BY MATT TUCK
Your Wolverine keys are hotter than ever, and it’s more than just the first appearances. Check out these unbelievable fair market values.
When it comes to Marvel keys, it is most definitely a seller’s market. With all the excitement surrounding the future of the MCU, be it on the big screen or streaming platforms, fans cannot get enough of the capes and spandex. Or in this case, claws and bad attitude.
No offense to the Fantastic Four, but the most buzz surrounds the introduction of the X-Men. Since Disney bought out Fox, the comic world has waited for any clue that the mutants are coming. Besides WandaVision possibly establishing Scarlet Witch as the MCU’s first mutant, there are unconfirmed reports that Marvel Studios is preparing for the X-Men’s first film with a working title of “The Mutants.”
All of this has propelled the X-Men keys to new heights, and the values are growing practically every day. A couple weeks ago, I reported on the ridiculous fair market values for the three holy grails of the X-Men, X-Men #1, Giant-Size X-Men #1, and X-Men #94. The next installment brings us to the single most-popular character in the franchise who was largely responsible for the team’s Bronze Age rebirth: Wolverine.
Today, let’s take a closer look at the current market for Logan’s three biggest keys.
INCREDIBLE HULK #181
There is no argument that Hulk #180 is the official first appearance of Wolverine, but it will never eclipse Hulk #181 as the bigger key. With today’s market moving more toward those first cover appearances, there is nothing slowing down #181’s growth.
This issue reached holy grail status decades ago, and the ill-advised Marvel Value Stamp program only makes the complete copies that much more sought after. Only two 9.8s have been bought and sold online this year. The most recent sale was on March 4 when one copy brought $45,500, but the record-breaker came on February 16. On that day, last year’s record high of $49,200 was obliterated by over $10k after a sale of $59,500.
As always, the real story for a key issue is found in the lower grades. When it comes to #181, there is significant value in any condition you find it. Earlier this month, the fourth page alone sold for $120. In February, a complete but tattered 1.0 earned $1,300.
INCREDIBLE HULK #180
The problem with Hulk #180 is that Wolverine is not on the cover. If Herb Trimpe had drawn him in the cover art, I have no doubt that this would be the bigger book. Alas, that is not the case, but Hulk #180 is gaining respect at a feverish pace. Just days ago, the 9.8 set a new record high after selling for $25,500 on March 19. Before that day, it had never sold above $10,200, and that bar was set just last year. Although it is one-fifth of the price, a 9.6 is still earning an impressive $5k at the moment.
Basically every grade of #180 is setting new records this month. There is the 9.0, which averaged $1,470 a year ago, sold for nearly $2,400 on March 10. The most popular grade over the past 90 days has been the 7.0, and it has broken its own record-high in each of the past four sales, capping at $1,700. Things are so crazy that even the 5.5 is bordering on becoming a $1k comic.
What truly shows the audacity of these prices is the 1.8. Despite its ragged condition, one sold for $375 on March 9.
WOLVERINE LIMITED SERIES #1 (1982)
I love Wolverine, and Frank Miller’s cover art for this particular issue is by far the best and most iconic of all the Wolverine covers, and I include Todd McFarlane’s Hulk #340 in that discussion. As much as I appreciate Miller and Chris Claremont’s work on the first issue of the limited series, this has really gotten out of hand. At a 9.8, Wolverine #1 has sold for as much as $1,029 just this month. In fact, it has reached the $1k mark twice in March and has reached $900 or better 11 times since March 10. That is insane, and if you happen to own a newsstand edition, then it swells to nearly $1,100.
Of course when the grade dips, the price dips. A 9.6, which is still a beautiful copy on par with the 9.8, is breaking records of its own. Last year, it topped out at a then-record $300. This month alone, it has surpassed that record 11 times, raising the bar to $420 in the process.
For a key issue that is not a first appearance, it says a lot when every grade down to the 8.0 is at least $100.
WOLVERINE #1 (1988)
This issue will continue to gain importance in the Wolverine collectibles market. I stand by my prediction that Wolverine will debut in the MCU outside of the X-Men, at least initially. There is even a chance that he could show up in his secret agent guise of Patch, which he first donned in the kickoff of his ongoing solo series in 1988.
When it comes to collecting the Wolverine keys, this is the easiest one to obtain. Despite that, it is still breaking records of its own. At a 9.8, Wolverine #1 already sold for $503 in February. Before that, it had never broken $415.
The good part is that if you want a higher grade copy, you can still go up to a 9.4 and stay within $100.
THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
Wolverine has been Marvel’s cash cow for decades now, and his introduction to the MCU will only solidify that standing even further. Both comic and mainstream audiences alike are itching to see what Marvel Studios does with the character. When a casting announcement is made, it will blow the roof off things. As high as prices are now, it is only the beginning.
Personally, I'm hoping Wolverine is short, scruffy and sporting a cowboy hat, boots, and flannel.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.