The First Issue of Superman Just Became the Most Valuable Comic Book in the World

An original copy of 1938’s “Action Comics No. 1” sold for a record-breaking $6 million at auction

The cover of a comic book featuring Superman
Readers were first introduced to Superman in June 1938. Heritage Auctions

In June 1938, writer Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster introduced readers to Superman, the beloved cape-wearing hero who came to Earth from the planet Krypton. In the 86 years since, the Man of Steel has become a cultural touchstone, appearing in films, novels, TV series, video games and more.

Now, a copy of that original 1938 Superman comic book—called Action Comics No. 1—has sold for $6 million. The artifact, which an unidentified buyer purchased during a Heritage Auctions sale on April 4, is now the most valuable comic book in the world.

“Thursday was a historic day for a historic comic book, and we expected no less,” says Barry Sandoval, vice president at Heritage Auctions, to Penta’s Eric Grossman.

The comic is an unrestored version of Action Comics No. 1 that’s been given a “very fine” grade of 8.5 out of 10 by CGC, a third-party grading service for pop culture collectibles. Only two other unrestored versions have ever earned higher ratings, per the Hollywood Reporter’s Aaron Couch.

It’s one of just 78 copies CGC has graded, though the company thinks around 100 still exist. Just 200,000 copies of Action Comics No. 1 were published in 1938, per CBS News’ Khristopher J. Brooks.

The $6 million price tag beats out the previous record-holder, a 1939 issue of Superman No. 1 that sold privately for $5.3 million in 2022. Until then, the record had belonged to a copy of Amazing Fantasy No. 15—which introduced readers to Spider-Man in 1962—that sold for $3.6 million in 2021.

Action Comics No. 1 tells the story of a baby boy who was born on a dying faraway planet. His father places him in a space capsule and sends him away just before his home planet explodes.

Eventually, the capsule lands on Earth, where a passing motorist discovers the sleeping baby and takes him to an orphanage. The child—Clark Kent—grows up and realizes he has superhuman strengths and abilities. Action Comics No. 1 also introduces Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane, as well as the magician Zatara.

Superman’s popularity skyrocketed in the following decades, and Action Comics continues to this day. (The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History holds a 1955 installment of the series.)

Siegel and Shuster, both the children of Jewish immigrants, were in their early 20s when they dreamed up Superman. As such, the storyline is “a reflection of [Superman’s] creators’ experiences, as well as the American dream,” per the lot listing.

“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 Sandoval in a statement ahead of the auction.

The record-breaking sale comes amid filming for James Gunn’s new Superman movie, which is slated to premiere in July 2025. Actor David Corenswet will play the titular role, while Rachel Brosnahan will star as Lois Lane.

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