Wednesdays always had an extra kick. Running down to the comic shop for the newest release was a simple childhood joy. Some kids were enthralled by the artwork, others by the story-telling and superpowers—and some of us skipped to the back for X-ray specs and Charles Atlas workouts.
These days, comic books are as exciting as ever, even as we grow up. A one-time hobby, comic book collecting is a profitable investment. Today, comic books can be worth millions of dollars. That knowledge got us wondering, what is the most expensive comic book ever sold? And how are their values assessed?
Comic Book Valuation
Before we list the biggest comic book sales to date, we need a quick breakdown of where value comes from. There are a lot of potential factors, but the four biggies include:
- Grade - Comic books, like collectible magazines and posters, use the CGC grading scale. It runs from 10 (Gem Mint) down to 0.5 (Poor). The higher the score, the better the physical shape of the comic. Every scuff, crease, and scratch degrades the rating. Also, the page color (white, off-white, cream, etc.) is extremely important. Most of the biggest sales come from 8.0 (Very Fine) or better grades.
- Debuts - First appearances of favorite comic heroes and villains are some of the most sought-after issues out there. Even first issues of a series are often less valuable than first appearances. Detective Comics #27, for instance, has occasionally out-valued Batman #1 because it features the debut of the Caped Crusader.
- Rarity - Like any collectible investment, rarity tends to correlate with value. The rarer the piece, the more it’s worth. Of course, the rarity only matters if there is demand and name recognition. Having one of only a few copies of a comic from an unknown writer featuring an unknown hero doesn’t offer much value unless they see a sudden spike in popularity.
- Social & Demand - Comic book sales get a big bump in demand from big events in society. For instance, many impressive sales happened after a Marvel Cinematic Universe release.
The 10 Most Expensive Comic Books
It’s worth noting that this article had to be rewritten during the editing process to account for multiple historic sales that just occurred (including the #1 spot on the list!). The frequency of historic comic sales is on the rise and we suspect this Top 10 will become outdated quickly. But it’s still fun to check in now and again to see which of our favorite comics is currently shattering records. Note - these are the ten highest unique books, so multiple high sales of the same book do not count.
10. X-Men #1 (1963) $807,300
Slightly shy of a million dollars, the first X-Men comic marked a big purchase in 2016. Released in 1963, the X-Men have been one of the most successful comic book franchises. In fact, Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men movie is widely considered a trailblazer for the modern superhero genre. Multiple fan-fav mutants make their first appearances in this particular issue, including Cyclops and Magneto.
9. All-Star Comics #8 (1941) $936,223
All-Star Comics was one of three companies that eventually formed DC Comics. Issue #8 was the first appearance of Wonder Woman. It was so successful that it earned her her own lead feature shortly after and had Wonder Woman join the Justice Society (the first incarnation of the Justice League) by All-Star Comics #11.
T-7. Fantastic Four #1 (1961) $1,500,000
The debut of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing earned a $1.5M sale in April 2022. The beautiful edition has a grade of 9.2 by CGC. Aside from being the debut appearance of the Fantastic Four, this particular issue is considered one of the greatest comics of the Silver Age. In fact, Overstreet—an authoritative publication on comic pricing—slots it in at #3 on its Top 50 Silver Age Comics list.
T-7. Detective Comics #27 (1939) $1,500,000
Marking the very first appearance of our favorite billionaire-playboy-turned-Caped-Crusader, Detective Comics #27 was sold in 2020 for $1.5M. While the comic book was not Batman’s first solo feature, it is the first time he prowled the streets of Gotham, solving crimes in stories like, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate”. Pow!
6. Batman #1 (1940) $2,220,000
In January 2021, mid-pandemic, Batman #1 turned heads when it sold for over $2M. This series was not the first appearance of Batman (see the last entry), but it was his first solo feature. Also notable: Batman #1 features the first appearances of Joker and Catwoman. Other famous DC villains, like Professor Strange, also made their debut.
5. Marvel Comics #1 (1939) $2,400,000
Cracking our top five is Marvel Comics #1 which sold for $2,400,000 in March 2022. Now simply known as Marvel, it has evolved into arguably the most influential comic series of all time. Launched in 1939, this predates even Captain America. It features the first appearances of the Human Torch and Namor, both of which are still running strong over 80 years later.
4. Captain America Comics #1 (1941) $3,120,000
In April 2022, a near-mint edition of Captain America Comics #1 sold for $3.1M. Not bad for a piece that sold in 1941 for just 10 cents. This was the first appearance of Captain America, one of the world’s favorite heroes. The cover even features the now-famous meme of Cap’ socking Hitler right in the face. It also included the first appearance of Captain America’s side-kick and youthful ally Bucky Barnes.
3. Action Comics #1 (1938) $3,250,000
In the comic book investing world, Action Comics #1—featuring Superman’s first official appearance—has been bumper-to-bumper with our next entry for the most expensive comic book sold. Just as one of the two editions sells for a record breaking amount, the other almost always takes back the lead shortly thereafter.
The sale of Action Comics #1 for $3.25M in April 2021 made comic book history. However, it was surpassed only five months later.
2. Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962) $3,600,000
In September 2021, Amazing Fantasy #15 edged Action Comics #1 out of the top spot. This issue sees our web-slinging-friendly-neighborhood Spiderman make his first appearance. One of the most beloved Stan Lee creations of all time; I’m sure your spidey sense was tingling, telling you he’d be near the top of the list. It held the record for a few months, but just yesterday, a new record sale was announced...
1. Superman #1 (1938) $5,300,000
For the third time in a year, there is a new #1 most expensive comic book ever sold. On April 13th, 2022, it was announced that a CGC 8.0 graded copy of Superman #1 changed hands in a private sale for a whopping $5.3 million. It is tied for the highest graded copy of the 84 year-old comic and is from the Edgar Church/Mile High collection. Who knows how long its stay on top will be!