When the Million Dollar Comic Went for Just a Hundred Bucks

Action Comics 1 debut of Superman2010 has been the year Superman has smashed records with sales of Action Comics #1 being made on ComicConnect.com of $1 million in February for a copy graded 8.0 by CGC and $1.5 million just a month later for a CGC 8.5. Today I popped into a time machine and read about times when it was just $100 book, and I’m sure condition wasn’t a concern, inside the pages of Newsweek Magazine, February 15, 1965.

In the article titled “Superfans and Batmaniacs” Newsweek notes that the “June 1938 issue of Action Comics, which introduced the immortal Superman to the lists of American folk idols … has since become a $100 collector’s item among the country’s band of first-edition comic-book fanatics.” Now 100 bucks was a lot of cabbage back in ’65, but I don’t think any inflation charts are going to try and sell me that my 100 then is going to net me a cool mill-plus today.

Newsweek spends over a full page discussing this strange breed of collector under their “Life and Leisure” banner likely shocking respectability at the time by comparing the comic collectors to rare stamp collectors. In an article where you can just tell the writer is restraining himself from using words like weirdo or nut-job it’s stated that “the movement has grown so large that last year Jerry Bails, a 31-year-old associate professor of natural science at Wayne State University’s Monteith College in Detroit founded the grandly named Academy of Comic-Book Fans and Collectors (membership: 1,200).”

“Comic-book cultists are fascinated by how the superheroes were born and developed,” Newsweek writes, before going on to spill the origins of Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel, I’d imagine far less universally known origins in 1965 than the folk hero status attached to at least Supes and Bats today. Pointing out the growth in these heroes’ popularity even back in 1965, Superman was then published in 9 different languages throughout 36 countries with a special shout-out given inside this article to Italy where he is called the Nembo Kid and doesn’t wear the red “S” on his chest because of Italy’s continued sensitivity about the concept of Supermen.

The article closes with a section titled “Disillusionment” describing purists worrying about their icons becoming camp. Batman serials from the 1940’s were then being shown “around New York at camp parties, and, in the words of writer Pete Hamill, ‘the clique slaps each other’s thighs in glee.'”

Further clouding the future for the comic collecting purists is the idea that some companies might be playing to this element: “A new hero called Spider-Man is a long-haired teen-ager named Peter Parker who lives with his aunt, keeps his ‘spidey outfit’ hidden in the attic …” Wow, period readers of this article are just under a year away from the appearance of the Batman television series, wonder how the purists of the day initially took to that!

Newsweek 1965 article about comic collecting

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Cliff Aliperti

I've been involved with collecting and collectibles pretty much as long as I can remember beginning as a tyke with baseball cards and somehow managing to collect a little of this and a little of that from many other hobbies over the year. I began assisting my Uncle at baseball card shows and live auctions in the mid-1980's (fun times!) and it wasn't very long before I started dealing a little myself from inside his space. About 1990 I became a full-time baseball card dealer for about three years, during which time I also really fell in love with classic movies. There was a four-year gap afterwards for college and then another four years that I dressed up nice and rode the LIRR to Manhattan each morning to sell advertising, but it was that real job which served as my introductory course with a computer and its down hours which led to my first use of eBay in 2000. By 2004 eBay was paying better than Manhattan so I went full-time and have been ever since. The baseball card market was a little tight early on so pretty much on a whim I bought some silent era movie photos which reawakened the passion for me. I currently specialize in Movie Cards and Collectibles from the Silent Era through the Golden Age of the movies as well as general Magazine Back Issues from the 19th Century through to about the 1980's. All of my currently available stock can be found in my eBay Store. I also operate several informational websites, the first of which things-and-other-stuff.com has been home to my archives of vintage movie cards and collectibles since 2002. I also run the magawiki, a site comprised of the contents lists of vintage magazine back issues, a fan site dedicated to the 1930's and 40's actor Warren William, who's also the subject of my personal collection, and an e-commerce site at The-Collectors-Site.com. Besides all of that, and the selling, I'm usually in several other places online, the most current of which can usually be found on my Google Profile.

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