A fascinating thing happened within the collector’s market this weekend: an auction closed on eBay on Sunday, August 24th for a CGC-graded, 9.0 copy of ACTION COMICS #1, featuring the first appearance of the iconic character of Superman. No one back in 1938, when this book was published, knew just how popular and recognizable this character would become in the over seven-and-a-half decades to follow.
For such a character to cross over from comic books and newspaper strips to radio shows, television series, motion pictures and just about every ancillary product imaginable is beyond profound. For people all over the world to recognize the stylized S-symbol on his chest is nothing short of incredible. And yet no one knew back in 1938 how the comic book collector’s market would grow from just this one comic; no one back then could see how a character’s first appearance in a comic, or who wrote or drew the comic, or what happened in the story, or even how many or how few copies of the book were printed would affect the market.
Not long ago, there were believed to be an estimated 100 copies of ACTION #1 in varying degrees of conditions still in circulation. That number has been knocked down even further to about 50 copies. This all the more supports this one particular comic being referred to as the Holy Grail of the comic book collector’s market; that we as comic collectors imagining ourselves in fedoras, leather jackets and bullwhips chasing after an almost one-of-a-kind item such as this is not quite so far-fetched. Even Nicolas Cage once owned and later sold his own personal copy of this iconic book. But now, ACTION COMICS #1 is in the news again, with the highest-recorded grade in its almost 76-year history. This latest transaction is history-making: it sold for just over a staggering $3.2 million dollars.
It’s news like this that builds the hope of all comic collectors out there, myself included. Unfortunately, most comic publishers either don’t appreciate the significance of the collector’s market, or don’t care outright. Comic books are a business; I’m not denying that. But don’t publish comics based on a gimmick just to maximize sales instead of telling great stories with great art accompanying it, and make your money that way. That’s why the death of Superman is an absolutely worthless issue as Superman comics go. DC Comics oversaturated the market with a crappy gimmick that they knew they were going to reverse a few months later. Tactics like that diminish the comic collector’s market, and digital comics (at present) do nothing to support it either. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Digital comics are just as transportable these days as hard copy comics are. Store your digital comics on an iPad or tablet (sorry, a cell phone or iPhone is just way too small of a screen to read a digital comic on), or on a flash drive if you do your reading on a desktop or laptop computer, and you’re good to go.
Once, while I was Director of Operations at Blackline Comics in 2010, I toyed with the concept of digital comics as collector’s items for Free Comic Book Day that year, when Blackline took two of its titles, COLONEL and BLACK SALT: THE LAST HEROES LEFT and made them available as digital downloads for that day only, complete with consecutively numbered certiticates of authenticity that numbered 1-up for each download. This experiment was set up on the fly, with only a month before FCBD from start to finish, and no measurable way to monitor its success. But I tell you this: I will conduct this experiment again, this time with quantifiable results.
But back to the ACTION #1 auction. The photo above is a screen shot of the eBay auction as it just ended. $3, 207, 852.00. 13 participating bidders. 48 bids placed. I followed this auction very closely, knowing in my gut that history was being made. The auction opened at 99 cents. Four minutes after it started, the first bid came in: $1,000,000.00. In the last ten seconds of the auction, I saw the bidding jump from $2.3 million to $2.7 million to the winning bid of over $3.2 million. There’s nothing that beats the thrill this auction provided, or the historical significance of it, and with 1% of the proceeds (approximately $32, 078.52) going to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to aid people with paralysis injuries and illnesses, it makes the sale that much sweeter.
Comic books as a viable collectible are here to stay, and that’s how I know that comics in print form will never truly disappear. Digital comics may still be in its infancy, and still fun and fresh in its newness, but there are many still out there who love the feel of a printed comic book in their hands, even if it has been encapsulated by a comic grading service such as CGC.
What’s your opinion? I’d like to know.
Until next time, stay tuned…
Me Ke Aloha ‘O Iesu Kristo
(With the love of Jesus Christ),
Michael De Lepine
Director of Operations
Atlas Unleashed Publishing
Lift the weight of the world!