ARTS & COLLECTIBLES

HOLY COW, BATMAN!

Batman #1 sells for a record $2.22M at Heritage Auctions, making the rare 1940 issue the second most expensive comic book ever sold.

JESSICA HALL

Batman #1
Batman #1

 

January 14th, 2020 kicked off Heritage Auctions four-day Comics & Comic Art event in Dallas with a boom and a bang when the near mint condition copy of Batman #1 (1940), written by Bill Finger and drawn by Bob Kane, with art assistance from Jerry Robinson and Sheldon Moldoff, sold for $2.22M. This is the highest price ever realized for a comic book starring the caped crusader, making it the second most expensive comic book ever sold at auction. The comics market’s top spot remains a pristine issue of Action Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman, which sold on eBay in 2014 for $3.2M.

Coveted by collectors and cherished by fans, the rare edition of Batman #1 features the often-replicated iconic image of Batman and Robin smiling at each other as they swing across the Gotham City skyline against a bring yellow backdrop. The back-page pin-up “autographed by the Caped Crusader and Robin promising “bigger and better thrills. Inside the “Legend of the Batman,” the origin story is told. It also marks the first appearance of some of the hero’s best-known adversaries—the Joker and Catwoman (called just the Cat at that point). Thus far, it is the only copy to receive a 9.4 grade from the Certified Guaranty Company.

“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. “As I like to say, 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 honored to have brought it to market, to have done justice to its owner, and to have found it a new home.”

Batman #1 came from the collection of the Houston-based father and son duo Billy and William Giles. In 1979, Billy T. Giles moved from Louisana to Houston, when the company he worked for relocated their headquarters to Texas. He fell in love with comic shops and dealers and began collecting with his son William. Billy bought Batman #1 from Camelot Bookstore’s owner for $3,000 cash in 1982 after it failed to find a buyer for the advertised $5,000 price-tag. He was teased for his purchase by friends and neighbors at the time, but I am sure they are eating their words right now. When Billy retired, his passion turned into a business, and he spent the rest of his life buying and selling comic books. Sadly, Billy passed away in 2019. Billy’s son William inherited his father’s remarkable collection. When he decided it was someone else’s turn to own it, he shattered records.

“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,” William says. “He always knew it was the finest and would have been so happy it has been recognized as the very best. So, I am thrilled that I can use it to honor 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.”

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