Marvel Value Stamps: A Visual History by Roy Thomas (book review)

When I saw the title, ‘Marvel Value Stamps: A Visual History’, last year, I automatically assumed this book was just going to be full of the pictures of stamps that you might have cut out from the comicbooks for some nefarious gift at the time in the early 1970s. So many comics were mutilated in this fashion that the Overstreet Comicbook Guide has no longer made such comics worthless by the damage, just reduced they’re grading which must have pleased readers who bought The Incredible Hulk # 181 in that state.

MarvelValueStamps_p039 © 2023 MARVEL

In the introduction, writer Roy Thomas goes over the history of stamps or other such things used to trade for items. Like him, I have a problem with mutilating comicbooks. In the UK, it was generally with cereal box tops or labels as all expendable so I ended up with a Stingray model kit from, I think, Sugar Puffs and, although I didn’t particularly like eating the stuff, a 1969 ‘Joe 90 Dossier’ from Sunderland Spreads, neither of which were junk. I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing it with comicbooks, especially the foreign variety.

MarvelValueStamps_p039 © 2023 MARVEL

Publisher Stan Lee wanted to improve Marvel’s sales back in the early 1970s and wanted to do the Marvel Value Stamps where by cutting them out and collecting them in a booklet they could get various posters and things. He applied it in ‘The Mighty World Of Marvel’ in the UK first and then back in the USA. I should point out that in the UK, free gift promotions with comics is pretty standard, although this is really to induce the newsagent to have more copies or even try a new comic more than the reader and boost sales.

MarvelValueStamps_p050 © 2023 MARVEL

Series A happened before I got back into American comicbooks and Series B just after, both in the early 1970s. Being in the UK, I never thought they applied to us but wouldn’t cut up an expensive comicbook anyway.

MarvelValueStamps_p051 © 2023 MARVEL

OK, the format of the main part of the book for Series A is to show all 100 stamps as a collective. Then we get to the nitty gritty set on two pages apiece. The first page shows the letters page where it was in print so if you want to read old letters, you have that opportunity. The second page shows where the picture was sourced from. Some of them, like with Cyclops, Marvel Girl and the Vision are pretty obvious, the rest less so. The selections range from covers to inside panels with some manipulation to remove word balloons, occasional recolouring and other adjustments. I had already noted that Iron Fist’s mask and shoes wrong as being blue instead of yellow but the source material was also the same colour when shown. Considering the accuracy with the other characters much of the time, you do have to wonder if they were going to consider a colour change. Oh, its also noted that some Value Stamps also appeared in other comicbooks. Although I doubt if anyone would want to collect them now, if you do have comicbooks with missing stamps, at least you would know what the complete page would look like.

© 2023 MARVEL

Series B was collecting parts of picture composites for 10 ‘puzzle’ pictures and, again, showing the original pages where they were printed. It’s rather interesting at the end, showing pages for the actual book for them with some parts of the pictures already filled in. Whether this was to help American youngsters to get started or harder to get comicbooks isn’t revealed. Looking at the segments, its hardly mind-blowing to sort out at any age.

The Marvel Value Stamps is something that has been overlooked over the years. A rather odd curio and even Roy Thomas thought it wouldn’t be practical when he was editor-in-chief but had to go along with what his publisher boss, Stan Lee, wanted to do. You do have to wonder how many people bought duplicate copies so they kept one intact. Then again, the temptation of posters and such might probably have been too much. For those who want to see what they were missing or failed to get them all at the time, then this book will resolve any mystery you might have on the subject.

GF Willmetts

June 2023

(pub: Abrams ComicArts, 2023. 368 page medium-size illustrated hardback. Price: £21.99 (UK), $29.99 (US), $34.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4197-4344-3)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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