Welcome back to Hammer Drops, wherein we here at Back to the Past write the guidebook to navigating the sometimes contradictory world of collectibles value! Today we’re looking at Lot #271 from our July 18th Key Comic Books and Collectible Toys session, specifically how it relates to the concept of rarity helping value.
Debuting with a cover date of April 1994, The Incredible Hulk vs. Venom #1 pit the Jade Giant against the Lethal Protector in a classic Marvel Comics fight-then-team-up tale from fan-favorite writer Peter David (who was deep into his legendary 12 year run on Incredible Hulk at the time). Both characters were in the midst of pivoting toward more plainly heroic endeavors in their solo books and this meeting sees the pair hunting a mysterious Dr. Bad Vibes who menaces San Francisco with an earthquake machine.
It was one of MANY crossover appearances of Venom during that period, like Venom Vs. Wolverine #1 (sold for $12.50 in the same session) or his ride along with The Punisher in Venom: Funeral Pyre #1 (which passed). So why did this one-shot sell for $40?
The Teachable Moment: Rarity Helps Value
Comic sales were through the roof in the early to mid-90s, meaning that for the most part something from that era has to be pretty special to appreciate in value. Just being an appearance by one of Marvel’s hottest characters at the time doesn’t usually cut it. What does cut it? Being a special charity mail away issue.
Incredible Hulk vs. Venom #1 was a fundraiser for the United Nations International Children’s Fund (AKA UNICEF) and their humanitarian efforts around the world. The only way to get it was to send your money to UNICEF via snail mail and wait the standard 6 to 8 weeks for delivery, which to younger readers probably sounds barely more advanced than using the Pony Express. The number of fans willing expend the extra effort is undoubtedly smaller than the number who would have been willing to buy from Classic Comic & Movie Center or Waldenbooks.
As our grand poobah Scott Lovejoy noted when discussing this comic, any comic just mailed through USPS stands a good chance of getting mauled: folded, dinged, dampened, torn, any of the damages that befall your regular mail from time to time. Back to the Past’s shipping department takes extensive measures to ensure that all our eBay & ProxiBid buyers get their stuff in the described condition and we still have the occasional problem with shipping damage! That’s not a slam on the U.S. Postal Service, they’re one of our biggest shipping partners and they do great work, but billions of items handled per year comes with a margin for error no matter how good you are. Since we doubt UNICEF or Marvel put in our level of protective effort, we’d bet that at least some of the copies that people got weren’t looking so Fine, much less Mint, by the time they arrived.
It’s those factors that help premiums like this retain and appreciate in value even as similar wide release titles do not. To the unfamiliar eye, this issue would be indistinguishable from the other cover-gimmick laden Venom crossovers of 1993-1996, but if you know what you’re looking at, you know there’s gold in them thar hills.
That’s why it never hurts to let experts like Back to the Past have a look at your comic collection, particularly if it’s from your childhood or something you inherited. The biggest difference between selling for $40 and not selling at all might just be as esoteric as how the comic was distributed.
Don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us, if we can provide you some assistance!