The World’s Most Expensive Comic Books
Ever since Superman’s first appearance in 1938, comic books have captured the hearts and minds of children — and adults — with stories of heroes and the evil doers they vanquish.
And some of these comics are so beloved — and so rare — that they can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars or even several million dollars at auction. From Superman to Captain Marvel (the original, decidedly less-cool one), these 38 comics are the most valuable ones on the planet.
‘Detective Comics’ No. 38
This issue of “Detective Comics” from 1940 features the first appearance of Robin. This 9.4-graded copy, which sold in 2005, came from the personal collection of Nicolas Cage.
‘The Brave and the Bold’ No. 28
This issue of “The Brave and the Bold” features the first appearance of the Justice League of America, who band together to fight the Lovecraftian-ish monster, Starro the Conqueror. A 9.2-graded copy of this 1955 comic sold for $140,000 at Comic Connect.
“Hulk” No. 181
“Hulk” No. 181 is the first appearance of Wolverine, one of the most popular superheroes ever created. When a 9.9-graded copy sold for an astonishing $150,000 in 2011, it became the first comic book from the 1970s to sell for more than $100,000. Although it may not have been the best deal — just seven years later, in 2018, a 9.8-graded copy sold for $38,400.
‘The Avengers’ No. 4
This comic with an amazing cover by Jack Kirby features Captain America joining the Avengers, and a near-perfect 9.8-graded copy of one sold for $143,400 in 2017 at Heritage Auctions. The 1964 comic is also the first Silver Age appearance of Cap, who had been frozen since World War II.
‘Detective Comics’ No. 31
Bob Kane might be a controversial figure, but he sure could draw. This might be one of the best-looking Batman covers ever inked. According to Heritage Auctions, it’s extremely rare to find a “Detective Comics” No. 31 copy above a 4.0 grade, which might explain how a 5.0-graded one sold for $131,450 in 2017. The comic features the first appearance of the batplane, batarang, Julie Madsen and the Monk.
‘More Fun Comics’ No. 53
‘More Fun Comics’ No. 53
“More Fun Comics” No. 53 features the second appearance of the Spectre, continuing his origin story for the Golden Age superhero. An incredible 9.8-graded copy sold for just a tad over $141,000 in 2015.
‘Archie Comics’ No. 1
The very first “Archie Comics” appeared 77 years ago for 10 cents, and sold in 2012 for $167,300. It’s not the first appearance of Archie and the gang, but it’s the start of one of the most important non-superhero comics in history.
‘Showcase’ No. 4
In “Showcase” No. 4, DC revitalized the Flash with a whole new look and character. This is the first iteration of Barry Allen as the Flash, arguably the most popular Flash character and the first to don the iconic red-and-yellow suit. It’s also noted to be the first comic to usher in the Silver Age. The 9.6-graded copy of this 1956 comic sold for $179,250 at Heritage Auction in 2009.
‘Action Comics’ No. 13
This comic from features a dramatic cover design with Superman stopping a train with one hand, but the cover isn’t this book’s only appeal. It also features the first appearance of the Ultra-Humanite. And while the Ultra-Humanite isn’t exactly a popular or even well-known bad guy, he’s the world’s first comic book supervillain. Ultra-Humanite would be Superman’s greatest antagonist until Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Lex Luthor in 1940.
‘Action Comics’ No. 7
While Superman made his first appearance in the first “Action Comics” issue, he wouldn’t again appear on the series’ cover for another six months, until the seventh issue of “Action Comics” hit newsstands. This comic from 1938 shows Supes holding a man high above the city streets. The copy that sold in 2017 was only a 5.5-graded one, and even though it had a couple of stamps on the cover, it still fetched $188,000 at Comic Connect.
‘All Star Comics’ No. 3
The third “All Star Comics” from 1940 featured the first superhero team ever. It was called the Justice Society of America, and its members included memorable heroes like Green Lantern, Hawkman, Flash, Atom, Sandman and Spectre, along with not-so-memorable heroes Doctor Fate and Hour-Man. A 9.6-graded copy sold for $126,500 in 2002, but that record was demolished when an 8.5-graded copy that originally sold for $49,294 was re-sold for $200,000 through Heritage Auctions’ make-an-offer feature in 2012.
‘Tales to Astonish’ No. 27
“Tales to Astonish” No. 27 features the first appearance of Henry Pym, a master scientist who has developed a serum that could shrink him all the way down to the size of an ant. Yes, it’s arguably the first appearance of Ant-Man, a character that has become pretty dang popular ever since “Ant-Man” grossed over $500 million at the box office in 2015. A 9.4-graded copy sold for $205,501 in 2016 at Comic Link.
‘More Fun Comics’ No. 52
This comic from 1940 features the first appearance of the Spectre as well as the Presence, DC’s representation of the Abrahamic God. Not much is known about the sale, only that it occurred in 2001. A 9.2-graded copy sold for $119,500 in 2006.
‘All-American Comics’ No. 16
This issue of “All-American Comics” from 1940 features the first appearance of Green Lantern. It’s an extremely rare comic, and in early 2018 a 6.5-graded copy sold for $215,100 at Heritage
'Marvel Comics' No. 1
The first issue of “Marvel Comics” features the first appearance of Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch and Angel. The issue that sold for $227,050 is a pay copy, meaning it was used to record how much each contributor was paid. For instance, there’s a note on the cover that says Frank R. Paul, who drew the cover, received $25 for his work (about $460 today). The pay copy was graded 9.0 on the Certified Guaranty Company’s 0.5 - 10 comic book grading scale and sold for $227,050 in 2015 at Heritage Auctions. A regular, 6.0-graded copy sold for $215,000 in 2017 at Comic Connect.
‘Fantastic Comics’ No. 3
“Fantastic Comics” No. 3 is a coveted item among collectors because of its amazing cover by Lou Fine, which depicts a giant named Samson beating iron monsters to death with a spiked flail. There are no first appearances or really anything of importance within the comic’s plot, but the book’s cover is so beloved that some people will pay a huge premium for a nice-looking version. A 9.4-graded comic sold for a $243,000 in 2017.
‘Action Comics’ No. 10
There doesn’t appear to be anything notable about “Action Comics” No. 10. It features the third cover appearance of Superman, and a story involving an abusive prison warden that Superman has to bring to justice. Three other stories not including Superman are included in the 64-page book from 1939. However, the 9.0-grading might have been the 80-year-old comic’s selling point when it sold in 2011 at auction.
‘Pep Comics’ No. 22
You wouldn’t know it just by looking at its cover, but “Pep Comics” No. 22 contains the first appearance of Archie. One year after his debut in 1941, publisher MLJ created “Archie Comics,” which is still running to this day, albeit with a more mature story. This 8.0-graded comic fetched $252,100 in 2017, the same year that the hit series “Riverdale” debuted on the CW network.
‘Suspense Comics’ No. 3
What a cover! “Suspense Comics” No. 3’s value comes singularly from its Alex Schomburg cover, which depicts a tied-up damsel in distress surrounded by robed figures (possibly KKK members) with swastikas. A 9.2-graded copy of the 1944 comic sold for $292,900 in 2017, shattering the previous record of $173,275 for a 9.0-graded copy which sold in 2015.
'The Amazing Spider-Man' No. 1
The first issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man” published in 1963 and features two stories. In the first, Spider-Man saves J. Jonah Jameson’s son’s space shuttle from disaster. Naturally, this causes the Daily Bugle owner to castigate the webslinger in an editorial for deliberately sabotaging the shuttle. The next story features the Fantastic Four and the first appearance of the Chameleon. A 9.6-graded copy sold for a record $262,900 at Heritage Auctions in 2016.
'The Avengers' No. 1
The comic that arguably started the entire Marvel Comics Universe arc that dominates the box office, “The Avengers” No. 1 began with only Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp as its founding members. A near-mint, 9.6-graded copy of the 1963 book sold for a mighty $274,850 in 2012.
‘Journey Into Mystery’ No. 83
Thor made his first appearance in 1962 within the “Journey Into Mystery” series. Thor didn’t even know he was Thor at first — he was sent to Earth by his father, Odin, in order to teach him humility. To do so, Odin temporarily wipes Thor's memory and turns him into a nerdy scientist while Earth is under attack by stone-men from Saturn. A 9.4-graded copy of this iconic comic sold for $275,000 at auction in 2014.
'Whiz Comics' No. 2
Captain Marvel was originally created not by Marvel, but by the comic publisher M.F. Enterprises. He — yes, originally the character was male — made his first appearance in 1940 within the pages of “Whiz Comics” No. 2. He was similar to Superman — perhaps a little bit too similar. DC sued M.F. Enterprises for copyright infringement (and perhaps a bit of saltiness, since Captain Marvel would go on to outsell Superman), and Captain Marvel ceased to exist by 1953. By the 1960s, the actual Marvel comic publisher created its own trademarked Captain Marvel. So when DC went to revive the character, they couldn’t use the name, and turned him into Shazam.
This book is therefore the first real appearance of Captain Marvel and also Shazam. A 9.0-graded copy sold for $281,001 in 2012.
‘Wonder Woman’ No. 1 with Promotional Materials
Wonder Woman received her first line of comic books in the summer of 1942, not long after the United States entered World War II. But it was still 1942, and a female superhero might not have been to appealing as young boys as Captain America or Superman. So DC sent out a press packet of hand-typed letters detailing the awesomeness of America’s first super heroine.
“In a recent poll of child readers, 80 percent chose ‘Wonder Woman’ as their favorite over seven male characters,” reads one letter. The press materials also tout that the book was penned by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who would later invent the prototype to the modern-day lie detector.
'Fantastic Four' No. 1
They stretch, go invisible and build bridges of ice and fire. They’re the Fantastic Four, a Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creation that quickly became a fan favorite. One issue from 1961 that was graded a 9.4 sold for $300,000 cash. But in 2008, a copy sold for around $450,000 in a cash/trade deal, according to Bleeding Cool.
A 9.4 copy is currently for sale on Comic Link for $650,000 — maybe the seller is hoping for a renewed interest in the series. Marvel’s First Family came back in 2018 after a three-year hiatus from the comic book pages, and Disney recently purchased the franchise rights back from Fox.
'The Incredible Hulk' No. 1
Bruce Banner first transformed into the Incredible Hulk in May 1962. But he wasn’t green, at least not on the cover. Stan Lee wanted Hulk to be a big grey monster, but an issue with the printing ink turned Hulk varying hues of green on the inside pages. Eventually the green color was decided on, and eventually the 12-cent comic sold for $326,000 fifty years later, in 2014. It was graded in a near-mint, 9.2 condition.
‘Detective Comics’ No. 33
We all know Batman’s origin story: A young Bruce Wayne and his parents are leaving the movies when a no-good crook emerges from the shadows, brandishing a gun and demanding Mrs. Wayne’s necklace. Bruce’s father tries to intervene and the criminal shoots them dead. This is the first time that story was told (you can see those original panels here). A 9.2-graded copy sold for $341,234 on Comic Connect in 2018 after 50 bids.
‘Captain America’ No. 1
The first appearance of Captain America — featuring him gloriously punching Hitler on the cover — sold for a whopping $343,057 in 2011. It was a near-mint 9.2-graded copy, and is said to be the second-highest graded version known to exist. The 68-page comic originally released in 1941 with a 10-cent cover price.
‘Tales of Suspense’ No. 39
Iron Man made his first appearance in this 1963 comic book written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Of course, Tony Stark looks a bit less like he does now, and a bit more like a golem made out of steel. And instead of putting together a suit in the caves of Afghanistan as he does in the 2008 “Iron Man” movie, this Tony Stark built his crude metal armor in a Vietnam POW camp. A 9.6-graded copy sold for $375,000 in 2012, although a 7.0 version can go for around $17,500.
'Sensation Comics' No. 1
“Sensation Comics” was a 109-book series by DC Comics that mainly featured Wonder Woman stories. The first issue, published in 1942, is the second appearance of Wonder Woman. It continues her origin story and also includes the first appearance of Wildcat and Mister Terrific. In 2017, one buyer purchased “Sensation Comics” for $399,100 on eBay. The copy had an incredible 9.6 grading, and is the highest-graded copy in existence.
‘Flash Comics’ No. 1
A near-mint 9.6 copy of “Flash Comics” sold for $450,000 at auction in 2010. The comic book, which originally sold for 10 cents in 1940, also features a one-page history lesson about postage stamps and a comic strip about an evil ventriloquist dummy. Oh, and then there’s the whole first appearance of the Flash and Hawkman.
‘X-Men’ No. 1
An extremely well-kept copy of “X-Men” No. 1 with an incredible 9.8 grading sold for over $490,000 in July 2012. This comic book marks the first appearance of iconic X-Men, including Charles Xavier, Magneto Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast and Iceman. Copies with as low as a 0.5 grading can fetch over $2,000 on eBay, and the most recent sale on the auction site was a 7.0 which sold for $19,000 in May 2019.
‘Superman’ No. 1
A “Superman” No. 1 sold for $507,500 in 2017, and it was only graded as a 5.5. So why was it so expensive? According to Bleeding Cool, the first “Superman” comic book is rare to begin with and then notoriously difficult to find in good shape. The comic was mostly distributed in cities when it was first printed in 1939, which may have resulted in a higher rate of destruction because of a lack of storage space. Also curious is the record-setting price for the sale in 2017, since a 2011 Superman No. 1 with the same 5.5 grade sold for only $214,000 in 2011.
'Batman' No. 1
A near-mint condition, 9.2-graded copy of Batman’s first comic book from 1940 sold for $850,000 at a private auction in 2012. The iconic comic marks the first appearance of the Joker and Catwoman. The comic is certainly rare. A single page from this book — and our first look ever at the Joker — sold for $660 on eBay in 2013.
‘All Star Comics’ No. 8
Wonder Woman first appeared in the eighth issue of “All Star Comics” from 1940. The comic book has skyrocketed in value, possibly because of the insanely popular “Wonder Woman” film. A 9.0 copy sold for $411,000 in 2016 at auction, and three years later a 9.4-graded copy sold for over double that price on eBay. A 5.0 copy is up for sale at $84,000 on Comic Link.
‘Detective Comics’ No. 27
Value: $1.075 million
The first appearance of Batman in the 1939 “Detective Comics” No. 27 broke the record for most valuable comic book when an 8.0-graded copy sold in 2010 for $1,075,000. The seller purchased the comic in the late ‘60s for $100. As Robin might have said in the original “Batman” television series, “Holy profit!”
Even worse-for-wear versions of the Caped Crusader’s first appearance can go for big bucks. A 2.5-graded copy sold for $410,000 in 2018.
'Amazing Fantasy' No. 15
Value: $1.1 million
The first appearance of Spider-Man — back when he had webs underneath his armpits — is the second most valuable comic of all time. In 2011, a pristine 9.8 copy of the comic, printed in 1962 and originally sold for 12 cents, fetched an astounding $1.1 million at auction.
Pinning down the true value of the comic is a bit tough. One current listing on eBay is graded a 9.2, but it couldn’t sell at $531,000 — less than half the price of the 9.8 copy — so the bidder cut the price to $414,180. (It’s still on sale.) Recently, a 4.0-graded copy sold for $30,000 on eBay in March 2019.
‘Action Comics’ No. 1
Value: $3.2 million
The holy grail of comic books is the 1938 “Action Comics” No. 1, the first appearance of Superman, and in turn, the origination of comic book superheroes as we know them today. In 2014, 9.0-graded copy of sold for $3,207,852 on eBay, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
And before that sale, a 9.0 copy of “Action Comics” No. 1 that belonged to actor Nicolas Cage fetched $2.161 million in 2011. Someone had stolen it from his home, but it was found 11 years later in a Southern California storage locker.
The most recent sale for a copy of the iconic comic book occurred in 2018, when an 8.5-graded copy sold for $2,052,000 in 2018 at Comic Connect.