Today's serious comic collectors have no doubt enjoyed Gerber's Photo-Journal over the past 20 years. This month Michelle Nolan leads us into a new series on this essential publication — and the ever-present controversy surrounding its index scale.
In the two decades since the two-volume Gerber Photo-Journal deeply impacted comic collecting with so many images collectors had never seen, we've all been able to come to our own conclusions regarding the controversial scarcity index scale. In this short series, I'll review my own thoughts — or uninformed opinion, in some eases — about the Gerber 8, 9 and 10 ratings.
A rating of 8, of course, indicated that 11 to 20 copies exist; 9 was six to 10 copies and 10 was five or fewer copies. I would agree that most of the 8s, 9s and 10s were — and are — tough to find, but I think a lot of them should have been 7s (21 to 50 copies exist) or even 6s. The problem these scarce issues present is not necessarily how many exist, but how many are locked into permanent collections.
I would agree that none of the issues listed as 7 or scarcer is easy to find, or could be considered common, in the manner of 3s and 4s. But there are also a lot of other 7s and better, especially in the categories of romance and humor comics, since not all that many collectors seek them — and since the Gerbers were not intent on including long runs of many titles in those genres. They had room for only about 21,000 images — only about half the total corporate comics published from 1934 to 1963 — and rightly sought to include the most highly collected genres, companies and titles.
Ten years ago, comics historian Dan Stevenson made a list of the 7s and scarcer issues, to which I have often referred. That certainly makes the job easier! Dan counts 206 in the 8 category, 33 in the 9 category, and 8 issues in the 10 category, although some issues do not exist.
Here are my thoughts:
A-1 Comics #2 (9) — This is actually a Kerry Drake No-Number issue and does not have an A-1 number. It's actually about a 7.
Action Comics #s 3, 5 (8) — These early Superman appearances can be tough, but I feel certain that every early Action is at least a 7 or a 6, even though the issues without Superman on the cover did not sell as well as #s 1, 7 and 13 — the first three with Superman out front.
New Comics / New Adventure Comics #s 3, 6, 11 / #s 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23 (8) Some of these might be 7s, but they're all very tough to find at any price. Very few collectors, however, are willing to pay big bucks for them, since they're pre-superhero.
All-American Comics #4 (9) — I wish I could say.
All-American #7, 11 — Ditto. Issues before Green Lantern's debut in #16 are all tough, but only a handful of collectors really want them for big bucks.
All-Negro one-shot (9) — Probably an 8, but it really is scarce. It's also strictly a curiosity piece, since it's so poorly done.
All New #15 (10) — This is one of those Harvey digest-sized last issues sent to subscribers only. I've seen this issue, but only once, so it's almost surely at least a 9.
All Top #7 (9/47 issue) (8) — This is the last Fox funny animal issue before the title changes to jungle themes. I know very few people who collect Fox funny animal books, but who knows? The average Fox funny animal title isn't common, but probably isn't rare, either.
All-Winners #21 (8) — This is the highly sought second All-Winners squad story, which has been reprinted several times. I'd say it's a 7.
Amazing Man #5 (8) — This first issue (who knows why it's #5?) really is tough, but I'd say it's more than likely a 7. However, I'd bet that more than three-quarters of the issues in existence are locked into collections. You almost never see this for sale at any price.
Arrow #1 (8) — Another Centaur toughie, definitely at least a 7.
Atomic Bomb #1 (8) — An obscure 1945 one-shot from Jay Burtis, I've seen several, so I'd call it a 7. Vastly overrated and a terrible comic.
Authentic Police Cases #18 (8) — Why would a fairly well-circulated St. John series be an 8? Still, it's surely a 6 or 7. Matt Baker collectors have these locked up, so it might as well be an 8!
Avon one-shot Secret Diary of Eerie Adventures (8) — This is certainly at least 7.
Avon one-shot Sideshow (8) — Wow, I've never seen this humor title. It may well be an 8.
Best Comics #s 2, 3 (8) — These odd-shaped early Standard issues from 1939 are so hard to find, they may well be 8s, certainly 7s. A great example of a rarity that not many people collect.
Big Book of Pun Comics (9) — DC's first giant "annual," I'll bet it's at least an 8. Reprints from Fun / New Fun's earliest issues, I'd guess. Not familiar with it.
Blazing Comics vol 2 #2 (8) — This is one of those issues with a cover wrapped around a miscellaneous comic. I don't think any grade is relevant on these.
Blue Beetle #21 (8) — This comes from the Holyoke period in between Fox runs on this title. It's tough to find; probably a 7.
Blue Beetle #43 (8) — We've long since shown that Fox skipped this number.
Captain Acro vol 2 #3 (9) — This is really the ninth issue, not shown in Gerber; probably a 7 or 8.
Captain Aero #12, vol 3 #10 (12th issue), vol 4 #2 (16th issue), #26 (8) — All shown except #26. I own vol 4 #2. My guess is that they're all 7s and not 8s, but, like Catman, the Holyoke numbering system is extremely confusing. Gerber did everyone a huge favor by arranging all the issues in order!
Captain America's Weird Tales #74 (8) — Hard to believe any late 1940s Timely is an 8, but this is perhaps a 7. You don't see this one offered too often. My guess is it didn't sell well.
Captain Battle #s 4, 5 (8) — #4 does not exist; #5 is certainly a 7 or an 8. Very tough!
Captain Courageous #6 (8) — I can't believe this isn't a 7. I've seen three or four copies.
Captain Flight #s 5, 6, 8 (8) — I'd say all of these are no better than 7s.
Captain Marvel Thrill Book one-shot (8) — If any Fawcett Marvel Family item is an 8, this is probably it. You hardly ever see this one.
This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.