An original Superman comic, sold for 10 cents at a West Virginia newsstand in 1938, was purchased at auction Sunday night for $3.2 million, making it the most expensive comic book ever sold.
The copy of Action Comics No. 1, which features a caped Superman lifting an automobile, was sold on EBay by Darren Adams of Pristine Comics in Federal Way, Wash. The previous record for a comic book was $2.1 million, for another Action Comics No. 1, sold by the actor Nicolas Cage in 2011.
Superman was the brainchild of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, both North American-born sons of European Jewish immigrants. Their creation is widely credited as the beginning of the superhero genre. The comic book had a print run of 200,000 copies, but only 100 or so survive today, and most of those have had some restoration work done to them.
“This book is like a museum piece,” Adams told the Washington Post. “It’s a freak-of-nature work.” The colors are especially vivid on both the covers, and interior pages, which show a baby Superman (in diapers) lifting furniture over his head, and Superman as a young man wearing a business suit and leaping over a skyscraper.
Adams describes the comic book’s provenance in a YouTube video. Purchased off a newsstand by a man from West Virginia in 1938, the comic book was stored in a cedar chest “at high altitude” for four decades. When the man died, a collector purchased it from his estate.
A couple of owners and more than 30 years later, Adams purchased it. He first saw the copy in a bank vault. “It wasn’t just a copy of Action Comics No. 1. It was the copy," he said. "I was floored. The emotion was overwhelming.” Adams paid seven figures for it.
On the CGC comic book grading scale, it rates a 9.0, the highest rated of any of the three dozen known, unrestored copies in existence.
Adams and EBay are donating 1% of the sale price to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for spinal-cord injury and paralysis research.
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