Superman #1 sells for record $507,500

Anyone who has collected comic books for any amount of time at all is familiar with the popular misconception — that all comics are valuable and, if you save them long enough, you can use them to pay off the mortgage. But it just ain’t so. Still, news stories of record comic books sales abound and so, the myth persists, making it near-on impossible to convince that Craigslist poster that his BTS copy of Blue Devil #24 is not worth $50.

Well, here comes another news byte that will keep those sellers utterly believing that every comic they glom onto is worth a mint (whether it’s actually in Mint or not), while also keeping you pawing through flea market and lawn sales.

Auction site ComicLink.com reports it sold a slabbed copy of Superman #1 on March 9 for $507,500 — a record for that particular issue and one of the highest prices ever paid of a single comic book.

The issue, graded 5.5 by Florida-based Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) — that’s a Fine-minus to old fogies like me — is said to be the third best unrestored copy.

Released on May 18, 1939, Superman #1 collected the Man of Steel stories from Action Comics #1-4. But it also includes four pages not used in the original tale from Action #1 when editor Vin Sullivan bought the story, then in strip form, and had co-creator Joe Shuster cut it up and paste the product back together in dimensions suitable for the printed comic book page. Those pages explain how Clark Kent got hired as a reporter.

Superman #1 also includes a then new two-page origin sequence that explains Superman’s powers. This sequence shows the Kents for the first time, and provides the first mention of “Krypton.”

As Mark Seifert, co-founder of Avatar Press and managing editor Bleeding Cool mused in his post on the sale, Superman #1 is believed to have moved more than 900,000 copies through three printings. That’s one reason why the book — originally a one-off special — became the first ongoing comic book series dedicated to a single character, with the release of #2 three months later. And yet, despite that high print run, Superman #1 remains “notoriously difficult” to find in high grade. There are, Seifert says, just two copies known to exist in better condition than the one that just sold, both in 8.0, and both locked away in private collections for many years. The last time a CGC 5.5 sold (a different copy) was in 2011, and that one when for $214,000.

To get an idea on the premium a decent copy of Superman #1 can command, consider that the record sale for a Batman #1 in CGC 9.2 (Near Mint-minus) is $567,625, realized in 2013, while a CGC 9.0 (Very Fine/Near Mint) copy of Wonder Woman #1 sold last year for #291,100.

Seifert has a theory that Superman #1, though it sold well — and better than Action Comics #1, which had a reported 202,000 copy print run — sold mostly in metro areas east of the Mississippi. That, he speculates, is what makes high grade copies of Superman #1 so rare, because the nature of city living made it so those issues got disturbed and thrown out in far greater numbers in the years just after its release, and therefore less likely to remain untouched at the bottom of an attic truck.

So, keep lookin’ kiddos, that pot of gold exists out there somewhere!

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Duke Harrington

A newspaper reporter since 2004, Duke Harrington currently writes for the Kennebunk Post and the South Portland Sentry. He lives in Western Maine with one wife, one dog, two cats, and 19,051 comic books.