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Auction Action: High-End Comic Book Demand Booming at ComicConnect

While the broader comic book market isn’t as red hot as it was over the summer, all indications are that demand at the highest end of the market is as intense as ever. Last week, the December auction at ComicConnect concluded, and the results included not just one but two of the top ten most expensive sales of all time.

Superman #1 in CGC 7.0 condition sold for $2,604,750, becoming the fourth most expensive sale of all time. The previous high for a copy of Superman #1 was $507,500 back in 2017 for a CGC 5.5 copy. Understanding that was of course a lower grade, the annual rate of growth in value from that sale to this one is still a staggering 41%. The book is one of two 7.0s and trails only two 8.0s as the highest graded copies in the census. Only Action Comics #1 (in 8.5 and 9.0 condition) and Amazing Fantasy #15 (CGC 9.6) have ever sold for more.

Speaking of Action Comics #1, a copy graded only a 3.0 sold for $1,638,759.20, which makes it the eighth most expensive sale of all time and easily the most expensive 3.0 ever sold. Only copies graded 8.5 or higher have previously sold for more money, and this sale handily outstrips the sale of a 5.5 in 2016 for $956k and two 5.0 sales in 2015 for $675k and $658k respectively.  A 3.0 last sold in 2014 for $310k; this sale reflects a rate of 26.9% annual growth since. Action Comics #1 accounts for six of the top ten sales all time.

With those two sales, five of the ten most expensive sales recorded have now come in 2021. While there have been some big years in between, this is the most extensive rewriting of the record books in one year since 2010 - you can see below that the record was broken and quickly rebroken rapidly that year. The number of huge sales suggests that there are many deep pockets keen to chase key issues, even at levels not before seen. These are what ComicConnect CEO Stephen Fisher termed “bulletproof books” on our Grails podcast: they’re incredibly collectable in any condition, so naturally, in good condition, there is no discernable ceiling. Think ‘52 Mantle. Think Honus.

And while Incredible Hulk #1 isn’t quite at that level, it’s not terribly far off, as was additionally demonstrated last week. While the auction was underway, ComicConnect struck a record sale on its fixed price marketplace, as a CGC 9.0 copy of the book sold for $490,000, There are just seven copies graded higher (one 9.4 and six 9.2s), which makes highly-graded copies of the issue a relative rarity.

The key takeaway? Key issues and strong grades remain the subject of strengthening demand, and for fractional shareholders, this means care should be given to acting as a steward of such assets to ensure commensurate long term return. While there haven’t been many fractional comic books that would find their way to the top of the record books, many of the issues that may have neared shouting distance are gone – bought out and in private hands.

Many of those that remain or that have been launched recently, while still significant and coveted, are a clear tier below and are therefore more susceptible to the swings of the market. And the market – aside from the highest end – has somewhat cooled since summer, while the bought-out issues continue to plod ahead.

Without further ado, a quick synopsis of the results relevant for fractional shareholders.

Giant Size X-Men #1 (CGC 9.8)

ComicConnect: $37,000

Rally: $64,000

Otis: $42,500

 

After a late rally, this sale climbed to the lower end of the recent range for this book in the high $30 and low $40 thousands. Back in June, ComicConnect had two sales in the $60k region which likely inspired Rally’s August IPO value. While the Rally copy could face headwinds when it begins trading, it does seem that the market for this book has retrenched and stabilized.

The Amazing Spider-Man #1

ComicConnect (CGC 7.0): $42,650

Rally (CGC 6.5): $52,000

Rally’s book is graded a 6.5 and currently has a $52k value, having gained 54% in its September trading window. We feared in our preview that the 7.0 result may not reflect well on the 6.5, and that is indeed the case, as the higher graded 7.0 closed at an 18% discount to the lower graded copy trading fractionally. 7.0 graded copies are in the top 10% of the population, while 6.5s are just in the top 14%. It may be the case of fractional investors getting excited about an early issue of a character as relevant as any, and beware, that excitement can persist through tough comps.

X-Men 94

ComicConnect (CGC 9.8): $72,111

Rally (CGC 9.8): $68,000

 

The book was launched on Rally back in August at a $65k valuation and has since risen to $68k. The CGC census shows a total of 35 books graded a 9.8, and recent sales are limited, so the result here is an encouraging one, particularly as other books from the era have surrendered some value from those summer peaks.

Amazing Fantasy #15

ComicConnect (CGC 7.0): $241,500

Rally (bought out – CGC 8.0): $229,888.26

We wondered in our preview if the 7.0 might surpass the June buyout level for Rally’s 8.0 copy, and it did indeed. The result is an improvement over the November sale of a 7.0 for $204k at Heritage and reflects continued appreciation for Spider-Man’s first appearance. An 8.5 sold at Goldin back in September for $690k. It feels like a lot of salt to pour on fractional wounds, but lessons must be learned from comic book buyout summer 2021.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

ComicConnect (CGC 9.8): $230,555

Otis (CGC 9.8): $180,000 (bought out)

Rally (CGC 9.8): $91,994.26 (bought out)

 

The upward trajectory for TMNT rages on, with this sale blowing past summer buyout levels and leaving them a distant blip in the rearview mirror. While TMNT 9.8s certainly don’t have the lowest key issue pop around at 31 issues, copies don’t surface at auction with incredible frequency and will remain in demand as the high end of the market continues to plod ahead.

Incredible Hulk #1

ComicConnect (CGC 8.0): $188,006

Rally (CGC 8.0): $110,520

This remains an all-time head-scratcher by shareholders, as a $111k offer was accepted at a time when the most recent sale – also at ComicConnect – was for $150k. The news only gets worse, given the record Hulk sale and the $188k result here.

 

X-Men #1

ComicConnect (CGC 9.0): $185,000

Otis (CGC 9.2): $225,000 (bought out)

Rally (CGC 9.4): $302,557.33 (bought out)

Fractional shareholders sold two copies of X-Men #1, the first a 9.4 on Rally for $303k in June and the second a 9.2 on Otis for $225k. While the decisions may still be regrettable, the result here is just a few small shakes of salt on the wound, rather than the entire bag that the Hulk sale dumped on it.

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