Batman No. 1 was anything but a
rare comic book when it first hit newsstands. The original press run for the
comic in 1940 was thought to be about 500,000 but today fewer than 300 copies
are believed to remain in existence.
The copy going up for sale this
week belongs to Alaska comic book collector Mike Wheat, who bought it in 1974,
along with two other comic books for $300. This week the aging comic book is
expected to fetch about $40,000.
That pales in comparison to a
couple of recent $1-million comic book sales. Earlier this year records were
set when mint-condition copies of Action Comics No. 1 (in which Superman made
his world debut) and Detective Comics No. 27 (in which Batman first appeared)
were both sold for more than $1 million. (The previous world record on a comic
book sale had been $317,000 for a less-well-preserved copy of Action Comics No.
Some observers attribute the
increasing value of comic books to the popularity of recent movies starring
comic book heroes, including Batman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man.
But Wheat, who is a serious
collector with 16,000 comics in his private collection, and about 35,000 more
duplicates and other comics available for sale, says he’s a collector because
he loves the classic artwork and sense of history they provide.
“It’s truly the only American art
form,” he told said.
“Comics were started here, done here,
came from here.”
Wheat’s copy of Batman No. 1 has an
interesting history. It was hidden – along with two other comic books – in the
stuck drawer of a second-hand dresser sold for $25 to a Fairbanks, Alaska,
businessman in the early 1970s. The buyer owned the dresser for some years
before he loosened the drawer and discovered the comics, which he then sold to
Wheat for $300.