CGC has been around for over a decade, digital comic books have been gaining popularity, and comic books themselves have been around a lot longer than I. As a reader of comic books for 35 years, a collector for 28, and an enthusiast since I graduated from high school my views on the care of comic books and the conditions they should be kept in have changed since I was 12.
Between 1974 and 1976 Marvel instituted their “Marvel Value Stamp” promotion or MVS for short. These stamps were on or around the letters page and collectors were encouraged to “clip’em and collect’em”. Occasionally, I’ll go through a back issue bin (of various comic shops or conventions) and find a beautiful copy of a book I want at a decreased price. At times, this is due to the omission of these questionable collectibles. To date I have never seen anyone brag that they defaced hundreds of comic books to acquire all the stamps in one place, yet it has been done.
There are 100 stamps in what is known as set “A” including The Incredible Hulk #181 (can you guess what stamp is in that book?) The whole idea was to cut them out and order a special 16 page book to place them in. The book, available through mail order only, was 50 cents, which was more expensive than the comic books themselves. The idea was so successful that Marvel issued a series “B”. This set also consisted of 100 stamps, each one a piece of a larger picture. A second book, once again available through Marvel, could be ordered for 50 cents and the pages were set up to create the picture each MVS formed; one was even of Stan Lee.
There were those that completed the set “A” book and were rewarded at the 1974 San Diego Comic Con, mostly with praise and admiration. Of course, without the stamp intact, the comic book is incomplete. This drops the value of a normally high grade comic book approximately 75%; maybe even more. This lone defect is mostly known as a Marvel Value Stamp Flaw. If a book is sent into CGC for grading this would normally receive a green qualified label if the grade is high enough and there is no restoration. If the book is a really low grade or there are other factors (like restoration) then the missing stamp will affect the grade.
The closest I have ever come to anything like this was to meticulously cut the coupon from Valiant comic books Harbinger series volume 1, issues #1-#6, a desire I filled to acquire my pink, variant, mail away, all original, issue zero of the same title. I purchased two each of issues #1 through #6 for this to happen.
Today, the digital age has arrived, and I applaud any company that gives you a free copy of any book you buy. Unfortunately, no company is doing this at press time. Only certain titles are being sold as a package deal, most recently are “The Avenging Spider-Man” and Marvel’s Ultimate line. The earlier issues were bagged so the codes to be redeemed could not be used by a person perusing the comic books on a news rack. To note, “Avenging Spider-Man” #4 and “Ultimate X-Men” #7 came un-bagged and still offered the free digital copy with purchase, but how did they alleviate the problem with hiding the free digital code?
I read each book from front to back and on the last page was the code for the digital replication. It was covered by a detachable sticker, which, once removed, would arguably lower the grade of the comic book. I was perplexed. Could I devalue the book just to get my free digital copy, will my desire to have the best grade force me to buy a second book just to use a code? Will I need to take a few shots of high grade espresso to garnish the courage to rip the sticker off? How would you feel about buying a book from the 70s, paying a premium price, and the MVS is missing? Let’s time travel 35 years and wonder how you would feel if the sticker was missing from the books released today.
Thanks for reading
PS. The answer to what stamp is in The Incredible Hulk #181 is Shanna the She-Devil (Stamp #54)