A near-mint copy of 1941's Captain America Comics No. 1 sold for $3,120,000 at Heritage Auctions
on Thursday to become one of the world's most valuable comic books.
Not only is that far and away the highest price ever paid at auction for super soldier Steve Rogers' debut, but the Sentinel of Liberty now joins Superman and Spider-Man as the only superheroes whose debuts have sold for more than $3 million.
This copy, which also introduced Cap's sidekick Bucky and their Nazi nemesis Red Skull, hails from the historic San Francisco Pedigree Collection and bears a grade of Near Mint 9.4 from Certified Guaranty Company. It's the finest copy of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon's powerhouse comic book Heritage Auctions has offered in two decades.
Live bidding opened at $1,825,000, then immediately jumped to $2.2 million. When bidding finally closed on this stunning book, the auction room erupted with applause. This is the fourth-highest price ever paid for a comic book at auction.
Cap and Kirby set another auction record during the first session of Heritage's April 7-10 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction®, when the splash page from August 1964's Tales of Suspense No. 59, Captain America's first solo Silver Age story, sold for $630,000. That is the highest price ever paid at auction for a "King" Kirby original, toppling the previous record set last year when the cover for Fantastic Four No. 86 realized $480,000.
Heritage offered the entirety of the 10-page story to kick off the April 7-10 event, the first time the whole work has ever been to auction. But the first page is both historic and dramatic, promising a tale from "Stan Lee, Author. Jack Kirby, Illustrator." And there's Cap crashing through the splash page that heralds, "The Marvel Age of Comics Reaches a New Peak of Glory with Captain America, The Most Enthusiastically Requested Character Revival of All Time!"
The 10 pages sold for a combined $975,600.
"Every time I looked up during the comic art portion of the session, a new record was falling, and with the comic books, that trend continued," says Heritage Auctions Vice President Barry Sandoval. "We knew this was a selection of truly exceptional material, and we're thrilled bidders agreed with that."
Cap was far from the only Marvel to make history Thursday.
A CGC NM-9.2 copy of the Fantastic Four's 1961 debut sold for $1.5 million, marking the first time Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, the Human Torch and The Thing's introduction has ever crossed the million-dollar mark. This is also the second-highest price ever paid for a non-Golden Age comic.
"The Fantastic Four is the first family of Marvel Comics," says Consignment Director Aaron White, "and these results only underscore their importance in the comic book hobby."
The first session of this four-day event surpassed $13.1 million, due in part to the myriad auction records set during its scant two hours.
Thursday saw the very first painting from the Richard Corben Estate come to auction: the original art for the poster for the 1981 film Heavy Metal. As expected, there was heavy bidding for this historic work, which sold for $288,000 seven times higher than Corben's previous auction high.
Harvey Kurtzman also set a new auction record for one of his few original MAD covers to reach the auction block. In fact, the classic cover of MAD No. 9 had never before been to auction, which helps explain why the delightful piece sold for $264,000, nearly three times Kurtzman's previous high.
Another extraordinary rarity surfaced in this auction: Frank Miller's cover art for Book Three of his revolutionary mini-series The Dark Knight Returns, which sold for $264,000. Featuring Miller's new Robin 13-year-old Carrie Kelly crouched beneath the Bat-Signal, this is nothing short of a historic offering from the landmark title that finally and fully transformed Batman's Caped Crusader into The Dark Knight and irrevocably altered the character, comic books, cinema and popular culture.