Iron Man was created in 1963 by legendary comic book creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Leiber, and Don Heck for Marvel Comics. This guide will walk you through the notable Iron Man comics, trading cards, and figures that should be of interest to collectors.
The alter ego of billionaire playboy Tony Stark, Iron Man protects the world through the use of a powerful weaponized suit of armor of his own creation. Stark possesses no superpowers which requires him to use his seemingly limitless funds and engineering genius to devise enhancements to the suit to make him virtually invincible. The history of Iron Man has been told in comics, television, and film for many years. Along the way, has been commemorated in many physical forms that appeal to collectors.
Like other noteworthy playboys in comic book lore, Tony Stark is not without his demons. An orphan tasked with running his father’s company, he is conflicted by the responsibilities he has thrust upon himself to save mankind, as well his demons with alcohol and obsession. These internal conflicts are what led to Iron Man’s evolution from a Cold War era patriot to a complex, fully realized character study that could adapt with the times of the reader and ensure a sustained popularity among comic book readers and film goers alike.
Films featuring Iron Man have grossed several billion dollars worldwide, comic books based on the character are among the highest selling of any publication, and the character is one of the most common halloween costumes each year. To say that Iron Man is simply a popular character is an understatement as his mainstream awareness has never been higher. Collecting such an iconic character, at the peak of his popularity, can be overwhelming as there is far too much merchandise to sift through. However, finding quality, valuable, items can be extremely rewarding on many levels. The goal of this article is to address this issue by focusing on the key collectibles that are broken into tabs above.
Aside from his appearances in many Marvel comics and his regular stint as a member of The Avengers, Iron Man has been a longtime focal point of the Marvel Comics Universe and has maintained an eponymous comic, almost without interruption, since 1968. This guide will run down the broad strokes of titles devoted solely to Tony Stark and his metallic alter ego and does not include the myriad of short-run, team-up, mini-series, or crossover titles he may appear in.
Iron Man Comics
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Originally a science fiction anthology, Tales of Suspense became the launching pad for two of Marvel’s most enduring characters: Captain America and Iron Man. The latter, making his debut in issue #39, was originally designed in silver. In issue #40, his costume was changed to gold, and by issue #48 he resembled the red and gold design that has remained intact ever since. Iron Man would appear as a single story in these comics until issue #99 when the comic was rebranded as Captain America (who had begun to appear in stories from #59) and Iron Man was spun off into his own title. Issue #39 ranks among the most valuable comic books on the secondary market with highly-graded issues often selling for several thousand dollars.
In the header above, it is mentioned that this list does not include one-shots but an exception has to be made. In an effort to tie up storylines between the end of Tales of Suspense and the beginning of Iron Man comics, this single issue was released. It holds the distinction of being the first intentional single-issue release in the Marvel catalog and has become a considerable collectible since it predates the official Iron Man title. As is the norm, graded copies of this issue are highly sought-after but can range wildly so collectors would be advised to hunt carefully for a good deal.
In May of 1968, the Iron Man comic was spun out of the Tales of Suspense line. For the first time, Iron Man had a title devoted entirely to himself and this title, in some form or another, has remained in a near constant state of publication ever since. While the official copyright lists these comics as “Iron Man,” the title on the cover is The Invincible Iron Man. Five volumes were released under the Iron Man copyright until 2008 when it was officially made "Invincible Iron Man." The premiere issue of this series is valuable and can sell for over $1,000. However, considering Iron Man had appeared in dozens of issues prior to this release, it does not normally fetch the same prices as the issues noted above.
Iron Man has appeared in dozens of trading card sets revolving around the Marvel Universe, including 1966 Donruss Marvel Superheroes, 1993 Skybox Marvel Masterpieces, and 2010 Rittenhouse Marvel 70th Anniversary, among many others. This guide, however, compiles the sets that are focused specifically on Iron Man. In addition to a bevy of base, parallels, and inserts, there are many notable autographs scattered throughout the sets listed below. For more information on that, check out our Iron Man Autograph Guide.
Iron Man Trading Cards
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To commemorate the release of the first Iron Man film, Rittenhouse produced a series of collectible cards that included autographs by some of the film’s biggest stars, along with costume relics and sketch cards. The set also included three chase sets and each case contained a card autographed by Larry Leiber. Two cases purchased would grant you a relic card of the metal suit and four cases granted an exclusive sketch card by Bob Layton. Obviously, the case incentives are among the most valuable cards in this collection. Like most Rittenhouse sets, the overall production is limited, and totals only 9,000 boxes.
The second and third Iron Man films were captured in card form by Upper Deck. Like the Rittenhouse cards that preceded them, they include autographs from the film’s stars and directors as well as memorabilia relic cards, sketch cards, and some very cool chase sets like the Hall of Armor insert included in 2013 Iron Man 3. These sets pay homage to the film franchise while also honoring the comic books that inspired the movies.
Since the 1970s, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of figures released that offer the likeness of Iron Man. With his full-body metal suit, the character is the perfect mix of action and fantasy and his design lends itself to very detailed and faithful reproductions. This list gathers the broad strokes of collecting these figures and should serve as a great starting point for new collectors.
Iron Man Figures
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Iron Man has had a long history in the superhero action figure market, making his first appearance in 1975 with the Mego line. The product was short-lived and, by 1978, Mego had ceased production of the Iron Man figure. Because of the accessories included, a complete set out of the box is nearly impossible to find and mint-in-box (MIB) items fetch a premium price among collectors. Of lesser value are the many figures released by Toybiz which collectors almost exclusively demand remain in the original packaging. It is not uncommon to find auctions online selling multiple loose figures (15-20) for the same price as one figure still in the box so collectors should focus their time searching for the highest quality, in-box figures they can.
The same rules apply to Hasbro figures, which are modern day versions of the Toybiz lines, and the Marvel Select figures released by Diamond Select, which are rarely worth more than retail value outside of their boxes. With an ever expanding line of figures, some exclusive to hobby shops and the Disney Store, amassing a complete collection of Iron Man action figures will be a fun and rewarding endeavor.
Superhero statues have been around for years but with some of the biggest manufacturers creating truly stunning works of art, the medium has never been more vibrant and worthy of collection. Iron Man has been the subject of statues across every price point of the hobby including the quality Sideshow figures, which regularly sell for $1,000+ online thanks in part to their extreme limited availability. These statues are usually scale replicas of the famous character and are of the highest detail.
Singapore-based artists Imaginarium have been producing Marvel statues since 2013 and have several Iron Man related statues and busts to collect. Typically the most affordable price point in the high-end statue market, Kotobukiya statues are still largely similar to the other production companies and their limited availability gives them almost immediate appreciation on the secondary market. Statues, while an unconventional collectible to some, can be a gorgeous and worthwhile investment.
This won’t come as a surprise to regular readers of this site but Funko has several Iron Man figures from their many lines devoted to Marvel. Case in point, in April, 2016, a SDCC exclusive “Freddy Funko” figure, dressed as Iron Man, sold for $820. Along with the standard figures in their Pop, Mini, and Wobbler lines, Iron Man has been the subject of several comic convention and retail exclusives. These figures, because of their scarcity, are the most valuable but collectors should also track down Iron Man figures from Funko’s lines devoted to his films as well as those of The Avengers and Captain America because they will be retired at some point and their value will increase.