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There's a New World's Most Valuable Comic

Since 2010, the record for the most expensive American comic book has more than doubled

Action Comics No. 1
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A newly revealed copy of Action Comics No. 1 — considered the finest preserved example of Superman’s first appearance and unknown to the public until just a few weeks ago — has broken the record for the highest public price ever paid for a comic or comic art.

It sold for $3,207,852.00 in an eBbay auction (earlier in the auction, one wag bid $2,193,819.38 so that the last eight digits would read “1938” in honor of the year the comic was published).

Bleeding Cool’s Mark Seifert reported that the winning bidder was the dealer Metropolitan/ComicConnect, who were possibly bidding for an unknown client.

The previous record for an American comic book was held by Nicolas Cage’s copy of Action Comics No. 1, which sold for $2.1 million in 2011. It had been lost for a decade after being stolen from Cage’s home during a party in 2000, along with several other rare comics. In 2011, Cage’s comic was found in an abandoned storage locker. The thief has never been caught, and a copy of Detective Comics No. 27, which includes the first appearance of Batman, also stolen that night, has never been recovered. (The crime is so famous that there is even a movie in development about it.)

The previous record for any kind of comic or comic art was $3.1 million for original art from the Belgium comic Tintin Comes to America by the writer-artist Herge.

The $3.2 million price is astonishing, reaching the upper limit of what experts thought it might fetch. In four years, the record has more than doubled from $1.5 million.

Before the appearance of this newly sold copy of Action Comics No. 1, the Cage copy was considered the finest surviving copy. But the new copy is even nicer, featuring startlingly white pages for a 76-year-old comic. Of the 100 known remaining copies of Action Comics No. 1, only one is rumored to be in better condition than this one: the famed “Edgar Church/Mile High” copy bought in 1977 by Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics from the estate of a retired commercial illustrator. The Church collection featured many of the best-quality surviving golden age comics. Rozanski sold most of the collection, but kept the Action Comics No. 1. He has never shown it publicly, but those who have seen it describe it as the best quality copy.

The backstory of this comic, which was sold by Pristine Comics of Federal Way, Washington, had comic collectors shaking their heads in surprise. Originally bought in West Virginia in 1938, it was stored in a cedar chest until it was sold to a dealer who kept for about 30 years before selling it to another dealer a few years ago. That dealer kept it secret until he decided to sell it this year. (For more on the history of this book see a video here and Bleeding Cool's rundown here).

On discussion boards collectors were astonished that such a beautiful copy of an important comic remained hidden for so long. Some wondered about the book’s history and others wondered if other unknown high-quality rare golden age comics would now surface.