NEW YORK (ACNI) – In a story worthy of a comic book adventure itself, a highly graded copy of Action Comics #1 has set a world record price for a comic book, selling yesterday for more than $2.1 million. The 1938 comic book, stolen a decade ago from a high-profile collector and thought lost forever, was rediscovered earlier this year in an abandoned storage unit.
Certified by independent third-party grading firm Certified Guaranty (CGC) as a 9.0 (out of 10) – the highest-graded, publicly certified copy of Action Comics #1 – the book featuring the first appearance of Superman was auctioned by ComicConnect.com for $2,161,000. It was the culmination of a journey that amazed many.
The bidding for the issue closed at 7:25 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, after 50 bids. The keenly watched offering had cleared the million-dollar mark earlier, joining only four other comic books that have achieved such heights.
ComicConnect sold the first of them, a CGC-certified 8.0 copy of Action Comics #1, February 22, 2010, for $1 million. Three days later, Dallas-based Heritage Auctions sold a CGC-certified 8.0 copy of Detective Comics #27 – the May 1939 publication heralding the first appearance of Batman – for $1,075,500. ComicConnect reclaimed the top spot on March 30, 2010 with the sale of a CGC-certified 8.5 copy of Action Comics #1 for $1.5 million.
Additionally, the company sold a CGC-certified 9.6 copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the August 1962 first appearance of Spider-Man, for $1.1 million in March 2011. ComicConnect does not charge a buyer’s premium.
In the days leading up to the record-setting auction session, the mainstream media latched onto the story of this particular copy. It was reported stolen from the home of a prominent West Coast collector in January 2000. While ComicConnect did not name the former owner in promoting their auction, it was widely noted by sources ranging from comic industry websites to The Hollywood Reporter and MTV to have been actor Nicholas Cage. Known as an enthusiastic collector, Cage even took his stage surname from Marvel Comics’ Luke Cage, Power Man and went on to christen his son Kal-El, after Superman’s Kryptonian name.
Perhaps ironically, Cage’s Action Comics #1 had been purchased from Metropolis Collectibles, the sister firm of ComicConnect.com. Company representatives including Chief Executive Officer Stephen Fishler and Chief Operating Officer Vincent Zurzolo immediately recognized the copy when it was rediscovered in April 2011 after an as-yet-unidentified man purchased the contents of an abandoned storage locker in southern California.
Given the high market profile of the copy even before the days of seven-figure comic books, the issue would not have been an easy sale for the individual who stole it. It was readily identifiable to those who were familiar with it, causing some to believe it had been discarded, or worse, during the more than a decade it was missing.
Noted as holding the highest grade on the CGC Census, the copy is believed to be the second-best copy in existence. The top spot, according to some, would belong The Edgar Church Collection (also known as The Mile High Collection) pedigree copy, which has been estimated in the 9.4 range by experts in the hobby. However, it has not been publically graded, meaning that ComicConnect and the undisclosed buyer can enjoy their record-setting moment for now.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think as a kid that my business would be selling vintage comic books, let alone the most expensive comic book in the world. After selling the Action #1 8.0 for a million, the Action #1 8.5 for $1.5 million, I couldn’t figure out how we could top it,” Zurzolo told Auction Central News. “Then to recover the copy of Action #1 stolen from one of our very best customers 11 years ago, we knew there was a possibility. $2,161,000. We made history today.”
Given both the supply and demand for the issue, the price might not be as astronomical as it seems.
“It may seem shocking to those who haven’t been following the comic book market in recent years, but after a protracted period of six-figure prices, this progression is very logical,” said Robert M. Overstreet, author and publisher of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, now in its 41st edition. “Following the sale in 2010 of a CGC-certified 8.0 specimen for $1 million, and that of an 8.5 copy for $1.5 million, the continued demand across all grades practically guaranteed that the highest-graded copy certified to date would attract spirited bidding.”
“Every existing copy of Action Comics #1 is a pop-culture treasure. There were reportedly 200,000 copies originally printed in 1938, of which roughly 70,000 were unsold and subsequently destroyed. 130,000 copies were sold when the U.S. population was approximately 130 million. Now in a nation of 305 million there are by most accounts only 100 copies extant of this issue, the origin of one of the two most recognized characters in the world (the other being Mickey Mouse). It’s great to see the scarcity and importance of this comic recognized in such a public way,” said Melissa Bowersox, Executive Vice-President of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore.
“The natural attrition of paper products, accelerated by World War II-era paper drives and the general low esteem in which comics were held for many years, contributed to the scarcity of this issue today. In the case of some Golden Age comics, there are many copies available, and the only shortage is for high-grade copies. In recent times with Action Comics #1, though, the market has witnessed demand even for poor condition examples or restored copies, which under most circumstances have long been taboo with most collectors,” Bowersox said.
The ComicConnect.com auction continues through Sunday, Dec. 4, including a Friday session featuring items from the collection of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.
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