We’re back with another look at our Chartbusters! These are the comics that sold for the highest price over the past thirty days, and the April 7 Heritage auction dominates the charts. Let’s dive in to determine what these sales tell us about the market for the comics every collector wishes they could own.

April Heritage Auction

By now, you’ve no doubt heard about the biggest comic sale ever – Action Comics #1 selling for $6 million in the April 7 Heritage auction. There were other big sales in the auction, however, including additional record breakers – enough to make up the top 80 spots in our Chartbusters list. There were also some takeaways regarding the biggest Bronze Age Keys.

Golden Age Sales

Coming in at number one with a bullet on our Chartbusters list is Action Comics #1, obviously. One of two copies in the 8.5 grade, this Kansas City Pedigree copy sold for $6 million, besting the 2014 sale of the other existent 8.5 by nearly $4 million, and topping the previous all-time high price paid for a comic - $5.3 million for an 8.0 Superman #1 in 2022. Keep in mind that there are two 9.0 graded copies, neither of which has sold since 2014.

Taking a bit of a haircut and coming in at number three was Captain America Comics #1. A 9.2 graded copy sold for $750,000, down 7% from the $810,000 sale in a June 2023 Heritage auction. However, a 3.0 graded copy also sold in the April 7 auction for $156,000, up 24% from a November 2023 sale for $126,000. The former sale marks the first big drop we’re seeing for this book in the higher grades, so it does bear watching; but keep in mind that this could be just a one-off low sale.

Coming off the heels of the record setting sale of Detective Comics #27 – see our April 2 blog – a 3.0 sold for $600,000, nearly tripling the previous high in the grade of $201,000 set in 2012 and coming in at number four on our Chartbusters list. News of records in the high grades often leads to higher sales in the lower grades, as we’ve seen many times before.

Featuring the first cover appearance of Wonder Woman and the first appearances of Mr. Terrific and Wildcat, Sensation Comics #1 lands on the number seven spot on our list. A 9.6 graded copy set the all-time record sale for this book - $420,000, up 5% from an eBay auction sale from August 2017 for $399,100. While it is a record, the overall return on investment after seven years of ups and downs in the market is a little disappointing.

The second cover appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #29 also set a record in the grade of 3.5, but just barely. One sold for $66,000, topping a December 2018 sale for $64,501. Considering the rise in inflation since 2018, this has to be considered a bit of a loss despite the record-setting price.

Silver Age Sales

Setting an auction record was number two on our list – Tales of Suspense #39, the first appearance of Iron Man. While 2023 did see a record $2 million Comic Link private sale of a 9.8 graded copy, that has to be viewed as something of an outlier as it’s far above any previous sales. The April 7 Heritage auction saw a 9.8 go for $840,000. The previous high was a 9.6 selling for $276,000 in a 2017 ComicConnect auction.

There were other Silver Age all-time highs set in the April 7 auction. A 9.6 Avengers #1 sold for $432,000, up 123% from a 2018 sale. The only sale of a Daredevil #1 in the 9.8 grade set a record as well, going for $360,000. A 9.6 Justice League of America #1 saw its highest sale: $348,000, topping a 2018 sale by 62%. Doctor Strange’s first appearance in Strange Tales #110 also set a record when a 9.6 sold for $150,000, besting the previous high of $66,000 set in 2014.

But perhaps the most interesting sale in the entire auction was a 9.8 Pacific Coast Pedigree copy of Superboy Annual #1 going for $40,800. It’s the only 9.8, and an absolutely gorgeous looking book, particularly when the square bound format is taken into consideration. Additionally, there are no 9.6 or 9.4 copies out of the low census of 98 graded copies, making this a singularly special comic. The highest previous sale was $414 for a 9.2 way back in 2003. It will be interesting to see if there’s a rise in pricing for future sales.

What is Going On with Bronze Age Keys?

While we saw numerous record setting sales of Silver Age keys in the April 7 auction, it’s a completely different story for Bronze Age keys. Many books sold for way less than their peaks and included the likes of Incredible Hulk #181 – 9.8, $72,000, peak of $138,00; Werewolf By Night #32 – 9.8, $26,400, peak of $90,000; Giant-Size X-Men #1 – 9.8, $24,000, peak of $72,000; Amazing Spider-Man #129 – 9.8, $21,000, peak of $57,000; and Tomb of Dracula #10, 9.8, $19,200, peak of $48,000. These dropping values have been going on since the boom went bust, and Bronze Age keys represent the back issue segment most affected by the downward trends we’ve been seeing in the market as a whole.

Most disconcerting is the plummeting value of Giant-Size X-Men #1. With the first appearance of the new team, as well as Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Thunderbird, this comic is one of the most important books of the Bronze Age. To see its value dropping so much even as X-Men ’97 on Disney+ has boosted so many X-Men keys is troublesome to say the least.

Which leads us to an important topic of discussion. The April 7 Heritage auction came right on the heels of a newly graded copy of Giant-Size X-Men #1 coming in at the 9.9 grade. With CGC recently announcing 9.9 pre-screens, many figured it was only a matter of time until some key comics started receiving higher than 9.8 grades. That time appears to have come. There has already been much discussion about this particular copy all over the place, so I won’t get into the legitimacy of the grade. However, it likely won’t be the last 9.9 we see for this book or other Bronze Age keys, some of which already have at least one copy in the 9.9 grade. As the population of 9.9 graded keys continues to rise, the value of 9.8 graded copies will drop. It will also lead to some holders of 9.8s to crack their books and send them in for regrading, hoping for a coveted 9.9. While I don’t see this as likely to affect Silver Age keys, Bronze Age era comics are ripe for what appears to be grade inflation. This could partly explain why so many of these 9.8 graded books performed so poorly in this auction.

Copper Age Key Sets Huge Record

One of the most important comics of the mid-1980s was Batman: The Killing Joke #1. In the April 7 Heritage auction, a 10.0 graded copy sold for $28,800. That’s $22,300 more than the previous sale in a February 2022 eBay auction. So, in a little more than two years, this book has seen a 343% increase in value. The seller must have been ecstatic, to say the least. Keep an eye on this comic when it next comes up for auction to see if it can come close to retaining its value.

Do you track big comic sales? What do you think the April numbers reveal about the state of the hobby? Let us know below.