Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2011 Issue

Works on Tissue Paper

Superman 1

Superman at more than $30,000 a page

In the shortening days of November a super hero charges in to raise the spirits of book collectors everywhere.  This is not the rodent of Orlando and Anaheim, thank you.  Mickey is in fact out of his league on this one.  What prompts this article is a first printing of the comic book character that has become the enduring metaphor of the modern age, Surhomme if you prefer the French, Superhombre if you speak Spanish or Supermees if you think in Estonian.  This is of course Superman in his initial appearance in 1938, lunging purposefully into a page-turning future where movie producers, over sherry, imagine predicaments, risks and dangers to test his mettle, where every man hopes to be him and every woman to be married to him.  This super hero, seventy-three years since he flowed from the pen and brush of Siegel and Shuster, and without a bump or blemish, continues to fire imaginations and author metaphors for the human experience.  This is a first appearance of S in print and an exceptional example of the first printing.  It was sold at auction on November 30th by Comic Connect and did quite well, in fact better than any other printed item during the month.  It brought $2,161000.


Of the first appearance in print, an unknown quantity, but estimated to be about 10,000 copies, were printed.  That today a pristine copy of a 20th century comic book sells for more than two million dollars tells you what resonates with new collectors.    One under thirty collector, when asked about the price quickly confirmed “Superman is ours” referring to his generation.  And I was left to think the Civil War, the War of 1812 and Revolution are ours.  We who look over the horizon at the distant past can miss the visceral excitement that powers the emerging generation of collectors and their thirst for the icons that inform their era.  They buy what matters to them.  We, of the older style, search for meaning, the current generation, in this case, for a symbol. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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