Undervalued Spotlight #258

Detective Comics #27, DC Comics, May 1939. I’ve always wanted to write-up a complicated essay on Detective Comics #27. Over the years I’ve had a couple of abortive starts, giving up when I realized the work needed to do it right. I would like to express my view though. So what’s a guy to do?

Detective Comics 27Detective Comics #27, DC Comics, May 1939

I’ve always wanted to write-up a complicated essay on Detective Comics #27.

Over the years I’ve had a couple of abortive starts, giving up when I realized the work needed to do it right.

I would like to express my view though. So what’s a guy to do?

Luckily the Undervalued Spotlight doesn’t demand thesis type arguments and it doesn’t demand that you agree with me. I’ll have to deviate just a bit from the regular spotlight template to make this argument. So with foolish bravado I present Detective Comics #27 as this week’s Undervalued Spotlight.

My argument is simple: Detective Comics #27 should be the most valuable comic of all.

I’m not arguing so much that Action #1 is overpriced; I’m arguing that Detective Comics #27 should be worth more and thus it is undervalued. This view obviously puts me in direct opposition to the long-held, now almost default view that exists in the hobby that Action Comics #1 should be the most valuable comic book.

Action Comics #1 represents the birth of the superhero genre; it is the book that made everything we see around us possible, and I cannot argue this.

Detective Comics #27 represents the first appearance of what I am arguing is the most important superhero we have. Batman is effortlessly transitioning into his fourth generation of readers and fans and it seems to me at least that he is becoming more popular, more important with each successive generation.

Superman has been struggling to connect with the fan base for more than 20 years now. DC/Warner continue to throw their weight behind Superman but often with disappointing results. I don’t see Superman ever going the Mickey at Disney route. Superman is still a very popular and viable property but it’s hard to argue against the fact that Superman has long been eclipsed by Batman and that the gap is widening.

So it must come down to which is more important: what the book represents or what the book delivers. I’ll argue that symbolism is important to comics: Funnies on Parade, Eerie #1, Showcase #4 and Fantastic Four #1 are all revered for what they started, indeed much of their value comes from what they represent. Symbolism should never trump character introduction though. Character should be the most important driver of value.

Factors like scarcity affect value as well so among equally popular characters the one with way less supply will most likely be the more valuable.

Scarcity actually favors Detective Comics #27 because while slightly scarcer on the CGC Census of has been much scarcer, about twice as scarce, in terms of the number of copies coming to market. There are only 31 non restored Detective #27s on the CGC census compared to only 36 non restored Action #1s. Only 4 tracked sales on the GPA since the start of 2013 for Detective #27 compared to only 6 tracked sales during that same time for Action #1. I’ve read of more private sales of Action Comics #1 as well but for all intents and purposes both are hard to come by so scarcity should not be an issue in any price variation between these books

Again Action Comics #1 represents the first superhero much the same as Funnies on Parade represents the first comic book. Action comics gives us Superman while Detective Comics gives us Batman. I’m arguing Batman trumps Superman as a fictional creation. The Batman character has proven to be the more popular platform for storytelling over multiple media. The Batman platform has also given us a ridiculously rich stream of villains, allies, love interests and sidekicks which continues to grow.The gulf between the two characters has been getting wider since the 1970s, the gulf is huge right now.

This is no blip, this trend is decades old and continues.

Look at it this way, Detective Comics #27 shouldn’t be anywhere near Action Comics #1 in value. Iconic DC characters like Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are worth a fraction. Important books from other publishers like Timely’s Marvel Comics #1 and Captain America #1 don’t come close either. Yet there’s Detective Comics #27, always staying in sight of the leader.

Detective Comics #27 generates its enormous value through its introduction of the Batman. It almost seems like there is a glass ceiling for this book and that glass ceiling is Action Comics #1.

The comic collecting hobby’s history has influenced this dynamic and if anything has sold this view to the new money coming into the market. The latest Overstreet Price Guide has Action #1 about 25% higher in value that Detective #27 with an annual increase in value of 11% for Action versus Detective’s 10%. The only real comparable result pits a CGC 5.0 Action #1 sale for $658,000 versus a CGC 4.0 Detective #27 sale for $475,000.

Though the market has it closer than the Guide Action #1 is still getting 10% more per grade point than Detective #27.

Scarcity plus current relevance plus projected future relevance has me calling for Detective Comics #27 usurping Action Comics #1 as the most valuable comic book.

45th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $100,000/$200,000/$300,000/$750,000 in the 2.0/4.0/6.0/8.0 grade splits.

Strengths that make this comic a good investment are:

  • First appearance of the Batman, the comic medium’s greatest creation
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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1579

13 Comments

  1. Maybe….maybe not Walt.There are any number of candidates for most valuable comic book! Marvel 1 was the “it” book for the 60’s-70’s. All-Star 3 also was the top dog for almost half a decade ’60-65. And even Amazing Fantasy 15 can shuffle around in the years to come. Back in the 50’s and even up to 1960 Tip Top1 was the rarest ever searched for comic! Maybe you’re right and Detective 27 will hold the crown……for awhile.

  2. Well argued. In a nutshell, I think what you are saying is that the correlation between “important” and “valuable” does not exists. Act#1 will always be the start of Superheros but Det#27 simply resonates more and thus, is a more lucrative character. I think the same can be said for the FF#1 and AF#15 comparison.

    However, anything pegged to popular tastes can change… although, I can’t see Batman loosing ground to Superman in my life time. Where trophies are concerned, many collectors will still want the book that started it all because this is a fact that can’t be changed. In the end, people want what they want and at this tier, if you can afford one, I’m sure you can afford the other.

  3. Bingo!! Charlie i picked up a Suspense #3 for around $10 back in the early ’70s,sold it or traded it shortly after that ….well you the rest. I regard my Radar sense for picks for future winners excellent, but even us comic book vets get it wrong every once in a while! I’m in it for the fun, it’s a lot better then boring Options and a lot less dishonesty Ah oh here come the Flash Kids raining down on me!

  4. The FF #1 versus AF #15 is the closest example I can think of that has played out the important versus valuable scenario. We’ve given Action #1 this massive symbolic meaning and the market has attached value to it. All we can do is speculate but if there was ever a sure thing in comics it has to be Batman.

    Character intro has slowly trumped #1 issues, remember when Archie #1 and Pep #22 were worth the same, remember when ASM #1 was almost the same as AF #15, those days are long gone. The character drives the value.

    The usurping of Action Comics #1 now remains the last major battle for Character intro to win.

  5. There are those among us who still think Action #1 is the most overrated comic of all time. When people criticize my love of Canadian Whites, largely on the basis that they consider them second-rate artwise, I always point to Action #1 and ask honestly. “Is this what you think is better?” I’ve seen comics drawn by kids with better art. Even if the first Supes and the first Bats were the same price, I would pick Batman any day. So,yes, Detective #27 easily trumps that first Action by a long shot. And, if Detective #27 is undervalued, I would say that Action #1 is overrated.

    cheers, mel

  6. Batman has more depth, also the villains and supporting characters are better. People can also relate to Batman on a personal level much better since he doesn’t have powers – it’s all skill and gadgets.

    The reason Superman has stayed at the top of the heap so long is that he has been on a tall pedestal. Superman has cool powers that every kid wants to have growing up and he’s the ultimate good guy that everyone looks up to. He’s pure. Batman skulks around in the shadows and is hated by many in his world – good guys and bad guys. He’s more of an outcast. His persona was born of traumatic experience. Not many kids want to have that trauma to become a hero that is despised even when doing good. Batman is more someone to fear than emulate. As a kid if you see Superman come around you want to shake his hand and get your picture taken. You see Batman and you hope that he didn’t show up because you were out of line.

    Kids are the reason for the current market. They grew up on wanting to be Superman then became adults with money looking for the ultimate Superman trophy. It’s a warm, fuzzy reason to love a hero and everything about him. This is what has held the value of Action Comics #1 for so long.

    Now, Batman is a better story in the long term because he is human. Adult comic readers are looking for a story with characters they can relate to with their human weaknesses and emotions. Something much more believable than an invulnerable character where they had to manufacture a weakness for him in the story line. Battles with ridiculous super powers wear thin after a while. The mature readers give Batman the attention he deserves for the great stories.

    The mature readers will shift the market if story takes over precedence from idolizing.

    I understand that we started the article with Detective Comics #27 (vs Action Comics #1) but it would be interesting to add up the values of the major keys from each hero. I would bet Batman has more keys and those keys would add up to much more than Superman’s keys.

    (I don’t know enough about either hero to take on that task.)

    As a side note: Anyone ever wonder why a guy in a bat costume became so popular? I’d get stares if I were to go out in public with pajamas on. Go figure.

  7. I agree Nick, Bats will have way more keys especially through the Silver and Bronze Age. I could probably sums those up but am way too lazy for that task, would be fun though.

  8. I find it funny whenever people talk about Batman being a more interesting character than Superman because Batman “has human weaknesses,” and Batman is often “hated and mistrusted by the public.” Let’s not forget that neither Bruce nor Clark was much different or interesting in that regard…until Peter Parker made it fashionable, that is.

  9. Excellent point, Odinson! Bruce and Clark were rather vapid and insipid characters for decades. Peter Parker and other Stan Lee Marvel creations redefined what a comic hero was all about. To call Batman the comic medium’s greatest creation is laughable!

  10. Agreed. I mean, Batman is certainly great, but Spider-Man is much more complex. Sure, Bruce Wayne was a (child) bystander to the crime that defined him. But Peter Parker is actually indirectly responsible for the crime that made him. It’s no coincidence that the numerous re-tellings and reboots of the Superman and Batman origins, in both comics and film, have tried to incorporate these elements of personal guilt, public enmity, etc. — i.e., SPIDER-MAN’S DEFINING TRAITS!

  11. Shaa…ZAMMM ye Mortal Fools! And Bats is not such an original… a long pulp mag history and stolen rip off art from the pulps including at least covers of ‘Tec #52 and 57! And Mickey, Bugs Daffy—–Peter Parker?, one of many in many memories including Peter Pan!! Keep an open mind ,imagination, and wallet please!

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