Comic Books

Captain America #1 About to Shatter the $1 Million Comic Book Barrier

Captain America may not be the super-hero that is traditionally associated with the modern era blockbuster comic sales results in the $1 million category. Then again, the comic book industry is off to a blockbuster start in 2022. And you know what they say — Records are meant to be broken!

Heritage Auctions has its April 7 to April 10 (2022) Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction and the number-one item by price as of March 20 was Captain America Comics #1 San Francisco Pedigree (Timely, 1941). The grade is a sharp CGC NM 9.4 that is labeled as having Off-white to white pages.

The current bid of $837,500 actually represents a sum of $1,005,000.00 after the buyer’s premium.

Collectors Dashboard has not confirmed whether or not this is an all-time record for any Captain America comic book in any venue, but this is already going to break Heritage’s own record. In fact, this same exact CGC certification number (2041248001) was sold in a Heritage Auction event on August 1, 2019 and it fetched $915,000 at that time. Heritage’s other highest Captain America Comics #1 sale was for a CGC VF+ 8.5 grade with off-white pages at a gavel price of $384,000 on January 14, 2021.

Image below by Heritage Auctions.

Captain America Comics #1

According to Heritage Auctions, Captain America Comics #1 is one of the most sought-after comics in the hobby — and their team points out that this is one of the nicest copies ever seen and from one of the most famous comic book collections ever assembled. They even outlined that this combination of pedigree makes this among the most desirable comic books that it has auctioned to date. The auction write-up said:

The distributor markings combined with the “Tom Reilly” stamp in the middle of the back cover identify this as being from the storied San Francisco Pedigree collection. Many a Golden Age collector ranks this pedigree near the top, with some putting it behind only the Edgar Church/Mile High hoard. And the story of the collection being brought into a show in Berkeley, California in 1973 has entered collecting lore.

We have always loved Bob Overstreet’s description of the significance of this book: “Simon & Kirby’s most classic creation; a patriotic paragon that set the comics market reeling. A trend setter.” And Jim Steranko summarized the impact: “the classic heroic figure — the comics had found a reason to exist… Captain America was an unprecedented success. The first issue sold out. The super hero business became the comic publishers’ Holy Grail.”

A top seller it may have been, but that doesn’t mean copies are readily available now. Heritage has at times gone an entire year without offering a single copy in any grade.

Heritage further asks its viewers for this auction lot to pay special attention to the back cover because this example does not have the same woes as most of the backs with some sort of smudging or darkening. They even note how this example of San Francisco copy stands out above and beyond the quality of other examples… Even others it has auctioned over time. Heritage even put it up against two other specific pedigree examples:

The two copies that are even with or ahead of this one on CGC’s census are also pedigrees: the 9.8 Allentown and 9.4 Denver copies…. We had the privilege of auctioning this copy in August of 2019, before vintage comic pricing took its great leap forward, so we will be watching with bated breath to see how such a choice item performs in the current market. One thing is for certain: this specimen is being offered without a reserve, so it will definitely have a new owner by the end of this session.

This was the backdrop for the story that has been offered up for those who may not be up to date with Captain America, what was going on in the early 1940s and what top characters are featured in the comic book:

Any comic fan knows the famous Adolf Hitler cover, one of the most infamous comic book covers ever produced. Nor would any collector fail to know that this is the first appearance of the Red Skull. And naturally, it’s also the first appearance of Captain America and Bucky, all by the immortal creative team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

You could argue that the last decade has taken Captain America to an even higher level of pop culture celebrity — he has, after all, been the star of three solo movies since 2011, and he has appeared in multiple others, including some of the highest-grossing movies of all time such as Avengers: Endgame.

Heritage listed as Overstreet 2021 NM- 9.2 value as being close to $600,000 and in the CGC census as of February 2022 that there are just two examples in a 9.4 grade and only a single example has a higher grade. It sure sounds like a new record is coming!