The original art for the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #49 by John Romita Sr. sold for $167,300 at Heritage Auctions this afternoon. The cover is from early in Romita's influential run on the title (he took over from Steve Ditko with #39 in 1966), written by Stan Lee.
The piece is noteworthy both for its visual and for the particulars of its era. By my rough count, Romita Sr. did (penciled or penciled & inked) approximately 100 Amazing Spider-Man covers in his initial run ranging from #39-169 (1966-1977, though his run on interior art stopped sooner). However, only 24 of those covers are large art (So called because the image area is fully twice up, 12.25″ x 20.25″. Marvel then switched to smaller art board with a 10″ x 15″ image area in 1968). Other considerations being equal, large art is generally more desirable to original Marvel art collectors.
Giving the sale some context compared to other recent headlining original comic art sales, the sale of an interior page of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns art garnered $448,125 in May, the cover of EC title Weird Fantasy #29 by Frank Frazetta sold for $380,000 last year, and the climactic interior splash page of Spider-Man #50 by Romita Sr. sold for $88,500 last year as well.
Heritage last sold a Romita Sr. Spider-Man large art cover in 2005 — the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #41 went for $58,650 at that time. Philip Weiss Auctions sold the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #43 for $101,700 in 2006. The market has exploded since then, and while Heritage was publicly estimating a result in the $100,000 range for this sale, the final $167,300 hammer price is little surprise to knowledgeable original art market observers. Names like Kirby, Ditko, and Romita are some of the cornerstones of the Marvel Universe, and the market for Romita originals has been strong and active for many years.
In fact, the stunning result of the auction is the $77,675 price for the 1994 Amazing Spider-Man #100 cover re-creation, also by John Romita Sr. That's an extremely strong number for a relatively recent re-creation, particularly since the original #100 cover still exists and has been on the market a couple times in the past 5-6 years. But it's a powerful image from one of comics' most important artists.