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This 1938 Comic Could Become the Most Valuable in History

A comic containing Superman’s origin story is about to achieve a truly heroic sum at auction.

The ultra-rare June 1938 copy of Action Comics No. 1, which is up for grabs at Heritage Auctions, could become the most valuable comic book to ever come under the hammer. One of only four pedigreed copies—and the highest-graded, with a CGC Very Fine+ 8.5—the comic has already reached bids of $3.5 million, with 20 days on the sale remaining. (A coveted 1939 copy of Superman No. 1 currently ranks as the most expensive comic of all time, after realizing $5.3 million at a private sale in 2022.)

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“Without Superman and Action Comics No. 1, who knows whether there ever would have been a Golden Age of comics—or if the medium would have become what it is today,” Barry Sandoval, the vice president of Heritage Auctions, said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to have the genesis of the superhero genre as a centerpiece of what’s shaping up to be a historic auction.”

The pedigreed copy is clearly the star of Heritage’s Comics & Comic Art sale. The grading service CGC believes there are only 100 surviving copies of Action Comics No. 1 out of the 200,000 copies originally printed. Furthermore, only two unrestored copies have ever been graded higher than 8.5.

Heritage is also offering a professionally restored copy of the same issue with an Apparent 8.0 grade. That example has a current bid of $82,500 and is expected to hammer down for six figures. “While ‘affordable’ is perhaps not the word for a comic estimated at $300,000 and up, the chance to get a fantastic-looking copy for a fraction of what the Kansas City copy will bring is going to have a lot of people circling this one in their catalogs,” Sandoval said.

And for those interested in Superman’s lesser-known backstory, a three-page letter from the hero’s co-creator Jerry Siegel gives an idea of how he first imagined Clark Kent. The original document, in which Siegel outlines Superman to attract cartoonist Russell Keaton, has never before been available publicly. (Keaton would complete some sample strips, but Joe Shuster would become the illustrator associated with Superman’s debut.)

It’s a super auction befitting one of comics’ most indelible superheroes.

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