‘Action Comics’ #1 Sells for $6 Million, Setting a New All-Time Record for Comics

Superman’s first appearance is the most valuable comic in the world. Again.
'Action Comics' #1 introduced Superman as well as his strong dislike for cars.
'Action Comics' #1 introduced Superman as well as his strong dislike for cars. / Heritage Auctions/HA.com

The modern superhero was born in 1938, when Cleveland friends and collaborators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster debuted Superman in Action Comics #1. So few copies of the comic are known to exist in good condition that it’s become one of the most sought-after collectibles of all time. Last week, it broke new ground: At $6 million, it’s now the most valuable comic ever sold.

The copy, which was offered by Heritage Auctions, was graded 8.5 out of 10 by the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), a third-party grading service that assesses the condition of books and maintains a database of known and graded copies. According to CGC, only two copies of Action Comics #1 have received a higher numerical score. Both are graded 9.0 and are believed to be in the possession of billionaire collector Ayman Hariri.

While higher grades are always coveted, the comic is scarce enough that even lesser versions can fetch big money. A copy graded 6.0 sold for $3.56 million in 2023; one poor relic graded .05 sold for $408,000 that same year. In 2020, someone paid $410 for a few stray flecks of paper (and one staple) from the book.

'Action Comics' #1 is pictured
'Action Comics' #1. / Heritage Auctions/HA.com

While you might expect Action Comics #1 to be consistently in first place when it comes to comic book values, that hasn’t always been the case. In 2022, a nearly perfect copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 (CGC 9.6), the first appearance of Spider-Man, sold for $3.6 million, becoming the most valuable comic at that time. In 2023, a copy of Superman #1 (CGC 8.0) sold for $5.3 million, establishing a new record.

Bolstering the sale price was the fact that the copy was part of a “pedigreed” collection, or one that is known to collectors for having a provenance. This is the “Kansas City” copy, so named for being part of a collection traced to a collector in that city who compiled hundreds of first issues from the earliest days of comics publishing.

Another pedigreed copy, this one from the collection of Edgar Church, is rumored to be the best-preserved of them all: Church was a collector in Denver, Colorado, whose dry basement kept his books in exceptional condition. But what that might mean at auction is unknown: The copy is in private hands and there’s no way of knowing when or if it will come up for sale.

CGC estimates there are fewer than 100 copies of Action Comics #1 still in existence out of the 200,000 or so that were printed back in 1938. The chances you have one in your basement are low, but you might want to check your walls. In 2013, a contractor in Minnesota was working on renovating an older house when he found a copy being used as insulation. Graded 1.5, it sold for $175,000.

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[h/t The Hollywood Reporter]