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Superman at more than $30,000 a page
In the shortening days of November a super hero charges in to raise the spirits of book collectors everywhere. This is not the rodent of Orlando and Anaheim, thank you. Mickey is in fact out of his league on this one. What prompts this article is a first printing of the comic book character that has become the enduring metaphor of the modern age, Surhomme if you prefer the French, Superhombre if you speak Spanish or Supermees if you think in Estonian. This is of course Superman in his initial appearance in 1938, lunging purposefully into a page-turning future where movie producers, over sherry, imagine predicaments, risks and dangers to test his mettle, where every man hopes to be him and every woman to be married to him. This super hero, seventy-three years since he flowed from the pen and brush of Siegel and Shuster, and without a bump or blemish, continues to fire imaginations and author metaphors for the human experience. This is a first appearance of S in print and an exceptional example of the first printing. It was sold at auction on November 30th by Comic Connect and did quite well, in fact better than any other printed item during the month. It brought $2,161000.
Of the first appearance in print, an unknown quantity, but estimated to be about 10,000 copies, were printed. That today a pristine copy of a 20th century comic book sells for more than two million dollars tells you what resonates with new collectors. One under thirty collector, when asked about the price quickly confirmed “Superman is ours” referring to his generation. And I was left to think the Civil War, the War of 1812 and Revolution are ours. We who look over the horizon at the distant past can miss the visceral excitement that powers the emerging generation of collectors and their thirst for the icons that inform their era. They buy what matters to them. We, of the older style, search for meaning, the current generation, in this case, for a symbol.
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Even the fine print is expensive
Collecting it turns out has no rules and more reflects the social psyche. Were we young we would no doubt be in the throes of this kind of collectible but we are caught and tagged by our experience and can no more change our perspective and preferences than we can change our fingerprints. We collect to complete ourselves and, for the most part purse more complicated and erudite material. How a comic book completes a person I’m afraid to ask.
But if in this resounding auction result we can gauge the enthusiasm and interest of the new collector we can also acknowledge that our collecting is changing. Comics may never be part of what we pursue but we adjust within the world we know. Not so long ago book auctions were almost exclusively the sale of books. These days the bands and borders have dissolved and all forms of manuscripts, maps and ephemera become fair game. Our world too changes if not quite so much.
The item in question is described as follows:
CGC VF/NM: 9.0
crm/ow pgs (please read bidding requirements in listing description)
1st Superman by Siegel and Shuster
Some comic books go in and out of fashion. Action Comics #1 will never be one of those books. The most important comic book in the history of comics. The introduction of the archetype of all other heroes to come. Superman transcends comic books, transcends pop culture, he is an icon of Truth, Justice and The American Way! Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, it is said that Siegel's fathers' death after a robbery at his secondhand clothing store could have served as the inspiration for the Man of Steel. We are all in debt to these two visionaries for ushering in the age of the super hero.
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Overstreet 2011 VF/NM Guide Value: $1,050,000. Yes, this is the highest graded copy in the CGC census. Yes, that's a pretty big deal. Yes, you should make a run at this incredible book. ComicConnect.com will offer financing on the Action #1 CGC 9.0. Please inquire for details.
In reading this many will think about their early comic book collection, now ancient and probably tossed, and wonder what became of it. Was there an early Superman comic in the bunch? It’s now difficult to know but we can remember and think there was. In doing this, if random boxes long since packed away and forgotten, stored in attics, crawl spaces and basements, are remembered they will, when the time is ripe, be opened. Our own histories will spring to life and we, the hero of our own sagas, remember and appreciate the supermen we have tried to be, to parents, lovers, wives and children. Is there a superman in one of these boxes? No doubt there is but probably not the one ringing up the big bucks. Rather it’s ourselves detailed in the debris. Our stories will for the most part not be told but we know that we have tried.
So we may never have a perfect first edition of Superman but have other things, perspective beyond comics and an understanding of why we collect. We collect to fill spaces and are fortunate if we know what it is we want. For most its not a perfect copy of Superman but if it is I hope you won it.
Here is a list to other continuing comic book auctions. Superman has now changed homes and is no longer listed but there are plenty of others to choose from:
The Comic Connection