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Auction Action: High-End Comic Book Demand Healthy at Heritage

Auction Action: High-End Comic Book Demand Healthy at Heritage
April 12, 2022
Dylan Dittrich

Heritage closed its April Signature Comic Auction this weekend, and the results at the high-end were astounding. The action peaked with the $3,120,000 sale of Captain America #1 in CGC 9.4 condition. With that result, Cap joins Superman and Spider-Man as the only heroes to eclipse the $3 million mark; it’s also the fourth most expensive auction sale of all time. 

Fantastic Four #1, graded CGC 9.2, sold for $1.5 million, which is the second highest price paid for a non-Golden Age comic. Elsewhere, many records fell for comic art; most notably, the Jack Kirby splash page for Tales of Suspense #59 sold for $630k, a Kirby original record. The splash page and the next nine pages were sold individually, drawing $975,600 in total. 

Versus last year’s April event, total sales were up 69%. Notably, last year’s April Signature event also featured video games and Pokemon; in fact, the short-lived video game record was set when Super Mario Bros sold for $660,000. As we know, the video game collecting phenomenon became big enough by year’s end to command its own signature auctions (in fact, the video game signature takes place next week). So, this year, the Signature event was solely comic books and comic art. That means that in aggregate, in those categories, Heritage actually tallied sales that were more than double last year’s. 

At the high end, activity continues to be robust. In comic books, the proceeds from the top 50 sales this year were up 122% over last year. Even if you were to include video games & trading card games in last year’s top sales, this year would still be a 74% improvement. The difference is slightly more muted moving down to the top 51-100th highest sales, with just a 29% increase. If you lumped video games & TCG in here, then this year’s results would actually be a 14% decline. However the data is sliced, though, what remains clear is that strong demand for blue-chip comic books persists.

Performance in comic art was outstanding as well, as total sales more than doubled, and the average sale price rose by 31%. In fact, comic art accounted narrowly for the majority of volume in this auction.

Digging in by era, it’s evident that Silver Age comic books have gained the most ground since last year, with the average sales price of Silver Age comics in this auction rising 178% over April 2021. Results were additionally strong in Bronze Age. While the average Golden Age sales price dipped, the overall volume tripled, with 609 lots in this year’s edition versus just 158 last year. Recent auctions saw heavier representation of top-tier Golden Age consignment, which perhaps accounts for the somewhat weaker price performance here.

When examining the median results, the takeaways are similar, with Silver and Bronze Age leading, and Golden and Modern Ages lagging their 2021 results. Silver Age results were buoyed by sales of key issues from beloved characters like Spider-Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk. It is interesting, though, that the 75th percentile sale in Silver Age was essentially right on par with where it was a year ago. This auction was exceptionally strong at the very top (as evidenced by average) and very deep (as evidenced by median), but perhaps just off the top sales, it was comparable at the high end.

At the 25th percentile, you see improvement in Silver, Bronze, and for the first time in this analysis, Modern. Those statistics are illustrative of a strong depth of demand at the lower end, and it’s those buyers that have the potential to become higher-end suitors in the future.

The (relatively limited) direct fractional comparables are included below, with some areas of opportunity, and other results that may create cause for correction. 

Outside of direct, like-graded sales, there were a handful of sales for fractional shareholders to note. Heritage sold a CGC 6.0 copy of the Amazing Spider-man #1 for $48,000. A higher-graded CGC 6.5 copy currently trades on Rally at a $45,000 valuation, a discount to the lower grade. That result was a particularly notable improvement, as another 6.5 sold in January for just $38,400, and a 7.0 sold for $38,400 in September.

A CGC 1.8 copy of Batman #1 sold for $180,000, while a CGC 1.5 trades on Rally for $100,000. Given the low population of the issue overall, we would not typically expect such a large gap in valuation for a 0.3 grade difference. 

And now, for the ritual bought-out comic book post-mortem. We highlight these results not to beat the already very dead horse, but to illustrate the appreciation of key titles since the summer. Many of the bought-out titles hail from the Silver Age and have thus enjoyed the swelling wave of appreciation in the months since. 

Heritage sold a 7.5 graded copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 for $300,000; contrast that to the $240,000 headline figure for Rally’s 8.0. Journey into Mystery #83, graded 9.4, sold for $432,000, handily besting the $247,570 buyout of a like-graded copy. Fantastic Four #1, graded CGC 7.5, sold for $168,800. Look away former shareholders, because an 8.5 was bought out for just $126,000. Lastly (phew), Incredible Hulk #181 in the highest 9.8 grade sold for $96,000, up 68% over the buyout price of $57,000. 

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