10 most expensive comic books of all time
Comic books are big business and auction houses. For mass-produced pamphlets, the power these small masterpieces of sequential storytelling hold long after they’ve left newsstands is incredible.
The Golden Age of comics kicked off in the 1930s and quickly brought us several heavy-hitting pop-culture icons, who are still around today. Batman and Wonder Woman, Captain America and Namor the Sub-Mariner, and at the front, the archetypal superhero, Superman.
Remarkably, many of these icons’ comic book debuts have survived in superb condition — and the closer to mint, the higher their value. Over the years, new classics have emerged and entered a superpowered bidding war, including the arrival of Marvel superheroes in the 1960s. Those included heavy-hitters Spider-Man and the House of Ideas’ first family, the Fantastic Four.
The art of calculating a comic book’s quality and its potential earning power is a delicate process.
Grading comic books
The accepted grading scale for vintage comic books comes from CGC, the Certified Guaranty Company. Comics that undergo the process are assessed for quality and awarded a grade from 0.5 to 10, with an additional designation denoting page quality.
A 0.5 rating means a collectible has been defaced over the years. It’s likely to have significant defects and parts missing. A 5.0 grade means average quality, so there are a few defects. At the very top, and extremely rare for highly collectible aged comic books are ratings from 9.0 to 10.00. A 10.00 indicates a collectible with no defects from either manufacturing or handling. In other words, it’s mint. It’s in the top range where the high-earning comic books live — where 0.1 can make a big difference.
However, the grading is indicative, and if there’s demand, lower-graded comic books can quickly outstrip higher ones in an auction, as has happened in the past year. Recently, the value of classic comic books has surged. The top 10 most expensive comic books below have all gone to auction this decade.
As you might imagine, the top comic books are dominated by a few select historical names. We’ve opened the pages on the most expensive copies of individual titles for this ranking.
While the world goes crazy for NFTs and blockchain collectibles, there’s something reassuring in the fact that physical comic books still hold an important place in collectors’ imaginations.
$0.81 million — X-Men #1 (sold: 2021)
When you’re looking for sought-after Marvel Comics, the X-Men will show up. X-Men #1 started an era that would deliver some of the comics’ all-time best-selling issues. The mighty Marvel mutant franchise began when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced us to six mutants, including Professor X and the malevolent master of magnetism, Magneto.
Despite its nearly five-decade age, this comic demonstrated its superpowers with a phenomenal CGC grade of 9.6. But to show you how quickly this market changes, the record for this title was previously held by a 9.8 graded copy that fetched 0.5 million in 2012.
$1.5 million — Fantastic Four #1 (2022)
The comic that introduced the Fantastic Four finally broke into the 7-figure comic club in April 2022. The superteam might not have their distinctive uniforms, and the Thing might not have his rock-like orange skin yet, but this is where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby kicked off the Marvel Universe in 1961.
Its 9.2 rating means well-preserved collectible with only some wear and minor defects from either manufacturing or handling.
$1.62 — All-Star Comics #8 (2022)
This 9.4 graded copy featured the first appearance of Wonder Woman in late 1941. It’s an honor sometimes mistakenly ascribed to Sensation Comics #1, released at the start of 1942, with the Amazon claiming the cover.
The short story, later titled Introducing Wonder Woman, provided the classic introduction of Wonder Woman when pilot Steve Trevor crash landed on Paradise Island.
$1.74 million — Detective Comics #27 (2022)
It’s no wonder the six-page debut of Gotham’s guardian is a highly sought-after comic book. Batman’s debut in spring 1939 brought us the Dark Knight, his alter-ego, and Commissioner Gordon, even if Gotham City wouldn’t be named for 18 months.
A copy of the DC title rated 8.0 — denoting moderate defects — had previously fetched $1.075 million before this 6.5 (above average) copy swooped in. If you thought this title would rank higher, there’s always a certified 9.4 restored copy. That’s the highest grade recorded, but the 8.0 has it for the moment.
$2.2 million — Batman #1 (2021)
The first issue of Batman’s solo comic was the real start of a world-dominating property that’s still growing.
A high rating of 9.4 was the cherry on the cake for an issue that redefined the origins of the Dark Knight as young Bruce Wayne vowed to fight crime after the murder of his parents.
$2.42 million — Marvel Comics #1 (2022)
In comic books’ fascinating and complicated history, it’s only fitting that Marvel Comics #1 is near the top of the list, breaking $2 million with a 9.2 CGC grading. Stepping back to 1939, it’s no wonder this issue inspired Timely Comics’ change of name in the Silver Age of comics.
This issue debuted the Sub-Mariner and Human Torch, a name that would be carried over to The Fantastic Four when Marvel Comics emerged.
$3.12 million — Captain America Comics #1 (2022)
A recent arrival in the top four is Marvel’s all-American hero. Captain America Comics #1 is a 1941 comic book that featured the first appearance of the titular character, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Its 9.4 grading was impressive for an 81-year-old comic, but this hero could have other records ahead of him. A certified 9.8 copy has so far not come to auction.
$3.25 million — Action Comics #1 (2021)
Undoubtedly one of the most iconic comic books of all time — we all know the front cover of the comic that debuted Superman. There he is, on the front cover, with a car held above his head.
This 8.5 graded copy of Action Comics #1 pipped a 9.0 edition of the title that fetched $3.2 million in an eBay action in 2014.
$3.6 million — Amazing Fantasy #15 (2021)
If anyone can compete with Superman, it’s Spider-Man. The web crawler’s debut from late summer 1962 was evaluated as very nearly mint with no surface wear and like-new pages.
Armed with its 9.6 grading, it knocked the Man of Steel off the top spot in late 2021.
$5.3 million — Superman #1 (2022)
Superman is another iconic character who debuted in an existing series before earning a title of his own in spring 1939. Its 60 pages confirm that it was intended as a one-shot until sales turned it into an ongoing series.
Big Blue’s debut smashed the record for an amount paid for a comic book despite an 8.0 grading that noted moderate defects, breaking the $5 million barrier and sizing the number one slot back from Spider-Man after a few months. It may not be as iconic as Action Comics #1, but as of 2022, it puts the Man of Steel well and truly at the top of the pile.
Faster than a speeding bullet
The comic market is moving quickly, and prices are shooting up as serious collectors spot a wise investment. A decade ago, a high-quality slice of comic history from this top 10 could have set you back more than the average price of a house in the United States. Now it could be ten times that.
However, these huge cultural milestones still have a way to go if they want to challenge other print media. The record for books and manuscripts is held by a first printing of the United States Constitution, which sold for $43.2 million in November 2021. All eyes are on Spidey and Supes to see who reaches that level first.