When Superman #1 hit the newsstands in 1939, the Man of Steel was already enjoying public attention from his debut in Action Comics #1. But what made this issue a valuable relic is that it was the first time that a comic book character was given their own title. It was an important milestone in the comic book world. This issue is set to make history once again, as an unrestored copy is currently up for bidding via Heritage Auctions and is expected to cost more than $300,000.
There were more than a million copies of Superman #1 published. Because of its age, most of the available copies on the market are restored and are of low quality. However, the copy which headlines the auction has a 4.5 condition rating – out of 10 – by the comic grading service Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), making it a very important and sought-after comic.
It’s evident that the 80-plus-year-old superhero is still gathering fan interest, as old and new material continues to pop up, with fans entering bidding wars to own them. Last year, All-Comic reported on a lost Siegel and Shuster Company story that DC published as part of their ACTION COMICS #1000 Celebration. Superman has also made an appearance in 2018’s Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and this year’s The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.
With Superman still considered one of the most important American superheroes of all-time, it’s no wonder that the comic that started it all commands such a high price. That’s not even the highest value placed on a comic book featuring the superhero either, as a copy of Action Comics #1 sold for $3.2 million in 2014. Considering that it has a CGC 9.0 condition rating, combined with the fact that it has an unparalleled place in comic book history, the price is considered fair.
The same can be said for this $300,000 CGC 4.5 copy of Superman #1. Although, the disparity in price between these two is highly telling of how much both condition and historical merit matters to comic book collectors. This fact was made frightfully clear to $13 million lottery winner Robert Sage in 2014. While the jackpot was only a 1/3 of the typical World Millions $50 million jackpot listed on Lottoland, it was enough to change Sage’s life forever. CBR recalls how Sage used part of his fortune to upgrade his comic book collection from 14,000 to 24,000 comic books.
When it came time to settle his previous tax debt worth $123,432.06, Sage claimed that his 22 bins of comics would be worth $200,000. However, when the IRS auctioned the collection, it only reached $5,100 in bids. Collectors say it’s because the collection was mostly from the 80s and 90s – young by collector standards. Sage was also more of a reader than a collector, so the collection wasn’t exactly in pristine condition.
Thus, his 24,000-strong collection ended up being worth less than 2% of this CGC 4.5 copy of Superman #1. For comparison, earlier in 2017, a different copy of Superman #1 – but with a CGC 5.5 condition rating – sold for $507,500. Such prices for well-preserved, early era comics are not uncommon. A CGC 8.0 copy of Detective Comics was previously auctioned for $1,075,000. Meanwhile, a CGC 8.0 copy of Batman #1 – arguably Superman’s greatest ally – previously fetched $567,625. Considering these prices, this CGC 4.5 Superman #1 seems almost like a bargain.