A rare Golden Age Marvel classic made waves this week with a multi-million dollar sale. Let’s look at what made this Marvel Comics #1 sale so unique.
What exactly makes this issue worthy of millions of dollars?
For one, this is the beginning of Marvel Comics. Published under Marvel’s predecessor, Timely Comics, this 1939 issue was the first issue of a horror/mystery series. Little did the Timely creators realize, they had made history with this issue.
Besides being the initial issue to use the words Marvel Comics, not to be confused with Marvel Mystery Comics, the other selling points are the first appearances.
Among the notable firsts are the premieres of the original Human Torch, Ka-Zar, and Namor’s cousin, Dorma. It also featured the reprint of the Submariner’s debut from Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly. There are also the forgotten faces of the vigilante, the Angel, and the Masked Raider, though no one’s heard from them in a very long time.
It’s a Rare One
The other factor is rarity. According to CGC’s census data, there are only 64 total copies of Marvel Comics #1 that have been graded. Of those 64, half received the CGC Restored purple label. That leaves just 32 complete copies of Marvel Comics #1 on file. The majority of the grades are listed at 6.0 with five. As Golden Age collectors understand, a mid-grade comic from 1939 is the equivalent of a 9.0 Silver Age.
Finding just about any comic from the 1930s in near-mint quality is cause for celebration. Just having an issue – any issue – approaching its 100th birthday that still looks brand new is a boon for any collector. The odds of finding a near-mint mega-key on par with Marvel Comics #1 are about as good as winning the lottery and being attacked by both a lion and a polar bear all on the same day. There are only three near-mint copies on record, one each for a 9.0, 9.2, and the highest grade ever listed, a 9.4. That puts the new owner of the auctioned 9.2 in select company, which makes it all the more valuable.
Fetching seven figures is nothing new for Marvel Comics #1, at least at higher grades. In 2019, that previously mentioned 9.4 sold for $1.26 million at Heritage Auctions. With the rapid pace of inflation for all collectibles since the pandemic began, it should come as no surprise that another high grade would dwarf that 2019 sum. The same day as the 9.2’s record-breaking sale, a 2.5 sold for $363,527.65. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how high these prices continue to soar.
The telling sign of the times is that, despite the huge price tag attached to Marvel Comics #1, it doesn’t hold the record for the highest priced comic of 2022. Still, it is in elite company, and rightfully so considering the importance of the issue. At that particular top of the mountain is the holiest of holy grails, Action Comics #1 that sold for $3.18 million in January. Last year, a Superman #1, graded at a 7.0, that brought $2.6 million in December. Although it sounds like a bargain by comparison, a 4.5 Detective Comics #27 earned over $1 million in January as well.