Why this Batman comic fetched $2.2 million at auction
It's the highest price ever realised for a comic book starring Bruce Wayne and his caped alter ego
Dating back to 1940, the finest known copy of Batman No 1, and the only copy to receive a 9.4 grade from the Certified Guaranty Company, has been sold by Heritage Auctions, fetching $2.2 million, the highest price ever realised for a comic book starring Bruce Wayne and his caped alter ego.
“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,” says Heritage Auctions senior vice president Ed Jaster. “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. But we are extraordinarily proud and honoured to have brought it to market.”
There are many reasons why Batman No 1 is cherished by collectors and fans alike. There is the instantly recognisable, oft-imitated cover image, showing a smiling Batman and Robin swinging across the Gotham City skyline, against a bright yellow backdrop. Then there’s the back-page pin-up, “autographed” by Batman and his fledgling sidekick, who promise “bigger and better thrills”.
Batman goes on to square off against the monsters of Hugo Strange, before another favourite makes her debut – a burglar and “beautiful young woman” called simply The Cat.
The pages themselves contain The Legend of Batman, an origins story that has been retold endlessly in several movies and television shows since. Also featuring in this edition is the debut of the antagonist, Joker, now the star of his own blockbuster franchise, who is described as “a man with a changeless mask-like face but for the eyes – burning, hate-filled eyes”.
This copy of Batman No 1, which was sold at a January 14 auction, has its own intriguing origins story. It was bought by previous owner Billy Giles, who moved to Houston, Texas, in 1979 and promptly fell in love with the city’s comics shops and dealers. He helped his son accumulate a complete The Amazing Spider-Man collection, before he himself decided to start collecting Batman comics.
He acquired a copy of Batman No 1 from Willie Patterson, famed owner of the Camelot Bookstore. Giles paid $3,000 in cash, with neighbours and friends teasing him for spending such an exorbitant amount on an item that might one day prove worthless.
Giles eventually started his own comic-book business, and when he died in 2019, his son William inherited the collection. A year later, he decided it was someone else’s turn to own the finest known copy of Batman No 1.
“It was time for somebody else to have it,” William says. “Dad would have been glad his story is being told – ecstatic, really. What he did to get that book and how he took care of it. He always knew it was the finest and would have been so happy it has been recognised as the very best. So I am thrilled that I can use it to honour my father. Sure, I am a little sad seeing the book go. But I wish the new owner the best and hope he or she enjoys it as much as I have.”
Published: February 15, 2021 07:56 AM