It doesn’t take a comic book nerd to see the significance that the genre’s had on pop culture over the years. And thanks to Hollywood blockbuster movies, you don’t even have to read comics anymore to know the stories of popular characters like Batman, Superman and Iron Man. But real comic book fans, you know, the ones who collect the inky versions of these stories, will certainly appreciate the significance of the $1.26 million sale of the very first Marvel comic — aptly named Marvel Comics #1.
Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions sold its first-ever near-mint comic book last month, clocking in on the Comic Book Grading scale at a whopping 9.4 (out of 10), according to Heritage Senior Vice President Ed Jaster. This scale rates the quality and physical condition of comic books.
The book was originally published in 1939, and is in reasonably close condition from when it was first purchased.
“When you're talking about comic books from 1939, a 9.4 is rare,” Jaster says. The buyer wished to remain anonymous, and labeling them a comic book enthusiast would be the understatement of the year.
Jaster, a self-proclaimed comic book fan since age 7, says that Heritage has sold a number of copies of this book, but this “pedigree” original is the most expensive book the company has sold. In fact, he says, the hefty price tag set a record for any comic book that’s been auctioned from a certified auction house.
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Originally published under the trade name Timely Comics, Marvel Comics #1 saw the first appearance of the Human Torch (of the Fantastic Four), Namor the Sub-Mariner and the original Ka-Zar, among others, who Jaster says plays an important role in the Marvel lore. Eventually, the Marvel moniker became so popular that Timely changed its name to match, according to comicbook.com.
Marvel Comics #1 is one of “the big three” most important comic books, alongside Action Comics #1 (First Superman) and Detective Comics #27 (First Batman), according to Jaster. And that’s precisely why, he says, the first-tier copy is so significant. He also says it was part of an important collection of original comics sold in the 1980s.
To celebrate Marvel’s 80th anniversary this year, the comic book company released Marvel Comics #1000 in August, featuring every character in the Marvel universe and over 80 creative teams, according to marvel.com.
We can thank this original Marvel comic book for setting in motion some of our favorite characters today, like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and many others. As Jaster perfectly sums it up: “Marvel Comics #1 is the basis of the Marvel empire.”