A Rare Superman Edition Is Now the Most Valuable Comic Book in the World

The 1930s issue of Superman sold for a record-breaking $6 million at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions.

Comic book cover that shows Superman lifting a car.
The record-setting copy was purchased by an anonymous buyer. Courtesy Heritage Auctions

There’s a new comic book record in town. Action Comics No. 1, which introduced the character of Superman to the world in 1938, has sold for a record-breaking $6 million at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. The staggering sale surpasses the previous comic book auction record held by a copy of Spider-Man’s Amazing Fantasy No. 15, which sold for $3.6 million in 2021, and the private sale record of $5.3 million established in 2022 with a copy of Superman No. 1.

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Created by writer Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe ShusterAction Comics No. 1 details Superman’s origin story and his initial journey to Earth in a spaceship from a distant planet, in addition to debuting the character of Lois Lane. It was originally sold for just ten cents, which is about $2 today adjusting for inflation. Only 100 issues are estimated to have survived out of 200,000 copies printed.

“This has been the most sought-after comic book ever since people started collecting, because it’s the first appearance of Superman,” Barry Sandoval, vice president of Heritage Auctions, tells Observer. Its success “enabled the whole comic book craze that followed, and which still echoes today.”

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The pioneering issue has also attracted famous fans like the actor Nicolas Cage, who had a copy stolen from his Los Angeles home in 2000. The pilfered comic book was found in a storage unit 11 years later, in a recovery Cage described as an act of “divine providence.”

Now the most valuable comic book in the world, the edition sold by Heritage Auctions was acquired by an anonymous buyer. It wasn’t the only notable item offered up by Heritage earlier this month during its four-day Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction. A restored copy of Action Comics No. 1 fetched $576,000, setting an all-time high for any restored comic book.

The auction house also sold a historic 1934 letter written by Siegel that outlined the concept of Superman to comic illustrator Russell Keaton and sold for $264,000. And it set another record with its auction of a copy of the 1963 The Avengers #1, which realized $432,000 and established a new benchmark price for the title.

Positive indicators for the collectibles market

The entire auction was a record-breaking event, bringing in a total of $28.2 million and becoming the most lucrative comic book and comic art auction, according to Heritage. Such impressive results for the early Superman comic and other sales “are gratifying because in comics, like in so many collectibles, things got a little crazy in the post-pandemic years,” says Sandoval.

Pandemic lockdowns led to an unprecedented spike in the collectibles market, with 2021 standing out as an especially lucrative year for auction houses like Heritage. While prices have since fallen, auction results like these indicate that the collectibles and comic markets are still strong, according to Sandoval. “While it’s true that the market has settled down since then, it’s nice to see new records being set to confirm that people are still very interested.”

A Rare Superman Edition Is Now the Most Valuable Comic Book in the World