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February 22, 2010 5:01 PM   Subscribe

A copy of Action Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman, has sold for $1,000,000.
posted by the bricabrac man (79 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I can't believe someone would pay that much for a copy. Imagine what a non-pirated version would go for!
posted by mullingitover at 5:05 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Worst. Purchase. Ever.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


> "They said it couldn't be done. They said that no comic book--no matter how rare--would ever sell for $1,000,000. This week, they were proven wrong. And in the midst of a recession, no less!"

Well. They must be wailing, gnashing their teeth and rending their garments right about now. He sure showed they.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:09 PM on February 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


I bet Seinfeld bought it.
posted by Scoo at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Self-indulgence is fun, but a million bucks for a funny book? If I had that kind of money to burn, somehow I'd rather make a difference in the lives of kids than just amusing myself for a fleeting moment...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2010


A million bucks? What a loser. I just read it for free. Thanks, the bricabrac man!
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 5:14 PM on February 22, 2010


Self-indulgence is fun, but a million bucks for a funny book? If I had that kind of money to burn, somehow I'd rather make a difference in the lives of kids than just amusing myself for a fleeting moment...

I'd burn it.
posted by griphus at 5:15 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


It was then promptly set ablaze just to light a cigar.
posted by NoMich at 5:15 PM on February 22, 2010


Wow, thanks for that link. It’s incredible to actually read the first issue of Superman. The little battles he gets into are downright cute.
posted by Garak at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2010


They said it couldn't be done.

Nothing is impossible for the Bank Account of Steel!
posted by DU at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2010


Self-indulgence is fun, but a million bucks for a funny book?

Comics are as valid an art form as painting, literature, music etc. Why not sneer at a Van Gogh purchase while you're at it?
posted by Scoo at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile, on Bizarro World, a man pays $100 for his prescription.
posted by DU at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2010 [18 favorites]


Gee, when I went off to college, my mom threw out my copy.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2010


Wow, I'm surprised to see this level of derision; I was honestly surprised that the million-dollar mark hadn't been heretofore broken. That's nothing compared to paintings.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:23 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The recession's over, yay!
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:25 PM on February 22, 2010


Comics are as valid an art form as painting, literature, music etc.

Price for art is driven by rarity, not quality. It's a handy thing to collector values that old comics were printed on such shitty paper.
posted by Nelson at 5:25 PM on February 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I wonder if the buyer made his winning bid in a Dr. Evil voice then laughed maniacally.
posted by brundlefly at 5:26 PM on February 22, 2010


"more money than common sense" is sadly a very common affliction.
posted by radiosilents at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Be very suspicious of round numbers.
posted by benzenedream at 5:37 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Price for art is driven by rarity, not quality.

That's a load of crap. Picasso?
posted by fire&wings at 5:38 PM on February 22, 2010


That's a load of crap. Picasso?

Comics are an odd breed because you can't judge the very early ones by either the quality of the prose/plot/story or by the quality of their art. They're more like cave paintings: incredibly rare and an extant example of what may come next.
posted by griphus at 5:42 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not shocked because when Takashi Murakami's, My Lonesome Cowboy (NSFW) sold for 15.2 million, my mind was blown and has stayed that way ever since.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:50 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Interesting timing, I was just posting about the Mile High collection. Comics are a funny business for collectors as most of the existing "pride and joy" versions come from specific collections, each collection usually having an amazing, no-way-this-really-happened story to back it. This Action #1 is actually only the second-best version known to exist; it comes from the Kansas City collection. The very best is still the Edgar Church/Mile High version (pic of the Superman #1 and Batman #1 from the same collection). The Comic Book Pedigrees site has short back-stories on most of the more famous collections; I believe they're working on a book as well.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:57 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, it's his money, but still, who does this asshole think he is?
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:58 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would assume the buyer has some personal connection to Superman and/or comics in general.

But even if he doesn't, who's to say it's a bad investment? Entire economies have been built on gold. A "gold standard" is viewed as proverbially stable. Why? Outside of plating cables, gold doesn't actually do anything useful.* People just think it's cool. This investment is a bet that people will continue to think Superman is cool and/or of historic note. Seems like a pretty safe bet to me.

My apologies for any oversimplification; I am not an economist.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a load of crap. Picasso?

No kidding. There are literally thousands of Picasso paintings and each of them routinely sells for over a billion dollars.
posted by DU at 6:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that each and every one of you has bought something that someone, somewhere in the world would consider you an asshole for spending that much money on.
posted by brain_drain at 6:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


So a drawing of Butch (the freaking out guy in the lower left) is now worth more than he was trying to steal in the first place.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Price for art is driven by rarity, not quality.
That's a load of crap. Picasso?

Or desirability, in the case of a name brand like Picasso. Anyway, it seems odd to compare prices of a mass produced pop culture medium to a one-off fine art medium. Honestly, I'm largely ignorant of the high end art market. I'm just Some Guy on the Internet, which makes me about as qualified as the usual Metafilter poster.
posted by Nelson at 6:10 PM on February 22, 2010


turgid dahlia: "Well, it's his money, but still, who does this asshole think he is?"

From the second link:

The million-dollar copy is said to be an "8.0" edition, using the 10-point scale created by Zurzolo's Metropolis co-owner, Stephen Fishler -- the "second-highest graded copy known to exist," Zurzolo says.


Even copies in lousy condition have appreciated in value a hell of a lot more than S&P 500 Index funds.

As long as there are very rich men who'd like to buy back their childhood, this is a safer investment than US treasury bonds.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:13 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It must really suck to be a Tex Thompson collector.

Also, you gotta love the ad on the inside cover. I wonder how the kids who salivated over that $25 prize back in the day would react to the idea that they were defacing a document worth over $60,000 in 1938 dollars.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:13 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


So... I've got a couple of longboxes I'm getting rid of to clear up some space in my daughter's closet. It's mostly comics for the early-to-late '80s.

Bidding starts at 10¢ a pound, gross weight.
posted by lekvar at 6:14 PM on February 22, 2010


That's a load of crap. Picasso?

Hey! He was never called an asshole.
posted by jonmc at 6:15 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you have a complete set of Crisis on Infinite Earths, I'd be glad to take it off your hands for that price, lekvar. Buyer pays shipping.
posted by griphus at 6:15 PM on February 22, 2010


So can someone explain to me why we're so against with someone who has an emotional bond with art that he loves, and happens to have the finances to indulge it? Why we've all decided that somehow he's not allowed to do such a thing just because most of us can't afford it or wouldn't want to? Especially considering how much less angry we'd be if he spent it on a yacht or a car or a violin or something?

'Cause looking through this thread, he's not the one I'd call the asshole.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:24 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This tempts me to become a hoarder; some random thing I now have in my possession could someday be worth millions.

Price for art is driven by rarity, not quality.
That's a load of crap. Picasso?

Does this make sense: if there were suddenly very few Picasso paintings (say all but 3 were destroyed in a fire tonight), they'd almost certainly start selling for buttloads more than they do now. If their rarity increased, so would their monetary value, even though the surviving paintings themselves remained the same.
posted by sallybrown at 6:25 PM on February 22, 2010


That scan of Superman #1 is hosted on UVA's American Studies server (previously).
posted by steef at 6:38 PM on February 22, 2010


I was reading the other day in my local paper (if we're going to get technical, on the website of said paper) about how a copy of Detective Comics #27 that a local anonymous fellow currently has is expected to hit the record price for a comic book. Bids at the time of those posting are not quite at half a million. If my ebay experience means anything, some jerky sniper is going to drive up the price like crazy at the last minute and I'll be sorely disappointed.
posted by knile at 6:44 PM on February 22, 2010


Wait, Superman was an isolationist? HOKEY SMOKES! My mindgrapes just exploded!
posted by KingEdRa at 6:48 PM on February 22, 2010


So, I know someone who used to be married to a Scion of DC comics. She had a BOX of Action Comics 1, kept a few framed or in storage, but mostly just threw the rest away.

Huh.
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 PM on February 22, 2010


oh and these original prints, not copies.
posted by The Whelk at 6:55 PM on February 22, 2010


"I'm pretty sure that each and every one of you has bought something that someone, somewhere in the world would consider you an asshole for spending that much money on."

Newton and Ridley ale glass at a charity auction. (N & R is the fictitious brewery whose products flow from the Rover's Return pub taps on Coronation Street.) $250. My consolations are that 1. at the time it would have cost me several times that amount to fly to the UK and buy one at a souvenir shop, and 2. the celebrity auctioneer was the woman who played Vera Duckworth. She shook my hand. (You have to be a Corry fan.) It's on display on my bookshelf in a mini-cabinet I made for it. At the time, I could have bought 25 cases of beer for the same amount. _I_ don't regret it, but the "Oh you asshole!" line forms on the left.
posted by Mike D at 6:58 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]



No kidding. There are literally thousands of Picasso paintings and each of them routinely sells for over a billion dollars.


Let's make the new currency in our future world, art. That way all the sayers / naysayers will actually have to produce something instead of defending / demeaning it's merit.
posted by Benway at 7:04 PM on February 22, 2010


"But even if he doesn't, who's to say it's a bad investment? Entire economies have been built on gold. A 'gold standard' is viewed as proverbially stable. Why? Outside of plating cables, gold doesn't actually do anything useful.* People just think it's cool."

While much of gold's value is because it's pretty it is a wildly useful engineering metal. Corrosion resistant, good conductor, very dense, alloys well, non toxic (it has an E Number), uniquely ductile and malleable. There'd be hundreds of pounds of the stuff in every home if it wasn't so rare.
posted by Mitheral at 7:07 PM on February 22, 2010


Self-indulgence is fun, but a five bucks for a funny comment? If I had that kind of money to burn, somehow I'd rather make a difference in the lives of kids than just amusing myself for a fleeting moment...
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:16 PM on February 22, 2010


From Wikipedia:

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first created a bald telepathic villain bent on dominating the entire world. He appeared in the short story "The Reign of the Super-Man" from Science Fiction #3, a science fiction fanzine that Siegel published in 1933.[12] Siegel re-wrote the character in 1933 as a hero, bearing little or no resemblance to his villainous namesake, modeling the hero on Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his bespectacled alter ego, Clark Kent, on Harold Lloyd.[13][14] Siegel and Shuster then began a six-year quest to find a publisher. Titling it The Superman, Siegel and Shuster offered it to Consolidated Book Publishing, who had published a 48-page black-and-white comic book entitled Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48. Although the duo received an encouraging letter, Consolidated never again published comic books. Shuster took this to heart and burned all pages of the story, the cover surviving only because Siegel rescued it from the fire. Siegel and Shuster each compared this character to Slam Bradley, an adventurer the pair had created for Detective Comics #1 (May 1939).[15]

Ah, so then this Action Comics #1 isn't *really* the first appearance of Superman, but the 3rd... ?

posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 7:24 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


A million dollars?

HOW DARE HE !!!
posted by Bonzai at 7:24 PM on February 22, 2010


Say, this making a difference in the lives of kids thing, it doesn't have to be a positive difference does it? No? Thank god. Yeah, if I had a million dollars I'd totally wreck some kids' shit! Hire an acting troupe and get some special effects hooked up then go to a playground and stage gory executions of popular cartoon characters.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2010


oh and $1M for a comic? I suppose it makes more sense than the ~$2M spent on the Voice of Fire
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like it's time to pull out the six copies that I've had squirreled away all these years...


But of course I kid.

DAMMIT.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:29 PM on February 22, 2010


Only a dick like Superman would cause comic book prices to get that high.
posted by formless at 7:32 PM on February 22, 2010


griphus: Comics are an odd breed because you can't judge the very early ones by either the quality of the prose/plot/story or by the quality of their art. They're more like cave paintings: incredibly rare and an extant example of what may come next."

It's hard for me to find an example, but before you write off comic art from that era, go track down Bill Everett's Golden Age comic work -- by which I mean his Sub-Mariner stuff in Marvel Mystery Comics and Sub-Mariner Comics, mostly, since that's what you can find these days. The level of expressiveness packed into such few lines and limited colors is pretty astonishing, especially when you compare him side-by-side with his contemporaries. (Best seen in the Human Torch/Sub-Mariner battle where the story trades off between Everett and Torch writer/artist Carl Burgos -- no disrespect intended, Mr. Burgos!)

The stories are still completely ridiculous, though. I'll happily grant that because they're also hilarious. My favorite of the ones I've read so far features Namor travelling to a mysterious second moon and convincing the Moon people to steal all the water from Earth, because then all those pesky surface-dwellers will die of thirst! Then his mother has to telepathically remind him that ATLANTEANS NEED WATER TOO, so he beats them up and sends the water back. Then he angsts about how no one understands him.

Seriously, best comic ever.
posted by bettafish at 7:33 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


griphus, my comment was an attempt at a joke about the bottom dropping out of the market. Plus, you probably wouldn't be interested in any of my back-issues, as they're readin' comics, not collectin' comics.
posted by lekvar at 7:48 PM on February 22, 2010


Good Lord. On page 6 Superman skull-fucks a perpetrator of domestic abuse.

"Fainted!"

Man of Steel indeed.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:01 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


"oh and $1M for a comic? I suppose it makes more sense than the ~$2M spent on the Voice of Fire ..."

"...painting consists only of a red stripe on a blue background"


Oh fer Chrissakes it does NOT! It's two blue stripes bracketing a red background.

Philistines.

PS... It's about two miles away from where I sit at this very moment. We're very touchy about it in this town. One of the Opposition MPs had a tie version made up -- his "Necktie of Fire" -- that he scored some anger points with.
posted by Mike D at 8:24 PM on February 22, 2010


Superman was a dick even in Action Comics #1 (2nd panel)
posted by shii at 8:26 PM on February 22, 2010


I just want to thank you for linking to that; I'm going to be reading through that tonight. Before I do, though, can I just say that I'm baffled by the cover? What exactly is going on there? It seriously just looks like Superman's lost his shit and is throwing a tantrum, and everyone is running for cover screaming, "Oh shit! Superman's fallen off the wagon again and he's having one of his rages! Run for you lives!"
posted by the other side at 8:28 PM on February 22, 2010


So, uh, is my Uncanny X-Men, first appearance of Gambit worth anything yet? No? Any idea when it might be? Oh, I see. It's useful for starting my barbecue. Gotcha...
posted by Ghidorah at 8:47 PM on February 22, 2010


Benway: "Let's make the new currency in our future world, art."

BRING BACK THE NOLDE STANDARD
posted by Rhaomi at 9:05 PM on February 22, 2010


Ghidorah - UNCANNY X-MEN #266 (1st appearance Gambit) is actually worth about $20-$30 bucks in NM nowadays so don't throw it out.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 9:16 PM on February 22, 2010


Fight ... you weak-livered pole-cat!
posted by bwg at 9:19 PM on February 22, 2010


I've always loved that cover because superman looks like such a dick. Fuck you, car!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:37 PM on February 22, 2010


Price for art is driven by rarity, not quality.
That's a load of crap. Picasso?

Does this make sense: if there were suddenly very few Picasso paintings (say all but 3 were destroyed in a fire tonight), they'd almost certainly start selling for buttloads more than they do now. If their rarity increased, so would their monetary value, even though the surviving paintings themselves remained the same.


I think the issue is it's not an either/or thing. Rarity is a necessary but by no means sufficient condition for high prices. If I doodled on a piece of paper, it'd be unique piece of art worth diddly squat.
posted by kmz at 10:51 PM on February 22, 2010


Ron Thanagar, thanks. I didn't know that, I'd thought most comics from the 90's were worth nothing these days. Somewhere there's a box with most of Uncanny from about 200 up to around the time they split and had the just X-Men title (the one with the twenty different covers). Might try to unload those sometime.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:13 PM on February 22, 2010


No kidding. There are literally thousands of Picasso paintings and each of them routinely sells for over a billion dollars.

Huh? The most expensive Picasso in this list sold for 119.4 million.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 PM on February 22, 2010


Ghidorah - UNCANNY X-MEN #266 (1st appearance Gambit) is actually worth about $20-$30 bucks in NM nowadays so don't throw it out.

Yeah, but how much will it cost to get graded?
posted by delmoi at 11:19 PM on February 22, 2010


I'm surprised Artw got scooped on this post.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:51 PM on February 22, 2010


I've spent the last ten minutes searching for a story about a loser kid who tried to parlay his father's treasured copy of AC #1 into middle school popularity with horrific results which quickly turn into a sad revelation, but am coming up with bupkiss. There was sort of a This American Life vibe to the story (Actually, it could have been a TAL piece and I'm just misremembering it as something I read), ring a bell with anyone?

Interesting timing, I was just posting about the Mile High collection.

There was also this interesting FPP from a few years back.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:05 AM on February 23, 2010


Oh I was going to post this earlier but forgot. This is the actual link (without the 'fanpop' frame).
Comics are as valid an art form as painting, literature, music etc. Why not sneer at a Van Gogh purchase while you're at it?
Van Gogh lived his whole life in poverty, only to have his work explode in value after his death.

I think paintings are kind of like trading cards for the hyper-wealthy. They're only "worth" what they are because everyone has agreed to the prices and they are non-replaceable.
posted by delmoi at 12:14 AM on February 23, 2010


In the late 80's there was a bit of a comics bubble. I used to get my gas and cigarette money by selling comics I had bought six months before for $20-30 a pop. I hated selling them too. This guy will probably make some money on this in a few years unless there is a secret stash of these in an attic somewhere.
posted by Tashtego at 12:30 AM on February 23, 2010


"How much is the dollar in your pocket worth today? I'll bet that's a question you've all been asking yourselves. But what exactly is a dollar bill? A promissory note, a scrap of colored paper with no intrinsic value of its own. That's all. However, this piece of paper can be exchanged for goods to the value of one dollar, agreed?
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! This bill has been signed by Andy Warhol, making it a pop art original! What if I tell you that, as a Warhol original this piece of paper can now be taken to an art gallery and exchanged there for another piece of paper--a check this time--which can then be exchanged for several thousand pieces of paper like the first one? Excited? But take a closer look: This signature is a crude forgery. I can almost hear your heart sinking as the stars in your eyes go out! But wait! What if I tell you that Warhol's signature was forged by none other than Pablo Picasso? Just how much do you think this piece of paper is worth now? Any ideas?"
-- Mr. Nobody, Doom Patrol #50 (Currently worth ~ $3.00)
posted by benzenedream at 1:33 AM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


or by the quality of their art. They're more like cave paintings

Sorry, I've gotta yell at you for this. The cave paintings in Lascaux are gorgeous, and I defy anyone to explain why this bison from Altamira is more 'primitive' than anything painted in the high modernist period.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:34 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Also, you gotta love the ad on the inside cover. I wonder how the kids who salivated over that $25 prize back in the day would react to the idea that they were defacing a document worth over $60,000 in 1938 dollars.

Ha, you're just the kind of sucker they were looking for! Sure, there's a big "$25" up there, but if you read the fine print it turns out they were giving out 25 prizes of a buck each. Even in 1938 that wasn't big money.
posted by languagehat at 7:50 AM on February 23, 2010


I just feel bad for Action Comics #2.
posted by Evilspork at 10:33 AM on February 23, 2010


So when is my copy of Archie Meets The Punisher going to be worth a million? Sonic the Hedgehog Issue #0?

Dammit.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:06 AM on February 23, 2010


That's nothing. Monty Brewster once bought a rare stamp for for $1.25 million and then mailed it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on February 23, 2010


Archie Meets The Punisher

This can't possibly be a thing.

*Googles*

No shit.
posted by brundlefly at 11:43 AM on February 23, 2010


oh and $1M for a comic? I suppose it makes more sense than the ~$2M spent on the Voice of Fire

I hear that sort of thing a lot, and always from people who haven't spent any time with the Voice of Fire. I scoffed before I saw it, but now it's the high point of any visit to the National Gallery. It doesn't "work" unless you're open to new experiences; it's anathema for those shouty WHY MY CHILD COULD DO THIS jackasses. But if you actually let yourself stand there and experience the enormity of the goddamn thing, it's -- it's powerful. I'm a fan.
posted by Shepherd at 11:51 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Batman Beats Superman's Sales Record. That didn't take long.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:09 PM on February 26, 2010


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