Auction for “Action Comics #1” Reaches $6 Million! Most Expensive Comic Book of All Time

An original 1938 edition of “Action Comics #1,” Superman debut issue, has sold for US$6,000,000 at Heritage Auctions, making it the most expensive comic book of all time!

Action Comics #1

With a CGC VF+ 8.5 grading, the auction for the “Kansas City Pedigree” copy of “Action Comics #1” ended on April 4, creating history.

Action Comics #1 Kansas City Pedigree (DC, 1938) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white to white pages. It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating that Action Comics #1 is the most important, impactful comic book ever published. Written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Joe Shuster, both children of Jewish immigrants and in their early 20s at the time, it features the first appearance and origin of Superman: an alien child sent to Earth to escape catastrophe, who grew to become the world’s mightiest defender – a reflection of his creators’ experiences as well as the American Dream. In addition to the first appearance of the Man of Steel, it featured the first appearances of perennial love interest Lois Lane and heroic magician Zatara. Shuster created the iconic cover, with Fred Guardineer and Bernard Baily contributing additional story art in this issue. In the process they launched the Golden Age of Comics, created the superhero genre, and crafted a comic that stands as the keystone of the medium and a major moment in the history of publishing, and ultimately film and television as well.

A rare comic book whose historical impact cannot be overstated, we’ve had the singular honor of auctioning dozens of copies of Action Comics #1 over the past 20-plus years – and in some instances, loose individual pages that nevertheless sold for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to nearly $60,000 apiece – and yet we’ve never had the privilege of offering one as breathtakingly beautiful as this.

The colors are stunningly rich, and the cover is almost pristine and largely unmarred. Some mild toning to the white areas, slight dulling of the staples, and a little wear along the top seem to have kept the grade at “only” 8.5. There is a single, tiny color break at mid-spine, and the corners are relatively sharp for an 85-year-old comic book.

Action Comics #1

You’ll be hard-pressed to get your hands on a nicer copy. There are only four pedigreed copies of Action #1 – the others being the Mile High, Lamont Larson, and Billy Wright copies, and this is the highest-graded among the three that have been certified to date (the Mile High copy has yet to be certified and, of course, may be the nicest copy of all). In 1989, Ernst Gerber’s The Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books rated it a “7” ( “scarce”) on their Scarcity Index, estimating that no more than 50 copies were still in existence. The decades since Gerber’s guide was published have proven that estimate to be low, but just barely: CGC has currently certified 78 copies of Action #1, of which 44 are unrestored Universal grade copies. Of those, only two have earned a higher grade than this one (both VF/NM 9.0); they have also registered two restored copies with higher grades: an Apparent VF/NM 9.0 and an Apparent NM 9.4. This is also the finest copy we’ve ever had the opportunity to offer at auction and the highest-graded unrestored copy we’ve seen, surpassing the FN 6.0 Rocket copy that sold for $3.18 million in January 2022. Rest assured it might be some time before a nicer copy shows up on the auction block. Naturally, this classic is ranked #1 on Overstreet’s list of Top 100 Golden Age Comics. Overstreet 2023 VF 8.0 value = $2,429,000; VF/NM 9.0 value = $4,514,500. CGC census 3/24: 2 in 8.5, 2 higher.