Craziness continues to flourish in the back issue comic market.
A high-grade Action 1, the first appearance of Superman published
in 1938 by DC Comics, sold in an eBay auction in August for a
remarkable $3.21 million. It appears the future holds no boundaries
for that comic as it is expected to soar in value.
The record-breaking book was independently graded as a 9.0
out of 10, only one of two known to exist. The other, which once
belonged to actor Nicholas Cage, set the record in 2011 when
it sold for $2.161 million at auction.
There is a better back-story to Cages comic, which
was stolen in 2000 and later recovered in an abandoned storage
auction in San Fernando, Calfornia. A movie about Cages
book is reportedly in the works.
A private collector held the record-breaking comic sold in
August. If there are other high-grade copies of the comic held
in private hands, no doubt the ceiling will be pushed higher
if and when they come to market.
Just to give an indication of the rising value of a high-grade
Action 1, it sold for $250 in 1965, hit the $1,000 mark in 1973,
$25,000 in 1982 and then the magical million-dollar mark in 2010.
Jerry Siegel and Toronto-born Joe Shuster created the Superman
character in 1933. Shuster hawked the Toronto Daily Star as a
youngster and the paper would be a model for the Daily Planet
and Torontos early skyline would later be drawn in the
initial skyline of Metropolis.
The Shuster family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Joe would
meet Jerry in high school. They worked on a number of characters
and comic books, but they weren't able to convince any publisher
to print Supermans story. They eventually sold the rights
to DC Comics for about $130.
an immediate hit and the character would, over time, make billions
for the company, not so much for the creator duet. The two men
were destitute until lengthy legal and publicity battles with
DC eventually ended in a $20,000 a year pension for Siegel and
Shuster and credit to the creation of Superman.
The latest auction sale will no doubt drive up prices of
other key books in high grade, including the first appearance
of Bat Man in Detective 27 (1939), Superman 1 (1939), the first
appearances of the Human Torch and the Submariner in Marvel Comics
1 (1939), and Bat Man 1 (1940).
But it won't have an impact on the comics back-issue market
as a whole. The market position of Amazing Spider-Man 600 won't
change much, if at all, because of the Action 1 sale.
Thats the problem with many collectible markets: there
is an expectation of riches, a sure thing, better than Lucky
Sevens in the fifth race.
There are fundamentally two markets. First, there's the one
everyone hears and reads about, that is, the Action 1s and Detective
27s and Amazing Fantasy 15s, where there appears to a steady
supply of buyers willing to drop huge amounts of money.
But the other market consists of the rest the books. The
question is whether there will be enough people in the second
comics market to sustain it in the future. It's a dilemma many
other collectible markets face: the Baby Boomer generation is
a vanishing breed.
So, finding an old
comic, or a collection of comics, is not necessarily the path
to financial Nirvana or retirement security. Just like finding
an antique vase, a Ming Dynasty could bring you a Ferrari; one
bought at Woolworths in the 1950s will get you a ham sandwich.
With mustard. Maybe.
Thats why the mantra in the comic book biz - maybe
in every hobby - is to collect what you like. Enjoy the story,
the art and the genre before treading into the market. Expect
a modest financial gain as not everything a collector or dealer
gets their hands on is going to impact the collectibles market.
Temper the expectations, as most likely it will be a stroke
of luck if a huge financial score is made. A profit will be made,
but realize that it most likely won't buy that fancy Italian
sports car, but maybe an Italian ham sandwich. No mustard needed.
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting
comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker
really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit
in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on
his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great
metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a
little bit of history the past three decades.