But they’ll be valuable
I guess I had about 30 of these. You probably never heard of them. Why anyone not ten years old thought they could be valuable I will never know – they were included in a number of Marvel issues during 1974-76, usually on the editorial page. You were supposed to cut them out, landing you a square of cheap-ass newsprint with recycled art, backed by whatever was on the reverse, which was not always ad space but sometimes part of the actual story.
Which is a way to make you cry because about age 10, I ruined about 30 classic comics by cutting these little boogers out. I never knew about the little book you were supposed to put them in, but kept them in a standard envelope, which of course I couldn’t seal because then I couldn’t look at them, and therefore lived in fear of all of them falling out whenever I took them anywhere. And for about a year, I took them everywhere. I’d show them to people but wouldn’t let them touch them … I’d hold the little stack between thumb and forefinger and move the facing stamp to the back to cycle through. Funny, I can’t remember anyone sitting through all of them.
I don’t even know how to explain this – there were no longboxes. No single-issue plastic covers. No backing. The whole point of “mint” rested on the fact that the very existence of any such issue in this condition was effectively impossible. The idea that any issue except a #1 would be “worth hundreds!” some day was utterly foreign. I don’t know when covers and backing became standard at comics stores’ back-issue bins, as opposed to being reserved for the big-ticket items on the wall behind the counter, but I began to see them only around 1980. Which means, at least in that moment, that saying, “hey, this thing you’re holding is ipso facto worth as much as used Kleenex, so clip this bit out and it will be valuable!” wasn’t as crazy as it sounds now.
(Except for the fact that it’s still cheap-ass newsprint with recycled art, which I think they might have noticed …)
Looking over the list at the site linked below, I’m bummed I never had the Dr. Strange or Conan ones – they’re pretty rad actually. Too, how is it that Adam Warlock isn’t in there? I’m tempted to commission one from an artist and frame it real big on my wall. I also appreciate the page authors’ mention of how scarce the puzzle-making Series B was, because I tried hard to assemble the Conan picture but never got all of it. I wonder now whether the famous Mind Games image from Cerebus #63 has certain roots in this moment.
The medallions might be a different story, solid bronze ‘n all. I might have seen one in real life, or maybe that’s just a wishful memory, because I stared and stared at ads like this one for a couple of years, eating my heart out that I could not afford one (not and buy comics too!). I don’t recall whether they were discontinued by the time I had some income, or that I simply had realized by the time I had some that a Conan medallion was not going to make me happy. Granted, it’d make me happy now, in the throes of nostalgia, but I was forced at twelve or so to be fully aware of what mattered in the moment. A few too many neighborhood and schoolyard beatings. Perhaps also the awareness that if a Conan medallion wasn’t going to help, I’d rather not know.
The shift to consumer-collector culture in comics and pop culture was dizzyingly swift, from the notion that only the most rare or fortunate of issues could be of conceivable commercial value (“Superman #1!”) to the notion that any given issue of a comic was inherently valuable and particularly a set of issues in sequence. I didn’t experience that. I came to it in some bemusement as yet another ground-shifting difference in what I stopped paying attention to in the late 70s and started paying attention to again in the mid-late 80s (see The beginning and The river). Also, I’ve had so many of my comics, including many favorites, stolen in the course of multiple apartments and moves, that there’s nothing left in me of precioussss precioussss but scar tissue. I never did get a longbox, and my comics are still in lots of about 25 or 30 issues in larger-size plastic bags, no backing boards, not taped shut. I don’t actually kick them around the house or fold their corners to crease them with my thumbnail, but if there’s a scale for “how a person who loves comics treats them,” I’m definitely at the neglected trailer-park end of it.
No real conclusion occurs to me. Yet another source of my deep connection to comics and utter dis-connection with comics culture. I watched the speculation boom in the 1990s with complete bafflement, buying my Cerebus and Poison Elves and Omaha, wondering why people thought black-and-whites were “dead” and why they were buying this shiny stuff. I became a hillbilly of a comics reader, up in my shack with the squirrel gun and a wife with a hyphenated male name. Maybe it was good sense after all, but I can’t claim that’s why – the reason lies in that little envelope of stamps. Not because I never had the chance to “show how valuable” something to do with comics was, but because, when I had them, and loved them … no one cared.
Links: Marvel Value Stamps website