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'Amazing Spider-Man' No. 1 among $85K in rare merchandise missing from Tampa Bay Comic Con

TAMPA — A Panama City comic books dealer reported $85,000 worth of rare books missing Saturday from the Tampa Convention Center.

Rick Whitelock, an exhibitor at Tampa Bay Comic Con and owner of New Force Comics, said the box contained such rarities as two copies of Amazing Fantasy No. 15 from 1962, which features the first appearance of Spider-Man. Whitelock's copies are CGC rated at 5.0 and 4.0, and priced at $19,995 and $15,995 respectively.

Whitelock filed a report Saturday with the Tampa Police Department.

On Thursday, Whitelock arrived in Tampa with dozens of boxes containing hundreds of rare books. The boxes were locked up inside the convention center overnight, Whitelock said, but when he returned Friday morning and began preparing his booth, he realized that one box was missing.

"I'm sick over it," Whitelock said. "In more than a decade of doing this at more than 100 shows, I've never had anything like this happen. I don't know if someone stole them, or picked up the wrong box by accident while we were unloading, or if I misplaced them somehow, but this is a very unique set of books that is definitely not going to go unnoticed if someone has it, especially not around here."

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Other books in the missing box include an Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 priced at $8,500, an Incredible Hulk No. 1 priced at $14,995, an Uncanny X-Men No. 1 valued at around $7,000 and a copy of Brave and the Bold No. 28 rated at 7.5, which Whitelock was selling for $15,000. That last one features the first appearance of the Justice League team made up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash.

Whitelock said the box contained another 17 Silver Age comic books, including a Strange Tales No. 110, which has the first appearance of Doctor Strange.

Whitelock said he worked with security at the convention center to see if anything was captured on the venue's surveillance cameras, but was told that nothing of use could be seen. The items are insured, Whitelock said.

"It's going to be tough, because we don't even have a suspect," he said. "These are some special comic books. It's not all about the money."

Tampa Bay Comic Con organizers said they are trying to "rectify the situation."

"We've talked with (Whitelock) and our relationship with him is still good. We've been told he may have left his boxes unattended at some point," Comic Con spokeswoman Halia Smalczewski said.

"We're all working together right now and we'll be coordinating with him tomorrow and we're going to sort it out. We're doing everything in our power to fix it."

Along with the comic books featuring the first appearances of Batman and Superman, copies of Amazing Fantasy No. 15 are one of only three comic books issues to ever sell at auction for more than $1 million. A copy that was graded 9.6 sold for $1.1 million in 2011.