Superman # 1 is the latest vintage comic to join the 7-character club
Whatever else is going on elsewhere in the economy, one sector that shows no signs of distress is the old comic book bull market, which has been booming since the start of the pandemic. The last data point? An auction currently in progress for Superman # 1 (1939) classified in unrestored condition 7.0 (fine / very fine), taking place at the online auction site ComicConnect.com. With almost a week to go, auctions have already reached $ 1,850,000.
Superman # 1, originally published by National Periodical Publications, now known as DC Comics, is obviously an important comic, but it’s not Superman’s first appearance (it would be Action comics # 1, who sold for $ 3.25 million in 8.0 last April) nor epically rare: there are 165 known copies, according to the census of the CGC, which counts as a reasonable number by the standards of the comics of the years 1930-40. However, more than half of the known examples have been restored; only three other unrestored books are listed in the census as 8.0 or better, and it’s the kind of scarcity that is causing the very high end of the market right now.
This copy has a little story behind it. The current owners, Mark and Sara Michaelson, are longtime collectors who have bonded through their mutual love for old comics. Mark would have bought his copy of Superman # 1 from the original owner, who parted with the book in 1979 on the sole condition that the buyer treasures it as much as he does. Now semi-retired, the Michaelsons hope to pass the book on to an equally passionate collector.
It remains to be seen whether the ultimate auction winner shares a love for old comics, but whoever he is, he will have very deep pockets. The level of interest generated by this auction continues to demonstrate that pop culture collectibles are becoming an asset class for high net worth individuals and possibly some institutions as well. Especially when it comes to the comics released before WWII with the cultural cache now given to iconic superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain America, there just aren’t many copies, while as awareness continues to grow through the Hollywood efforts. When interest drives demand and supply is fixed, well … anyone who’s followed Economics 101 knows what happens to prices.
Inflation and the state of the global economy add fuel to the fire. Collectibles serve the same role in a wallet as precious metals, except that they are each individual items rather than commodities, and despite the occasional attic find, there are no new copies on the market. . Collectible comics are also portable, especially enclosed in the durable shells provided by filing services, and their provenance can be traced through resources such as the CGC Census.
It seems likely that this book, which originally sold for a dime over 80 years ago, will cost over $ 2 million – possibly well over $ 2 million. Even Superman himself would envy that kind of gravity-defying takeoff.