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Milwaukee comic shop recently acquired the ‘holy grail’ of Spider-Man comics

'A lot of the physical copies of these books are just lost to time,' says one collector

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Spiderman can be seen on the cover of a rare comic book.
Collector’s Edge, a comic book store in Milwaukee, has a copy of Amazing Fantasy No. 15, which shows the first appearance of Spider-Man. Angela Major/WPR

A Milwaukee comic book shop recently acquired what collectors describe as the “holy grail” of Spider-Man comics.

When a couple inherited a parent’s comic book collection this summer, they stumbled upon Amazing Fantasy No. 15, the first appearance of Spider-Man from 1962. But they weren’t sure how much their copy was worth or how to go about selling it.

That’s when they got in touch with Collector’s Edge Comics in Milwaukee. Steve Dobrzynski, the shop’s owner, helped them get an estimate on the value and make a plan for how to move forward.

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“I showed them what they had, what this is worth, what they need to do and how to go about selling this,” he said. “We decided that I was going to sell (it) for them on consignment, so I am doing my due diligence trying to get them the best price possible for the book.”

A man holds a comic book as he checks out a customer at a store.
Steve Dobrzynski, owner of Collector’s Edge, helps a customer, Steve Mattox, right, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Angela Major/WPR

The book — by Marvel icons Stan Lee and Steve Ditko — tells the story of how teenager Peter Parker became Spider-Man after being bitten by a radioactive spider and learning that with great power there must also come great responsibility.

A near-mint copy of the issue sold for $3.6 million at a Texas auction in 2021. Dobrzynski said the copy he’s selling has some wear and tear, so isn’t likely to come close to that price.

When a comic book that old and that rare comes into his shop, Dobrzynski said he needs to have its condition evaluated by an expert before setting a price. He sent the copy of Amazing Fantasy No. 15 to Certified Guaranty Company, a firm that grades comics and collectibles on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best shape possible. They set the grade for his copy at 3 due to wear and small tears along its edge.

That was a higher grade than he expected and drove up the asking price, Dobrzynski said.

A mural on the side of a brick wall shows the store's name along with superheroes.
The outside of Collector’s Edge on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Angela Major/WPR

“Some copies in the same grade are listed for $60,000, but I don’t think that’s a realistic number,” he said. “Most of them are going to fall into probably the $25,000 to $30,000 range as of right now.”

While having one of the rarest Spider-Man comics in the world turn up in his shop is a gift, Dobrzynski said it’s also a bit of struggle. Because the price is high for the collectible, it also cuts down on potential buyers.

“A lot of people who were in at $15,000 couldn’t be around for $30,000, so they stepped aside,” he said. “That’s the difficulty that we’re finding right now more than anything else, is just people having the resources in order to buy this book.”

Boxes are stacked high in a storage room. A man reaches inside one of them.
Collector’s Edge owner Steve Dobrzynski retrieves Amazing Fantasy No. 15 from a vault below the shop Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Angela Major/WPR

Collector Mark Ginocchio is the author of the book “100 Things Spider-Man Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” and co-host of the Amazing Spider-Talk podcast. He said Amazing Fantasy No. 15 is one of the three most culturally significant mainstream superhero comics, along with the first appearance of Superman from 1938 and the first appearance of Batman from 1939.

That’s due, in large part, to Spider-Man’s global popularity in comics, television, video games and feature films, he said.

“When something is that popular, and the origin story goes back to a point where these things weren’t really thought about in terms of collectability, scarcity builds up over time and a lot of the physical copies of these books are just lost to time,” he said. “It’s the Holy Grail for Spider-Man.”

A comic book is kept in a protective case. Spiderman can be seen on the cover.
Collector’s Edge, a comic book store in Milwaukee, has a copy of Amazing Fantasy No. 15, which shows the first appearance of Spider-Man. Angela Major/WPR

He said Amazing Fantasy No. 15 was also part of a wider shift in comics as a storytelling medium. In the 1960s, as Stan Lee crafted the Marvel universe, he did so with the intent of making superheroes more relatable than they had been in the 1940s and ’50s.

Ginocchio said Lee’s vision was especially present in Spider-Man, who faced everyday problems in his stories on top of larger-than-life heroics.

“It’s just so hard not to find someone who can relate to Peter Parker’s problems and flaws in some way,” he said. “If you’re not someone struggling to pay rent, maybe you’re someone who’s struggling to connect with people socially, or you’re someone who feels responsibility to do something but you don’t always like doing it.”

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