When Mark Michaelson purchased what he considered the holy grail of comic books — Superman No. 1, dating from 1939 — he wasn’t thinking about it as an investment. Instead, the comics fan says he bought it from a private collector in 1979 for somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 simply because he wanted it.
“Everyone sets a little goal for themselves,” said Michaelson, a Houston resident who has worked as a health-care executive.
Michaelson’s goal has now resulted in a huge payoff. The rare Superman just sold at auction for $2,604,750, one of the highest sums ever paid for a comic book. The online event, which ended late Thursday, was run by auction house ComicConnect.
Such eye-popping figures are becoming the norm in the comic-book world. This year has already seen sales of $3-million plus for two comics — an Amazing Fantasy No. 15, from 1962, which features the first appearance of Spider-Man, went for $3.6 million and an Action Comics No. 1, from 1938, which features the first appearance of Superman (before the character had his own book), went for $3.25 million.
“The U.S. may be printing more money to reduce the blow of the health crisis, but ‘they’re not creating more Superman No. 1s.’”
Comics of more recent vintage are also selling for significant sums. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles No. 1, from 1984, sold for $245,000.
In short, these relics of our youth are “now being recognized as a legitimate alternative investment,” said Matt Nelson, president of Sarasota, Fla.-based CGC, a company that grades the condition of comic books, trading cards and other collectibles.
Various factors are playing into the comic-book boom, industry experts say. Some note that even as the stock market surges, investors are looking for tangible assets, especially given all the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Stephen Fishler, chief executive of ComicConnect and its affiliated Metropolis Collectibles, an online shop, said the U.S. may be printing more money to reduce the blow of the health crisis, but “they’re not creating more Superman No. 1s.”
Another critical element is the growing popularity of comic-book characters in the broader entertainment world. Hardly a month goes by that doesn’t see the release of a major superhero flick with a prominent cast. Coming up this Friday from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios: Spider-Man: No Way Home, starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others.