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Nearly pristine copy of first-ever Superman comic expected to sell for record-breaking price at auction

A photo of the 1938 Action Comics #1 featuring Superman, who is seen holding a car over his head.
An 8.5 Very Fine+ issue of Action Comics #1 -- the first appearance of Superman -- goes under the hammer next month and is expected to surpass the world's priciest comic of $5.3 million.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the most expensive comic book ever!

A nearly pristine issue of Action Comics #1 — the first appearance of Superman — goes under the hammer next month and is expected to surpass the world’s highest-ever comic book price of $5.3 million.

“Without Superman and Action Comics No. 1, who knows whether there ever would have been a Golden Age of comics — or if the medium would have become what it is today,” said Barry Sandoval, the vice president of Heritage Auctions, which is staging the April 4 sale.

The book is so coveted, collectors will snap up copies — and even pages — in any condition. Heritage Auctions / HA.com
The book is so coveted, collectors will snap up copies — and even pages — in any condition. Heritage Auctions / HA.com

“The colors are stunningly rich, and the cover is almost pristine and largely unmarred,” the lot description explains. It is rated 8.5 [Very Fine+] in collector parlance.

Industry experts believe only about 100 copies of the 85-year-old comic book, out of 200,000 printed in 1938, survive.

“The vast majority ended up in the garbage back then,” Sandoval noted.

Written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Joe Shuster, the iconic comic originally cost 10 cents. In addition to the first appearance of the Man of Steel, it featured the first appearances of perennial love interest Lois Lane.

Sandoval said there are currently 58 bids — with the high at $5 million — and the sky’s the limit.

Sandoval said the seller wishes to remain anonymous. He also super-secretive about potential buyers.

“We definitely have some names you would recognize, but the majority are just successful professionals, be it lawyers or doctors or people in the financial field,” he said.

The highest priced comic so far is a 8.0-graded issue of the 1939 Superman #1, which sold for $5.3 million in a private sale in 2022.