We compiled the all-time auction price records for comic books as of February 9th, 2023. Be sure to check back as we update the list as new records are set!
The first comic book to feature maybe the most singular character in the history of western media. Published by DC Comics in 1938, the cover as well as the first thirteen pages of the book depict "Superman"; established in those pages is the foundation of the character that kicked off the superhero era. We learn that he is sent away from his dying planet as a baby, he can leap tall buildings in a single bound, he is a reporter at a newspaper (although it is named "Daily Star" instead of "Daily Planet"), and that he is interested in a woman named Lois Lane.
Originally discovered in 1986 at a Pittsburgh auction of hardcover books, this copy of of 'Action Comics #1' was tucked into the pages of one of said books—likely the reason why it stayed in such good condition for nearly 50 years. Upon bringing this book to a comic convention two weeks later, all hell broke loose as dealers and collectors did what they could to obtain the book from the lucky auction winner.
Déjà vu, am I right?? Get ready to see a lot of 'Action Comics #1' in this list. As mentioned above, it is the genesis of the superhero genre, and copies of all manner of quality are highly valuable. This copy in particular is 1 of only 2 CGC 9.0 grades with none graded higher; the other copy happens to have 'WHITE Pages" as opposed to the "CREAM TO OFF-WHITE Pages" on this one. Read on if you are curious how that other one performed at auction...
Everyone's favorite caped crusader made his first appearance in 'Detective Comics #27' a year prior to the release of his title series 'Batman #1' in 1939. His popularity in the original DC run propelled creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane to write him his own series which then went on to be even more successful. This copy introduced us to two of the most well known Batman characters: The Joker and Catwoman. Both of them have even served as the titular character in massive blockbuster films—to varying success anyway. We would like to know if the buyer is one of the 17 people who saw Catwoman (2004) in theaters (Sorry, Halle Berry!!).
With zero copies graded higher by CGC, this copy is among the most pristine Golden Age books in existence. But you don't need some fancy-shmancy grading agency to tell you, just take a look at the cover. Yellow backgrounds are known to fade quite quickly, but this one has bucked the trend in stunning fashion. In one of the most iconic covers of all time, the bright red and yellow background is contrasted beautifully against the dark costume of Gotham's Dark Knight. Just as good as when it was picked off the newsstand in the summer of 1940.
Surprised it took this long to get to a Marvel comic book! Although this book did not introduce us to the most well known characters from the universe, it is the first appearance of The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. The significance likely stems not from the characters, but from the first use of the name "Marvel Comics"; the value makes sense when you consider that 80 years and $26 billion in box-office receipts later, that name has become maybe the most powerful media property on planet earth.
This copy's value is also derived from it being what is called a "Pay copy", meaning that it was used by publisher Lloyd Jacquet to record payments to the artists that contributed to the book. Most notably, a hand-written detail specifying reimbursement to legendary comic book artist Frank Paul. Only one copy is graded higher and was sold in 2019 for $1.26 million; three years of time and "pay copy" status propelled this CGC 9.2 copy to sell for nearly twice that sum.
If you're keeping count at home, that's three Superman books out of the last four; what can we say, he is a popular guy! Although not the first appearance of Superman, this edition gives us some vital information about Clark Kent's lore. We learn the name of his home, Krypton, and his adoptive parents, the Kents. They teach Clark that he must hide his powers, but when the proper time comes, he must use them to assist humanity.
With only 3 copies graded similarly or higher, this Superman #1 is a magnificent example of Golden Age art. Superman leaps above the city in his bright attire, adorned with the first edition of his iconic "S". A far more family-friendly cover compared to "Action Comics #1," the hero's friendly smile is a much more accurate embodiment of his mission.
Superman may seem like a passé character nowadays; where is the dark angle? Where is the brooding bad-boy demeanor? The problematic/troubled superhero trope may be in vogue for now, but Superman's story has proven to be a timeless one; just some dude from Kansas trying to do the right thing.
Captain America may have gotten a career revival since Disney and Marvel studios won the superhero box office wars. Before all of that, he was the face of some very effective allied propaganda. "Captain America #1" is purported to have sold one million copies a year before the United States entered the war. Captain America creators Jack Kirby and Joe Simon received numerous threats for the subject matter of this book at the time, but the $3 million price tag would indicate that punching Hitler has thankfully become a welcome image in a saner society. Talk about an introduction, though! Not many characters get to be introduced against such a pivotal moment in history.
Unsurprisingly, yet another cover of these top ten books is in gorgeous condition. The quality of the drawings on the cover are sharp and energetic. Massive block letters reading "CAPTAIN AMERICA" against an American flag backdrop fill the top third of the page. Not to mention the back cover of this copy received similarly high praise from graders. There is only one copy graded higher than this superlative example. Who is to say what that one, a CGC 9.8, would find on the auction block.
This copy of 'Action Comics #1" actually holds some historical significance outside of what's been already mentioned about this book above. The 13-year old boy who bought it off a newsstand promptly stamped the rocket onto it. Only 8 are graded higher, but quality copies of Action Comics #1 do not come up to auction very often, so it fetched quite the price.
From time to time, distinct copies of otherwise impressive books receive a premium to the market due to the story involved. Like the "Pay copy" example above, the story of the 13-year old with a stamp in his hand is an endearing one. And what are bidders paying for besides a good story?
The other CGC 9.0 graded 'Action Comics #1' at the 9th spot in this list is the only other copy known to CGC of this quality. Even with the fuzziness of this 2014 image you can tell the book is in stupendous condition. The white behind "ACTION COMICS" seems less worn than lower graded copies. It's surprise enough that 43 unrestored copies survived these 80 years without falling apart. Seeing one that could be fresh off of a 30's newsstand is unbelievable.
Okay, last time I promise. This copy sits at an 8.5 just below the two 9.0 copies mentioned above and in the 9th spot. It is telling that the current auction record for this book is not held by the highest graded copy. These things just do not come up for sale very often; if you are a collector looking for one graded above a 6 then you would be lucky if it comes up every few years.
No superhero has captured the imagination of a city like Spider-Man has for New York. In his first outing in a Marvel Comic, we learn foundations of the character that have been told and retold through any number of films, television shows, and comic books. Peter's initial use of his powers is as a means to make money by wrestling and entertaining people, but when his uncaring behavior allows a burglar to go free and shoot his Uncle, he changes his ways. He comes to understand that "with great power comes great responsibility" and he must use his powers for good.
The cover does well to illustrate the crux of the ongoing appeal of Spiderman—the push and pull between him and Peter. When Stan Lee created the character he did so with an intent to give him "problems". And those problems are only exacerbated by the onset of his powers. Relationship issues with Mary Jane cause him to be distracted or unfocused while fighting crime, financial problems keep him from being able to fix his web shooter. Bullies go from some kid at school to Doc Ock and The Green Goblin. He is truly the every-man hero. Struggling through life one problem at a time.
This copy is tied for the highest quality "Amazing Fantasy #15" books of all time; including this one, there are four CGC 9.6 copies out of 2,407 unrestored copies. It is a beautiful illustration of the character's iconic outfit which has not changed very much in the past 60 years. It seems fitting that if the great Stan Lee's work was only going to be featured in one spot of this list, it would be this spot. Number one, baby!
In a private sale brokered by Tony Arnold and Roy Delic, two very well respected comic book dealers, the book sold for the highest price of any comic book ever. It is likely the highest price paid for a comic book, full-stop. Superman is the top dog.
The "Rocket copy" that holds the above #4 spot was sold twice in the span of a year in two separate private sales. The first in September of 2022 brokered by Goldin and again in January of 2023 brokered by Comic Connect. It seems collectors continue to be very taken with the story of the 13 year old kid with a rocket stamp.
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