NEW YORK – A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman sold Monday for $1 million, smashing the previous record price for a comic book.
A 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1, widely considered the Holy Grail of comic books, was sold by a private seller to a private buyer, neither of whom released their names. The issue features Superman lifting a car on its cover and originally cost 10 cents.
The transaction was conducted by the auction site ComicConnect.com. Stephen Fishler, co-owner of the site and its sister dealership, Metropolis Collectibles, orchestrated the sale.
Fishler said it transpired minutes after the issue was put on sale at around 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. He said that the seller was a "well-known individual" in New York with a pedigree collection and that the buyer was a known customer who previously bought an Action Comics No. 1 of lesser grade.
"It's considered by most people as the most important book," said John Dolmayan, a comic book enthusiast and dealer best known as the drummer for the rock band System of a Down. "It kind of ushered in the age of the superheroes."
Dolmayan, who owns Torpedo Comics, last year paid $317,000 for an Action Comics No. 1 issue for a client.
That purchase is considered the "official public record" for a comic book sale, said Mark Zaid, the marketing director for the Comic Book Collecting Association, which was launched Monday. There have been other private sales in the $300,000 to $450,000 range, he said.
Monday's copy fetched a much higher price because it's in better condition. It's rated an 8.0 grade, or very fine, on a scale that goes up to 10.0.
Dolmayan said he didn't buy this copy but he wishes he could have.
"The fact that this book is completely unrestored and still has an 8.0 grade, it's kind of like a diamond or a precious stone. It's very rare," he said.
There are only about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 believed to be in existence, and only a handful have been rated so highly. It's rarer still for those copies to be made available for sale.
"The opportunity to buy an unrestored, high-grade Action One comes along once every two decades," Fishler said. "It's certainly a milestone."
The sticker shock was astounding to Fishler, nevertheless.
"It is still a little stunning to see 'a comic book' and '$1 million' in the same sentence," Fishler said. "There's only one time a collectible hits the $1 million threshold."