THE MOST EXPENSIVE COMIC BOOKS
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THE MOST EXPENSIVE COMIC BOOKS
Comic book collecting is a hobby that treats comic books and related items as collectibles or artwork to be sought after and preserved. Though considerably more recent than the collecting of postage stamps (philately) or books (bibliophilia), it has a major following around the world today and is partially responsible for the increased interest in comics after the temporary slump experienced during the 1980s. Among comics fandom, the study of comics as a medium and an art form is sometimes referred to (individually or collectively) as panelology and people who collect comic books are known as pannapictagraphists.
Comics are collected for several possible reasons, including appreciation, nostalgia, financial profit, and completion of the collection. The comic book came to light in the pop culture arena in the 1930s due to the popularity of superhero characters Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel. Since the 1960s, two publishers have dominated the American comic book industry: Marvel Comics, publisher of such comics as Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, and DC Comics, which publishes titles such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Other large non-manga publishers include Image Comics, IDW, and Dark Horse Comics.
As comic books regained their popularity in the 1960s during the boom of the Silver Age, fans organized comic book conventions, where they could meet to discuss their favorite comics with each other and eventually with the creators themselves. As of 2010, numerous conventions and festivals are held around the world, with San Diego Comic Con being the largest and best-known convention in the United States.
While some people collect comic books for personal interest in the medium or characters, others prefer to collect for profit. To assist both types of comic book collector, comic book price guides are available and provide estimates of comic book values as well as information on comic book creators and characters. The price guides assign values for comic books based on demand, availability, and the copy's condition. The longest running price guide is the annual Overstreet Price Guide, first published in 1970. Another current monthly price guide is Comics Buyer's Guide. The growth of the Internet in the late 1990s saw development of online databases to track creator, character appearances, and storylines, as well as websites combining comic book price guides with personalized collection tracking to provide collection values in real-time. The Grand Comics Database is a popular online resource for comic book creator and character information. Popular online price guide and collection tracking services include comicbookrealm.com, comicspriceguide.com, and GPAnalysis. The increased popularity of online auctioning services like eBay or Heritage Auctions for buying and selling comic books has greatly increased the visibility of actual comic book sale prices, leading to improved price guide accuracy, particularly for online price guides such as comicspriceguide.com and GPAnalysis. GPA only tracks sales of slabbed books, and therefore is not an accurate indicator of overall comic sales.
In response to collectors' interest in preserving their collections, products designed for the protection and storage of comic books became available, including special bags; boxes; and acid-free "backing boards", designed to keep the comic book flat.
The origins of comic book collecting as an organized hobby has its roots in early Science Fiction fandom and comic book letter pages. The most famous example is 1950s EC Comics, who published the full addresses of the people writing in, and that in turn allowed comic fans to reach out to each other. Before the late 1960s, virtually no specialized comic stores existed and the notion of comics as collectible art was in its infancy. Few collector-based retail establishments existed, but Pop Hollinger had set up his retail and mail order shop for new and used comics in Concordia, Kansas by 1940. Claude Held followed suit in Buffalo, New York by 1946.
In the US a few specialist shops had opened their doors by the 1960s, but were still a small market. In the UK, the only distribution channels available were ordinary news stands and mail order publications like Exchange and Mart or through zines run by the early panelologists themselves. During the 1970s major comic publishers like Marvel and DC Comics started to recognize the new movements and started publishing material that was intended for sale in specialist shops only. When Marvel tested the new specialist market with the title Dazzler the comic sold over 400,000 copies, a very respectable figure and one that astounded the company. Hereafter, comics publishers started tailoring ever increasing percentages of marketing and production solely for the sale in specialist stores. While the bulk of the revenues still came from sales through regular channels, the ability to focus more specifically on specific target groups as well as distributing comics not on a sale-or-return basis, but in limited runs according to sales predictions from the retailers themselves, over-printing and overhead costs could be drastically reduced. From the 1970s to the present day, comics publishers have been targeting more and more of their titles to collector audiences with features such as limited editions, the use of high quality paper, or the inclusion of novelty items.The speculator boom
The world paid rapt attention to Heritage Auctions, and to the soaring market for fine comic books and choice original art, in the last two weeks of February as the company staged back-to-back record setting auctions – Signature® Illustration Art on Feb. 18 ($4.5 million+) and Signature® Vintage Comics and Comic Art on Feb. 25 ($5.6 million).
This biggest story to come out of the two auctions, and perhaps any auction in the nation so far this year, was the $1,075,500 total price (including Buyer’s Premium) paid for an exceedingly rare high grade CGC-certified 8.0 copy of Detective # 27, the first appearance of “The Batman,” which became the single most valuable comic book on the planet at 2:26 p.m. CT on Thursday, Feb. 25.
“We knew a couple months ago that this Detective # 27 was a good candidate to break the previous auction record for a comic book of $317,000,” said Lon Allen, Director of the Comics Department at Heritage, “and then around the time of the auction we suspected it could go as high as $800,000. The fact that it then topped seven figures, and nosed out Superman for the world record price was simply amazing to us all. I’ve never been in an auction room with such excitement.”
The stunning price of $1,075,500 for a single comic book wasn’t the only record set in Heritage Auctions’ Signature® Vintage Comics and Comics Art Auction. The $5.6 million total for the event broke the Guinness World Record of $5,207,430.65 set by the same firm in October 2002 for the auction that included the famed collection of actor Nicolas Cage.
“What we’re seeing now with vintage comic books and original comic art,” said Ed Jaster, Vice President of Heritage Auctions, “is nothing less than the full maturation of the category into a widely respected and recognized category for serious collectors from across the planet.”
While Detective #27 dominated the news cycle around the world for three straight days, making headlines and front pages from Asia to South America, the auction saw several other records fall in the process, including the astounding $179,250 price paid for Alberto Vargas’ truly stunning Vargas Girl, Playboy Illustration, October 1963, from The Playboy Collection.
“This is a great record on a number of levels,” said Jaster. “Not only is it the highest price ever paid for an original Vargas, it also represents the most ever paid for an original piece of Playboy art. Looking at this piece it’s obvious that it’s one of Vargas’ best works and well deserving of such an exalted price.”
A famous comic that would have been the uncontested highlight of almost any other auction, the Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy (Timely, 1939), CGC-certified 9.0, sold for $227,050, making it the third-most expensive comic ever sold at Heritage. “We believe this to be one of the top ten auction prices ever paid for a comic in any venue,” Jaster noted.
Original Charles Schulz artwork has now cracked six figures for the third time in a Heritage auction as a Charles Schulz Peanuts Snoopy vs. The Red Baron Sunday Comic Strip Original Art from July 31, 1966 barnstormed its way to a $101,575 total.
Another sign of how much elite comics have appreciated is Green Lantern #1 (DC, 1960) CGC NM 9.4 from 1960. Heritage previously auctioned this copy in 2003 for $18,975, a smashing price as the time that was quadruple the book value. But just seven years later it realized $50,787.50.
The original art section had many pleasant surprises, perhaps none more so than the Wally Wood Daredevil #7 page 7 Original Art (Marvel, 1965) that realized $35,580. “Up to now the only Marvel artists of that era to fetch that kind of price for a panel page were the two greats Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko,” Jaster said.
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.
The MM and history threads have piqued my curiousity: Has someone charted the record highest price paid for a comic book through the years?
Confirmed and updated information so far:
1965 - Action Comics 1 for $250 (as reported by AP);
1968 - Marvel Comics 1 for $330 (by Howard Rogolfsky as reported by the AP, but not with reference to a record);
[Aside: 1969 - Captain Marvel 1 for $150 (reported by AP).]
1973 - Action 1 for $1,000 (by Bruce Hamilton per AP, from Gene Henderson per Robert Beerbohm), Action 1 for $1,500 (bought by Theo Hostein from Hamilton as reported by Mitch Mehdy) followed by same book for $1,801.26 (bought by Mehdy from Holstein as widely reported in the media), also Action 1 for $1,800 (claim by Jon Campbell per UPI report - not sure if he was connected to Hamilton or not);
1974 - $2,000 for Whiz 2 sold by Comics & Comix to Burl Rowe (per Robert Beerbohm), $2,200 for Detective 27 sold by Comics & Comix to Burl Rowe (per Robert Beerhbohm), also Detective 27 reportedly offered for $2,000 by Jon Campbell (per UPI) and Burl Rowe also was reported by the AP to have purchased a Superman 1 for $2,000 at the last day of that years Houstoncon;
[Aside: 1974 UPI article state Bob Crestohl was offered $4,000 for his Action 1 (which he bought in 1973 for $1,500), but he turned it down -- although he was willing to sell his Detective 27 for $2,500];
1979 - Marvel Comics 1 for $13,000 (bought by Snyder as reported by AP);
Early 80s - Marvel Comics 1 for $17,500 (by Snyder to Geppi);
1984 - Action 1 for $25,000 (bought by Dave Anderson);
*[Aside: mid-80s - Marvel Comics 1 for $82,000? (Bought by Verzyl, but this is a controversial contender, and based on comments on this board about this being part of a 3,000 book purchase, and the lack of any media claim to a record, I think this probably should not be viewed as a record purchase)];
1990 - Allentown Detective #27 $82,000 (bought by Dave Anderson);
[Aside: 1991 - Detective 27 for $55,000 (sold by Sotheby's to Harold Anderson - denoted in media reports as record for comic sold at auction)];
1992 - Action 1 for $82,500 (sold by Sotheby's as reported in media);
1994 - Detective #27 $101,000 (seller or buyer? As reported by Rob's site);
[Aside: 1994 - Action 1 for $54,625 (sold by Sotheby's and denoted in media reports as highest price for a restored comic)];
1995 - Action 1 for $137,500 (sold by PCE to Daniel Kramer);
[Aside: 1995 - Whiz 2 for $176,000 (media reports exist of this purchase by Geppi from Dave Anderson, but board members say it was a trade deal);
2000 - Allentown Captain America #1 for $265,000 (bought by Verzyl);
2001 - Detective 27 for $278,210 (sold by Mastro);
2002 - Marvel Comics 1 for $350,000 (sold to Jay Parrino by Steve Geppi);
2010 - Action 1 for $1,000,000, few days later D27 for $1.075 million, followed by Action 1 for $1.5 million.
As you probably saw splashed all over the news yesterday, a collectible comic has broken the $1 million barrier, as a 8.0 graded copy of ACTION #1, the first appearance of Superman, as sold by an unknown owner to an unknown buyer. As told here, the sale was brokered by Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo of Comicconnect.com. The copy of ACTION #1 is one of only two in this condition known to exist, and this particular copy last sold 15 years ago for $150,000 — the previous record for a comics sales was another copy of ACTION #1 which went for $317,200 last year. On the Comic-Connect website, there’s more of the story:
This particular copy has been in a private collection for more than 15 years, and it’s likely to disappear again once it’s been turned over to its new owner. However, ComicConnect.com will allow the media to view it briefly in its New York City showroom (873 Broadway, Suite 201, 212-895-3999). The showroom is also home to ComicConnect.com’s affiliate, Metropolis Collectibles (metropoliscomics.com), the largest vintage comic book dealer in the world.
“It’s the Holy Grail of comic books,” says founder Stephen Fishler, one of the leading experts on collectible comics.
Only 100 copies of ACTION #1 are known to exist out of perhaps 200,000 printed, as estimated by John Jackson Miller, who has further musings on the story:
How long has a million-dollar offer been around? At least since the summer of 2001, when Richard Evans, owner of Houston’s Bedrock City Comics, mentioned it at a forum on the aftermarket that I organized at Comic Con International: San Diego. “At some point,” Evans said, “certain comics are going to reach a price ceiling where it they are going to become museum quality items. If the guy who owned the nicest Action #1 put it on the table, well, there’s already an offer of $1 million. I don’t think it would be any stretch of the imagination to believe that that guy’s offer is low.” (The forum in its entirety appeared in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1451.) Now, there’s no telling whether the ComicConnect buyer is the same potential buyer mentioned back then, or someone else — but it’s clearly not the first time Action’s been picked as the first book to hit the $1 million mark.
Man of Steel? Try Man of Platinum!
A rare copy of a comic featuring the first appearance of Superman sold yesterday for $1 million, the highest price ever paid for a comic book.
The well-preserved copy of "Action Comics" No. 1 was bought by a private seller from a private buyer, auction site ComicConnect.com reported.
The seller bought the 1938 comic for $150,000 and had owned it for about 15 years, and the buyer was a collector who owns a lesser-grade copy of the comic, said ComicConnect's Stephen Fishler.
There are only about 100 copies in existence, and the one sold yesterday is one of the two highest-graded.
Detective Comics #27 Sells For Highest Price Ever
Who are the people in this economy that have can be paying these insane prices for comic books?
Just last Tuesday I told you about someone paying $1 million for Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman, and how that set a record. By Friday that record had been broken.
Three days later?!?
An anonymous buyer spent $1,075,500 on a copy of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman according to IO9. The issue was targeted to sell for $100,000, but by the time the bidding opened on Thursday it had already hit $400,000.
This is troublesome to me because news like this is what set off the early 90's comic speculation boom, something the industry has never fully recovered from. People were anxious to get out of the stock market and went nuts for comic books for a while due to reports of extreme prices being paid for some key issues. The thought process was that all books would shoot up in value, but the problem was that the new books were being produced in the hundreds of thousands, and no matter how much you tried to explain this to people, they simply would not listen.
Like the Action #1, this copy of Detective Comics #27 was graded as being “Very Fine” (VF), or an 8 our of 10. I’m not sure where these VF copies are suddenly appearing from, but it is nice to see some still exist.
Hopefully these buyers aren’t expecting to turn a profit on these, but one never knows.
Comics Sales Records in the Diamond Exclusive Era
High and low points in sales to comics shops in North America from 1997-present
These records detail the high and low points observed on the charts published by Diamond Comic Distributors during the period in which it was the sole distributor for the North American comic-book store market, from April 1997 onward.
These totals do not reflect comics that might have been sold in the newsstand, bookstore, or overseas markets — and for individual books, those sales may be substantial. For example, Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu #1 is reported to have had sales topping 1 million copies across multiple printings in 1999 — almost entirely outside the comics shop market.
And, of course, if you go further back, you reach many higher sales records — the top-selling comic book ever, X-Men Vol. 2, #1 in 1991, had sales over 8 million copies. But the records here for average prices represent all-time averages (for obvious reasons).
Highest Orders for a Comic Book in Single Month, 1997-present
Darkness #11, Image Comics
Lowest Number of Copies Ordered for the #1 Comic Book in a Single Month, 1997-present
Green Lantern #62, DC
First Month with No Title Selling More than 100,000 Copies in a Single Month
Most Comic Books in the Top 300 Comics List by Publisher, 1997-present
Most Comic Books Ordered in a Single Month (Top 300 Comics), 1997-present
Fewest Comic Books Ordered in a Single Month (Top 300 Comics), 1997-present
Highest Dollar Volume for Comic Books Ordered in a Single Month (Top 300 Comics) 1997-present
Lowest Dollar Volume for Comic Books Ordered in a Single Month (Top 300 Comics)
Highest Dollar Volume for Top 300 Comic Books and Top 100 Trade Paperbacks Ordered in a Single Month
Highest Dollar Volume for All Comic Books, Trade Paperbacks, and Magazines Ordered from Diamond in a Single Month, 2003-present
Lowest Dollar Volume for All Comic Books, Trade Paperbacks, and Magazines Ordered from Diamond in a Single Month, 2003-present
Most Consecutive Months for a Publisher to Have the #1 Comic Book, 1996-present
January 2007 - March 2009
Number of Different Publishers with the #1 Comic Book, 1996-present
Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Image, Dreamwave
Smallest Number of Different Publishers in the Top 300, 1996-present
Most Consecutive Months for a Title at #1, 1996-present
Uncanny X-Men #366-375, Marvel Comics
January 1999 - October 1999
Most Comic Books Sold by a 300th-place title, 1996-present
Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #3, Dark Horse Comics
Fewest Comic Books Sold by a 300th-place title, 1996-present
Tomb Raider Gallery #1 (reoffered), Image Comics
Highest Average Price for Comics in Diamond’s Top 300 Comics List
Highest Weighted Average Price for All Comics Ordered within Diamond’s Top 300 Comics List
Highest Final Order Dollar Market Shares registered for the Following Companies, 1997-present:
Marvel: 45.31%, September 2008
DC: 42.47%, October 2011
Image: 17.09%, May 1998
Dark Horse: 13.62%, May 1999
IDW: 5.32%, July 2011
CrossGen: 4.58%, June 2002
It’s only been four days since a 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1, the first appearance of Superman, sold for a record $1 million at auction, but that figure has already been surpassed by $75,500. Not surprisingly, the culprit is the first appearance of Batman – a 1939 edition of Detective Comics No. 27. Again, both parties involved in the sale chose to remain anonymous, but it was revealed that the comic was purchased by the seller in the late ’60s for $100. Not too shabby.
Apparently, Adam West’s Batman wasn’t driving prices into the stratosphere, but if current box office is any indicator, fans seem to by migrating towards characters who have more human vulnerabilities—and Batman is tops on that list. So, for now, the holy grail of comic book collecting appears to lie with him. And who knows when, or if, high quality copies like this will ever be sold back to back again.
There are some rather elitist book collectors who look upon comic book collectors as odd step-children. They think that “true book collections” must hold only antiquarian, or only modern first editions, or only award winners, or only collections of a particular author, or only author signed books, or only books related to a specific subject… or only… The list of “acceptable” collections – those that are worthy of being referred to as book collections at all is quite long and seems to be limited only by the imagination of the collector. I recently reported about a collector who has 400 volumes of the same book! Comic book collectors, in my opinion are also book collectors who are just as obsessed about their collections as your “regular” book collector.
With the very high auction prices being realized on rare comic books, I suspect these collectors may well move into the main stream. Who needs elitism anyway? I have always balked at pigeon holing folks. It just goes against my natural inclinations.
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A copy of Detective Comics # 27, which marks the debut of Batman, sold at auction for more than $1 million, barely breaking a record set by Action Comics # 1.
Barely a month after Action Comics # 1 and Detective Comics # 27 sold for record prices, the first appearance of Superman has broken another barrier.
The Associated Press reports that a copy of the 1938 comic went for $ 1.5 million on the auction website ComicConnect, jumping past the $1.075-million record price paid on earlier for a copy of Detective Comics # 27. That issue broke a record $ 1 million paid just three days earlier for a copy of Action Comics #1.
Before this year, the top price paid for a comic was $317,000 in 2009 for another Action Comics # 1.
About 100 copies of the issue are believed to exist, and only a handful of those are in good condition. It has a cover price of 10 cents.
The comic book market continues to boom as the first comic book to feature Spider-Man sold for $1.1 million through comic book auction house ComicConnect.com, the same house that sold a 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1, featuring Superman's debut last year for a record $1.5 million. Action Comics No. 1 originally sold for 10 cents and the Marvel Spider-Man sold for 12 cents in 1962. The copy that sold is in excellent condition and the cover shows Spider Man swinging by a web. Early comic books from the 1930s to 1950s are often called Golden Age comic books. The Spider-Man comes from what is known as the Silver Age. This sale may end up raising the prices of other Silver Age books. Spider-Man remains popular with the public.
Published in February of 1940, this was the first comic book where Captain Marvel appeared. Its approximated value (supposing the comic is in it’s original conditions) is $84,000 (in 2004).
Published in March of 1941, it was logically the first time when the legendary Captain America appeared. The price of this comic in good conditions is $125,000.
Published in January of 1940, It is the first comic where flash appears but it was published in a strange way, as few books where produced. The second comic of Flash comic’s changed its name to Whiz comics, and was strangely numbered as the first one. This comics costs $97,000 in almost original conditions.
This edition (the number 16) was published in July of 1940 and, It was the first appearance of Green Lantern. Its estimated value is $160,000.
The Human Torch (from the Fantastic Four) and other super heroes made their first appearance in this publishment of October of 1939. It would cost $330,000 in good conditions.
This was a comic fully dedicated to Superman, but it was a reprint of the original “Action Comics Story,” which was published in the summer of 1930. Its value is $270,000 in good conditions.
X-MEN #1 - Est. $ 100.000
X-Men #1 - introduced a new kind of superhero. The X-Men were so-called due to the "x-factor" or an unknown gene which causes mutations granting powers. In this first issue, the X-Men under Charles Xavier battle the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants under Magneto. The X-Men series had some ups and downs in the middle years, but were later revived with a new team of mutants in Giant Size X-Men #1 in the 1970's. X-Men #1 started it all in September 1963.