BY MATT TUCK
ASM #300 may be the top Venom key to own, but everyone’s favorite symbiote has a plethora of issues worth collecting outside of #300, ASM #252, and Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8, and some are even undervalued.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #316
The secret is out for this issue. In the era of cover collecting, it was surprising that it took this long for ASM #316 to become so coveted. After seeing Venom’s head on #315, Todd McFarlane worked his magic for #316 and readers were treated to a magnificent first full cover appearance (apparently that is a thing now).
Lately, this issue has exploded. Despite there being 1,337 graded 9.8s listed with CGC, there has been a massive jump in FMV for this one. Just last year, it averaged $407, and in 2019, it was a $258 comic. This year, the roof has been blown off. That 9.8 has a 90-day average of $928, and the last sale was for $1,700 on March 23. What is more impressive is that just hours before that sale, another 9.8 brought a record-high $1,925.
Where you can save money and get a great looking copy is the 9.6.
As usual, this one is much easier on your budget, and you get a grade that is almost identical to the 9.8. Instead of paying nearly $2k for that 9.8, the 9.6 is selling in the $500-$600 range. Keep in mind, it was selling for less than $200 only a year ago. In fact, all the higher grades are now earning $300 or more, and they are only going to get more expensive in the near future.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #299
If this issue had a better cover, ASM #299 would be the bigger Venom key issue. Marvel had teased the character since the idea was planted in Web of Spider-Man #18 in 1986, albeit as a woman’s hand shoving Peter Parker in front of a train. Two years later, Venom is fully revealed in the final page of #299.
The problem is that not only is there no allusion to Venom on the cover, but it does not have that iconic Todd McFarlane artwork we associate with ASM #300. Change one of those two parts, and this would be the issue that everyone wants, and #300 would be the consolation prize. Sorry, Chance, no one cares about you even when Venom first appears in your issue.
Be that as it may, ASM #299 has felt the market boom that practically every Marvel key is experiencing, but it is much more affordable than ASM #300. Two years ago, a 9.8 was a $247 comic. Now, it has jumped to $783 on average for the past three months, and the last sale was for $910.
Didn’t I say these were keys that wouldn’t break the bank? If you are in the market, the better deal is for the 9.6, which drops to $316 based on the most recent sale.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #315
I have never been a fan of Hydro-Man, and I did not jump on the bandwagon when the rumor was that he would be featured in Spider-Man: Homecoming. I love McFarlane’s artwork, and this is probably Hydro-Man’s one and only great cover. (But how does a guy made of water have a Mister Olympia physique?)
Besides a good cover, the obvious reason anyone cares about this issue is Venom’s head on the front giving us his “clickbait” second full appearance. It shows how popular Venom was at this time that Marvel wanted to use his face to help sell more copies since hardly anyone would have bought it for Hydro-Man.
This is a great example of the ridiculous price inflation we are seeing across all of Marvel. In 2019, even a 9.8 sold on average for $85. A year later, the fair market value moved over the triple-digit mark when it made it to $121. Only a week ago, another 9.8 shot up to $245, and it already has reached $375 this year.
If there is a Venom key that flies under the radar, this is it. Granted, this will never be a major key on any level, but it does feature Venom’s first appearance away from Spider-Man. As we have seen with Knull and Silver Surfer Black #1, when a popular and overall important character makes his debut in the greater Marvel Universe, it is a big deal. The difference, however, is that Knull was a complete surprise at the end of that issue and hinted at “The King in Black” well before that crossover ever began. In this case, Venom’s head is on the bottom right, and it was clearly meant to give a boost to a fledgling series.
Quasar #6 is so underappreciated that there are only two - that’s right, two - graded copies in the CGC census; one is a 9.8, and the other is a 9.4. That explains why there is no graded sales data to access. How about those raw copies? According to eBay, the last three Quasar #6s to trade hands brought anywhere from less than $1 to under $10.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #25
While I do believe that if Venom had been on the cover, this issue would be more popular, but that would not have been enough to make this a major collectible. But that is okay because it is a minor Venom key that can be had for a cheap price.
What’s so special about this issue? Ahead of Venom: Lethal Protector, Eddie Brock and his symbiote had their first solo adventure in ASM Annual #25.
It is strange to think that with Venom 2 on the horizon, any of his key issues - even minor ones - would lose money, but that is the case with ASM Annual #25. Over the past two years, the 9.8 has lost $19 on average, and the most recent sale was for just $61. No other grade has sold this year, but a 9.6 brought $30 in November.
SPIDER-MAN SPECIAL EDITION #1
There are not exactly a huge number of these on the CGC census, but it is not hard to find, either, because fans in the 1990s were up for a mail-in comic like never before. It is a testament to Venom’s popularity in 1992 that there are 571 graded copies, according to CGC. In decades past, getting a mail-in comic would have caused the print run to be low for Spider-Man Special Edition #1, but not in this case.
The story behind it is that it was a Marvel charity promotion with UNICEF, and you could only get a copy by donating $5 to the organization. The comic itself is not great, but it is an awesome Venom cover with Spider-Man and Daredevil at his mercy. Other than the limited availability and the cover, there is not much else to promote a collector to want this issue.
If you have this one in a high grade, the numbers are making you happy. Only a year ago, the 2020 FMV was $106, and that was down from 2019. Last month, it showed signs of life and sold for $160. Even some of the lower grades are feeling the heat as a 9.4 reached a record-high $69.
With the prices of Amazing Spider-Man #300 continuing to rise into orbit, the lesser Venom keys will become more popular with collectors. If you are a Venom fan and want a piece of the action, now would be the time.
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.