The auction market for vintage comics has been incredibly strong over the past few months, but even in that context, this is an extremely impressive showing — and it's not over. Detective Comics #359 is the first appearance of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). The cover story, "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!" was written by Garnder Fox, penciled by Carmine Infantino, inked by Sid Green, and lettered by Gaspar Saladino, under the editorship of Julius Schwartz. Carmine Infantino penciled the cover, with inks by Murphy Anderson. The character was created by Infantino and Schwartz based on a premise from Batman television series executive producer William Dozer. There's a Detective Comics #359 CGC 9.8 (Boston Pedigree, Alfred Pennyworth Collection) copy up for auction this week at the 2021 January 14 – 17 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction at Heritage Auctions. Including buyer's premium, the price at auction for this copy has just tipped past the $100,000.00 mark.
Although there had been a previous "Bat-Girl" who first appeared in Batman #139 in 1961, DC Comics abandoned the character along with others such as Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat-Hound by 1964 shortly after the dawn of editor Julius Schwartz's tenure over the franchise. But a few years later, in the wake of the launch of the Batman television series, executive producer William Dozier suggested that the Batman franchise needed more female characters. As Schwartz would say in his biography:
I asked what kind of girl he had in mind, and it turned out he had already worked out a possible scenario in his head whereby Commissioner Gordon had a daughter who decides to become Batgirl.
Carmine Infantino elaborated on the origins of the character in a 2007 interview:
Batgirl came up in the mid-'60s. The "Batman" TV producer called Julie and said Catwoman was a hit, could we come up with more female characters? Julie called me and asked me to do that. I came up with Batgirl, Poison Ivy and one I called the Grey Fox, which Julie didn't like as much. Bob Kane had had a Bat-Girl for about three stories in the '50s but she had nothing to do with a bat. She was like a pesky girl version of Robin. I knew we could do a lot better, so Julie and I came up with the real Batgirl, who was so popular she almost got her own TV show.
Detective Comics #359 has 2089 entries on the CGC Census, with only 4 of those copies in CGC 9.8, and no copies graded higher. The previous record price for this issue was set in 2018, when the CGC 9.6 Pacific Coast copy sold for $22,500.00.
This particular copy of Detective Comics #359 has an interesting provenance. Most recently, the comic has been part of the Alfred Pennyworth collection, a high-grade group of Batman comics considered to be the best Batman collection on the CGC Registry. The collection's owner ultimately decided to sell the comics in the wake of their theft and recovery. The comics that comprise the Alfred Pennyworth comic book collection were first mentioned on Bleeding Cool on January 9, 2019, when we published a list of the stolen comics at the behest of their owner. Days later, that post played a role in the recovery of the stolen comics.
But this issue is also part of a collection now known as the Boston Pedigree. Among comic book collectors, a pedigree is a collection that is widely considered exceptional. In this case:
Named for the city from which Bechara Maalouf hails, he unveiled a box of very high grade Silver Age books at a New York show in the '90s. An older couple began coming to the same show with similar boxes, who dealers realized was the source of Bechara's find. Mainly consisting of comics from 1964 to 1975, the Boston collection contained many duplicates, but did not exhibit any identifiable markings on the covers. Of note, the Fantastic Four #55 graded CGC 9.9, one of the few 9.9 grades assigned to a Silver Age comic book.
This copy of Detective Comics #359 CGC 9.8 has already edged into six-figure territory, and it's one of the books to watch at the 2021 January 14 – 17 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction at Heritage Auctions.