Check out original artwork and first editions of comics that have sold for over a million dollars each
The current NFT craze (NFTs are collectible certificates that certify the authenticity and exclusivity of a digital artwork, some of which have been selling for tens of millions of dollars over recent months) grew out of the obsession humans have with owning something unique and special.
This, of course, also applies in the world of physical art. In January, the 1936 original Tintin cover for The Blue Lotus–the fifth volume in the legendary comic book series created by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé–sold for $3.84 million.
The drawing–painted in gouache, watercolor, and Indian ink–is a much more elaborate version of the final printed cover, including Chinese characters, textures, and other details that were eventually removed. Hergé gave it to the seven-year-old son of his editor at the time, Jean-Paul Casterman, as a gift. It remained "forgotten" in a drawer for decades until it was discovered in the 1980s.
In January, the illustration was described as being the most expensive original artwork in the history of comic books. However, this is not actually true: there is at least one other creation, later printed in comics, that fetched an even greater sum.
First editions of certain comics, not just original artwork, can also sell for staggering amounts of money. Here we list six other examples of original artwork or rare issues that have sold for over $1 million.
1. Frank Frazetta's Egyptian Queen for the cover of Eerie Magazine: $5.4 million
The horror magazine Eerie–published by Warren Publishing in the USA, who also published Creepy and Vampirella–was hugely successful between the mid-1960s and 1983, when it ceased publication.
Famous illustrators were invited to design its covers. Today it has gained a cult following and has a legion of fans.
In May 2019, the original cover of issue 23, created in 1969 by illustrator Frank Frazetta–known as the "Godfather" of fantasy and horror illustration, was auctioned by Heritage Auctions in the United States for $5.4 million.
It is currently available for sale on that same website by its owner. The starting price is $8.1 millions.
2. First issue of Actions Comics, with CGC 8.5 certificate: $3.25 million
On April 7, 2021, ComicConnect–a house specializing in the auctioning and sale of rare copies of comic books in the United States–announced that they had sold a first edition of Action Comics (Superman’s debut, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) for $3.25 million to an anonymous collector.
Less than two years previously, the former owner had bought the same issue for $2 million, meaning it went up in value by more than 60%.
CGC certification is granted by Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) and makes assessments based on several factors: rarity, relevance, and conditions that indicate whether or not the issue is in good condition, such as stains, tears, print color, presence or absence of dirt, apparent handling, and any manufacturing defects (which, depending on the product, may even increase its value...).
A score of 8.5 on a scale of 0 to 10 means that the buyer can rest assured that this copy is in such good condition that it will look brand new.
3. First issue of Action Comics, with CGC 9.0 certificate: $3.2 million
You are probably asking yourself how a copy of the same magazine with a higher CGC certificate was sold for less.
The answer is simple: the auction that sold this CGC 9.0-certified issue of Action Comics took place in 2014 over eBay.
Since then, this comic has not been put up for sale. However, CGC's own page states that this will soon change.
It seems that the owner, encouraged by the success of the recent auction of the CGC 8.5 issue, is planning to do so soon.
4. Death Dealer #6, by Frank Frazetta: $1.7 million
Another original created by the "Godfather" of horror illustration: Frank Frazetta.
This artist created more than one cover for the Death Dealer comic book series. This original artwork for issue #6, created by Frazetta in 1990, fetched $1.7 million at an auction held by Heritage Auctions in May 2018.
This artwork, which was created using a combination of techniques including watercolor, gouache, and pencil, is currently on sale for a starting price of $2.6 million.
5. Detective Comics #27, with CGC 7.0: $1.5 million
This issue, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and published in 1939, marks Batman’s first appearance.
Fetching $1.5 million dollars at auction in December last year, this issue became the most expensive sale on record from the series, according to the DarkKnightNews website, despite not having a particularly high CGC certification (CGC 7.0).
Another copy, this time with a CGC 8.0 certificate, was sold 11 years ago for $1.075 million and has not been put up for sale since. If you search for CGC-certified copies of this first issue on the internet, you will find copies with sky-high CGC scores, such as 9.8. However, none of these comics are currently up for sale, and therefore their value is unknown.
6. Amazing Fantasy #15: $1.1 million
This comic book by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, published in 1962, marks another first appearance: Spider-Man.
At a 2011 auction, the original edition–whose CGC certification number was not disclosed–fetched $1.1 million.
Since then, there hasn’t been any record of this issue being put up for sale. However, this could change at any time...