There Are No Limits

Apologies for missing the Comic Culture podcast last week: I’ve been feeling under the weather but hope to recover for this week’s show.

This past week we heard the news of that Mile High copy of Superman #1 graded CGC 8.0 sell for a staggering $5.3 million. Let this be a lesson to you if you listen to my take on the market because for the last 14 years on this site I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that Superman #1 is overalued. Star Wars #1 (the 35 cents), Superman #1, when you’re wrong then you’re wrong. Let’s see if I’ll be wrong about my prediction earlier in the year where I call for more seven-figure sales in 2022 than in all the previous years combined. I have a ways to go as there were 8 recorded in 2021 alone. Here’s the running total.

It’s obvious that I’ll be running into some great covers every week as I sift through hundreds of old comics that are destined for our weekly eBay auction. I’ll often change my mnd several times as my work progresses. This week I looked at a gorgeous stack of Joe Kubert Sgt. Rock books but went on to add others to my list ahead of those. In the end, I went back to Our Army At War #199: striking!

If things like this keep turning up I’m going to have to start a new feature called Loser of the Week. Check out young Biff as he tries to find a lighter for his lady Suzie: while he’s playing pocket pool Slick Rick slides over and whips his out. The best part is the last scene where Biff starts off with “Hey!” I thought it was going to be “Hey, what are you doing moving in on my girl you arsonist!” Instead, Biff asks where he can get a lighter like that? Suzie meanwhile can’t believe her luck, “what a man”.

You forget sometimes how much craft those old-school guys used to put into their art. Check out this two-page spread by Al Williamson: so much to process, fantastic stuff. From EC’s Incredible Science Fiction #32.

Our internationalcollectiblesexchange weekly eBay auction closed another session last night. A CGC 9.2 Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 sold for $1175, beating the last sale recorded earlier this month. It always puzzled me why this book gets so little love relative to say, Iron Man #1. I mean the Iron Man #1 at 9.2 is worth over three times more than this book yet this book predates it: I thought runs didn’t matter?

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Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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14 Comments

  1. Too many great Kubert war and Tarzan covers to count. Unfortunately his Detective and Flash covers…

    I love Loser of the Week. And don’t be sexist about it. I bet you can find some choice material in those romance books.

    YOU are the one that said runs didn’t matter. I never bought it. Certain run issues might be dogs, but runs always were and always will be where comics are at. Just because “first appearance” moved ahead of “number one” doesn’t count number one out – clearly people are paying up for first issues these days. First-and-last issue? Not so much. I am always leery of curiosities for investment sake. If they are rare and cool (Secret Diary of Eerie), that’s another matter.

  2. Any excuse to have a closer look at some Romance books sounds great, Chris, in the words of the great Insperctor – I accept the shalange.

    I’m still not sold on run issues in the investment game, you’d have to be in a good title and hand me a good cover, I think most are getting help from the other issues in the run pricing themselves out.

  3. When I started collecting back in the 70s,
    runs where most of the ballgame.
    I can see #1 issues and other stuff like Amazing fantasy 15 etc being at a premium.
    but chasing every first appearance ,of this one or that character is annoying,
    as are these multiverses .
    comics before 1985 are to me still the greatest
    What I want to know ,
    is what is the longer term undervalued Warren Buffet type buys?
    I am thinking silver age DC, and maybe Daredevil 1-50???
    Any ideas???

  4. “Food for Thought” may be the best drawn story that Al Williamson (with inks by Roy Krenkel) ever did for EC. But I suppose you could argue some of the Williamson /Frazetta stories could also take the prize. But I love that two page spread you have here. And it was a last hurrah, since their last sci fi book was Incredible Science Fiction #33, the next issue. What a note to go out on, anyway.

    Here’s a scan of Jim Halperin’s original art so you can examine every detail. EC’s printing and even color left something to be desired at times…

    https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=298405

    Superman #1 for $5M. Wow. I’m still with you Walter, it’s overvalued. Action #1 is such a more important book, and even Detective #27. Four of the stories in Superman #1 are reprints from Action #1-4…plus the cover is taken from a panel first printed in Action. There’s some original material there, such as the 2 page origin recap, but for $5M you could buy lower grade copies of Action #1-4 and have all the real first appearances! And I had forgotten about the reprintings of #1, per GCD:

    The Audit Bureau of Circulation files reveals that there were three printings of this issue in 1939 (500,000 copies, 250,000 copies, and 150,000 copies)

    GCD mentions no additional printings on Action #1, which in my mind makes it far scarcer than Superman #1. According to a LA Times article on Action #1, online: “The comic book had a print run of 200,000 copies” and today only 50 to 100 are said to exist. I would expect there are many more copies of Superman floating around….

  5. Just wish to thank Mel Taylor for his Fantastic Four Vol.3 #56 recommendation – one of best modern books I’ve ever read, brilliant. I brilliant book on many levels. Whilst modern books have a tendency to approach social issues lwith the subtlety of a sledgehammer, this one intertwines humor, nostalgia, sadness, redemption and friendship into a beautiful tale. To me, Ben Grimm/The Thing may just be the greatest character that hasn’t made the generational jump to new/young fans, I only hope that the forthcoming Marvel movie will encourage readers to find out more about this fantastic creation!

    Thanks for the recommendation Mel!

  6. $5.3M for the Edgar Church copy of Superman 1 slabbed at VFN 8.0.

    My estimate for this book was $6.4M.

    The Church Superman 1 sold in 1996 for $170,000. 1996 and 1995 were the speculator years where there was very high comic value growth. So in 1997 it was the value of a small home.
    This is the highest graded slabbed copy, and it is a Church. First Superman logo? That must count for something. First character to move from an anthology comic to their own series and this is the series.

    From my estimates Superman 1 was the most valuable comic in 1985, 1988, 2004-2009, 2021 & 2022 so far.

    If you own Overstreet #18, generally representing 1987 sales, you can turn to page A-17 and read that a near mint copy of Superman 1 was reported sold for $14,000 cash and a Carl Barks painting worth $45,000 ($59,000). Near mint, which is a bit better than a very fine.

    The Church copy of Marvel Comics 1 also traded for $82,000 in 1987.

    One question: Is the Church Superman 1 the original pressing, or the 2nd or 3rd state copy as Bud mentioned above?

    And those EC comics are simply amazing. Al Williamson was ahead of his time by decades. ECs are back to being hot.

  7. Hey Spider
    I couldn’t have said it better, and I’m so glad you scored a copy of that book. For my money it’s still one of the best FFs I have ever read! The issue before is also by Karl Kesel (who turns out to be more than just a great inker) and Canadian Stuart Immonen, and it is just a fun and goofy story about Ben and Johnny being sent on a wild goose chase so Reed and Sue can get some alone time. And I hope you can round up a copy of FF#510 in which the gang pay a visit to Heaven and find out that Himself turns out to be none other than Jack Kirby! Waid and Wieringo hit this one right out of the park!

    Anyroad, I’m just so glad you got to enjoy that Bern Grimm story. I now have quite a list of great comics at 5 bucks and under, so If you want to Email me I can send you more picks for the Reader’s Corner!

    cheers mate

  8. Walt: “I think most are getting help from the other issues in the run pricing themselves out.” But that’s exactly my point. A rising tide lifts all boats.

  9. I’ve always wondered about the relatively low value of the Ironman/Subby one shot even if it is a filler continuation of their story lines from their former titles. Speaking of runs… thats what I have been doing is pricing short runs for eventual auctions. I am giving some collectors I know a chance to get some sets from me before I do that. Sold a mid-grade set of 60’s Justice League for $70… and a 4 issue set of Kirby/Lee later 60’s FF issues for $90… and the same person has put a deposit on FF 48-50 lower mid grade for $1850. I am getting a few surprises as I look up sold items on eBay, for example Marvel Spotlight 2 has certainly shot up in price, and I have a couple of Adams covers Batman from early bronze age with not too shabby possible rewards. With the wacky market even books I have only owned a few years have quadrupled in price. There is a bit of fun in this and a bit of work as well. I usually spend 3-4 hours every other day pricing out books.

  10. The hype over that $5.3M Superman #1 has actually now crossed over into the absurd. A post on screenrant,.com makes the ridiculous assertion that “Superman #1 isn’t just the most expensive comic ever sold, it’s one of the most expensive books period.” Codswollop and hefferdust!!! As well as being a collector of comics, I am also a collector of rare books. The five most expensive books (to date) ever sold were: #1 The Codex Leicester by Da Vinci which Bill Gates scooped for $30.8M (not adjusted for inflation); #2 The Book of Mormon, a handwritten printer’s manuscript from 1830 for $35M; #3 The Gospels of Henry the Lion from 1188 for $30.73M; #4 the Magna Carta from 1215 at $26.96M; #5 The Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest preserved European book from 687 at $15.95M. In fact, the only book in the top ten that is even close to the price of that Supes is #9 The Gutenberg Bible from 1435 at $5.4M. Now, comics are great, don’t get me wrong. But, do you know anybody who would rather own a Superman #1 rather than a genuine Gutenberg Bible?! I just wish some of the people on these sites would actually do even a tiny bit of homework before making such ridiculous claims!

  11. After poking around a bit I checked the CGC Grader’s Notes for this book, which, by the way was resubmitted to CGC on January 10th of this year and came back as an 8.5 this time. Very enlightening: bottom spine wear breaks color [sic]; bottom staple recessed; interior small multiple pieces out; left bottom front cover small multiple stain; left center [sic] back cover lite [sic} interior stain; spine stress lines; top spine wear breaks color [sic]. But!!! Here’s the real kicker: front cover restoration lite [sic] color [sic] touch!!! Even the label text states, “Very minor amount of color [sic] touch on front cover!” It clearly states that this book has been restored (albeit only a minor restoration, but a “restoration” nonetheless), so why does it have a Universal Grade instead of a Qualified Grade and what would that have done to the price?! Somebody is definitely falling down on the job!!! Any thoughts gang? I think this kind of nonsense should put yet another nail in the CGC coffin!

  12. Mel, you mean “Conserved” or “Restored” rather than Qualified.

    I have seen this on other labels and wondered about it. I think if stated on the label that’s okay – if it was in the grader’s notes but not on the label, then I would see that as shenanigans.

    I suspect CGC has probably said something about this in the past. You could imagine situations where scuffings or markings not intended to be restoration could look like color touch. Also there is the “how very minor is very minor” question. I would think for a book at this level this is well-defined – “less than 1 square millimeter” or something.

    Personally I like that CGC is going this route – rather than a black-and-white policy – which is open to errors as above – this approach continues to push the question of why restoration is so horrible and the shunning of purple labels. I am a big purple label shunner, but I don’t really want to be – I have to be because of the pricing issues. Take a look at the ASM #129 3.0 in the current ComicLink auction, where the Punisher’s face can’t be seen, and tell me that is okay vs. a tiny bit of yellow marker on the cover. I think this approach is an attempt to be sensible and allow the buyer to decide whether they want to discount for the “very minor” touch.

  13. Thanks Chris, you’re right of course. “Restored” is what I was fishing for, but the point is that any kind of restoration is still restoration, very minor or slightly major. So, when is restoration not restoration? When it’s a really cool book? When it’s a really expensive book? At the whim of the grader? All most people want from CGC is at least a bit of consistency I’m sure. Ultimately though there are quite a few issues with this copy, as the grader’s notes indicate. I still seriously think it deserves something other than a Universal Grade. And I’m not the guy ponying up more than 5 million bucks for it!

  14. Wasn’t there talk way back about Blue Labels for everything but just text telling you what is wrong with the book, perhaps that way the text decided the discount level the books gets on market.

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