More Green Being Spent on the Hulk
It's not easy being green.
And if Kermit the Frog thinks he has it bad, he should try being the Hulk for a day.
Life as a green, muscle-bound half-man, half-monster with a bad temper and an appetite for destruction can make for a lonely existence.
The brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Hulk made his comic book debut in The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962) as the alter ego of taciturn physicist Dr. Bruce Banner. Banner undergoes his first metamorphosis into the Hulk after being accidentally exposed to a gamma bomb. Subsequently, Banner involuntarily transforms into the Hulk whenever his emotions – particularly anger, terror and grief – are heightened. Capable of tremendous feats of strength, the Hulk grows stronger the angrier he gets.
Unlike his comic book contemporaries Batman and Superman, the Hulk was never granted a trading card set of his own during the '60s-even in spite of his growing popularity. Instead, the annihilative but good-hearted humanoid was only featured in larger sets like 1966 Donruss Marvel Super Heroes, 1976 Marvel Super Heroes Stickers and 1978 Marvel Comics. It wasn't until 1979, when Topps manufactured a set based on the TV series, that a mainstream issue was finally dedicated to him alone.
A staple of CBS's Friday night lineup for much of its five-season run (1978 to 1982), the iconic program featured Bill Bixby as Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. The narration during the show's opening credits featured Banner telling reporter Jack McGee (portrayed by Jack Colvin), "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." Significantly, this has since become one of the most quoted lines in TV history.
Kenneth Johnson, who developed and produced the series, altered some aspects of the Hulk's comic book storyline. For example, Bruce Banner's name was changed to David Banner and many of the comic book's sci-fi characteristics were eschewed. Moreover, contrary to the comic book, the Hulk didn't speak in the TV series.
Larry Kelsey, who owns the No. 1 1979 Topps Incredible Hulk Stickers set, was a big fan of the show and has come to assemble his set precisely because he idolizes Ferrigno.
"Lou Ferrigno is a deaf actor and I'm also deaf myself," explained Kelsey in an email interview in May. "He was my role model."
The card set was merely one of dozens of Hulk items introduced into the market when the series was on the air. Action figures, lunch boxes, coffee mugs, buttons and a seemingly infinite number of toys were manufactured in an effort to capitalize on the show's prominence.
1979 Topps The Incredible Hulk Set
Unlike lunch boxes, buttons or toys, however, the 88-card Topps set offers collectors an extensive look at scenes from the program. Extracted from a variety of episodes, the photos on the card fronts are showcased inside distinctive, jagged green borders. A caption in yellow print along the bottom describes the photo. The copyright information and card number are also included.
Ten of the card backs offer "TV Facts" about the series or its actors, while the remaining 78 backs serve as pieces for four different poster puzzles.
"I noticed that some of the cards have one star on the bottom right corner [on the front] while some have two," said Ron Saad, who has just started collecting these cards in graded form. Although their significance is unknown, Saad speculates that the stars may be "indicators for which puzzle the cards belongs to." However, he hasn't figured out their true import as of yet.
These pasteboards were distributed in 15-cent wax packs that included seven cards, one sticker and a slab of gum. There were 36 packs in a box and the price of unopened boxes has spiked in recent months. John Witney, owner of the Non Sports Network in New Preston, Connecticut, says that boxes have been selling for $100 to $200.
Veteran hobbyist Marty Quinn affirms that this is consistent with a trend that he himself has witnessed in recent months. According to him, collectors have started to stockpile boxes of '70s non-sports cards and have begun to open the packs in an attempt to assemble PSA GEM-MT 10 sets.
So far, just 41 of these cards have been submitted for grading and there are only four PSA 10s. Saad points out that the green borders on these cards are vulnerable to chipping, so this may be a contributing factor to the scarcity of PSA 10s.
"It's similar to the [1964 Topps] Outer Limits set with the black borders," he said.
The most submitted Hulk cards are "Manhattan Mayhem" (#45) and "Demon with a Soul" (#82). The "Manhattan Mayhem" single features the Hulk rampaging down a street in Manhattan, while "Demon with a Soul" depicts the Hulk in one of the set's most vivid solo action shots.
"The cards that I like the most are the metamorphosis cards, the ones that depict Bill Bixby turning into the Hulk with his contact lenses and face turning green," noted Saad.
The veteran collector estimates that a PSA 10 card from this set would fetch between $70 and $100.
A sticker set was also created using 22 of the same photos from the card series. Inserted at the rate of one per pack, these stickers flaunt a photo surrounded by yellow or pink trim and bright green borders. The stickers are numbered, but there are no captions on them. Copyright information is included on the fronts, while the backs are plain white and blank.
Because the photos on the stickers were also used on the cards, the caption-less stickers are often listed by their sticker number and the caption belonging to the corresponding card. Saad, who recently submitted his sticker set for grading, further points out that the color shades on the photos vary between the stickers and cards.
These stickers were printed on 132-sticker sheets (12 rows of 11 stickers each). The first two rows on the sheet contain the 22 stickers in the set. These two rows are then repeated five more times on the sheet.
"I noticed that there are a lot of sellers of uncut sheets recently [surfacing] on eBay," said Saad. "I don't know where those are coming from. I think someone might have had a little cache and it's coming out now."
Kelsey hasn't noticed any stickers in this set commanding a premium.
Just 45 stickers have been submitted to PSA and there are 15 PSA 10s.
"The most challenging thing is to find stickers that are centered," said Kelsey.
Saad has likewise noticed these centering issues, along with other print flaws.
"Some of the photos are out of focus," he elaborates.
Stickers were also frequently peeled off and placed on binders, lockers or lunch boxes, so finding them intact presents another challenge.
One of the most appealing aspects about these stickers is that they remain relatively affordable.
"I have noticed other sellers selling PSA 10s [for] $55 to $75," said Kelsey.
Ferrigno, who recently appeared on Celebrity Apprentice, is still a sought-after autograph guest on the fan convention circuit. A PSA/DNA authenticated 8 x 10 photo of Ferrigno was selling for $80 on eBay in May.
Sadly, Bixby died of cancer in November 1993. PSA/DNA principal authenticator Steve Grad says that Bixby's autograph on a Hulk photo would fetch about $150.
One underrated autograph from the TV series is Jack Colvin's, who played reporter Jack McGee. Yet there exist so few Colvin signed items that it's difficult to place a value on his signature.
With reruns of the TV show still being shown around the world and two movies - Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) - being released in the past ten years, there is no question that the Hulk continues to be a very popular character. But it's the destructive green humanoid's role in The Avengers, a movie that's currently smashing box-office records, that has the potential to rekindle interest in the 1979 Topps issue.
"I would think that the movie would spark some interest and create new fans and collectors," said Saad.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Thank you to Ron Saad, Larry Kelsey and Mike Navarro for providing scans for this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of May 2012.
|List of Card Numbers and Sticker Numbers with the Same Photos|
|Sticker||Regular Issue Card|
|#1 Modified Hulk Make-Up||#31 Modified Hulk Make-Up|
|#2 Metamorphosis||#24 Metamorphosis|
|#3 Hope Through Hypnotherapy||#66 Hope Through Hypnotherapy|
|#4 The Hulk Strikes Back!||#38 The Hulk Strikes Back!|
|#5 The Monster Within Us All||#85 The Monster Within Us All|
|#6 Manhattan Mayhem||#45 Manhattan Mayhem|
|#7 Portrait of a Monster||#19 Portrait of a Monster|
|#8 Mightiest Creature on Earth||#84 Mightiest Creature On Earth|
|#9 Suppressing the Demon Within Him||#55 Suppressing the Demon Within Him|
|#10 The Monster Strikes!||#15 The Monster Strikes!|
|#11 This Man ... This Monster!||#5 This Man ... This Monster!|
|#12 The Creature ... Shot!||#12 The Creature ... Shot!|
|#13 Racing Through the Airliner||#61 Racing Through the Airliner|
|#14 The Incredible Man Monster||#17 The Incredible Man Monster|
|#15 Friend ... or Fiend?||#6 Friend ... or Fiend?|
|#16 Ferrigno in Character||#33 Ferrigno in Character|
|#17 In the Clutches of Horror!||#16 In the Clutches of Horror!|
|#18 A Titan in Times Square||#44 A Titan in Times Square|
|#19 Has the Hulk Met His Match?||#40 Has the Hulk Met His Match?|
|#20 The Pawn of Destiny||#22 The Pawn of Destiny|
|#21 Experiment: Perilous!||#2 Experiment: Perilous!|
|#22 The Mindless Primitive||#83 The Mindless Primitive|