High eBay Comics Item for the Week Ending 2010.9.25 (Incomplete Action #1)

Action Comics #1 First SUPERMAN original 1938


Action Comics #1 is the ultimate comic book, the holy grail, the one that started it all.

And this is very likely the most affordable opportunity you will ever have to obtain the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 from 1938.

It is not a complete copy of Action 1. It is missing the cover and nearly all of the “back-up” stories featuring Zatara the magician, and other characters.

But it has 100% of the Superman story.

The FIRST Superman story ever published.

It’s all original, from 1938, and it’s all here.

High grade complete copies of Action #1 have already topped $1 million (and one sold for $1.5 million).

A mid-grade copy in about average condition for golden age books just sold for $436,000.

It has become increasingly clear in recent years and months that the only copies of Action 1 that remain at all “affordable” are copies that are incomplete.

Single wraps from Action 1, containing only two pages of the Superman story, have sold for several thousand dollars apiece (with one recently selling at auction for more than $6300).

A rough incomplete brittle coverless copy sold for over $13,000 despite missing 10 pages, including 3 pages missing from the Superman story.

Even individual wraps from Action 1 that contain only back-up stories (and don’t have a single image or piece of text relating to Superman) have sold for as much as $1300.

This copy has only one page from the backup stories, but it's the most valuable back-up page.

And it has all 13 pages of the Superman story.

And Superman isn’t the only one pulling in these numbers. A copy of Detective Comics #27 that was missing the cover, the centerfold and every piece of the Batman story, sold for $7600.00

Not only does this copy of Action Comics #1 have all 13 original pages of the first-ever Superman story. It also has the “contest page,” which makes it especially useful to people who want to restore low grade copies. That’s because the contest page offered readers a chance to win a $25 prize by coloring in the black and white splash page from the "Chuck Dawson" story, which is on the back of the last page of the Superman story.

In the past, many readers tore out the contest page to send it in to DC comics. (the winners were announced in Action Comics #3). That meant a lot of copies destroyed or partly destroyed, and the contest page became highly sought after by fans who wanted to remove it from other books that were beat up and incomplete. In fact, the last page was one of those missing from the Superman story in the copy that just sold for $13K+, so it’s likely that contest page ended in another book at some point.

The contest page, or the first page, all by themselves, could easily prove worth more than the cost of this entire lot, because the first and last pages are the most likely to end up missing, and therefore the most likely to be of use in restoring an incomplete copy.

In the current vintage comics market, there are more books than you could count – and many you wouldn’t begin to recognize – that sell for more than this book. Despite the fact they are not even remotely as well known, or remotely as rare, even books that are relatively commonplace and virtually unknown to the average person. This is inarguably one of the rarest well-known comics, and the most important and culturally significant comic story ever printed.

Though I have not included pictures of every page, the entire story is here in pages that are supple and off white to light cream colored, with some blunting at the bottom right corner which you can easily see in the pictures. They also have small holes punched in the edge so they could be put in a binder. The holes in some cases look larger than they are because they've been reinforced with binder rings. I understand they can be removed fairly easily, but I've never tried.

The rest of the book, including the cover and all the other parts of the back-up stories and ads, has been recreated with nice color copies (which have been laser-copied directly from an original 1938 Action 1). That will enable reading and enjoying the full book with all its backup features, along with the original Superman story pages.

The Superman pages were cut out of a copy of Action #1 many years ago by a young fan who wanted to save the parts he liked and toss away the parts he didn’t. That was actually a fairly common thing to do back then, when kids liked to save space, or to create a personalized version of a Superman book without pages from other features getting in the way. Kids did a lot of things like that back then, cutting out figures and putting them in scrapbooks, etc., expressing their appreciation and adding a personal touch that made their cherished comics unique. At least until they threw them out.

Back then, nearly all kids threw out their comics sooner or later. Comics in the 30s and 40s were considered disposable, like magazines or the newspapers. Some people saved them, but very few. And during World War II, it was even considered unpatriotic to save them, because the paper could be used for the war effort. In the 50s, comics were not only thrown out, they were purposely burned, when, during the heights of the Cold War and the “Red Scare,” comics were briefly blamed for everything from sex and violence to Communism.

Only after comic book superheroes had a resurgence in the 1960s did people begin routinely to save their comics. In recent years, hardly any comics have been handled roughly and read, let alone destroyed or thrown out. As a result, Action #1 is exceedingly rare, with estimated existing copies at a hundred or so.

Since that leaves about one existing copy of Action #1 for every forty or fifty million people around the world who’ve heard about Superman, you can easily see how demand exceeds the supply.

Incidentally, I feel I have to mention that scam offerings of Action Comics #1 are extremely common on ebay and elsewhere. I am told there are numerous scam auctions of this issue up on ebay virtually all the time, and they appear faster than ebay's quality control can take them down.

Action #1 has been reprinted many times and some people list the reprints as if they are originals. Generally, the sales are listed "as is" and "cash" or "paypal only" or "wire transfer only" and often you can't even obtain a name or an address before you send the money.

Fortunately, nearly all seasoned collectors and comics historians can easily and very quickly tell the reprints apart from originals. In fact, they are so easy to tell apart many can spot the reprints even from photographs.

This is fully guaranteed, as the 1938 original Superman first appearance (for 100% of the purchase price and all directly related expenses) that it's original and that it will authenticate as original by Overstreet advisors and by CGC or any other well-established professional comics certification company. The winning bidder will get all the information and accomodation they need. I have been on ebay for more then ten years and this sale is guaranteed by ebay if paid according to their policies. You may also pay for this in any other reasonable way, including escrow, that you feel gives you added assurance. Sorry for such the extended reassurances but because the scams are so common I imagine, some bidders, unfortunately, avoid any ebay auction for Action #1 despite all those assurances, or any others I could give.

Based on the sales for genuine copies of Action #1 in all conditions — even in pieces — I’ve been told this item could easily fetch far more if I had the pages individually encapsulated and sold them off separately. And no doubt parts of this story could be used at some point to restore a nicer looking but incomplete copy. But it’s all together now and I hate to be the one to separate them. But these are all guaranteed they will certify as original and unenhanced in any way, so when they’re yours, you can do with them what you like. But I imagine that if you kept them as they are now, the kid who saved them all those years ago, would appreciate it, wherever he is.

Any questions, please feel free to ask.

This entry was posted in dc, ebay item of the week, golden age and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a reply