August 2014 Comic Market Report: Action #1 is still the King (and so is Metropolis?)


There's no better time to launch a new feature here on the blog than in the heady afterglow of a new world record price for a comic book. As you probably know if you're reading this blog, Pristine Comics auctioned off a CGC 9.0 copy of Action Comics #1 on August 24, 2014. It sold for a staggering $3,207,852.00.

Of the many interesting threads surrounding the book, the one that has dominated discussion in comic book circles is the fact that Metropolis Comics was the winner of the auction. We were able to spot their entry into bidding on the final day by matching their feedback score (2501 at the time) to the feedback score of the "anonymous" bidder listed on eBay. The discussion of what it meant for Metro to got after the book started almost immediately.

Since they're the biggest comic dealers on the planet and the biggest comic auction house that has a true public face, Metropolis can be polarizing. Don't get me wrong, Heritage can be polarizing too, it's just people don't seem to take the things they do personally. Whether it's giving or not giving a discount, pricing books too high or winning the most expensive comic book ever sold it's sometimes tough to separate the real discussion from the stuff fueled by the fact that it's Metro.

Cutting through the undercurrent of "Stephen drank my milkshake" (at one point they got compared to the Yankees) and getting to the heart of people's reactions, folks seemed divided into two camps: those that saw it as a natural action of a market-maker and/or a shrewd marketing/business decision; and those that worried that the perception of the sale was lessened because the book went to a dealer and not a "real" collector.

Personally, I fall into the former camp. I thought it was a brilliant move on Metropolis' part and am looking forward to the inevitable circus they will generate when they sell the book at one of their Comic Connect auctions. To be able to seize the conversation like that was almost worth the price of the book alone. The conversation immediately turned from the book and Pristine Comics back to the guys whose record Pristine Comics was breaking. The story-line, in a nutshell, is now that it's just a matter of time until the Metro guys get the record back and, Pristine Comics gets turned into a footnote in the Metro/Comic Connect story.

Which is pretty crazy.

As for the final price, I thought it was a great result. Lots of people were fantasizing about oligarchs and software tycoons coming out of the woodwork to buy this book for $5,000,000. That would have been nice, but I saw $3,000,000 as the real target and the fact that it broke that barrier was all I needed to see to consider the auction a runaway success.

Hulk #1 CGC 9.2 Northland

Speaking of Metro/Comic Connect… They just sold another Hulk #1 in 9.2 for over $320k. $326,000 to be exact.

This sale and a parallel discussion of Tom Brulato's world-beating Silver Age Marvel collection got me thinking… is his Hulk #1 in 9.4 a seven figure book? If it is, is it the single most valuable Silver Age Marvel right now? It's crowded at the top of the census for Amazing Fantasy 15 with three copies now tied at 9.6, so it's open for discussion as far as I'm concerned.

The more I think about it, the more I think that at least one, if not both of those facts might be true.

Why? There are plenty of reasons. For one, Hulk is super popular. He's second or third in popularity to Spider-Man in the Marvel canon (he's a movie Avenger, after all) and Iron Man doesn't have the decades long track record of crossover popularity that the Hulk does.

Additionally, and this is the important note, Hulk #1 is a super tough book (for a Silver Age Marvel.) Brulato's #1 is the top census copy at 9.4, with three copies tied for 2nd at 9.2. Two of those at 9.2 are pedigree copies with the rest of the pedigree copies ending up in the 8.0 range- so there are no known hidden gems out there. Compare that to the relatively crowded Amazing Fantasy 15 census with three copies at 9.6 and another four at 9.4. You can theoretically replace an Amazing Fantasy #15 in 9.6. Hulk #1 in 9.4? Not so much. It's a beast of a book. To paraphrase one of my favorite cynical sports quotes, Larry Bird is not walking through that door holding a stack of Hulk #1s in 9.4.

The prices for second best copies are competitive. With these two sales at around $320,000 the two Hulks #1s in 9.2 compare favorably to the last 9.4 Amazing Fantasy 15 sale at $325,000 in 2011. Extrapolating those results and adding a little bit of juice for the Hulk #1 being one of one in the census and I could convince myself that on a good day it's a seven figure book. Conversely, the fact that Amazing Fantasy 15 in CGC 9.6 is now three of three makes me wonder if it would still sell for seven figures.

Would this last if there was another one of one at the top of the Amazing Fantasy 15 census? No, but the combination of scarcity and the Hulk's own popularity make this a two horse race right now where one wouldn't be expected.

That's it for now, I'll be back next month to recap whatever awesome things happen in the comic book hobby in September. I know I'll have as much info as I can muster on the new Detective #27 CGC 9.2, but we'll have to see what else shakes out. See you on the first Wednesday in October!

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