Heritage Auctions' Comics Category Breaks Single-Year Record With Sales Of Nearly $43 Million

January 19, 2017

The Comics Department at Heritage Auctions enjoyed a banner year with nearly $43 million in total revenue, breaking the previous record for sales of comics, comic art and animation art in a year by any auction house by more than $5 million.
The revenue for the year soared to $42.96 million, eclipsing Heritage’s previous record high of $37.8 million set in 2012. Heritage Comics and Comics Art Operations Director Barry Sandoval noted that a major factor was the increased interest in comic characters created by the many comics-related movies released during the year. Sandoval also pointed out that Heritage aggressively cross-promotes its auction offerings to bidders in other categories.
“Movie releases, combined with our aggressive cross-promotion to bidders in other categories, really helped drive our material,” said Sandoval. “Throughout the year, comics-themed movies really underscored the interest in some of these characters and showed that collectors’ desire for them will stand the test of time.”
Among the items in highest demand during 2016 was an Action Comics #1 (DC, 1938) CGC FN- 5.5 that raced past its pre-auction estimate before realizing $956,000. Dubbed “the Holy Grail of comic collecting,” this issue is the highest-graded, unrestored copy ever auctioned by Heritage. Boasting the unquestioned status as the most important comic book ever published, its rarity – Heritage has offered just 18 copies in nearly 15 years – further bolsters its desirability.
The highest overall price realized through a Comics and Comic Art auction was brought in by the original art for Frank Frazetta’s 1974 “At The Earth’s Core” paperback, which realized $1,075,500. This large (measuring more than 21 inches wide by 29 inches high) piece was used for the cover of the first “Pellucidar” novel by legendary writer Edgar Rice Burroughs and is considered one of the most important Frazetta paintings ever to reach auction.
A copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 (Marvel, 1962) sparked a flurry of bids that drove its ultimate return up to $454,100. This CGC NM 9.4 copy marked the first appearance of Spider-Man, as well as the debut appearances of Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and is ranked first on Overstreet’s list of Top 50 Silver Age Comics.
Pulling in the same final price was a 1972 Frazetta painting, “The Norseman,” which brought in $454,100. One of the artist’s personal favorites among his works, Frazetta felt this image among the best in his continuous search for ways in which to picture the human figure in action. This image was reproduced several times but never allowed to be sold during his lifetime, and it was used as the dust jacket cover of the hardback release of “Flashing Swords #1.”
A copy of the elusive Superman #1 (DC, 1939) CGC VG+ 4.5 soared past its pre-auction estimate, ultimately realizing $358,500. This issue, which is exceptionally difficult to find, first hit the newsstands about a year after Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 to support the character’s rapid rise in popularity. Although an estimated 1,000,000 copies were produced in 1939, very few are known to have survived with this – or a higher – grade.
Another prized lot in 2016 was The Amazing Spider-Man #1 Curator Pedigree (Marvel, 1963) CGC NM+ 9.6, one of the top Silver Age comics offered by Heritage in 15 years, which realized $262,900. The white pages found in this issue are considered the standard, not the exception, in the Curator Pedigree collection, but that standard is a rarity among copies of Spider-Man #1. In addition to being the first issue of the most heavily collected series in the comics hobby, this issue marks the second appearance of Spider-Man and the first appearance of several supporting characters, “John Jameson,” “J. Jonah Jameson,” and “the Chameleon.”
Two other pieces cracked the $200,000 plateau during 2016, a Batman #1 (DC, 1940) CGC FN- 5.5 with off-white pages, which includes the first appearances of “The Joker” and “Catwoman” en route to a No. 6 ranking on Overstreet’s list of Top 100 Golden Age Comics, and a Steve Ditko Amazing Spider-Man #27 Splash Page 1 original art (Marvel, 1965) that depicts Spider-Man and his top nemesis, “The Green Goblin,” who makes just his fifth story appearance in the issue. Each realized $239,000.
To learn more, visit www.HA.com.


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