A comic-fan friend of mine from India dropped me a line with an innocent question. The flow of comics out there is very limited, but he had heard about the new Ultimate title, and wanted to know where he could pick up numbers 1 through 5, preferably at cover price.
I had a bitter chuckle. I was filtering through "Spider Man" auctions on eBay the day before, and came across a couple of auctions for Ultimate Spider-Man titles. The first was for a bundle of #1 White Cover Alternate, #1 DF Alternate, and #1-#5 regular edition. The bidding was over US$190. Another auction for the white cover alternate by itself was over US$60.
Even the regular cover Ultimate #1 now sells for US$20. Let's compare that to a few entries from a recent Wizard price guide. Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #1 from 1990 (black cover) worth just US$3. Amazing Spider-Man #361 (first carnage) goes for US$8. Heck, that same US$20 will buy you a NM copy of Spectacular Spider-Man #1, from way back in 1976. Go figure!
All this has been assisted by Marvel's recent decision to stop over-printing on most titles. Historically, Marvel like many other comic companies, has always printed extra copies, allowing comic shops to re-solicit on popular issues. This has recently changed on most books, and Marvel now essentially prints to order - meaning that if you miss out the first time, your odds of tracking down a back issue are much smaller. You have been warned!
Of course, the final result of this means that comics from the last couple of years may end up being more valuable than a lot of books from the 90's and 80's, when print runs were plentiful, and over-runs were the rule of the day - and Ultimate Spider-Man is a perfect example of that!