Wondering why The Incredible Hulk #181 is worth so much? What is it about this comic that continues to push demand through the roof and make it almost as liquid as cash? If you invested $25 on 100 copies of Hulk 181 in August of 1974 and safely stored them away, you would have a collection worth $100,000 to $1,000,000 today assuming they all graded 9.0′s to 9.8′s! In fact, it has gotten so valuable, a handful of very high grade copies of Hulk #181 have become worth their weight in gold or even platinum! An average comic book weighs approximately 5 ounces. At the time this post was published, the last 9.6 condition copy of Hulk #181 sold for $4,800 or $960 an ounce and the last 9.8 condition copy sold for a whopping $17,050 or $3,410 an ounce! Gold’s current price is about $1,200 a troy ounce and Platinum is trading at about $1,500 an ounce.
So – what makes this book so valuable?
The Top 7 Reasons Hulk #181 is Worth So Much!
#7 – “Seeing Red!” (..and yellow)
Does the cover of Hulk #181 make you angry, impulsive, attract your attention and possibly crave a McDonald’s cheeseburger? There may be a reason. According to NewHarvestDesign.com, the color red is “commonly associated with love, passion, danger, warning, excitement, food, impulse, action, adventure and is, thus, good in attracting attention. In it’s negative side, red evokes aggressive feelings, and can suggest anger or violence.” Well, even though Wolverine and The Hulk didn’t end up eating Wendigo in the story, the predominant use of the color red on the cover of this comic might be the reason this issue received (and continues to receive) so much attention. While certainly not the first comic to use these bold colors, it might possibly be the most famous. “Seeing Red” commonly means raging or blind with anger – certainly emotions felt by The Hulk, Wolverine and Wendigo! Whether Glynis Wein, the colorist for Hulk 181, had a fast food restaurant bag on his desk inspiring him or not, the colors work!
#7 – Canada has Hosers with Claws? NO FREAKIN’ WAY, EH?
Would Johnny Canuck, Canada Jack and Nelvana kindly step aside please? While the introduction of heroes, creatures and extraterrestrial entities from outside US borders and in particular, Canada, was certainly nothing new to the comic book industry, it was kind of new to the readers of The Incredible Hulk. Introduced with the announcement “He’s Here! The World’s First and Greatest Canadian Super-Hero!”, Marvel Comics editors certainly meant to add the phrase” (…introduced by Marvel Comics Group this year.) Regardless, the idea the Hulk just blatantly ignored all border controls so he could go kick some Canadian butt (and then give a giant Hulk kiss and make up) appealed greatly to fans! Who wants to see the Hulk constantly battling Sgt Ross and his sissy tanks all the time?? Indestructible metal claws?? Bring it on!! Also, it was a great way to appeal to Canadian readers by introducing a character from their home turf!
#6 – Self-Fulfilling Prophecy!
According to Wikipedia, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.
Ask anyone through the 1980′s to today what one of the most sought after Bronze Age comic books is, and they will tell you “Hulk #181 dude! Hands down, you totally have to own that comic or your collection is for wimps!” Part of the reason this issue is worth so much is the fact people keep talking about it, which in itself draws attention to it, which makes people seek it out and buy it, which further increases demand.
#5 – Collectors Just Have to Complete Their Runs!
Comic collectors know – if they are serious about collecting, they simply must have a copy of every issue in the series – including the expensive ones. Wikipedia states “The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. Some collectors are generalists, accumulating merchandise, or stamps from all countries of the world. Others focus on a subtopic within their area of interest, perhaps 19th century postage stamps, milk bottle labels from Sussex, or Mongolian harnesses and tack.”
Comic book collecting, also referred to as panelology or, if referring to the people actually doing the collecting, pannapictagraphists, is in part unique as the items being collected actually have stories and “tie-ins”. Many if not all issues of comic books are the continuation of a story or a character which is what makes they in part so appealing. When a story just sort of ends with a cliffhanger, such as Hulk #180 did with the introduction of Wolverine in the last panel, pannapictagraphists simply just absolutely have to have that story – no matter what!
#4 – I..Must..Not..Stop..Until..I..Complete..Collection..of..Marvel..Value..Stamps!
Back in March of 1974, Marvel came up with an ingenious idea to increase the interest in all of their titles. They created a series of 100 Marvel Value Stamps, which were included in many of their issues – including The Incredible Hulk #181 which, according to mvstamps.com had Shanna on Stamp #54. Many collectors collected these stamps during this time, and as a result this issue was sought after, which in turn resulted in the stamp being cut out of the comic! (We cover Marvel Value Stamps elsewhere on this site!)
#3 – The First Full Appearance of Wolverine
As many comic book collectors know, the first appearance of any popular character in a comic book usually makes that issue a bit more valuable and desirable than later appearances of the same. The Incredible Hulk #181 is arguably a slight exception to that rule, as Wolverine really first appeared in the very last panel of The Incredible Hulk #180.
However, the first full appearance of Wolverine took place in issue #181 and as a result it is that issue that gets all the attention. It being one of the most popular March Comics characters of all time, it gets a fair amount of attention. Comic book readers always want to know how a popular character got their start, which makes issues featuring origins of characters in higher demand. From Doctor Strange to Ghost Rider and Richie Rich to Donald Duck, first appearances always command higher prices. More famous examples of first appearances are Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman), Detective Comics #27 (the first appearance of Batman) and Amazing Fantasy #15 (the very first appearance of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!)
#2 – Apple Computer? Microsoft? How About Investing in a copy of Hulk #181?
According to records from the The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide by Robert M. Overstreet, the guide value for Hulk #181 in Near Mint or 9.2 condition has increased from $1.20 in 1978 to $1,450 in 2009 with an average annual return of 36%. Only in 1 year did the value of the issue go down – which was 1994 by 15%. How’s that for a stable investment??
#1 – Pressing Candidates Can Make You Money!
OK readers, we are about to get technical on you here, but first an illustration to help visualize what pressing is!
In the comic book and art restoration world, there is something called “pressing”. Many readers obviously know what this is and might even do pressing themselves, while other readers may regularly have books pressed, but don’t know exactly how it is done as the people doing the work seem to be keep the process involved shrouded in mystery. Regardless if you are an expert on pressing, or shrugging your shoulders right now asking yourself “what the heck is this guy writing about…I press my shirts..is that what he means?”, Hulk #181 and books of equal value and popularity sometimes make good “pressing candidates”.
Let’s say you have a really stellar looking copy of Hulk 181 that seems absolutely perfect in every way, except there is a small dent in the cover.
With this dent, lets assume the comic is in 9.6 condition – or worth about $4,300. However, if there was some way to remove this dent, the book would then be in 9.8 condition and worth another $10,000 or so. Considering pressing costs anywhere from $15 to $200 depending on who is doing the work, wouldn’t this seem to be a worthwhile investment?
This is why many copies of Hulk #181 starting around 7.0 condition are carefully scrutinized by some collectors or “flippers” – buyers who intend on reselling the book for a profit. Books that are already graded are sometimes potentially good candidates, as their defects are usually known, or can be found out by simply calling the grading company and asking them what the notes were on the book. Occasionally, the notes are so good they might read “dent on back cover – crease on front cover”, which allows the investor to make a calculated risk in determining if the issue is worth the investment. However, if the notes or visible defects indicate a particular copy can not be increased in grade, no matter what is done, then these would not make good pressing candidates.
The following are examples of press-able defects on a copy of Hulk #181. This copy graded 8.5 prior to pressing, but graded 9.2 after pressing these and other small bends and dents – a difference in value of $787 based on most recent sales results.