Here’s a get-rich-quick scheme to remember the next time you accidentally time travel to 1939: 1) Buy a copy of Action Comics #1 for 10 cents 2) Bury that comic in a vacuum-sealed time capsule 3) Find your way back to the present day without killing butterflies or murdering your grandparents 4) Dig up that comic 5) Buy yourself a martini: You just became a millionaire. Yes, at a value increase of about 10 million percent, Action Comics #1 (featuring the first appearance of Superman) just sold for $1 Million.
That’s by far the biggest sale ever for a comic book, and it really punches me right in the heart. Like many other comic fans, I grew up hoping that, someday, all the comic books I purchased would be worth kabillions. The theory, as I explained it to my parents, went something like this: “If I buy five comics that cost $1.50 each, it might seem like a lot of money now, but in 10 years I’ll sell all those comics for $150,000. Then I’ll buy you guys something nice!” I filled an entire quadrant of our house with carefully preserved issues of Spider-Man, X-Men, Green Lantern, and (sigh) Fantastic Force. I collected the complete Death of Superman saga, the complete World Without a Superman saga, and even the complete Return of Superman saga.
Years later, fresh out of college and looking for a down payment on my two-story yacht, I went back to my neighborhood comic book store to find out how much cash my collection would yield. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that a confluence of market forces and economic collapses had depreciated the value of my collection to, and I quote, “Not Worth the Pulpwood the Pages were Processed From.”
Since my comics are worthless now (except for the memories), and since my plan to stake out Thomas Pynchon’s house has resulted in two restraining orders but no signatures, I’m pinning my fragile money-for-nothing hopes on another piece of pop ephemera. As everyone knows, the first 600,000 copies of Weezer’s stealth classic 2002 album Maladroit were individually numbered on the back of the CD case. If I wait long enough, the other 599,999 Weezer fans will either die or lose the CD case, and I will reap the financial reward. And Weezer’s critical reputation can only keep growing, right?
What pop culture items are you saving up for a big payoff, PopWatchers? Any hand-me-downs from great-grandparents that you’re thinking of getting evaluated? Any original Dark Side of the Moon record covers signed by Pinky Floyd? And are there any artifacts that you’d be willing to over-pay for? I think that if someone could sell me a fresh-out-of-the-box original NES, complete with the Duck Hunt light gun, I’d be willing to clean out my bank account.
By the way, itsalljustcomics.com has a fascinating list of the top 18 record comic book sales (the top 5 below). You might be confused to note that Flash Comics #1 is further up on the list than the first appearance of more famous superheroes like Spider-Man, Batman, and Captain America. Keep in mind, though, that Flash Comics #1 features the totally awesome Golden Age Flash with the winged helmet, and not the somehow less cool Silver Age Flash with the lightning ears.
1. Action Comics #1 $1 million
2. Marvel Comics #1 $350,000
3. Flash Comics #1 $350,000
4. Action Comics #1 $317,200
5. Batman #1 $280,000