Friday, March 23, 2012

All In Color For A Damn Sight More Than A Dime!

One of the most important events in the history of comics was the publication in 1970 of Robert Overstreet's first Price Guide. It was a work which he did with the crucial assistance of legendary fan Jerry Bails, and this incomplete but significant work transformed a ragged two-bit pastime into a full-blown hobby and and shiny new industry.

Robert M. Overstreet (Pick Your Poison.)

Whatever came from that, good and ill, can be traced very much back to the impact of "THE Price Guide".

The first Guide I bought was the fifth volume (found it on a newsstand), but it would be many years before I saw or bought another. Once I found comic shops, it became a regular thing. Since Gemstone took over publication of the Guide, I personally have lost some interest in it as an item itself. It has become like so many of the comic books it tracks so self-conscious of itself as a collectible that it undermines the charm of the activity it lionizes.

But I do rather love old Price Guides, the ones from the early days, when the format was still relatively simple and the text could be read easily by people of all ages and didn't require me to break out the magnifying glass I once upon a time reserved for the Oxford English Dictionary. The early guides speak to the fan in subtle but specific and effective ways.

Here are the first twenty-five of those early lovely covers, by some of the industry's true talents. The earliest three covers aren't much, but the ones that followed for many years are masterpieces in my estimation and it was a huge thrill waiting to see just what who would be featured and how the cover design, logos and all, would reflect the specific subject. Sadly the later covers become more and more bland as the material and logos become standardized.

Don Newton

Joe Kubert

Will Eisner

Carl Barks

Bill Ward

Wally Wood

Alex Schomburg


Norman Mingo

Don Newton & Jeff Rubinstein

Bill Woggin


John Romita

Ron Dias


Jerry Robinson

Carmine Infantino & Murphy Anderson

Alex Schomburg

Mark Bagley & John Romita

Carmine Infantino

Mike Parobeck

John Romita Jr.

Rip Off


  1. The price guide changed the way that comics are collected. From emotional value to monetary value.

  2. I haven't bought one in years. My first guide was the Marvel 25th Anniversary (vol. 16) that you picture above. I loved the text features and lists at the beginning of the guides; the histories and chronologies have been important elements of these books. Additionally, the references to crossovers, key artists, etc. is nice for one who might be trying to complete a character or artist's work in a collection.

    But as to the pricing information? While it seems a bit more fair than other guides out there (the one published by the folks from the Comics Buyers' Guide always seemed way too high), you have to wonder if escalating prices aren't dictated by this tome rather than true market forces.

    Thanks for the review, and all of the covers!


  3. Despite the cold economic harshness the Guide brought to the hobby, we have to give it credit for making comics something of monetary value which were worth being preserved.

    Before the internet the Guide was a book I consulted a lot. Now I rarely did one out, alas. I just Google the information or some other gimmick. Darn technology!

    Rip Off

  4. My first PRICE GUIDE was # 6. It introduced me to so many comics I had never even heard of before!

    My best Overstreet story, though, occurred about 15 years later. My wife (who is not really into comics) and I were at a Chicago Con and I was looking over a coverless issue of PLASTIC MAN and wondering if it was worth the amount they we're charging for it. My wife turned to the total stranger next to us and said, "Excuse me, sir, do you think this issue in this condition is worth such and such price?" He said he did. I noticed his badge--Bob Overstreet. I told her that settled it and bought the comic. Still have it! :)


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