The Most Valuable Comic Books In the World

The following is based off of the $100,000 Club list, a catalog I keep of all the individual comic books that might sell for over $100,000. Unlike some lists I've seen out there (in print and online) both this article and the $100,000 Club strive to name not only the title and issue number ("Action #1 is the most valuable comic book in the world") but to try to pinpoint the individual copies that make up the hobby's stratosphere. For a real world analog, all the other lists are the equivalent of saying "Picasso's paintings are among the most valuable in the world" and leaving it at that where my list is would point out that "Picasso's Garçon à la Pipe sold for $104,000,000 in 2004."

All of this is the result of a decade of research and discussion of these top end books both in private conversation and online. Before anyone points it out, there are obviously holes in my data set as there are books that have slipped out of the hobby (many of the Reilly books, for example), there are books I don't have full information on (some people are less free with their knowledge than others) and there are non-pedigree books that I just don't know about, so this should be treated as a work in progress. For reference, two new books have been added to the list in the top five since I first wrote it.

I'm always interested in feedback on these lists. If you've got into on any of these books, or just want to talk in depth about my reasoning, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment below.

When I originally wrote this, the cutoff for inclusion was around $550,000. In light of the events of the past half-decade, the cut-off is much higher. These are all million dollar comics. There are ten (or more) additional worth a million dollars or more that aren't on the list.

I've archived the original version of this article. There's also an interim version I wrote around 2010 that I'll archive soon.

On with the show!

Mile High/Edgar Church Copy of Action #1

The best copy of the first appearance of Superman, the single most important American comic, wins this particular horse race. This was the easiest book on the list to position (although #2 is a virtual tie in that regard.)

A truly legendary comic, speculation about the value and (more recently) condition of this book has been a favorite topic of conversation for hard core (and even some not so hard core) collectors for more than 20 years. The current owner, (hereby referred to as "The Dentist"), famously overpaid for this book in 1984, spending an unimaginable $25,000 on it. At the time, people openly questioned his sanity. Fortune favors the bold apparently, as that $25,000 investment is now worth a lot more. There is a popular anecdote that "The Dentist" turned down a $2,000,000 offer from coin dealer Jay Parrino when Parrino was exploring the comics hobby. That was 15 years ago. In all the years since we've only had two comics sell for more than that and this copy is better and more historic than either of those (although both are also on this list.) This book is now worth hundreds of times what he paid in 1984.

Speculation about the book's condition is also a popular topic in today's condition-conscious, CGC world. The best estimate of its condition are anecdotal.  Stephen Fischler from Metropolis Comics and Steve Borock from CBCS have both seen it and have provided grade estimates. Fischler, certainly someone in position to know having owned and sold more Action #1s than anyone in the hobby (including multiple copies on this list), says that the book would be an Unrestored 9.2 (on CGC's ten point scale) if it were in a CGC holder. Steve Borock, former grand poo-bah at CGC and founder at CBCS, says it would be a 9.4. Until we see a photo or a high resolution scan, or CGC gets their hands on it down in Sarasota, that estimation is as good as we're going to get.

Of course, regardless of the number attached to the book, it's generally agreed that this is the best copy and if that's truly the case the technical grade is practically irrelevant. It's the best copy of the best book from the best pedigree and it's in the best collection on the planet.

It wins.

Estimated Value: $7,000,000

Allentown Copy of Detective Comics #27

If the Church Action #1 is the #1 book in the hobby, then this book is #1a. The best copy of the first appearance of Batman is another book owned by "The Dentist" and it's another book for the speculation files in terms of grade. Called NM/MT when it was sold 15 years ago, this book is generally accepted to be the best copy, and unlike the Mile High Action #1 this book is supposed to be the best by a pretty wide margin. I've always assumed it was at least a 9.4, but judging by some of the other books from the Allentown collection images of a 9.6 Detective Comics #27 dance through my head from time to time.

If you're thinking "Does this guy really daydream about million dollar comics?"

The answer is, "On occasion, yes."

To be honest, I'd pay $50 for a high res photo or a scan of this book.

Estimated Value: $6,000,000

Action Comics CGC 9.0 White Pages

action-1-cgc-9 This book was purchased from the original owner by Joe Mannarino from All Star Auctions in the late 1970s. It sold to an unknown collector and sat in his collection for another 30 years until it came up for private sale in 2011. At the time, the book was graded at 8.0 by CGC. It sold to Darren Adams of Pristine Comics for somewhere north of $1,000,000. Somewhere in the intervening 3 years the book was regraded at least twice- once to 8.5 and then again at 9.0. The book, tied for highest graded with significantly better preservation, was listed on eBay (of all places) selling to Metropolis Comics for a whopping $3,207,852.00

Estimated Value:$3,500,000

"Nic Cage" Action Comics CGC 9.0

Action Comics #1 CGC 9.0What a strange history this book has had. It was sold, with Metropolis presumably waving the paddle, to actor Nic Cage at Sothebys in 1992 for 82,500 dollars. At the time the book was graded at a 74 by the Sothebys grading committee. Cage held onto the book in his world class comic collection until, one day in 2000 the book, along with two others, was stolen from his house. Fast forward to the year 2011. Several comics had sold for huge sums. Pent up demand had been sated with a series of big ticket sales, including a succession of golden age keys that had run the comic book sales record quickly from $1,000,000 to $1,075,000 to $1,500,000.

Then the Cage copy resurfaced.

The book was subsequently graded by CGC at 9.0 (with Cream to Off-White pages) and was listed with Comic Connect, selling at their November 30, 2011 auction for $2,161,000. A record at the time.

Estimated Value:$3,000,000

The "other" high grade copy of Detective Comics #27

I've had this book pretty definitively quoted as being a 9.*. Interestingly, it was listed as only a FN68 in the 24th edition of the Overstreet Price Guide. I'd love to know why there's such a discrepancy. Still, the people I've talked to about it say it's an extremely nice book and would be the highest graded and best available if it were to come up for sale.

In that same guide it was listed as having sold twice in a year- once for $81,000 then again for $101,000. The latter figure, I believe, makes this the first documented member of the $100,000 Club.

I say "documented", because John Verzyl told me that he spent over $100,000 for the Church Marvel Comics #1 when he purchased it in the 80s (!)

I've placed this book here, tied in value with the Cage copy of Action #1. This assumes it's a 9.0 copy. If this book were a 9.2 or better I might be tempted to push it up to as far as 3rd, alone.

Estimated Value:$3,000,000

Best Existing Superman #1

"The Dentist's" copy. I've heard a range of grades for this book ranging from 8.0 to 9.2. Considering this is the copy he chose to keep I would guess that it's nearer the 9.* end of that range.

As to value on this book, the Church copy sold for $170,000 nearly twenty years ago and a 7.5 sold for $250,000 in the oughts. We also have heard tale told that the Church copy traded hands for big bucks in 2009 (rumors have ranged from $500,000 to $1,000,000) This book would clearly blow all of those numbers out of the water, being the best copy of one of the top five books in the hobby. This is especially true since Superman #1 is a book that is notoriously difficult to acquire in high grade. From my research it's this book, the Church copy (a sketchy 8.0) and then the 7.5 at the high end. Compare that to the half dozen copies of Marvel Comics #1 over 8.0 and a bunch of Action #1 and you'll see why I push this book up as high as it is.

To editorialize for a moment, the Church copy is an absolute stunner. Apparently, it's got internal damage that brings it down a little bit technically, but I remember it looking a lot nicer than the CGC 8.0 it received when I saw it way back when.

Estimated Value: $2,250,000

Mile High/Edgar Church Copy of Marvel Comics #1

marvel-comics-1-church.jpg

I'm listing this book this high because it's possibly the best technical copy of any major Golden Age key book, it represents the dawn of the Marvel Universe and it's the Church copy. I just can't imagine the floor on it being that low, even if I think prices on Marvel #1 have been weak for a long time.

That said, I'm a little hesitant to list it this high because to me, Marvel #1 is just not the same caliber of book as Action #1 or Detective Comics #27 or even Superman #1 (at least in high grade). I don't mean just in terms of absolute value, but in terms of strength of sales. For a long time, seemingly every copy of this book (many in high grade) that came up for sale sold for a bargain price. The same cannot be said for either Action #1 or Detective Comics #27 which sell for extremely healthy prices in all grades. As cool as this book is for long-time collectors, I can't help but feel like it's got more in common with Whiz #2 than it does with either Action #1 or Detective #27. Maybe the trend will reverse, but until it does this book moves no higher than this.

Maybe if this were an October copy?

Estimated Value: $2,000,000

Action Comics #1 CGC 8.5

For a time, this book was the most valuable comic ever sold. Then the 9.0s came along.

A gorgeous copy. Without the rusted staples it would be even nicer (if that's even possible.)

Estimated Value:$2,000,000

Mile High/Edgar Church Detective Comics #27

The Church copy is reportedly nicer (I've had around 8.5 quoted to me) than the 2 8.0s and is the Church copy. What more argument do you need?

For perspective's sake, this book sold for $125,000 almost twenty years ago and an 8.0 Detective 27 (coming right up) sold for $1,075,000 in 2010. That $125,000 investment looks pretty good from where I'm sitting.

Estimated Value: $1,750,000

Detective 27 CGC 8.0

detective-27-cgc-80

The single most exciting comic auction I ever had the pleasure to witness (even if it was just streaming over the internet.)

The relatively scarcity of high grade Detective 27s out there pushes this book up a notch over some of the other books that follow.

Estimated Value: $1,550,000


Some other books of note (in no order)

Kansas City Action #1

The first million dollar comic book. For now and evermore this will be the one that broke that magical barrier.

Estimated Value: $1,500,000

Detective 27 CGC 8.0 (the missing copy)

Assuming, of course, that it can be found!

Estimated Value: $1,500,000

Batman #1 Church Copy

For a long time I didn't know the location of this book. That's surprising as it's in the same collection as the Church Action #1, the Allentown Detective 27 and the best known copy of Superman #1. Anyway, this is supposed to be the best copy out there. It was listed as a NM in the catalog so it could be anywhere from 9.0 to 9.8. I'm going to lean towards the higher end of the spectrum, knowing that it's never been upgraded in the 30 years since it last sold.

Estimated Value: $1,250,000

Church All American #16 CGC 9.4

aa16_book_lg

Sure it's the golden age Green Lantern and not Hal Jordan, but the book is incredibly tough, sits in the top ten by Overstreet value and we didn't riot when presented with the idea that it sold for $1,000,000. It was a little high at the time, but for a book like this a premium is deserved.

Also, a gorgeous book.

Estimated Value: $1,000,000

Action #1 CGC 7.5

Sold for 192,120 in 2002. Something like a tiny spot of glue or a dot of color touch (I don't remember which) is noted on the label, which will hold it back a little. Still, I can't imagine that it hasn't moved significantly from the 2002 sale price.

Estimated Value: $1,000,000

Fantastic Four #1 CGC 9.6

There's a picture of me holding this book somewhere on my hard drive. It's a nice copy :) Traded at a $450,000 valuation. While trade values aren't worth much to me most of the time, I was very comfortable with that as a value for this book.

Estimated Value: $750,000

Captain America Allentown CGC 9.8

Sold for $260,000 nearly fifteen years ago now. The thing is, it's already in the hands of the guy likeliest to spend a lot of money for it :).

Estimated Value: $1,000,000

Mile High/Edgar Church Superman #1 CGC 8.0

Another one of these books that I've actually seen in person. It's a stunner. Bechara paid a pretty strong price all those years ago. Still it's the second best Superman #1 and it's a beautiful copy. I'm curious what the removed restoration would do to the price. From what I can tell people are a little hesitant about the book because of it and I think that would put a brake on the price.

This sale made quite a splash, as I remember it. It even made CNN. My mother called me and said "that comic guy you know, Bechara? He was on television. He bought a comic book for some record price? Know anything about it?"

Estimated Value: $1,000,000

Mile High/Edgar Church Flash Comics #1 CGC 9.6

This book snuck in and grabbed the #4 spot on the all-time record comic book sales chart. Sure, we were all excited about the seven figure deals, but this was still a great result for this book.

Estimated Value: $750,000

Amazing Fantasy 15 CGC 9.6

This is a weird one, as a copy already sold for $1,100,000, but that was before 2 new 9.6s appeared on the Census. I'm going to call this a wash for now. If a 9.8 appears, it goes in the top 10.

Estimated Value: $1,100,000

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