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article imageRare Superman debut, Action Comics #1 up for auction

By Shaun Conlin     Feb 25, 2009 in Entertainment
It's a bird... It's a plane... It's an undiscovered copy of the first Superman comic book! Or, the unlikely tale of the Man of Steel's first appearance reappearing after 58 years.
Seventy-one years after his first appearance, Superman continues to capture our collective imaginations. Armed with a red cape and the power to fly, he single-handedly launched the "superhero" genre. Therefore, when an unknown copy of the very rare, very first Superman comic book comes to light -- and to auction -- word spreads faster than a speeding bullet.
Action Comics #1 is the world's most valuable comic book, and it almost never happened. The creation American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian artist Joe Shuster, the story was rejected numerous times before it was finally published in June 1938.
The Man of Steel's debut went on to spark our culture's endless fascination with comics and superheroes.
Twelve years later, another event almost didn't happen: A 9-year old boy spots a copy of Action Comics #1 in a second-hand book shop priced at 35 cents. After a round of begging and pleading to his reluctant father who thought that spending 35 cents for a 10 cent comic was down-right silly, the book was purchased. That little boy (now 67 and who wishes to remain anonymous) held onto his beloved Action Comics #1 for the next 58 years.
"It's the Holy Grail of comic books," said Stephen Fishler, one of the leading experts on collectible comics and founder of New York's Metropolis Collectibles, the largest dealership of vintage comic books. (Fishler created the 10-point grading scale that's become the industry standard for evaluating comic books.)
"This is the one that started it all. There was no such thing as a super hero before it. No flying man. Comics weren't even that popular. It's the single most important event in comic book history. Siegel and Shuster launched something massive."
Fishler, along with partner Vincent Zurzolo, will manage the auction of Action Comics #1 via their online marketplace,
"Lots of kids bought comic books in the '50s, but almost all of them eventually tossed them out," said Fishler. "This guy understood its value and took good care of it -- that almost never happens either."
For collectors, discovering a rare, top-condition, vintage comic book -- one that hasn't been damaged or restored -- is like striking gold. This newly-found copy is in relatively excellent condition for its age, evidenced by the "6.0/Fine" grading bestowed on it by CGC (Certified Guaranty Company, the gold standard in third-party comic book evaluations).
Action Comics #1 currently guides for $126,000 in "Fine" condition. However, experienced collectors expect it to sell for considerably more than that. Bidding on this legendary book will begin at $1.00 and without reserve.
This is big news in the comic collectors' community, reported to include high-profile collectors like Samuel L. Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, Eminem, and even President Barack Obama (who has collected Spider-Man comics for years). The auction is also expected to attract serious Superman fans, including Jerry Seinfeld, Shaquille O'Neal, and Nicolas Cage (who named his son Kal-El, Superman's birth name).
Metropolis Collectibles is expecting interest from non-celebrities as well, despite or because of the current economic crisis.
"While the real estate market and stock market keep falling, comic book sales remain very strong," said Vincent Zurzolo, Metropolis Collectibles co-owner. "Some people are taking their money out of low-interest bank accounts and underperforming stocks and investing in hard assets like comics, coins, and other collectibles. A hard asset is an appealing alternative to a soft stock market."
The auction kicks off on Friday, February 27 and wraps up on Friday, March 13.
To Be Continued...
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