High Comics Related Item For the Week Ending December 24,2005

Detective Comics #27 FIRST BATMAN 1939

My kind of book 🙂 Although the price is insane.

Seller: rufusfirefly ( 376) Final Tally: $48,750.00

Here's the (ridiculously long*) description:

"I am listing a number of items that would make great gifts and in the interests of sucking up to potential buyers from every conceivable creed or culture I will say they make great gifts for any “holiday” (and of course I am referring only to whatever holiday you celebrate) Ancient Romans hoping to find that perfect present for Saturnalia, look no further. In the interest of completing the auction in time for you to buy it wrap and give it to that special someone who doesn’t realize how lucky they are to have you, I have set most if not all of these auctions with buy it now prices that may well be less than they’d go for in a regular auction. If they don’t sell here, they will be put back into storage and perhaps offered later, perhaps not.

This is an original 1939 copy of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman and one of the top 2 most sought after comics (the other one being the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics 1).

Batman is indisputably one of the most recognizable fictional characters on the entire planet. He has starred not just in comic books but in newspaper strips, film series (going back to the 1940s and continuing today with the blockbuster series starting with “Batman Begins”) and on TV series, including the classic 1960s TV show and in numerous cartoon versions and video games. At any given time, there are people all over the world reading, watching or playing some Batman Adventure. And, perhaps more so than any other licensed character, Batman exists in numerous forms to appeal to widely different age groups and audiences. It’s said the Eskimos have 52 words for snow, but you’d probably need more than 52 terms to describe the many variations of Batman

Published in February, 1939, this book is coming up on its 67th birthday and is extremely scarce in any condition Comics in those days were treated like newspapers, read and discarded or recycled. There were no services around to slab these books fresh off the rack and put numbers on them based on the microscopic differences between one mint-looking copy and another.

This copy would not grade mint by any of those services. But, then neither would any other known copy. Anywhere. On the planet.

This is a lower grade but very solid copy that is both unrestored and, at the same time, uniquely restorable (more on that below). Rare and super-key issues in this category are probably the most undervalued comics you can buy, if and when you can buy them, which is hardly ever.

Sales and census figures on the super-key issues of Action 1 and Detective 27 indicate there may be no no more than 100 issues of each still existing and that there are no mint or even near mint copies of either issue, and that even poor, incomplete copies go for guide percentages far exceeding those of lesser, mortal books.

Even before the "Batman Begins" movie proved the character still had yet another film franchise in him, low grade copies of Detective 27 in the "good" range were reported sold for well over 50,000, and a coverless, brittle and poor copy of Detective 27 (with amateur restoration to boot) sold for more than eight thousand dollars – to a dealer — who then sold it for an undisclosed figure to someone else… another dealer.

When you consider that coverless, poor, incomplete copies of most other comics might be lucky to go for ten percent of the “good” price, those figures give you a sense of the real value of even lower-grade complete copies of the super-leys like Detective 27. When there are few copies available of a highly desired book they sell for premiums at the low and the high end. At the low end people just want a solid copy and don't necessarily feel one just slightly better is worth three or four times as much. And at the high end you have people who want the absolute best and will pay for the privelege. That's why low grade unrestored copies of Detective 27 have sold for more than 50K and 60K even when it was listed at 31K (and well before the new movie came out) and why a mint copy would sell for much more than its theoretical listing of 410,000. If a true mint copy were discovered it's a safe guess it would top seven figures.

This copy is very presentable with a nicely centered cover (Bob Kane signature is usually clipped but here it's intact) and BRIGHT cover colors. With the additional original cover to replace the damaged back cover this could very easily be restored to a VG or better and a small amount of work and with a little more work to an apparent VF with no color touch needed except in the solid primary color areas. And even if left alone it looks better than many books graded good or even better (see picture of the CGC graded Action 1 below). It has one major flaw, but that flaw, fortunately, is one of the best places to have such a flaw – the back cover. It has a large piece out, as you can see from picture 2. Because of that it rates a fair, but according to accepted grading standards it would get the same grade if it had a giant chunk out of the front cover, which it doesn’t. It’s off the back.

Now, lots of books are offered as “very restorable.” Sometimes that means it only needs a little work and sometimes it means you could restore it by re-creating a big missing piece or reconstitute the paper, etc. While some attitudes toward restoration are hard to understand (like the fact a pinpoint color touch that doesn't really affect the appearance is considered restoration and therefore a defect, yet really obtrusive markings like arrival dates and store stamps are not considered a defect so long as it's clear they were put there with the intent of defacing the cover), it is nonetheless clear that any collector should prefer not to have a book in which a large piece has been literally re-created with new material. But with this book you would not have to do that because I am including an original back cover from another, original copy of Detective #27. A rare item in itself, it's from a book that had no front cover (the interior to that was sold years ago).

So, you can see how restoring this book would require very little work and would not have to involve any parts that are non-original or re-created. And the less work a book needs to be restored, the more valuable it is. I had the back cover for decades and never saw another one or a copy that essentially needed only a back cover to be complete. If I’d found both parts as a kid I would probably have cut the torn back cover off the book and replaced it with the other back cover as if it were simply a spine split. And with spine tape allowed by grading services the book might have been labeled as high as an unrestored good/very good). I have held off doing that with this book so the buyer can decide. But you could always put the back cover on with document tape (which doesn't damage paper), and it would present very nicely until you decide whether or not to restore it. This falls into the rare category of books whose defects are such they do not need to be restored to be complete or to have eye appeal, yet if you want to restore it you can do so without enormous expense and the work can be thoroughly documented with before and after pictures (as is done with many big ticket collectibles like paintings, antiques and classic cars.

The first three pictures are of the book itself, front and back cover (it is in a CGC holder which I've left it in so you can feel assured it's genuine and unrestored. It rates a fair as indicated above but that of course is without the back cover which is also pictured in photo 4.

To explain the photos further:

The first picture is a scan of the book. Since CGC holders don't fit on my scanner I've had to put a scan of a photo print-out to include the entire holder and that is photo #2. Photo #3 is scan of photo-rint of the entire holder showing the back cover with pc out. Photo #4 is a picture of the additional original back cover which could be used to replace the other seen in Photo 3.

Photo 5 and 6 show books that are not for sale in this auction and in fact I do not own either of them but I have seen them both in person, as it were.

I have added the last two photos — and the notes that follow, in response to numerous inquiries. I would advise anyone wondering about the price to call around and make it known you are willing to pay full guide but no more for a solid low grade copy or for a true mint copy. And if you are able to find any such copies at for the guide price I advise you right now to buy it without thinking twice. In fact if you you find such a copy twice, buy it both times and I will buy the second from you at a healthy profit. If you find it three, or four, or five such copies, buy them all and I will buy all your extras. That is a completely genuine offer, though I know it is not going to happen. The fact is good unrestored copies of Detective 27 were not available at guide even when people were thinking the film franchise was dead, and certainly not now that a new series of Batman blockbusters is upon us.

As for whether buyers can rely on the number value of CGC label to determine a books value or even its condition and desirability, I have included several pictures that illustrate how, when it comes to lower graded books, professional grading services work very well for common books that are really only collectible in the highest grades, but they haven't yet figured out how to handle restored books in a way that reflects the actual amount of work done or to reflect rarity ot the book. While it's true that it makes little sense to restore books that are common, it also makes little sense not to restore books that are rare, if only because it's more important to preserve the few copies that remain. And the same is true for condition. When dealing with books that are so common there are thousands of copies that look new, you might as well lump all the lower grade books into one cheap category because it hardly matters. But when you're dealing with books that are super significant and rare, such as Detective 27 and Action 1, there may be no copies at all in newsstand condition and virtually any copy, regardless of condition, may have a lot of value. .

With books that plentiful in excellent condition, the only way to keep the value of all copies from plummeting is to delineate very tiny differences so that some can be ascribed value as being even more perfect than the others, so the grading services will make enormous numerical distinctions based on tiny flaws you might not even notice. Two books that look virtually identical at arms length may vary as much as five points (between a 5.0 and 10.0) even though they look very much the same at a glance.

But in the lower grades, the pro grading services don't differentiate between books nearly enough to indicate the appearance, condition or even completeness of a book and sometimes books with huge differences can end up receiving identical point values. On some occasions a book that appears to have a higher grade will be actually far less desirable than the lower graded book. Essentially that is treating rare and famously key books the same as common books that are relatively plentiful in high grade. If an issue is plentiful in high grade then the only way to create value for any copy is to identify the ones that are super flawless, leaving many books in excellent copies available cheap. With a book is available in virtually unlimited supply in excellent condition, low grade copies may as well be lumped together and not differentiated. The same is true of restoration. If a book is plentiful in excellent condition it is silly to restore lower grade copies. But if a book is not available at all in mint condition and actually rare in all grades, then the reverse is true; it's silly not to restore lower grades if only to preserve them so the numbers don't dwindle further.. It's an understatement to say that it's less than helpful to treat common items the same as rare items. To illustrate, look at the pictures 5 and 6.

Photo 5 shows a copy of Action CGC graded 2.5. The stains and large tear off the front cover diminish the eye appeal enough that many might actually prefer a copy that has a larger piece out of the back, or is even missing a non-story page. Yet those books would grade lower.

Photo 6 shows a copy of Action comics that arguably has more eye appeal than the good plus copy, yet when I saw in its CGC holder it was graded as an Apparent Poor .5 (half a point). It looks pretty decent and the cover is complete and all the Superman story is there, but the book is missing a centerfold (not containing any part of the Superman story) and there is minor color touch on the cover. The store stamp markings are the biggest distraction on the cover yet they are not really counted as a defect because they were put there intentionally. By the sometimes confusing logic of grading and restoration identification, large marks that were put on a cover intentionally are not necessarily considered a defect because they were done with the intent of defacing the cover, while small marks can be considered a huge defect — even if they do not deface the cover — if the grader decides the person who put the marks there did so with the intent of makring the cover look better.

I have also seen two other CGC'd copies of Action 1 that were also labelled poor .5 (half a point), but unlike the book in photo 6 those books did not have restoration. So, going strictly by the label and the number grades and the presumption unrestored is better than restored, you could presume both those books to be worth much more than the book shown in photo 6. But before you clamor to buy either of those books, you should know that both of the unrestored poors were also missing the cernterfold. And both were also missing the cover. And one of the unrestored poors was missing not only the cover and the centerfold, it was also missing everything else — except the 5th wrap. The book consisted entirely of one four page wrap containing two pages of the Superman story. Yet if you judged only their pro-graded labels, you would have presumed the book with only the 5th wrap was as valuable as the coverless copy missing the centerfold and more valuable than the copy pictured in photo 6.

The truth is that the grading numbers alone cannot tell the full story. If a ten would be worth a million is a 1 worth a tenth of that?: Is a 4 worth twice a 2 even if it's only a bit more visually appealing? Is .5 (half-point) worth half a 1.0, even if the 1.0 is complete and the .5 is nothing but a few pages. Would that mean you could literally take apart a complete 1.0 fair and convert it into 17 copies (a cover and 16 wraps) that would each grade a .5 poor? and when added together would total the same as an 8.5 (very fine plus)? Obviously if it's a just a numbers game you can end up with strange valuations. .

The real numbers that matter here are 1 — for the first appearance of Batman, 27 for the issue number of Detective Comics, 1939 for the year of publication, 100 for the number of total estimated copies still existing, 26 total copies certified. And a wordlwide recognition factor of nearly 100 percent.

This is not a book that when you show to someone you then have to give a long explanation so they'll know why it's valuable ("it's one of only 79 copies graded 9.4 and it's the white cover variant without the UPC code…") I know people will point out books such as that do sell and sell well. So, for anyone who wants to be covered both ways, I will offer the successful bidder of this book a rare choice.

If you rely on the numbers (grading and guide listings), and the notion that only unrestored books in ultra-high grade have value, then you should presume that a first appearance of Batman simply does not exist in collectible form. There are, however, nearly unlimited copies of more current Batman comics in ultra-high grade; they are readibly available and sometimes go for huge multiples of guide. .

If you are concerned that only such high-grade books will increase in value, then I will be happy to offer the successful buyer this option: I will choose a dozen reliably published sales figures for high-grade Batman comics and will guarantee the buyer the option of receiving either this copy of Detective Comics 27 or a collection of slabbed and pro-graded near mint or better Batman comics whose collective value — based on those sales reports — is five times the price the buyer pays for this comic. The value must be assessed using the same ratio between the Overstreet price guide and the published prices realized for similar books with similar CGC grades. All the books will feature Batman but the actual issues will be my choice. But if the more recent near mint and mint slabbed books are indeed the better longterm investment, you could stand to make several hundred thousand dollars in profit. Of course, that would have to mean the value is all in the numbers and not in the cultural significance. Your choice. But I believe you'd be better off with this. Detective Comics 27 is not only rare and significant and one of the best known and most valuable comics — it is one of the most-well known collectibles out there, period. Show this to your friends, colleagues or bankers and none of them will have to ask you why it is valuable. "

*I honestly don't think I've written this many words in all of my auctions combined.

tags: cgc : detectivecomics : batman
This entry was posted in ebay item of the week. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a reply