Stan Lee revolutionized the comic industry and helped shape popular culture by creating – usually in collaboration with Jack Kirby and other writers – memorable superheroes, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Iron Man among many others. Almost all of Lee’s superheroes have been memorialized with cool collector or bullion coins.
Born Stanley Martin Lieber to Rumanian Jewish parents in New York City where he worked and spent most of his life, he took the pen name Stan Lee when he began writing comic books in the 1940s. Over the next 70 years he revolutionized the comic industry and helped shape popular culture by creating – usually in collaboration with Jack Kirby and other writers – so many memorable superheroes, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man.
Unlike the characters created at rival DC comics such as Superman and Batman, Lee’s superheroes for Marvel were more human and more relatable to readers because they had some of the same flaws regular people have. His comic books also reflected the social trends of the time and had a sense of humor to them. He became not only the main writer but also the public face of Marvel for decades.
He retired from Marvel in the 1990s and pursued other independent media projects. In recent years many of his characters were developed for the big screen, creating legions of new fans in the process who may have never read the comic books he wrote. There were earlier efforts to develop them for television, but they did not have anywhere near the success of the Marvel-based films, which have grossed close to $20 billion. Lee often did cameo appearances in these films and became an almost cult-like figure in the comic book world, frequently doing special appearances at conventions like Comic-Con.
On November 12, 2018, Mr. Lee passed away. Two days before he succumbed to pneumonia, the man who succeeded him as Marvel’s editor-in-chief met with his to discuss a book he is writing on Lee called The Stan Lee Story.
The best-known is of course Spiderman, who Lee created with artist Steve Ditko and who was introduced in 1962. He “does whatever a spider can.”
We currently still have in stock two Spiderman silver issues from 2017 – the same year the Spiderman Homecoming movie was released. First is the Tuvalu 1 oz. silver piece that is part of a series of coins depicting Marvel characters. It shows him crouched and ready to spring into action, having already spun his famous web. 50,000 of these coins were struck and we have them in a variety of examples graded by NGC with different labels.
The other is a 1 oz. silver proof (which was also issued in a 5 oz. version currently unavailable for purchase) for the Homecoming film issued for Cook Islands that shows Spiderman as usual in his iconic suit and mask with his trademark web in the background. This one provides an especially dynamic view and was designed by none other than John Mercanti, the last U.S. Mint Chief Engraver, who designed numerous coins for the U.S. but only this one and the Australian wedge-tailed eagle for foreign mints.
Iron Man is another of Lee’s best-known and most-popular superheroes who debuted in 1963 and had his own comic starting in 1968. Iron Man is also honored in the Marvel series for Tuvalu with a 2018 1 oz. silver coin that we have both raw and in rolls as well as in various NGC-graded examples with different labels.
There is also, Thor, the Marvel superhero based on the Norse god of the same name who was the Asgardian god of thunder. He too is part of the Tuvalu Marvel series and is featured on a 2018 1 oz silver coin that is available raw and graded NGC MS69.
The Black Panther was made into one of the biggest movies of 2017, but he was originally created with Jack Kirby and debuted in 1966 in a Fantastic Four comic. His real name was T’Challa, guardian and protector of the fictional African nation, Wakanda. He was the first black superhero in mainstream American popular culture.
Black Panther is featured on another issue in that series for Tuvalu – each with a 50,000-mintage limit --on a 2018 1 oz. silver coin available raw and graded and on a 2018 colorized proof issue limited to 2,500 coins. Both show him in his trademark suit and mask and show him in active poses as he gets ready to use of martial arts background and strike against a target.
Doctor Strange, created by Lee and artist Steve Ditko, debuted in comics in 1963. He was the Sorcerer Supreme – who protected the earth against mystical threats, adding a new dimension to comics by introducing the theme of mysticism to the comic book world.
Doctor Strange, who has appeared on other coins as well, is depicted on a 2017 Tuvalu 2 oz. gilt proof still available in its original packaging that features the Seal of Vishanti – a trio of mystical beings depicted in comic books who include: Agamotto the All-Seeing (The Light of Truth), Omnipotent Oshtur (Oshtur the Omnipotent, Lady of the Skies), and Hoary Hoggoth (Hoggoth the Hoary, Lord of Hosts). This triumvirate granted powers of the occult to Doctor Strange. The yellow gilded lines really stand out on this limited proof coin with only 2,500 of them produced.
Whether you are a longtime fan of these Stan Lee characters or perhaps a comic book aficionado who also loves coins, collecting these Marvel numismatic releases are a great way to pay tribute to someone who entertained millions of people with his famous superheroes.
Neither Lee, nor his impressive and prodigious work will be forgotten. As Lee liked to end his comics, excelsior! - Which is also the title of his 2002 memoir.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst,” and in August 2021 the column received the NLG award for best column on modern U.S. coins. He has also received other awards for his writing. He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and and other publications. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|