A copy of the Action Comics #1 Ashcan recently sold for $204,000 at auction. One of only three known copies, the last one sold for $50,000 twelve years ago and the other is in the DC Comics vaults. Intriguingly, the Action Comics ashcan doesn't have any Superman in it, just pages from Detective Comics and it was only a way to secure a trademark on a comic book title for a publisher. But it does have a cover that was never used. The auction listing explains it all. And you can watch the auction, as it took place, below.
Action Comics #1 Ashcan (DC, 1937) CGC NM- 9.2 Cream to off-white pages. Arguably the most important ashcan ever produced, the Action Comics ashcan was created by DC publisher Harry Donenfeld to prevent competing publishers from stealing what Donenfeld said would be "the most important comic book title ever published."
In 1937, with no lead feature yet for his Action Comics book, Donenfeld was so concerned that a competing publisher would steal his beloved title that he had 4 ashcans produced to protect any variation of the name. So he created Action Comics, Action Funnies, Double Action Comics and Triple Action Comics. It's interesting to note that only one copy of the Double Action title and 3 copies of the Action Funnies title are known to exist. No copies of the Triple Action title have ever surfaced. A single lot of Double Action Comics #1 and 2 sold for $80,000 in 2017.
There are only three copies known to exist of the Action Comics title. One is locked up in DC's vault, a 9.0 copy changed hands for $50,000 in 2010, and this copy – the highest-graded example in existence.
It's difficult to overstate the importance of this comic book. The first time the title Action Comics ever appeared on the cover of a comic book was on this ashcan!
For those not familiar with the term ashcan: During the 1930s and 1940s comic book publishers used these to register the trademark for titles and logos that they planned to publish. They would send a copy of the ashcan along with a trademark application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Only a few ashcans have ever survived making them the rarest comic books in existence.
The cover art by Craig Flessel is unique to this ashcan and had been originally slated to be the cover to Detective Comics #2, but editors Vin Sullivan and Whitney Ellsworth rejected it for being too gruesome. The interior contents are eight previously printed pages from Detective Comics #1.
The provenance of this book is impeccable. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide ashcan advisor and noted comic book historian, Gary Colabuono, purchased this book, along with the Action Funnies ashcan, directly from retired DC president, Sol Harrison, in 1986. This is the first time the book has ever been offered for sale.
The ashcan issue is documented in Overstreet; however, no value is assigned. CGC census 2/21: 1 in 9.2, none higher.