The amazing Spider-Man comic-book sale

Comics are as beloved and valuable as anything on canvas. Chris Carter reports

Spider-Man is amazing. But he’s not as amazing as the record-high $3.4m that a page of original art from a comic book starring the web-slinging hero fetched at auction earlier this month. To understand why, we have to turn back a page. On page 24 of Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 from 1984, a critical moment in the Spider-Man story starts to unfold. Here, Spider-Man is looking to replace his tattered disguise following a fight. At the suggestion of the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man plugs himself into a sort of mind-reading mechanical haberdashery. But what comes out is an alarming black “glob” that attaches itself to Spider-Man’s arm. That page sold for $288,000 at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. 

Record breakers

Moments later, the $657,250 record price for a page of original comic book art – set in 2014 by a page from The Incredible Hulk, No. 180 (1974) that introduced the character Wolverine – was broken by the next page in the Spider-Man comic, says Sarah Cascone on ArtNet News. Here, the black glob spreads out to cover all of Spider-Man’s body. Marvel fans will know that this new iconic black costume is, in fact, a symbiotic alien life form that later inhabits new host Eddie Brock to become the arch-baddie, Venom. “Well, I’ll be an eight-ball’s uncle!” says Spidey.

The artwork, drawn by Mike Zeck, sold for ten times its opening bid of $330,000. Maybe that’s not surprising seeing that Spider-Man is the hero of the most expensive comic book ever sold. Last September, a Spider-Man comic from 1962 fetched $3.6m, also with Heritage Auctions. That was enough to beat Action Comics #1 (1938), famous for making Superman’s debut, into second place – one copy of which had sold privately for $3.3m last April. Not that Superman had too much to feel sorry about at Heritage’s sale this month. Another copy of Action Comics No.1, nicknamed the “Rocket Copy” because its cover displays a red stamp mark in the shape of a rocket put there by its original, 13-year-old (and, until now, only) owner, sold for $3.2m. Its condition was given as a CGC Fine 6.0 (10 being “Gem Mint”), which gives an indication of the strength of the market. The copy sold last April was an 8.5. Over the four days, the 1,333 lots on sale at the Heritage Auction, every one of which found a buyer, raised a combined $23.8m. 

A treasure saved

Other lots included a copy of Detective Comics, No.27, from 1939, in which we meet Batman for the first time – it sold for $1.1m. It had been kept between two hardcover books, and almost thrown out before tumbling from its hiding place. And an unrestored copy of Marvel Comics, No. 1, also from 1939 and the first to feature the Human Torch, fetched $360,000. The sales “prove what we’ve long been saying”, says Heritage Auctions’ Joe Mannarino. “Comic-book art is as beloved and valuable as anything put on canvas.”

The surprising fortunes in Pokémon

Pokemon cards

© Alamy

While you’re rummaging in the attic for your old comics (see above), keep an eye out for vintage Pokémon cards from the late 1990s and early noughties. Nostalgia and rarity have combined to drive a steady market in the cards, based on the popular Japanese cartoon series. Money.co.uk has trawled eBay to find the most expensive cards listed on the online auction platform. It found a mint-condition Japanese “Old Back Pokémon Trophy Card No.2 Neo Spring Battle” from 2001, featuring the character Pikachu, on sale for almost £1.3m. Whether it finds a buyer at that price is, of course, another matter. For comparison, the second highest-priced card on eBay is a gem-mint-condition “Trophy Kangaskhan Parent & Child Tournament 1998” card, featuring Kangaskhan, at £350,000 – still a lot of money for a playing card. 

Fakes are a problem, so look for cards that have been graded for their condition, says Salman Haqqi of Money.co.uk. They are given a serial number, typically by firms PSA and CGC, that can be checked against a database. Cards with holograms tend to be worth more, and look out for the symbols at the bottom of the cards, which indicate how rare they are.   

Auction house Bonhams also launched its inaugural “The World of Anime” sale this week, running until 2 February. Pokémon’s Pikachu is represented among the 150 rare production celluloids and drawings from Japanese cartoons. The artwork by Satoshi Tajiri has been valued at up to $3,500. But it is a celluloid featuring the eponymous character Kiki of Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), with her companion Jiji, from the studio of pioneering filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, that leads the auction. It is expected to sell for between $15,000 and $25,000.

Auctions

Trainers

© Sotheby's

Going…

Sotheby’s is partnering with French fashion house Louis Vuitton to auction 200 special-edition pairs of Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” trainers (pictured), designed by Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s late artistic director for men’s wear, who died last year. The shoes, made from calf leather and embellished with Louis Vuitton’s Monogram and Damier patterns, had originally been created for the fashion house’s spring-summer 2022 men’s collection. Each pair will also be sold with a Louis Vuitton pilot case. Bidding for the trainers, ranging in sizes five to 18, begins at $2,000 and runs until 8 February. Proceeds from the sale will go to Abloh’s fashion scholarship fund for black students in the US.

Gone…

Earlier this month, toy maker Mattel teamed up with Paris fashion label Balmain to sell via online auction three unique sets of bright pink digital outfits for the Barbie and Ken virtual avatars. Each of the three non-fungible tokens (NFTs) comprising the Balmain x Barbie collection also came as a doll-sized physical version. “Barbie avatar makes a huge statement in a short voluminous dress with maxi bow detail in a pink silk satin,” reads the description for the most expensive outfit, which sold for $17,651. A striped sweater dress and pink maxi pillow bag ensemble fetched $10,310; the Ken outfit featuring a pink double-breasted blazer went for $6,951.

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