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 this 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 twenty years 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 has always been a work-in-progress. For reference, three 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 decade, the cut-off is much higher.

I've archived the original version of this article. And here's another archived version from the mid-2010s.

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 decades. 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 current owner turned down a $2,000,000 offer from coin dealer Jay Parrino when Parrino was exploring the comics hobby early in the CGC era. That was over 20 years ago. In all the years since we've only had a handful of comics sell for more than that and this copy is better and more historic than any of those. 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 President and Primary Grader 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: $10,000,000

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 in 1990, 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: $9,000,000

Detective Comics #27 CGC 9.2

The newest entry into the list. I do not know with 100% accuracy where this book came from. I've spoken to several people and gotten differing opinions on this book's origin and absolutely no one wants to talk about this book on the record. So, I speculate…

I think there are three reasonable possibilities for this book.

  • It's an unknown book, freshly graded.
  • It's the "other high grade copy" (see #7) resurfacing 20+ years after selling for $101k. This book was listed in Overstreet as a FN68, but people who have seen it think it's much nicer- right around 9.2. I've had it on the World's Most Valuable Comic Books list for ages.
  • It's the "missing" Mastronet copy returned from its vacation and pressed up to a 9.2. Looking at the scan that follows and checking the grading notes it's a possibility. It was graded harshly at the time (just look at it!) and had some pressable defects (non-breaking "finger creases", etc.) so it's entirely plausible that it's this new 9.2. "Non-breaking finger creases!" That's like a big "press me" alert flashing in your face when you read grader's notes.

Detective 27 CGC as Scanned from the Mastro Catalog

Since I know nothing for sure, I'm going to treat the three books as separate entries on the list.

As for value, I wrote up my reasoning in depth in 2015. I think this is the most valuable CGC graded book.

Estimated Value: $7,500,000

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 their client Ayman Hariri (and his Impossible Collection) for a whopping $3,207,852.00

Estimated Value:$6,500,000

"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.

This book was also purchased by Ayman Hariri.

Estimated Value:$6,500,000

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, just behind the Cage copy of Action #1. This assumes it's a 9.0 copy. As we've seen, if this book were the 9.2 copy it would rank third, alone.

Estimated Value: $6,000,000

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 out of all the copies available to him over the years (including the Church copy) 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 of the grading spectrum. Compare that to the half dozen copies of Marvel Comics #1 over 8.0 and a bunch of Action #1s in high grade 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: $6,000,000

Detective Comics #27 Mile High/Edgar Church CGC 8.5

This book was recently graded. It's now the best book from the Church collection in a CGC holder. I had it pegged as an 8.5 and it turned out to be an accurate estimate. Hearing about this and the Larson Action #1 CGC 8.0 getting graded was one of the comics highlights of the year for me.

For perspective's sake, this book sold for $125,000 in 1994. A Detective Comics #27 CGC 8.0 sold for $1,075,000 in 2010. Things have gone a bit crazy since then. That $125,000 investment looks pretty good from where I'm sitting.

Estimated Value: $4,000,000

Amazing Fantasy 15 CGC 9.6

As of late 2021, this copy (serial #1071479001) is the world record comic. I don't know what the next 9.6 will sell for (which is why the other copies will be outside the top ten), but this one crushed it, so it's a deserving return for Amazing Fantasy #15 back into the top ten. Lots of folks were skeptical (including me, although I came around) I don't think people will ever underestimate the power of Spider-Man again.

Estimated Value: $3,600,000

Action Comics #1 CGC 8.5

For a time, this book was the most valuable comic ever sold. Then the 9.0s came along and it got bumped down a bit.

This book briefly took over the top spot again, in 2021, before the Amazing Fantasy 15 took the top spot later in the year.

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

Estimated Value:$3,250,000


Some other books of note (in no order)

Kansas City Action #1 CGC 8.0

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

Estimated Value: $3,000,000

Mile High/Edgar Church Copy of Marvel Comics #1

marvel-comics-1-church.jpg

I had this copy in the top ten for a while. At this point it's been eclipsed by several books, even though Marvel #1 is in much stronger shape than it's been in for many years- including a 9.4 copy that sold for $1.260,000.

Estimated Value: $2,500,000

Captain America Allentown CGC 9.8

Sold for $260,000 over twenty years ago now. I've changed my mind significantly about this book over the past decade. Captain America is the Timely character of the Golden Age. It doesn't matter that Marvel #1 is where it started. Cap is king. I think that this book is the most valuable Timely. Marvel Comics #1 is the first Marvel, which is huge. Is it as huge as the first appearance of Captain America? Now, in the post-Avengers era? No.

Estimated Value: $2,600,000

Incredible Hulk #1 CGC 9.4

For a while, this book was ascendant, in my eyes. With the glut of Amazing Fantasy 15s at 9.6 and the incredible difficulty of finding this book in high grade, I liked it as the most valuable Silver Age book for a while. It's not, but it's still a crazy valuable book.

Estimated Value: $2,000,000

Detective 27 CGC 8.0 (the missing copy)

Assuming, of course, that it's not the CGC 9.2 and that it can be found!

Estimated Value: $3,000,000

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. Since we now have a CGC 9.4 to compare it to, I'm going to estimate the value based on it being 9.4.

Estimated Value: $3,000,000

Batman #1 CGC 9.4

This was the book that kicked off the huge results we've seen in 2021. It was a great result for a book that's been on a steep rise over the decades. Batman #1 is the 4th biggest Golden Age book. To be fair, it's a tight race between Cap #1, Marvel #1 and this book, but the lure of the 1st appearance of both the Joker and Catwoman is huge.

Estimated Value: $2,500,000

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 rumour 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: $1,500,000

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, over ten times the 2002 sale price is pretty sweet.

Estimated Value: $2,500,000

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: $1,250,000

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: $2,000,000

Amazing Fantasy 15 CGC 9.6 (times three)

The three of these books are tough to value. Obviously, the #1 fan has already got their copy. Who's next up if one comes up for sale? Will two bidders be ready to go past $3,600,000? I'd love to see it.

Estimated Value: $3,000,000

Action #1 Larson CGC 8.0

This book was originally in my top ten. Other books pushed it off the list and I had some questions on whether or not it had some work done to it, so I didn't even have it in this section in the last version of this article. Well, it's been graded, an unrestored 8.0, and it's just outside the top ten, once again.

Estimated Value: $3,000,000

83 Responses to "The Most Valuable Comic Books In the World"

Leave a reply