Comic Books

Analyzing Key Batman Comic Books: Detective Comics #27 vs. Batman #1

Comic book collectors generally assume that comics released during the Golden Age tend to be worth the most of major comic book releases. Collectors and investors alike have various views about the first appearance of a prime character versus the character’s actual first edition of their own dedicated comic book series. These are the equivalent of rookie cards for sports collectors, and they are often in limited supply and are high in demand.

Collectors Dashboard wanted to review and analyze the key issues marking the first appearance of Batman in the Detective Comics #27 edition from 1939 versus the 1940 launch of Batman #1. These two key issues have very stark differences and some of the more recent pricing trends as of 2020 and 2021 have been surprising. There are some key questions that should be considered for the population (scarcity), value (prices), and popularity (demand) in the comic book community.

The very first Batman appearance is in the Detective Comics #27 from May 1939. Batman’s own line of comics started in the Batman #1 from March 1940 (see notes below). The releases are rather close in dates from what would become DC Comics, but the number of surviving key issue examples for Batman are much more scarce for the 1939 comic book versus the release from 1940.

There is a serious issue that impacted all collectibles of this era, similar to baseball cards, toys and so on. This was an era where the Great Depression of the 1930s had left lasting financial scars on millions of families. Comic books and other collectibles, even the mere 10-cent newsstand price for each comic book, were not very high in the order of primary family expenses. It was also shortly before the U.S. formal entrance into World War II, but both of these comics were released just ahead of key German invasion dates in Europe in 1939 and in 1940.

The Batman #1 edition of 1940 addresses Batman’s origin story whereas both his parents are murdered and he’s left sitting among his inheritance with a choice to fight for the common good. The comic goes on to get into gritty detail about why a bat is the perfect creature of the night to save the good in a city.

Batman volume 1 number 1 had a population of 272 CGC graded examples on last look, and the GoCollect website noted a population of 280 copies. It has been estimated that approximately 500,000 copies were printed in April of 1940.

While the comic book cover says March, it was actually printed in April of 1940. Heritage Auctions sold a CGC graded 9.4 example of the 1940 comic on January 14, 2021 for $2,220,000.00 and that appears to be the most expensive Batman comic ever sold. Here are the next five major sales of this issue that we have tracked in descending order:

1. CGC 8.0 – $1,207,500.00 in 2021

2. CGC 9.2 – $567,625.00 in 2013

3. CGC 5.0 – $360,000.00 in 2021

4. CGC 7.0 – $334,600.00 in 2018

5. CGC 8.5 – $274,850.00 in 2012

The debut of the character Batman in Detective Comics Issue #27 is the first appearance of the caped bat crusader. It also came with a newsstand price of 10-cents on the cover. The story inside the comic was titled “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” and came with other detective stories. CGC has graded just 59 examples of the issue, and this makes it more scarce than the Batman #1 published a year later, although other websites have cited closer to 70 copies that have survived in total.

The new character from 1939 was featured as a rescuer in a key scene when a chemical factory becomes the location of the Bat-Man saving a kidnapped business partner of the Apex Chemical Corporation where one of the partners looking to kill off his other partners. He is fought off and defeated by the Bat-Man and ends up “with a fitting end” dying in a vat of acid.

The top 5 sales of the 1939 Detective Comics Issue #27 prior to the November 2020 record $1,500,000.00 sale were seen as follows:

1. CGC 8.0 – $1,075,000.00 in 2010

2. CGC 7.5 – $657,250.00 in 2010

3. CGC 6.5 – $567,625.00 in 2013

4. CGC 6.5 – $522,813.00 in 2012

5. CGC 7.0 – $492,938.00 in 2010

Detective Comics Issue 27 passed the seven-figure sale mark for the first time in a Heritage Auctions Dallas, Texas sale for $1,075,500.00 for a CGC grade 8.0 on February 25, 2010. A CGC 7.0 sold in November 2020 for $1,500,000.00 through Heritage Auctions.

For the difference in time between November 2020 and January 2021, the two key issues of Batman comics flipped high record sales and positions. The most valuable Batman comic at the present time is the CGC 9.4 volume 1 issue 1 with a description of March 1940 on the cover.

How soon until these dueling issues flip again? Or will they flip again?

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