In June 1938, Superman made his earth debut in “Action Comics No. 1.”
Starting Aug. 14, comic book fans, nerds, collectors and the general public alike can bid on the rare book, which is being auctioned on eBay. The book, which cost 10 cents when it was first printed, is expected to sell for a bit more.
“The sky’s the limit on this book,” said Darren Adams, owner of the comic book and Pristine Comics, an online comic book market.
“Action Comics No. 1” introduced the world to Superman, the first of the superheroes, Adams said.
“Superman was an instant hit,” he said. “The character came out of nowhere.”
The idea took off and demand for the book spiked, despite the Great Depression.
“Out of nowhere this guy shows up in leotards and a cape and was a superhero,” Adams said.
Superman was the first in a new trend of superheroes.
One of perhaps only 34 unrestored originals, Adams’s book was rated 9.0 on the Certified Guaranty Company’s rating scale. It is the highest grade an “Action Comics No. 1” has ever received. Only one other copy has received a 9.0 rating and that copy sold for nearly $2.2 million in 2011 — the most a comic book has sold for to date. Adams’s book is in even better condition.
“This book is in a class all itself,” Adams said.
Certified Guaranty Company views comic books and provides a third-party grade based on any wear, tear and flaws in the book, such as page discoloration, tears and creases on pages. Books are viewed by multiple experts to determine a grade, which means everything to sellers, Adams said.
“It gives you peace of mind,” he said.
Adams began reading comic books when he was a child as a form on entertainment. In 1986, he opened West Coast Sports Cards and later created Pristine Comics as an online buying and selling market, he said. Pristine Comics specializes in high quality and condition books. The name was born after Adams bought several books with 9.9, pristine condition grades, he said.
Adams was lucky to get a copy of the “Mona Lisa” of the comic book world, he said. Several years ago, he bought the book in a confidential transaction, and since then he has stored it in a vault away from extreme temperatures and light to preserve it.
The book had been bought off the newsstand in 1938 and stored in a cedar chest for 40 years in West Virginia until a local dealer found it at an estate sale and bought it, becoming the book’s second owner. The individual Adams bought the book from was the third owner, and had the book for 30 years, he said.
“I was lucky,” Adams said.
Comic book aficionados hunt for copies of the 76-year-old comic book, but to get a book with such a high rating requires knowing someone who has one, Adams said. Collectors don’t simply go out and find a 9.0 graded copy of “Action Comics No. 1,” though many may desire such a prize.
“Comic collecting is an act of passion,” Adams said. “It kind of gets in your blood.”
Collectors often develop emotional attachments to their collections, and Adams is no exception.
Though he can buy and sell trading cards without batting an eye, comic books are something special.
“It’s a little harder to let one go,” Adams said.
But now is the time to let go of this precious book and give the public its first opportunity to own it. Though it would be ideal if a museum could purchase the book to preserve the piece of history, he said.
“It’s basically a once-in-a-lifetime shot,” Adams said.
He believes he owes it to the book and to the public to give everyone a fair shot at buying the book, he said. It’s not just the collectors and fanatics who respect and appreciate this particular book, he said. Adams already turned down a private offer of $3 million, he said.
“It’s pop culture, it’s Americana,” he said.
One percent of the auction proceeds will be donated to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. The foundation funds research to find a cure for spinal cord injury and also seeks to improve the quality of life for people living with paralysis. The foundation adopted the name of Christopher Reeve, an actor best known for his role as Superman before he suffered a spinal injury and began actively seeking a cure.
The donation is Adams’s way of honoring the memory of perhaps the most recognized Superman to date, he said.