Untold Stories: Marvel Sells Stash of Original Art (by John Romita, Gil Kane, and others) for $770, 1973
“But think about the Marvel Warehouse of Original Art! Since there is some disagreement as to whom finished art truly belongs (the penciler merely pencils, the inker merely inks, the letterer letters), Marvel prudently settles the question by appropriating all.”
—Creem, April 1973
Marvel began returning current pages to artists sometime in 1974, and eventually worked retroactively back a few months, to comics cover-dated from January 1974; among the earliest issues from which art was sent back were Avengers #119 and Amazing Spider-Man #128.
But a year earlier, Marvel sold the covers to these issues, cover-dated January 1973, to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Seven covers, plus progressive proofs and color guides for each, for a total of $770.
Back in 1986, Irene Vartanoff (who began managing artwork return in 1975) told The Comics Journal that Marvel would occasionally send artwork to exhibits. But as far as I know, this is the only evidence that exists of Marvel actually accepting money for pages of original art.
It’s unclear if the gallery still possesses the pages; nothing comes up on their inventory database. But if Rich Buckler, Joe Sinnott, Barry Smith, John Romita, Sal Buscema, or Tom Palmer happens to read this, they may want to give them a call.
UPDATE: It looks like the pages were displayed in 2006, as part of an exhibit called Funny Papers, and that—great news—the gallery then returned the works to the artists.