Heritage Auctions' January Comics & Comic Art event sets records and smashes expectations

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Heritage Auctions' January Comics & Comic Art event sets records and smashes expectations
Captain America Comics #1 (Timely, 1941) CGC VF+ 8.5 Off-white pages. Sold for: $384,000.

DALLAS, TX.- Heritage Auctions began the new year where it left the old one: smashing records and shattering expectations during a Comics and Comic Art event.

The latest, held Jan. 14-17, realized $12.11 million — more than 50% above pre-sale estimates, the highest percentage above expectation in the category's history. More than 5,000 bidders from around the globe participated, too, walking away with more than 99.9% of the more than 1,100 lots offered that ranged from Batman to Pokémon, from superheroes to Super Mario Brothers. Indeed, Pokémon and video games each surpassed $1 million in sales all by themselves.

Numbers do not lie. This auction was a success by any measure and proof, yet again, that Heritage remains the world's leading auction house for comic books, comic art and collectibles.

"Item for item, this was simply the strongest comics auction we have ever held," says Heritage Auctions Co-Chairman Jim Halperin. "And it comes on the heels of our record-breaking $22-million Fall Sports Collectibles event last month, proving, yet again, there is significant diversification into collectibles these days whether for enjoyment or as a hedge against inflation. On top of all that, we brought the world's best copy of Batman No. 1 to auction for the very first time and set a record in doing so."

This was, in fact, a historic event: On Thursday afternoon, near the auction's outset, the Dallas-based house sold a near-mint copy of Batman No. 1 for $2.22 million to a long-time Heritage client who, until last week, had never before purchased a comic book at auction. That issue, which came from a Houston collector's cache, becomes the most expensive Dark Knight title in history, topping the Detective Comics No. 27 Heritage sold in November for $1.5 million.

The Batman No. 1 sold by Heritage Auctions on Thursday is now the second-most valuable comic book in the world, behind only a copy of Action Comics No. 1, which introduced Superman to the world.

During Thursday's kick-off session, a CGC VF+ 8.5 copy of Captain America Comics No. 1 sold for $384,000. That's more than four times the highest price Heritage has ever realized for a Cap debut in that condition. And a near-mint copy of 1964's Daredevil No. 1 sold Thursday for $102,000, almost three times the amount a first-issue Daredevil with the same grade sold at auction 11 years ago.

Best-known copies of landmark titles sold at consistently high prices throughout the four-day event. Among them: One of the finest known copies of Detective Comics No. 359, from The Alfred Pennyworth Collection assembled by Randy Lawrence, realized $132,000. That's the most ever paid for a Batman title published from the mid-1950s until 1970, during DC Comics' Silver Age.

Original comic art likewise continues to thrive, especially pieces new to market, such as the two-page splash page from 1991's X-Men No. 272 that likewise realized $132,000. Artist Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams drafted the piece during their celebrated run on writer Chris Claremont's X-Men, and it features an all-star lineup of heroes: Wolverine, Cyclops, the Beast, Cable, Cannonball, Gambit, Psylocke, Banshee, Sunspot, Archangel and Marvel Girl.

For three decades this had been in the collection of Jeff Nason, who in the early 1990s attended comics conventions with his father to buy original art from the artists, among them Lee and Todd McFarlane. When the X-Men page sold Thursday afternoon, Lee, now DC Comics' Chief Creative Officer and Publisher, noted that at $132,000, that's around "11k per X-person!"

Close behind was another Marvel-ous offering: Sal Buscema's original cover to 1971's Sub-Mariner No. 35, featuring the soon-to-be Defenders (Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor) squaring off against a few assembled Avengers (Iron Man, Goliath and Thor). The artwork was one of two pieces in the Comics & Comic Art event to realize $102,000. The other: Alex Raymond's original Aug. 9, 1936, Flash Gordon Sunday strip, which sparked a bidding war during the auction when it opened at $39,000 only to hit $102,000 by the time they reached Mongo.

It's worth noting, too, that for the first time during one of Heritage's Comics & Comic Art events, post-1960s original art is realizing unprecedented prices. Look no further than Barry Windsor-Smith, Tom Sutton and Tom Palmer's splash page for 1971's Conan the Barbarian No. 8, which sold for $84,000, the same amount realized for Neal Adams' cover for 1970's Green Lantern No. 77, the second installment in the Hard Traveling Heroes storyline. Frank Brunner's original cover for 1974's Doctor Strange No. 3 likewise for $72,000 — three times its pre-auction estimate, and the most ever paid for one of Brunner's Strange originals.

"To me, those are the most surprising results among the original art sold," says Joe Mannarino, who, with his wife Nadia, co-heads Heritage Auctions' East Coast Comic Books and Original Comic Art category. "Millennials are clearly making their preferences known."

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