Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the winning bid for Action Comics #1 that just went through the stratosphere. Bleeding Cool reports that Action Comics #1, the granddaddy of all comic books, containing the first ever appearance of Superman, has just sold for a whopping $3.2 million, or $3,207,852.00 to be exact.
Who are the buyers? They are none other than ComicConnect owners Vincent Zurzolo and Stephen Fishler, famous dealers of vintage and rare comic books, who sold a previous copy of Action Comics #1 — a copy sold to Nicholas Cage that set a 2011 record of $2.16 million. By purchasing this latest for-sale copy at this price, the two have made Action Comics #1 the first comic book to break $3 million. It is now the sixth comic book to sell for over $1 million.
Currently, there are known to be only thirty unrestored copies of Action Comics #1 in existence. What makes this record-setting copy so unique is that not only was it graded by the Certified Guaranty Company at a 9.0 (Very Fine / Near Mint), but it’s so pristine that its pages are still white. Golden Age era comic books (published from 1938 to 1950) are rarely seen in good condition, let alone pristine. Many complicated factors come into play for comic book survival — handling, storage methods, protection, exposure to light, etc. How this copy came to be found is also a fascinating story. Joe Mannarino, the first person to purchase the comic book from the original owner’s family, recalls how he stumbled upon this mythical treasure:
I decided to take the leap of faith and fly down to West Virginia where the books were located. I should also state that the owners had a full knowledge of the value of comic books because they were looking for thousands of dollars. I now believe what had prompted their call may have been the announcement or rumor of a Superman movie in 1976 or 1977.
I rented a car and drove seemingly straight up to a small town at the top of what was probably the Blue Ridge Mountain range. After the normal amenities, I was shown a hope chest, which is a cedar lined chest that normally sits at the foot of a bed and contains linens and such. When I had the opportunity to see the books, I was surprised that there were so few, only about thirty five and that they were very eclectic. A Planet 2, Action 2, Disneys, Fox books, Dells, Westerns, War, no real rhyme or reason. The books were not in plastic bags just stacked but sure enough, there was the Action 1.
I was immediately struck by how flat the book was. It seemed smaller that any golden age book I had seen from that period. I thought that it was perhaps a modern reprint that I was unfamiliar with as compared to the Famous First Editions or the 1976 non-glossy reprint. I opened the book to count the pages and was immediately struck by how white the pages were. As I probed a bit more, I learned that the book had been in the same chest for as long as anyone in the family could remember and that it had belonged to their father who had since passed. I compared it in size to the other books and everything checked. Just a remarkably conserved book.
The comic book changed hands throughout the years and Darren Adams of Pristine Comics became the fourth owner of the Man of Steel’s introduction. Adams turned down an initial offer of $3 million for the copy, making a bet that he could probably fetch more on eBay. His move to place it under auction was quickly validated on August 14, when an opening bid of $1 million was submitted within four minutes of opening. It then quickly shot up to $1.6 million before the day’s end. Before the end of last week, the price jumped to a little over $2 million and then to $2.19 million. The bidding war slowed down a bit, but it eventually built up again with a final winning bid of $3,207,852. Not bad for something that was initially sold for $.10.
I think a “Congratulations!” is in order for Zurzolo and Fishler as they now have an awesome piece of American history. It’s unknown if they’ll be keeping the copy or will be selling it again. As for Adams, the sale isn’t purely profit-driven. A portion of the sale will go to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to help with researching a cure for spinal cord injuries. Christopher Reeve, who portrayed one of the best-known incarnations of Superman on the silver screen in four movies, passed away in 2004 from spinal cord injury complications sustained from a horseback riding accident in 1995. His wife, Dana Reeve, who headed the foundation after his death, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 and died from the disease in 2006.