Picture the scene: You’re in grandma’s attic. Bless her heart, dear ol’ Dorothy was a keen collector of…well, everything. And now it’s your job to clear out her labyrinth of filth-smeared riffraff!
Gazing across the ocean of oddities, your knees start to tremble. Beads of sweat pepper your face. It's a curiously (and disturbingly) familiar scene. But where could you have seen it before...? The epiphany strikes, followed by panic—
"It’s an unholy marriage of Raiders of the Lost Arc's vast warehouse and the most heinous episode of Hoarders! GAA!"
But hold on one moment. Who knows what’s nestled amidst this Shrine of Pack Rattery? You might find some nifty old furniture. A valuable piece of art. Fossilized remains of a long-extinct creature!
Or perhaps grandpa’s fabled collection of comic books. The assembled zenith of a childhood long since past. Those things must be pretty darn old; he stopped collecting once the price of monthlies skyrocketed to 12 whole cents. Stupid, cash-swindling Silver Age! Grandpa's existing caboodle of comics met with merciless fate: Banishment to the attic’s farthest, darkest corner. They've not seen the light of day since... Until now.
Is such a find unlikely? Oh, totally. A more probable discovery is the fake Christmas tree dad drunkenly assaulted back in 1989.
But is it impossible…? No. Not quite. Significant treasures still dwell in forgotten corners of randomville, and every once in a while some lucky bugger stumbles upon them.
Kinda like these guys did.
“Curse this Minnesota winter! Darn this perishingly cold house! It needs more insulation—we must line the walls! Son, quick, hand me those newspapers! Gimme that stupid comic book, too!”
OK, I can’t say for sure that’s what happened in Elbow Lake, Minnesota back in 1938. But 70+ years later, a house in need of renovation was purchased by Contractor David Gonzalez for $10,100. Having demolished a wall, he found inside a bundle of old newspapers once used as makeshift insulation. Burrowed alongside them? A copy of Action Comics #1. Superman's very first appearance. The superhero genre's moment of conception. A comic book collector's Holy Grail.
Due to less-than-ideal storage conditions (bags & boards>inside of a wall), the mystery comic was pretty beat up. Nonetheless, it was dated June 1938 and featured a car-lifting Superman on the cover—Gonzalez figured it had to be worth something. Right?
Oblivious to the magnitude of his find, a squabble erupted between the contractor and his wife’s aunt, leaving in its wake a wounded casualty: Action Comics #1’s back cover. Ripped amidst the heated exchange, Gonzalez later learned this tear would depreciate value by a whopping $75,000. Family feuds, man. Save ‘em for Thanksgiving dinner.
Despite the costly skirmish, the CGC 2.0-graded comic book still fetched $175,000 at auction.
Around 100 copies of Action Comics #1 are known to exist. Nicolas Cage once owned one of the most valuable examples. But in a twisted ode to many of the man's movies, disappointment was nigh...
Nicolas Cage Meets Storage Wars
More fun than watching Ghost Rider? Probably.
Devout nerd Nic Cage owns a mass assortment of rare, vintage, ultra-valuable comic books. But his treasured collection isn’t quite so comprehensive as in days gone by. A daring heist is to blame—or at least, an unexplained robbery.
On January 21st, 2000, Cage contacted the Los Angeles Police Department to report three stolen items from his jaw-dropping collection: Marvel Mystery #71 (released in 1939, featuring Sub-Mariner and Human Torch); Detective Comics #27 (the first appearance of Batman); and most devastating of all, a 9.0 Grade copy of Action Comics #1 – the aforementioned debut of Superman. The actor paid around $150,000 for it in 1997, though its value had since increased. Tremendously.
San Fernando Valley, April 2011. After purchasing the contents of an abandoned storage locker, an unidentified man made a startling discovery: Action Comics #1. Nicolas Cage’s Action Comics #1. The actor had since received insurance payment, but expressed interest in regaining ownership of the book. It didn't work out.
The gleaming, incredibly well-preserved comic later sold for a (then) record $2,161,000 in an online auction. Only one example of Action Comics #1 bearing a higher CGC grade is known to exist—it forms part of the legendary Edgar Church Collection. It has never been publicly viewed, though several CGC employees have had their way with it. Some deemed it deserving of a 9.4 grade. 9.4! Considering the most lucrative Action Comics #1 sale to date fetched $3.1m—graded 9.0, the same as Cage's ex-asset—the Edgar Church copy is estimated to be worth somewhere between LOL and WTF.
To this day, Nicolas Cage’s Detective Comics #27 has never been found. Holy thieving bastards, Batman…!
The basement is where it’s at. After being tasked with clearing out the one belonging to his great-aunt Virginia, Michael Rorrer certainly thinks so.
Searching a mothballed closet space, Rorrer found 345 neatly stacked comic books. They once belonged to his great-uncle Billy Wright, who, by all accounts, kept the collection a secret. From everybody. Thinking the comics looked pretty cool, he promptly shipped them off to his mum. Michael and his brother later received an even split of the stash, not thinking for a moment it was worth money. Bucketloads of it.
After mentioning one of the comics to a co-worker (1941’s Captain America #2, the cover of which depicts Cap squaring off against Hitler), Rorrer was encouraged to further investigate his newly acquired stockpile.
I'd imagine his findings came as quite the surprise.
Heritage Auctions coordinated the trove’s sale, with the priciest single item, Detective Comics #27 (in decent-ish condition), fetching $523,000. Yet another copy of Action Comics #1 went under the hammer, and despite bedraggled appearance, went for $275,000.
In total, the collection earned Rorrer and his family in the region of $3.5m. Here's hoping they treated great-uncle Billy Wright to a nifty (and suitably nerdy) new tombstone, eh?
Family Home Foreclosure? Enter Superman!
Comics are filled with superheroes dedicated to saving the day. In a pleasant turn of irony, it was an actual comic book that came to the rescue of a Southern family facing foreclosure.
The soon-to-be-seized house had served as the family’s abode since the 1950s, which was around the time the wife’s father stashed a very rare comic inside a box (along with several more run-of-the-mill titles). Untouched in the many decades since, the stunning discovery was unveiled as the heartbroken family packed up belongings, resigned to vacating their long-standing home.
Suspecting the comic could be worth a few bucks, the family contacted Stephen Fishler, co-owner of New York’s Metropolis Collectibles. After further inspection, he delivered some very good news: They’d found a 5.0 grade copy of Action Comics #1. It sold for $436,000.
Here’s the phone call I really hope followed:
“Hello, bank manager? I’d like to pay off the balance of my mortgage. The family home you recently placed foreclosure proceedings on. Yes, that one. How much? Not a problem. I’ll pay in cash. Single dollar bills. No, wait. Quarters. I'll have the dump truck drop them by tomorrow morning. And one last thing…?”
Oh, comic books. You are so awesome. Not least when you’re old, rare, and worth a daft amount of cash.
Now, back to searching my great-uncle Mortimer's basement…