Sometimes privation, or the lack of something, is the strongest means of creating an appreciation for the thing in question, and it seems that this holds true for the comic book medium, as the lack of attractive new products has created a roaring nostalgia, as well as a heightened appreciation, for the genius works of the past. In what seems to be a relentless upward trend, this month Heritage Auctions set a new world record for the most expensive comic sale ever, netting an impressive $6,077,355.
The highlight of the auction was a splash page from Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight #3, which sold for a record breaking $448,125, beating the previous record for original comic art set just a few short months ago by Frank Frazetta's original 1955 cover artwork for Weird Science-Fantasy #29, which sold for $380,000.
More interestingly, however, are the Carl Barks oil paintings, which still seem grossly undervalued, generally selling in the $40,000 to $100,000 range. This time around, however, an uptick in prices could be observed, as three of the offered paintings managed to command more than $100,000, including the dynamic Vacation Panel, which sold for $179,250, Scrooge's Old Castle, which sold for $119,500, and Dam Disaster at Money Lake, which sold for $107,500. It wouldn't shock us at all to see these prices double, or even triple, in the next few years. If you were on a desert island and you could choose between a Warhol and a Barks to hang from your palm tree, ask yourself, which would you prefer? Even if it was the Warhol, I'm sure you'd take a few seconds to think about it.
There were impressive prices in superhero comic art as well, with a Jack Kirby pinup of Thor selling for $44,812.50, while a Carmine Infantino cover to Flash #146 sold for the same price. Another highlight of the show was the Dick Sprang's original cover art of Batman #30, which sold for $47,800, which is fairly cheap considering the scarcity of golden age original art.
On the vintage comics front, high grade silver age marvels stole the show, with a near mint + (9.6) copy of Amazing Spider-man #4 selling for a jaw dropping $77,675 and a near mint + (9.6) copy of Amazing Spider-man #2 selling for $65,725, while a near mint - (9.2) copy of the first appearance of Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #39 sold for $56,762.50.
Although many comic retailers have been dismissing the recent surge in prices as "ridiculous,"we don't see anything stopping them from moving higher, for the basic reason that relative to the fine arts market, many of these attractive and historic artifacts are selling for pennies on the dollar, which isn't to say that the comics and comic art market will ever match the prices of the fine art market, but that it's in the midst of a catch up move that has a long way to go.
View highlights of the Heritage Auctions May Comics and Comic Art Sale.