First Edition of Superman Comic Sold At $1 Million

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A rare 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1 Superman Comic sold on Monday for $1 million dollars. The comic was sold by a private seller to a private buyer, who did not release their names. The comic book originally sold for 10 cents.

"It’s considered by most people as the most important book," said John Dolmayan, a comic book enthusiast and dealer best known as the drummer for the rock band System of a Down. "It kind of ushered in the age of the superheroes."

Dolmayan, who owns Torpedo Comics, last year paid $317,000 for an Action Comics No. 1 issue for a client.

That purchase is considered the "official public record" for a comic book sale, said Mark Zaid, the marketing director for the Comic Book Collecting Association, which was launched Monday. There have been other private sales in the $300,000 to $450,000 range, he said.

Monday’s copy fetched a much higher price because it’s in better condition. It’s rated an 8.0 grade, or very fine, on a scale that goes up to 10.

"The fact that this book is completely unrestored and still has an 8.0 grade, it’s kind of like a diamond or a precious stone. It’s very rare," he said.

There are only about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 believed to be in existence, and only a handful have been rated so highly. It’s rarer still for those copies to be made available for sale.

"The opportunity to buy an unrestored, high-grade Action One comes along once every two decades," Stephen Fishler, co-owner of comicconnect.com, said. "It’s certainly a milestone."

The sticker shock was astounding to Fishler, nevertheless.

"It is still a little stunning to see ’a comic book’ and ’$1 million’ in the same sentence," Fishler said. "There’s only one time a collectible hits the $1 million threshold."

Comicconnect.com, who negotiated the sale minutes after it was put up for sale said the seller was a "well-known individual" in New York with a pedigree collection and that the buyer was a known customer who previously bought an Action Comics No. 1 of lesser grade. Comicconnect released this article after the sale:


They said it couldn’t be done. They said that no comic book—no matter how rare—would ever sell for $1,000,000. This week, they were proven wrong. And in the midst of a recession, no less!

That’s because ComicConnect.com, one of the industry’s leading online auction/consignment sites, just sold an extremely rare, top-condition copy of the world’s most coveted comic book for exactly $1,000,000. That figure is more than three times higher than the prior record-holder, also set by ComicConnect.com.

That comic book, of course, is Action Comics #1, which marked the debut of Superman in 1938 and promptly changed the course of pop culture forever.

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.

“Before Action Comics #1, there was no such thing as a superhero or a man who could fly,” notes Fishler, who created the 10-point grading scale which today is used universally to evaluate the condition of comic books.

“It’s the single most important event in comic book history,” adds ComicConnect.com co-owner and COO, Vincent Zurzolo.

Only about 100 copies Action Comics #1 remain in existence, and of those 100, only two have received a grading of 8.0 (Very Fine) or higher. This particular book is one of them, making it among the rarest of the rare.

Up until now, the record-holder was another Action Comics #1, this one with a grading of 6.0. It sold on ComicConnect.com for $317,200 in 2009.

According to the Overstreet Price Guide to Comic Books—the industry bible—Action Comics #1 is indisputably the highest-valued comic book of all time. In second place is Detective Comics #27, which marked the first appearance of Batman in 1939. An Action Comics #1 graded 8.0 or higher is priced about 25% higher than a comparable Detective Comics #27.

Until last week, some collectors weren’t aware of the existence of this million dollar copy. Fishler, however, knew it well, because 15 years ago, he sold it for $150,000.

But why the big jump in price?

“High-grade copies are rarely, rarely offered for sale,” explains Zurzolo. “When they do come on the market, you can expect to see a big leap in value.”

“I knew that someday, there would be a seven figure comic book sale, and I dreamed of being part of that historic moment. But I didn’t think it would happen so soon, particularly given the current state of the economy.”

Imagine: back in 1938, this very comic book sold for ten cents, its sole purpose to entertain a child. 72 years later, some very fortunate adult is willing to spend $1,000,000 for the privilege of owning it—something most experts believed would never happen.

“Is it worth it?” says Fishler. “Absolutely. There is nothing else like it.”

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