Captain America Comics #1 CGC 9.4 Sells for Record $3,120,000

Captain America Comics #1 CGC 9.4 from the fabled Tom Reilly / San Francisco Pedigree has just sold for a record $3,120,000 in this afternoon's session of the current 2022 April 7 – 10 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction #7270 at Heritage Auctions.  The March 1941 cover-dated issue by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby is the first appearance of Captain America, Bucky, and the Red Skull from Timely Comics, the publisher which came to be known as Marvel.  This is the highest price ever paid for a copy of Captain America Comics #1 by a wide margin, as this same copy sold for $915,000 in 2019.

Near the top of the census for this issue, there is another copy in CGC 9.4 from the Denver pedigree, and rather stunningly the top census copy is the Captain America Comics #1 CGC 9.8 Allentown pedigree copy.  Today's result puts this Captain America Comics #1 CGC 9.4 in second place for the highest price ever paid for a Marvel comic book, the fifth-highest price ever paid for any comic book from any publisher, and also the fifth comic book to pass the $3M barrier.  The $3M club at the top of the comic book record charts currently looks as follows:

  1. Amazing Fantasy #15 CGC 9.6 Sept 2021 sale for $3,600,000.
  2. Action Comics #1 CGC 8.5, April 2021 sale for $3,250,000.
  3. Action Comics #1 CGC 9.0 April 2014 $3,207,852
  4. Action Comics #1 CGC 6.0 Rocket Copy Jan 2022 $3,180,000.
  5. Captain America Comics #1 CGC 9.4 Tom Reilly / San Francisco April 2022 sale for $3,120,000.

Four of those five sales have taken place within the last year, which is certainly a reflection of the incredible run that the vintage comic book and original art market has been on during that period.

Captain America Comics #1 (Marvel, 1941)
Captain America Comics #1 (Marvel, 1941)

Captain America Comics #1 San Francisco Pedigree (Timely, 1941) CGC NM 9.4 Off-white to white pages. Not just one of the most sought-after comics in the hobby, but one of the nicest copies ever seen of it, and from one of the most famous collections! That combination puts this among the most desirable comic books Heritage has auctioned to date.

The distributor markings combined with the "Tom Reilly" stamp in the middle of the back cover identify this as being from the storied San Francisco Pedigree collection. Many a Golden Age collector ranks this pedigree near the top, with some putting it behind only the Edgar Church/Mile High hoard. And the story of the collection being brought into a show in Berkeley, California in 1973 has entered collecting lore.

We have always loved Bob Overstreet's description of the significance of this book: "Simon & Kirby's most classic creation; a patriotic paragon that set the comics market reeling. A trend setter." And Jim Steranko summarized the impact: "the classic heroic figure — the comics had found a reason to exist… Captain America was an unprecedented success. The first issue sold out. The super hero business became the comic publishers' Holy Grail."

A top seller it may have been, but that doesn't mean copies are readily available now. Heritage has at times gone an entire year without offering a single copy in any grade.

Please zoom in on our scans to your heart's content, and if your mission is to find a flaw, you'll have a very hard time doing so. As you compare this copy to other Captain America Comics #1s in our archives pay special attention to the back cover — the backs of this issue always seem to have some sort of smudging or darkening, but on this San Francisco copy the quality shines through.
And that's true even compared to other pedigree copies, of which we have offered a few in our day. It's particularly noteworthy that the Mile High copy is no competition for this specimen, being both a couple of grades lower and restored. The two copies that are even with or ahead of this one on CGC's census are also pedigrees: the 9.8 Allentown and 9.4 Denver copies.
Any comic fan knows the famous Adolf Hitler cover, one of the most infamous comic book covers ever produced. Nor would any collector fail to know that this is the first appearance of the Red Skull. And naturally, it's also the first appearance of Captain America and Bucky, all by the immortal creative team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

You could argue that the last decade has taken Captain America to an even higher level of pop culture celebrity — he has, after all, been the star of three solo movies since 2011, and he has appeared in multiple others, including some of the highest-grossing movies of all time such as Avengers: Endgame.

We had the privilege of auctioning this copy in August of 2019, before vintage comic pricing took its great leap forward, so we will be watching with bated breath to see how such a choice item performs in the current market. One thing is for certain: this specimen is being offered without a reserve, so it will definitely have a new owner by the end of this session. Overstreet 2021 NM- 9.2 value = $600,000. CGC census 2/22: 2 in 9.4, 1 higher.

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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