Comic Book Sells For Half A Million Dollars. But Is It News?

As a longtime addict of the smell of old newsprint, it’s strange to live in a world where I almost didn’t bother to make note of the sale of a single comic book for half a million dollars.

No doubt it has an interesting backstory and I’m thrilled for the consignor. The Detective Comics #27 (the first appearance of Batman) graded CGC 7.0 which hammered for $492,937 last night at Heritage Auctions was originally purchased by 84 year old Robert Irwin for 10 cents off the newsstand when he was 13. Somehow, he managed to hang on to it (and keep it in great shape!) through seven decades of dizzily escalating value — until last night.

There’s not too many stories like that left that reach back to the original generation of American comic book readers, for obvious reasons.

But there have been three individual million-dollar-plus comic book sales in 2010, and a few other strong-six-figure sales. I believe this book would be the fourth most valuable copy of Detective Comics #27 to sell this year.

High-end hobbyists have been predicting the mass entry of Hollywood Money into the vintage market for a decade or more, and with the record prices at the top end this year accompanied by the mainstream media (cough, transmedia) attention swirling around the rest of the industry, it’s hard not to wonder if that time has come. Top prices had seemed to plateau in the $300,000-$350,000 range for several years before the flurry of $1 million and other eye-popping sales early in 2010.

That aside, for my money the most interesting sale of the day yesterday was the Action #1 Court Copy for $143,400, a very strong price for a restored comic. This copy was also on display at Steve Geppi’s Entertainment Museum for some time, though it is known that he was not the consignor on this sale. But most importantly, this is a singularly historic copy of this particular comic:

This is designated the Court Copy because it was used as evidence in DC’s lawsuit against Fox and the latter publisher’s character Wonder Man, claiming copyright infringement. The case was styled “Detective Comics, Inc., v. Bruns Publications, Inc., et al.” and this comic was Exhibit 13. It bears two date stamps from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, one showing March 16, 1939, the other showing April 6, 1939. When all was said and done, the judge did indeed issue an injunction “forbidding the further publication” of Wonder Man.

This was Superman’s first day in court — but as we know, certainly not the last.

About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.

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