Superman comics constitute the very essence of the Golden Age. This is not an exaggeration, but a simple fact. Superman #53 is currently on auction at Heritage. The “Golden Age” of comics was retroactively named so as to correspond with the June 1938 publication of Action Comics #1. In that sense, the origin of Superman is the origin of the Golden Age.
Action Comics #1, in fact, gives us the origin of Superman in every sense. It also gave the world the origin of a new concept that would later come to dominate the American – and eventually the world’s – comic book industries, i.e., the superhero.
Action #1, as every comic book collector knows, is also one of the most popular and expensive comic books on the planet. High-grade copies go for multiple millions of dollars. The lowest graded copy can still command six figures.
So popular and groundbreaking was this book and its new hero that it wasn’t long after the success of Action Comics that a standalone title for Supes was launched.
Superman #1 (June 1939) – First self-titled series for Superman; First self-titled series for a comic book superhero ever
In the summer of 1939, the eponymously titled Superman comic published its first issue. Superman #1, with its iconic cover – see above – and a back cover Superman “pin-up” poster, was another instant classic brought to us by two masters who originally created Superman, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster. Mostly this comic consists of a collection of reprinted stories, namely the first four Action Comics Superman stories along with an extra two-page “Origin” for the Man of Steel (the first issue of Action Comics had reduced the origin to one page). A tattered and torn 0.5 copy of Superman #1 can still fetch upwards of $20,000.
Superman #53 (July 1948) – Tenth Anniversary Issue, Origin of Superman Retold
To this day, Superman and comics that feature him are among the most regularly sold Golden Age superhero titles at auctions. While the coveted number one issues of his two main titles (Action and Superman) are both mega-keys and Golden Age blue chips par excellence, they are, for that reason, beyond the means of most collectors.
However, an underappreciated substitute Superman key is within reach of many collectors: Superman #53. This is the tenth-anniversary issue of the standalone title. This issue is also only the third time Superman’s origin is told. To put this in perspective, since 1948, the story of how Kal El came to Earth has been retold multiple times and in various media.
Today, a Very Fine 8.0 condition copy of Superman #53 currently carries a $2,600 price tag according to the 2019 Overstreet Price Guide (49th Edition).
Recent sales have all shot beyond that mark and suggested price – with the last two sales ending at $3,133 (ComicConnect/3-24-17) and $3,400 (for a ComicLink auction of 11-29-17). The current Heritage Auction of an 8.0 could surpass those prices or trend back towards Overstreet levels. We’ll know in a few days.