduced the same table from the second article in this series, and added in 2 DC books.

Issues Price Value (8.0)
(CGC Census)
Price Value (9.0)
(CGC Census)
Marvel Comics
Hulk 181 (1974)USD 3,500
(1177)
USD 5000
(999)
Giant Size X-Men #1 (1975)USD 2500
(853)
USD 3000
(672)
Marvel Spotlight #5 (1972)USD 1100
(360)
USD 3000
(238)
Werewolf by Night #32 (1975)USD 1300
(326)
USD 3000
(310)
Amazing Spider-Man #129 (1975)USD 1300
(1212)
USD 1900
(1096)
Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973)USD 1000
(281)
USD 1300
(266)
Hulk #180 (1974)USD 800
(463)
USD 1100
(436)
Iron Man #55 (1973)USD 700
(406)
USD 1100
(363)
X-Men #94 (1975)USD 600
(723)
USD 1000
(591)
Amazing Spider-Man #101 (1971)USD 800
(326)
USD 1000
(252)
DC Comics
House of Secrets #92 (1971)USD 1800
(203)
USD 3000
(130)
Green Lantern #76 (1970)USD 700
(205)
USD 1000
(142)
Links above are to Ebay. If you buy something, I will get a commission from Ebay as part of its affiliate program. If you want to support my research, using my links to buy from Ebay will be the best way.

Analysis

Here are some summary stats on the Marvel vs DC comics value before we get into deeper discussion.

ItemsMarvel ComicsDC Comics
Number of 9.0 above $1000102
Number of 9.0 above $200041
Number of 8.0 above $100061
Number of 8.0 above $70092

From the summary, it is clear that Marvel has more books breaking above the $1000 barrier for both 9.0 and 8.0 grades. This should be fairly predictable as Marvel dominates the Bronze age.

This dominance is even more obvious when you consider the supply side. Each Marvel comic on the list has at least double or more of what DC comics has. Despite this, the demand for Marvel comics is so strong that it can overcome the supply issue and prop their prices higher than DC comics.

Currently the ratio of books in 9.0 and is above USD 1000 is 10: 2 Marvel to DC.

The question to ask is whether this ratio is rational to you. If you think this is correct then the market is fairly priced.

However, if you think the ratio should be 10:3 or even 10:5, then it means there should be more DC comic books breaking the $1000 price point in the coming years.

Depending on your perspective, we can position our portfolio to take advantage of the coming changes, if any.

How about going against the macro trend?

I have discussed in my macro trend article why DC comics are risky bets at the moment because the long term upward trend has not been established. Hence, the opportunity cost of holding DC comics can be high, depending on the time period needed for the trend to reverse.

This risk is still valid despite what I said above.

However, I am willing to take this bet because:

  • Jimmy Olsen #134 has shown me that it is possible for some books to break out, despite the overall DC market not trending upwards (further elaboration below)
  • There are some media projects coming up that might have a slim chance of reversing this trend
  • The risk reward ratio is too attempting to not take a chance. Even at 50% of the prices of Marvel keys, there are 2-4X potential returns.

Jimmy Olsen #134 as proof of possibility

Among the bronze age DC comics, only Jimmy Olsen #134 (first appearance of Darkseid) has went through one round of media hype due to the 2017 Justice League movie. Most of the other DC specs book are mostly in silver age (Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Justice League) or modern age (Harley Quinn).

At its peak in 2017, a 9.2 of #134 is priced at USD 1,200. Despite being in cooling stage now, a 9.0 still commands USD 800. This is about 80% of the lower priced Marvel books in the table above.

Also, this book does have a few flaws that prevented it from achieving a higher price:

  • It is the first appearance of a villain
  • The cover does not feature the character
  • Darkseid never appear in the movie

If Jimmy Olssen #134, with the above flaws, can hit 80% of a Marvel lower price bronze key, how about other DC books that featured a (i) leading hero, (ii) better cover and (iii) actually appear throughout the movie?

This means with some media spotlight, it is possible for a DC bronze key to even hit 100% of a lower priced Marvel key or a percentage of a higher priced one.

Which DC books offer the best value for money?

In this section, I will pick bronze age DC comics in the 8.0 to 9.0 range that have a chance at overcoming the macro trend. The expectation is for some of these to reach a certain percentage of what the Marvel keys have achieved.

I start with the list of movies that are 100% coming and the leads for those movies

  • Wonder Woman 1984 – No relevant bronze key comics to invest
  • Suicide Squad #2 – No relevant bronze key comics to invest
  • The Batman – No relevant bronze key comics to invest
  • Black Adam – Shazam #28
  • Shazam – Shazam #1
  • Aquaman #2 – No relevant bronze key comics to invest

The following list of movies is pretty certain but has no fixed date

  • Green Lantern Corps – Green Lantern #87
  • Justice League Dark – Demon #1
  • New Gods – Mister Miracle #1 and #4, New Gods #1, Jimmy Olsen #134

Based on the above, below is the table showing these comics’ current value and CGC census number

IssuesTotal copies in 9.0 (8.0) and abovePrice Value (8.0)
(CGC Census)
Price Value (9.0)
(CGC Census)
Shazam #28 (1975)340
(473)
USD 200
(53)
USD 300
(76)
Shazam #1 (1973)2,662
(3,588)
USD 70
(222)
USD 100
(392)
Green Lantern #87 (1971)428
(708)
USD 400
(65)
USD 600
(79)
Demon #1 (1972)378
(626)
USD 120
(112)
USD 250
(105)
Mister Miracle #1 (1971)483
(719)
USD 250
(103)
USD 400
(136)
Mister Miracle #4 (1971)162
(289)
USD 250
(59)
USD 350
(52)
Jimmy Olsen #134 (1970)303
(641)
USD380
(175)
USD800
(109)
Links above are to Ebay. If you buy something, I will get a commission from Ebay as part of its affiliate program. If you want to support my research, using my links to buy from Ebay will be the best way.

To find the best investments among the list above, here are the criteria and which books that failed it.

#1 Supply must be lower than the average Marvel bronze age key

Given that we know DC bronze age comics are less popular than Marvel, they must have a lower supply to counter the lower demand. The CGC census numbers for House of Secrets #92 and Green Lantern #76 serve as good benchmarks.

For this criteria, the only book that failed is Shazam #1. Its census number are similar to Marvel but without Marvel’s clout, I don’t expect this book to have any chance of hitting even 50% of what Marvel keys can command.

#2 Pick the lowest supply for highest breakout possibility

Lower supply comic books always have the highest chance to break out. Lets dive deeper into the CGC census data in column 2 to analyze the supply side.

From the total copies on CGC census, Shazam #1 has the highest number. This is in line with our knowledge that Shazem #1 is a high print run book. So in this case, high census number indicates high supply.

However, drawing such conclusions can be dangerous for books with low census number. This is because a low census number can also indicate (1) no incentive for CGC submission, rather than (2) having a low supply.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to differentiate the 2 reasons to find the truth. This is done by doing cross comparison with similar books in the series or books with similar values.

Let use Shazam #28 and #1 as examples.

A Shazam #1 9.0 is currently priced at USD100 while a 9.0 Shazam #28 is USD 300. In this case, the incentive to NOT submit to cgc should be stronger for Shazam #1 since it has a cheaper price, and hence less potential returns for the submitter. However, there are still more copies of Shazam #1 in 9.0 than Shazam #28.

This tell us that USD 100 and above is already a good incentive for CGC submission. Since the incentive is not the issue, we can draw the conclusion that Shazam #28’s low census number is due to its lower supply.

The same logic can be applied to the other books in the list as well.

Hence, going by the total available copies in 9.0 and above, Mister Miracle #4 will have the lowest supply, followed by Shazam #28 and Demon #1. Green Lantern #87 and Mister Miracle #1 have the higher numbers in the list.

#3 Prices are lower than Jimmy Olsen #134

As explained above, Jimmy Olsen #134 represented what growth is possible, even for a DC key. In the worst case scenario, this book is the highest any other DC bronze can go to.

Hence, if a DC book is currently valued below Jimmy Olsen #134, there is still room for growth, even if it does not hit Marvel comic prices.

The good news is all comics in the above list are under this price. The closest is Green Lantern #87, but it still has a 30% growth potential.

However, this is assuming Jimmy Olsen #134 is the ceiling. What if it is not? As explained above, there are flaws with #134 that other books do not possess. This might push the other books beyond the prices of Jimmy Olsen #134 and towards the Marvel key prices.

What if we do a more aggressive forecast using higher priced books as the benchmark?

Conclusion

Based on the analysis above, there is some gap between Marvel vs DC comics value. Specifically, in the 8.0 and 9.0 grade, a handful of Marvel keys have already broken through the USD 1000 while only 2 DC comics have done the same.

Hence, DC bronze age keys in 8.0 and 9.0 have some potential to catch up to Marvel and give you solid returns. This potential is shown very clearly by Jimmy Olsen #134.

However, you have to be very selective in which books to go after. I hope after reading this, it is clearer which choices are the best.

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