I started collecting comic books because of my father. Next to the silver age Superman comics he would read to me, the most interesting story he would tell me centered on the day he had to give them away and how he fell in love with comics. My father started collecting comics in the late 1950s to early 1960s – a time when a lot of popular DC Comics superheroes were starting their run. He had collected the first appearances of The Flash, Green Lantern, and the Teen Titans, to name just a few big issues in his many long boxes. Every week my father’s collection grew bigger and bigger until his family ultimately had to move. My grandfather told him that there wouldn't be enough room for his comic book collection during the process. So, one day when my father was at school, my grandfather gave away all of my dad's comics – for FREE – to one of the boys in their neighborhood.
As a comic book collector myself, this story has always stuck with me. I tell it to a lot of people and I find that many older collectors have a very similar story. During the time our parents or grandparents were collecting their parents had no idea how big these picture-based stories would be in later years. The hobby was something our parents or grandparents had to hide and read under the bed covers.
Now, the children that grew up seeing the birth of many of our American superheroes want to buy their collection back, creating a clear demand driving this growing secondary market. Back at the start of the comic book industry, DC Comics and Marvel created limited copies of their now famous stories. Making these comic books rarer to find and adding a little age is the main reason the prices are skyrocketing for certain issues which used to retail between ten and twelve cents at the drugstore.
Based on a ton of research, here are ten of the most expensive comic books ever sold that every collector wishes they could find in their collection.
10. Tales of Suspense #39 – Sold at $375,000
Tales of Suspense #39 introduces one of Marvel’s most popular characters, Iron Man. The comic includes the first appearance and origin story of Iron Man, created by comic legends Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. Tales of Suspense #39 skyrocketed in the market with the popularity of the Iron Man films. The very films that introduced us to the Marvel cinematic universe, which is making billions in the box office (see “Could Marvel Studios Take Over The World?“) and that number continues to climb. In 2012 ComicLink sold Tales of Suspense in the condition of CGC graded 9.6 (comic grading detailed) for $375,000.
9. Detective Comics #1 – Sold at $405,000
Detective Comics #1 doesn’t introduce a major superhero like many of the other high-ranking comics on this list, but it’s still a very important issue for comic book collectors. This comic series started as an anthology of hard-boiled detective series, but twenty-seven issues later the book will introduce one of the most influential comic book characters in the history of the medium (details below). The highest price Detective Comics #1 has sold (so far) is $405,000.
8. All American Comics #16 sold at $430,000
All American Comics #16 has the first appearance of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Hal Jordan may debatably be the most popular Green Lantern, but Alan Scott was the first. His first story makes All American Comics #16 a valuable issue to have in your collection. The highest this comic book has sold for to date is $430,000.
7. Flash Comics #1 – Sold at $450,000
Flash Comics #1 introduced the original Flash, Jay Garrick, and another popular DC Comics hero, Hawkman. Jay Garrick is not the most popular Flash, but he has been getting more mainstream attention with the second season of The Flash television show. Hawkman was also thrown into the spotlight this year with the DC’s Legends of Tomorrow television show. In 2010, The Flash Comics #1 sold for $450,000. This price can only rise with Jay Garrick and Hawkman’s growing popularity and continued exposure.
6. The X-Men #1 – Sold at $497,937.90
The X-Men #1 sees the first appearance of one of the most popular comic book franchises, the X-Men. Debuting in the issue are Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Marvel Girl. Guided by Professor Xavier, these five made up the first team of young mutants and anchored this one as a landmark issue. The highest X-Men #1 has been sold for is 497,937.90 with a CGC grade of a high 9.8.
5. Batman #1 – Sold at 567,625
Batman #1 is not Batman’s first appearance, but it remains a very important issue for comic book collectors. After the popularity of the character’s debut in Detective Comics, Batman received his own spin-off title. Batman #1 is the start of Batman’s own adventures with his new sidekick, Robin. This issue also includes the first appearances of the Joker and Catwoman. In a bidding war this comic book sold for $567,625.
4. Superman #1 – Sold at $747,000
Just like Batman, Superman was introduced in a prior series (see below) before getting his own spin-off. The first issue of Superman is still very pricey. Superman #1 had 64 pages of Man of Steel action, a high page count even by today’s standards. The highest Superman #1 has sold for is $747,000.
3. Amazing Fantasy #15 – Sold at $1.1 Million
Spider-Man was the superhero we could all relate to and he was first introduced in The Amazing Fantasy #15. This comic brings Spider-Man to the Marvel Universe and tells his classic origin story most know so well. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man after the devastating death of his Uncle Ben. In 2011, right around the failed Spider-Man Broadway show launched, an issue of Amazing Fantasy #15 sold for 1.1 million dollars.
2. Detective Comics #27 – Sold at $1,380,000
Batman #1 landed on our list in the number five spot, but the character’s first appearance has sold for over a million dollars! Detective Comics started out as a anthology series. It introduced one of America’s most popular detectives, Batman in issue #27. It’s not uncommon to see Detective Comics #27 changing hands for a million dollars, but a high-grade copy of the comic actually sold for $1,380,000 pushing it ahead of Spider-Man.
1. Action Comics #1 – Sold at 3,207,852
So here it is. The most expensive comic book of all time… Drum roll please… Action Comics #1. The issue served up the first appearance of Superman. Does this come as a surprise? It shouldn’t, as Superman is an American icon and one of comic books most popular superheroes, if not the most popular. This is the comic book where people have hid copies in their walls to keep them safe and the highest recorded price that this comic book has sold for is stunning. It went for $3,207,852 on eBay. Darren Adams, the seller, actually started the bidding at just ninety-nine cents. In less than two hours it skyrocketed to $1.5 million, and by the end of the bidding war it made its $3.2 million landmark that made headlines around the world.
Vincent Zurzolo of Metropolis Collectibles (pictured at the top of this article) made the purchase in 2014 and showed it off to fans at New York Comic Con after the purchase. Adams, the seller, was a comic book store owner in Federal Way, Washington, who originally purchased the issue from the estate of a man who had bought it from a newsstand on the day of its release in 1938. Working with eBay, Adams opted to donate 1% of the sale to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in honor of Reeve’s film portrayal of the Man of Steel.
I hope you enjoyed our list of the most expensive comic books! Be sure to look through your long boxes (and those of your parents and grandparents) because you never know when you might just add one of these comic books in your collection!