Two Early Superman Comics, Including the Character’s First Graphic Appearance, Just Sold for a Combined $3 Million at Auction

The super-powered character has sold more comics than any other, according to experts.

DC Comics, Superman #1, 1939. Courtesy Goldin.

Two early Superman comics—one of them featuring the superhero’s debut appearance—sold for more than a combined $3 million at New Jersey auctioneer Goldin on Wednesday night.

The sales come in the context of a hot auction market for comics, with top prices achieved in just the last two years, as Artnet News reported in 2022.

“Comics are a great market,” Ken Goldin told Artnet News. “I’ve always been a sports memorabilia collector, but when you ask a 15- or 16-year old, ‘Who’s Hank Aaron? Who’s Mickey Mantle?’, only a few will know. But you ask ‘Who’s Superman? Who’s Spiderman?’, 100% are going to know. You go to Europe or Asia and, again, it’s 100%.”

As superhero movies continue to get made, he says, new people will no doubt get interested in the subject and “gravitate toward where it began.”

Superman #1, published by DC Comics in 1939, fetched $1.6 million after 18 bidders duked it out over a month. The cover shows the costumed superhero floating above the rooftops of a city. It’s the first newsstand comic book dedicated to a single character and Superman has sold more comic books than any other character, the auction house said, paving the way for the pop culture juggernaut with superhuman strength and incredible powers to dominate American entertainment to this day.

Written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Jerry Shuster, the comic book tells the story of Kal-El, sent from his dying world of Krypton to live on Earth, where he is adopted the Kent family and named Clark Kent. 

“Out of everything we sold last night—the sports collectibles, and the entertainment history—I think the single best buy is going to be Superman #1,” said Goldin. “There are only two that are in better condition than this one. I think that’s a $5 million comic book.”

DC Comics, Action Comics #1, 1939. Courtesy Goldin.

Action Comics #1, first published in 1938 by National Allied Publications, a predecessor of DC Comics, sold for $1.5 million after 18 bids. The cover shows Superman holding a car above his head as gangsters cower and flee. Some observers have noted a resemblance to Pollaiuolo’s painting Hercules and the Hydra (c. 1475).

Also created by Siegel and Shuster, Action Comics #1 was based on an earlier short story by Siegel in which Superman was a powerful villain. Their initial submissions were turned down, however, until the publisher needed a hasty follow-up to the hit series Detective Comics—in which the character Batman first appearedand found the Superman story in the rejects pile. Siegel and Shuster rewrote the comic strip, making Clark Kent realize he “must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind.”

The comic book has since become one of the most sought after items for collectors, regularly breaking auction records. Only about 100 copies of the comic book are known to have survived, the auction house said. One of them, owned by actor and Superman super-fan Nicolas Cage, was stolen from him in 2000, then later recovered and sold for $2.16 million in 2011. 

Action Comics #1 was the creation of the entire superhero concept,” said Goldin. “Every superhero owes its birth to Action Comics #1.”

 

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