I’m telling you, Marvel fans back in 1974 really wanted that Shanna the She-Devil stamp.

§ March 11th, 2019 § Filed under hulk, retailing, wolverine § 5 Comments

So since opening up Ye Old Comics Shoppe in Camarillo, CA, available seven days a week for your funnybook purchasing needs, one of big surprises I’ve had in my acquisition of collections was just how many copies of Incredible Hulk #181 I’ve come across.

Now, maybe it’s not as surprising as the one and only time a copy of this showed up in my shop, but given the rather higher profile of this Hulk #181, being the first (full-length) appearance of Wolverine, it still amazes me every time I see it.

One thing about these #181s that I’ve been getting…more often than not, and I mean a lot more often than not, they have the Marvel Value Stamp cut out of ’em. (Read more about the Marvel Value Stamps right here!). This promotion of Marvel’s is the bane of many a dealer in old comics, as we gotta page through Marvel issues of a certain vintage and make sure that damned stamp hadn’t been cut out. And here’s the weird thing…about 98% of the time, when I’m checking most Marvels that have these stamps to make sure they’re still intact, they are. But when I’m checking Hulk #181s, the stamps are cut out, like, 90% of the time. It’s like those kids back in ’74 knew I was going to try to resell these. “Let’s stick it to that 5-year-old Sterling kid who’s gonna try to make a buck off these in about 4 decades or so!” Anyway there’s a reason why I made that #181 joke in this post.

Anyway, the thing about Hulk #181 is that they sell very quickly, stamp or no stamp. I’ve yet to have a copy in the store overnight, in fact. I either move it on eBay immediately, I call someone up on my list of Folks What Want the Fancy Books and they dash in and buy it, or a lucky walk-in grabs it. Good thing it sells so fast, because (gulp) I sure do spend a lot of money on these, and would like to recoup the cost right away (and make some much needed profit besides).

I’m bringing this all up because about a week ago I had another copy of Hulk #181 oome into the shop. And the reason I don’t have an actual picture of that copy of the comic I acquired (instead linking to the Grand Comic Database instead, just in case you needed a reminder of what this comic looked like) is because almost immediately after handing my guaranteed-good business check to the seller, completing the transaction of ownership over this back issue, I had someone in the store say “I’ll buy that!” Just as quickly as I’d acquired it, it was gone. Nice when a collection purchase turns out like that.

I did say “collection,” because there was more than just the Hulk #181. There was also Hulk #180, which I did take a picture of:

And if you don’t happen to know the significance of this comic…the reason I specified #181 being the first “full-length appearance” of Wolverine is that he appears throughout that entire issue. #180 is in fact his real first appearance, in the last panel of the final page of the book:


BONUS: reference in caption to Hulk’s green butt. You’re welcome.

Anyway, this issue doens’t have quite the demand the follow-up does in the collector market, despite literally being the character’s first in-story appearance. In one of the few times back issue demand actually makes some sense, the comic with the awesome red-background cover that actually features Wolverine, and contains Wolverine throughout the issue, is in much higher demand than the one where he pops up just in one panel on the last page, Hulk butt talk in the caption or no.

And this specific copy I acquired…hoo boy. Not only was the value stamp in this one missing as well:


…but some young person had gone scissor-mad with power after clipping the coupon, and trimmed a segment out of one of the center pages as well:


I had no real confidence in selling this book…well, okay, that’s not true. The ol’ Canucklehead’s panel was still intact, and you know, there’s always someone out there looking for this, regardless of condition, if it’s priced right. …Amd priced right it was, because I also managed to sell this very quickly. Not as fast as the #181, but still, it moved out the door faster than I expected.

It’s nice to get the big ticket items like this and turn ’em around almost immediately. It definitely helps subsidize the cost of the other items in the collection which aren’t as pricey and aren’t in nearly as much demand, and thus may sit around in the boxes a little longer. Which isn’t to say they’re turkeys, by any means…they’re just not Hulk #181. Or even #180. But it’s still, like, Kirby Tales of Suspense and that sort of thing. They’ll sell.

That’s one of the fun parts of owning a comic shop…never knowing what’s going to be in the next collection that walks in the door. I mean, sure, it’s usually a run of Team Youngblood or something, but once in a while, you get a nice surprise. Even if it does have the Marvel Value Stamp cut out of it.

5 Responses to “I’m telling you, Marvel fans back in 1974 really wanted that Shanna the She-Devil stamp.”

  • Thom H. says:

    I had no idea these stamps existed. I followed the link to the Marvel Value Stamp site and went on this emotional journey:

    First, I was surprised that there weren’t more X-Men on the stamps. Then I remembered the all-new, all-different X-Men hadn’t happened yet (duh, the stamps happened during Wolverine’s first appearance). It’s weird to see an assemblage of (most of) Marvel’s superheroes and *not* see Wolverine and Deadpool and Storm and Rogue, etc.

    Then I was surprised there weren’t more female characters on the stamps (only 12 out of 102). Marvel sure does have a lot more high profile female characters now, many of them thanks to Chris Claremont on the X-Men. Also, where was the Wasp?

  • skyintheairwaves says:

    Pardon me if this is not the done thing, but what do copies of #181 one go for, generally?

  • @misterjayem says:

    And pardon me if *this* is not the done thing, but how do you set a price for a damaged copy of a comic? Do you keep a record of how much you’ve paid/asked in the past for a comic that is of similar value without the stamp? Do you go with your gut?

    (Seems like a lot of variables to just keep floating around in your very nearly REDACTED-year old noggin…)

    And how do sellers take it when you tell them “Oh this issue *would* be worth that fortune — but do you see this?” I sometimes wonder comics like this only ever get sold to the second dealer to give them the bad news.

    — MrJM

  • BobH says:

    If I had to guess, I’d say the HULK #181 copies with the stamp intact are more likely to have wound up over the years in permanent collections of people who aren’t planning on ever selling it (or at least won’t sell it by bringing it in to their local comic shop). For example, checking the reports of one of the grading services on one of the auction sites (no buzz marketing), they’ve graded almost 4000 copies of #180, almost 12000 of #181 (about 5% of them “Qualified” which usually means the stamp is missing) but only 61 of #179.

    I think copies of #181 with the stamp missing might also have been more likely to survive once Wolverine was established. Say in 1980 someone who cut out the stamps was selling his collection. At that point, almost all the books were were worthless, so most stores would treat them like you’d treat that run of TEAM YOUNGBLOOD, but even at that point the HULK #181 was worth enough that the store might buy it for a couple of bucks. So basically “I’ll take this one, but you might as well toss the rest”, or just buying the rest for pennies and tossing them in a bargain bin. And someone looking to get a full run of HULK might settle for a cut version of that issue, which would still cost more than a dozen other complete issues.

    I’ve now spent way too much time thinking of why there are more copies of one comic than another…

  • DK says:

    So I have to comment because Hulk #180 is my all-time comics super-bargain.

    My copy is ultra-pristine, looks like it came off the newsstand yesterday, nobody harmed a single hair of this comic. It is the creampuff cherry only-driven-to-church of comic books. It is in the same condition as the Man of Steel #1 with the alternate cover I mylared right off the racks in 1986 (and never touched again as of 2019).

    Flea Market Dad was selling his son’s collection. #181 was long gone.

    I got #180 for ONE DOLLAR.

    (Also from the same guy Amazing Spider-Man #129 with a nasty ink stain on the spine but a fine reader’s copy for $1.)

    It is the “never happens” of comic collecting, but it happened to me ONCE in 40 years of reading comics.

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