by Thomas Michael
What’s golden and loves to smash? It’s a trick question for Marvel comic fans and of course, the answer is the gold-plated silver Official Marvel® Collectors Coin II produced in 1974 by Hallmark Minting Services. An example of which sold last night for $552, including buyer’s premium, through the Heritage 2019 December 8 Sunday Comics, Animation, & Art Weekly Online Auction #121949.
Those familiar with the Incredible Hulk will recognize the quote on the reverse of this coin/medallion “Within each of us, ofttimes, there dwells a mighty raging fury,” from his first comic appearance in 1962. Those familiar with these coin/medallions know that appearances of this little piece of golden Marvel memorabilia don’t come up very often.
Three types of Official Marvel Collectors Coins were produced by Hallmark Minting Services in 1973 and 1974. The first featured Spiderman, the second the Incredible Hulk and the third Conan the Barbarian. They were offered for sale in Marvel comic books and fulfilled by Hallmark Minting Services, along with accessories. Produced in three metals, the bronze was most popular because of its very low price. The gold and silver examples are seldom offered for sale, so this Heritage auction is a nice opportunity for a collector of Marvel medal memorabilia.
The bronze medals for Hulk, Conan and Spiderman come up on eBay often in “Buy It Now” lot format at prices from $125 to $300 depending on which accessories accompany the medallion. Back in 2008, a Hake’s auction sold a set of all three in bronze along with mailing packet and documentation for $345. Hallmark Minting Services, Inc. produced and distributed these medallions through Marvel Comics ads in 1973-1974. They offered the coin/medallions in bronze for $2.50 each. Available accessories included: Lucite Holder, Key Chain, Neck Chain, Money Clip, Bolo Tie, and Small or Large belt buckles. It would seem that the Lucite holders and the neck chains were the most popular as they are the most commonly encountered today.
The silver and gold-plated silver medallions were not sold through the pages of comic books as far as I can tell by checking the original ads. Judging by how seldom they are seen, I’d guess that they may have only been available to comic professionals; retail shops, publishers, artists, authors and such. I have only seen a few pictures of the silver ones and note only one having sold on eBay recently for less than $450 on a “Best offer accepted." We can tell that this coin had a serial number of 1 089, as the seller was kind enough to share an image of the edge.
The Heritage offering of a gold-plated silver Incredible Hulk coin/medallion is the first I have ever seen of this type in this metal. This particular gold-plated silver coin/medallion is numbered #1056 per the Heritage description. I would have to guess from the scarcity of all three types in all three metals that the numbering may have been done across the board on these, as it would seem impossible that over 1,000 of the gold-plated silver would ever have been created. Perhaps the #1 is for "first series" and 056 means it was the 56th coin/medallion produced. The original ads in comics stated amongst the hype to “Order now for low serial numbers!” But of course, from the comic ads I’ve seen, you could only acquire the bronze types.
Also up for sale in this online auction #121949 was a gold-plated silver Conan the Barbarian coin/medallion. Again, this is the first I have seen of this type in this metal. This particular piece is numbered #1066 according to the Heritage lot description. The edge is not pictured, but my guess would be that it actually reads 1 066, as that would seem to be the method Hallmark Minting Services used for these Marvel coin/medallion issues. The golden Conan sold last night for $456 including buyer’s premium. This value seems right in line based on thematic desirability. Given the character's popularity today and results from the bronze type sales on eBay, I would think that Spiderman, Hulk and Conan would be the order. It would be most to least desirable, highest to lowest in value.
A few original letters from the Hallmark Minting Service have been offered on eBay. These give us several additional details about the series. The Spiderman coin/medallion in bronze was the first to be issued in 1973. The original ads support this, as they only feature the Spiderman coin/medallion. The Spiderman type was designed by Joseph DiLorenze whose other work included the American Airlines Seal and the Official Seal of New York State, according to the original mailing letter. I’m not sure who designed the Incredible Hulk and Conan the Barbarian types. The original mailing letter implied that the series would continue with all the other Marvel Super Heroes getting their own medals over time, however, it would seem that after the Incredible Hulk and Conan the Barbarian made their debut in 1974 the series ended its run. Reference was also made in the letter to a Hallmark exclusive “World Wide Collector’s Exchange Service” where owners could trade or sell their Marvel coin/medallions with other “fans and collectors from all over the world.” I wonder if that ever materialized or was scrapped due to the short run of the series.
Most of the bronze coin/medallions offered on eBay fail to mention their serial number from the edge of the piece. One did, however, and listed its number as 2 285, possibly implying it was number 285 of a second manufacturing run or possibly being the 2,285th coin/medallion of the Spiderman type produced. Maybe some dedicated researcher in the comic or medal realm can use this article as a springboard to do more thorough research into this fascinating and short Marvel coin/medallion series.
In the meantime, at least these two rare gold-plated silver Marvel coin/medallions have new homes with collectors who will preserve and cherish them. With the Incredible Hulk having smashed out a new record and Conan making way for the triumph of barbarism at a nice price, at least we mortals have come away with a better understanding of the origin and value of these great Marvel collector’s items from the 1970s.