‘Batman No.1’ comic sells for US$2.22 million, setting new world record

The World's Greatest Detective just closed the world's greatest deal
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DALLAS — On January 14, a Batman No. 1 copy made history as the most expensive Batman comic ever sold, racking up US$2.22 million at Heritage Auctions, the collectibles auctioneer announced. The 1940 copy, featuring Gotham’s Dark Knight and his sidekick Robin, was auctioned at the Comics & Comic Art event that ran from January 14 to 17. 

“We knew when the book came in that it was beyond special, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime offering — from appearance, its blindingly bright cover to its white pages, to provenance,” Senior Vice President Ed Jaster said. 

The copy belonged to lifelong collector Billy T Giles of Houston, Texas, who bought it from a comic-book store for US$3,000 in 1979. The Batman No. 1 had been under his stewardship for 39 years until he died in 2019, when his son William inherited the collection but decided to pass the heirloom in the near-mint condition to someone else.

“Dad would have been glad his story is being told,” William Giles said. “He always knew it was the finest and would have been so happy it has been recognized as the very best. So I am thrilled that I can use it to honour my father.”

 Last week’s sale surpassed the previous title holder Detective Comics No. 27 — in which Batman makes his debut — by a staggering US$720,000, which was sold for US$1.5 million in November 2020. 

Batman No. 1 is the only copy of the issue to receive a 9.4 rade from the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), which qualified the copy as “A very well-preserved collectible with minor wear and small manufacturing or handling defects.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, comics from the Golden Age of Comic Books were not designed for longevity: they were mass-printed on cheap paper and meant to be disposable. However, the recently-sold copy survived its preordained decay and, remarkably, kept its pages white. The Batman No. 1’s near-pristine condition was what bolstered its price. 

Long before the Heritage Auction event, the inaugural Batman comic had exceeded expectations with flying halftone colours. According to the auction house, Batman No. 1 had received over two dozen bids since Christmas and garnered ten of thousands of views online.

“This is just a breathtaking book in so many ways, so we are not at all surprised that this has become a record-setting issue,” Jaster said. 

While the lofty price tag may bewilder the uninitiated, Heritage Auctions explained that Batman No. 1 is coveted for many reasons, especially as a cultural artifact: its iconic cover image of Batman and the Boy Wonder; the pin-up with faux autographs from the titular heroes; as well as its seminal narratives, including Batman’s origin story and the first appearances from Joker and Catwoman (then known as “The Cat”).

“We are extraordinarily proud and honoured to have brought it to market, to have done justice to its owner and to have found it a new home,” Jaster said.

Before the record-high Heritage Auctions sale, the most expensive Batman No. 1 comic was sold for US$567,625 at another Dallas-based auction house in 2013. That copy received a 9.2 grade from the CGC.

The Comics & Comic Art event proved fruitful for the auctioneer, with Heritage Auctions collecting a handsome US$4.56 million after only the first session.

Wiki Production Code: A0513

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