10 Most Expensive Comic Books of All Time5
By Chris Littler
10 Most Expensive Comic Books of All Time
Imagine yourself standing in line at the store. You’re holding something in your hand that you picked up in passing, something you really thought you had to have. As you get closer and closer to the register, you feel that object getting heavier and heavier. Then something in your brain switches, and you start questioning your motives for buying it. Suddenly you’re full-on panicking, unsure of how to get out of this line. The racks are closing in on you. You’re going to die underneath the blue light special. Nine times out of ten, the reason you don’t turn heel and toss whatever it is you’re holding back in the nearest random bin is because you consider that item more than just a toy, a thing, it’s an investment. Sure, this item is going to bring you immediate happiness when you get home, but there’s also the chance it will actually bring you even more happiness down the line, when the item’s value appreciates. That way you can cash it in and buy more things to endlessly worry about. This “thing” could be a couch, a PS4, a house, a watch, or a comic book.
This system is how the comic book industry survives. Most comic books are short, and can be read in-store. The only reason anyone takes one home is because they’re either the greatest parent alive and are bringing it home for their kid, or they want to have it for their “collection.” They’re hoping that one day down the road they can sell the whole kit and kaboodle and achieve massive profit. It’s a risky business but not a completely ridiculous one, according to the Comics Guaranty Company (CGC) who officially grades comic books – near mint (NM) condition preferred. Every comic book has a chance of becoming more than its original worth, especially first editions of a new series – like the kind Lori Banks and her ragtag crew of graphic novel artisans are hoping will make it big in the comedic series First Edition.
After reading this list, we’re confident you’re going to be scrounging through the trunks of grandpa’s attic, hoping to find the wilted remainder of a poorly-printed book that could fetch upwards to a million and a half dollars. But, you better share at least a couple thousand of it with him – the old codger spent a hard-earned dime on it.
First Edition – Issue 1: Origins
10. More Fun Comics #52
CGC NM value: $213,000
Issue dated: February 1940
Issue number 52 of “More Fun Comics” introduces a superhero known as the Spectre. The Spectre was a hard-boiled cop named Jim Corrigan who was brutally murdered. Because the exploits of a recently deceased cop romping around heaven wouldn’t make for very interesting reading, Corrigan is denied entrance into the hereafter. Instead, a God-like presence known simply as The Voice sends the poor guy back to earth with the Sisyphean task of eliminating evil. With a mission like that, it’s no surprise the Spectre has had such a long run, and that collectors are willing to pay top dollar for his ghostly initial appearance.
9. Flash Comics #1
CGC NM value: $220,000
Issue dated: January 1940
“Flash Comics” was a short-lived series, but a series that spawned two titans of the comic book world: the Flash and Hawkman. Granted, Hawkman isn’t nearly as popular as the man who can run so fast he can travel backwards in time, but you say Hawkman to anyone and they’ll at the very least acknowledge that he’s a superhero. If they prod you for more than that, tell them that Hawkman utilizes the power of ancient artifacts to fight crime, making him the most irresponsible museum curator of all time. Over a scant 104 issues, Flash comics made a big enough impression to get bought out by DC, who now owns the rights to both characters.
8. Amazing Fantasy #15
CGC NM value: $263,000
Issue dated: August 1962
With a name like Amazing Fantasy, there’s no surprise that the series was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1962. On a list full of generic titles, that has to be the most generic. It would have been a footnote to a footnote in the grand scheme of comic books too, if legendary comic book guru Stan Lee hadn’t been allowed to experiment with a new kind of superhero: a teenager who had to deal with regular day, teenagery kind of stuff. Oh, and he’d been bitten by a radioactive spider and had spider powers, too. This spider-teen was donned Spiderman, and with him, in the final panel of this issue, came one of the best morals of any comic book: “With great power, there must also come great responsibility.” Well said, unattributed box panel.
7. Batman #1
CGC NM value: $284,000
Issue dated: Spring 1940
Interestingly enough, the first issue of Batman was not the first appearance of Batman. Like his immortal nemesis Superman, Batman had first appeared in previous comic books. This issue is, however, the first appearance of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, the Boy Wonder, as well as that of the Catwoman, and that white-faced son-of-a-bitch known as the Joker. In essence, Batman number 1 sets up the entire Batman universe as we know and love it, which why it fetches such a high price.
6. Detective Comics #1
CGC NM value: $325,000
Issue dated: March 1937
This is the first issue that introduced Batman. That’s right: the Batman. The very same caped crusader who’s captured the hearts and minds of privileged boys orphaned in alleyways and their stuffy dry butlers alike for going on seventy odd years now. What’s interesting to note is that Detective Comics is not a playful name. These were actually hard-boiled detective stories. Which is why Bruce Wayne – when you take away his crazy outfit and his contraptions and his nancy-boy sidekick – is a detective at heart. It’s comforting to know that – like his namesake – the bat hasn’t strayed too far from his roots. Er, cave.
5. All-American Comics #16
CGC NM value: $326,000
Issue dated: July 1940
If the powerful ring that the Green Lantern uses existed in reality, we’d be using it to conjure up All-American Comic #16, in which the superhero first appeared. Of course we’d conjure up a lot more things before that, but we’d certainly want to honor creators Bill Finger and Martin Nodell for so many years of green-tinted action and excitement. In his original incarnation, the Green Lantern was a railroad man who used a magic lantern to craft a powerful ring that had to be charged every 24 hours and didn’t work on wood. Times changed, and so did the Green Lantern. Eventually, his name and back story changed so that he inherited the ring from a dying Guardian of the Universe. Things shook up in the real world too, with All-American Comic being one of the three companies to eventually become modern-day DC Comics.
4. Marvel Comics #1
CGC NM value: $421,000
Issued dated: October 1939
The first issue of Marvel Comics is a marvel indeed. Three characters are introduced in the launch issue: the Angel, the Human Torch, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. It’s clear from the first issue that the world’s biggest comic book publisher was interested in doing something new. The first iteration of the Human Torch is nothing like the later Fantastic Four version. Instead, he’s a Frankenstein’s Monster-esque android with the power to generate fire and control the flames. The Sub-Mariner is the first known antihero in comic books. The gamble paid off, with the first publication selling a whopping 80 thousand copies and meriting a second round, which sold an even more impressive 800 thousand more. Of course, all that popularity has a down side — this is the last time we’ll see Marvel on this list.
3. Superman #1
CGC NM value: $525,000
Issue dated: June 1939
Like Batman #1, Superman #1 isn’t the first time the public was introduced to the Man of Steel. That had been done a little over one year earlier. It does, however, mark the first time a comic book was dedicated to a single character. Superman #1 is the first issue of a comic book to deal solely with the world of Metropolis – Lois, Jimmy, and Lex included – and never diverge. The story of Superman from Action Comics is reprinted here, alongside several other adventures from earlier issues. Despite this, Superman #1 sold in record numbers, proving that Clark Kent and Company were here to stay.
2. Action Comics #1
CGC NM value: $1,060,000
Issue dated: June 30, 1938
What was the world like before Superman? It’s almost hard to imagine, but that’s the kind of Krypton-free, Luther-less world people were living in before Action Comics #1 hit the presses in June 1938. Though several other heroes have stories within, Superman is the real star of the show, introducing readers to a man who could literally achieve the impossible, and, despite not being one of us, was going to use his powers for the good of mankind. Imagine that. The origins of Superman are detailed here, which, unsurprisingly, has changed very little since the first publication. Sure, it’s been re-imagined dozens of times, (Comrade Superman, anyone?) but no writer has been able to improve upon what Siegel and Schuster took six years to create. It’s virtually indestructible.
1. Detective Comics #27
CGC NM value: $1,790,000
Issue dated: May 1939
Not many people realize what the DC in DC Comics stands for. It’s Detective Comics. So really, when you’re saying DC comics, you’re saying Detective Comics comics, which is totally fine if you’re cool with getting laughed out of Forbidden Planet. Detective Comics has produced thousands of stories, but none are worth more than the one in issue 27: the first appearance of that scowling part-time superhero, full-on playboy revenge machine, Batman. In his first outing, Batman takes on a chemical syndicate by his lonesome. He uses all his gadgets – if only in a slightly campier way than does the brooding crusader we’re used to today. “Whams!” and “Whappos!” aside, it wasn’t long until Batman became Detective Comics’ most popular character and earned himself his own place in the pulps. As well as his rightful place at the top of the list of the most expensive comic books of all time.
First Edition – Issue 2: The Muscle
First Edition – Issue 3: Mystique
Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.