Published: January 25, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Heritage Auctions
DALLAS – You might think that a $23.7 million auction would set a house record, but not when it’s a comic sale, and the house is Heritage Auctions. Such was the case January 13-16, when Heritage offered more than 1,300 lots in its Comics, Comic Art & Animation Art Signature auction. It was a few million dollars short of the Dallas firm’s record for a Comics sale, which was set at $26.5 million September 8-12, 2021.
Heritage Auctions’ vice president, Barry Sandoval, was eager to wax enthusiastic about the sale. “Yes, we’re definitely happy, even though the total was a bit lower. Some things that we expected to do quite well did, others, like the Secret Wars #8 page, were surprises. One-tenth of that price would be considered quite strong. Most people thought it would bring in the low six figures.”
Sandoval was referring to the sale’s top lot, a page from Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8, 1984, in which Spider-Man was seen in his rarely-worn black costume. Bidders went head to head for the page, which eventually closed at $3,360,000 to a buyer who Sandoval confirmed was an existing client.
The page (page 25) was from the exact same issue as the previous page (page 24), both of which were being sold by the same seller. It was an eight-frame page that featured Spider-Man, Thor and the Hulk and finished at $288,000. The two pages were unusual in that they told the previously unexplained story of how Spider-Man’s rarely seen black costume came to fruition and appeared a few months after it debuted.
What might to some people be considered a flaw actually propelled the sale’s second highest lot – a 6.0 graded copy of Detective Comics’ Action Comics #1 – to $3,180,000. The owner, who originally purchased it off the stands in 1938, had imprinted a rubber-stamped rocket ship next to the title. The issue is the highest graded copy that Heritage has ever presented and the first original owner offered in ten years. It is largely considered one of the most important comic books ever issued as it ushered in the era of superheroes. Making it even more desirable was the presence of the rubber rocket stamp, which the owner had kept since 1938 and which was included in the lot. “There have been a couple of higher-graded issues that have brought $3 million but ones in a medium range grade have never hit that level,” Sandoval confirmed.
Only one other lot in the sale broke the seven-figure barrier and it was a CGC graded VG+4.5 issue of Detective Comics #27, which was published in 1939 and brought $1,140,000. Most Batman fans consider it the most important comic book ever published and one that rarely comes to market.
For an example that aptly demonstrates the evolution of the market, Sandoval pointed to an issue of X-Men #107 with original cover art by Dave Cockrum, which made $360,000. Numerous characters were featured on the cover, including some like the Imperial Guard and two of the Star-jammers, who were making their debut. Previously offered issues topped off at $65,000, then $130,000 and now $360,000. “It’s the case with comic art – choice pieces multiply every few years,” noted Sandoval.
Of equal value – $360,000 – was an unrestored 1939 issue of Marvel Comics #1 in VG+4.5 condition. While the grade might seem low, it is useful to keep in mind that the issue is ranked #6 on Overstreet’s list of Top 100 Golden Age Comics.
A significant moment in the history of GI Joe was depicted in the original art for the cover for A Real American Hero #21, done in 1984 by Ed Hanigan and Klaus Janson, that was also the first cover for Snake-Eyes’ character. When Sandoval remarked “it’s the issue people are always looking for,” the selling price of $312,000 is easily explained.
Heritage Auctions’ next Comic, Comic Art and Animation Art sale is scheduled for April 7-10.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For more information, www.ha.com.
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