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Historic Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy Goes for Record $2,427,777.65

The Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy, one of the most famous individual comic books in vintage collecting circles, has just sold for a record $2,427,777.65 at ComicConnect.  That is by a significant margin the highest price ever paid for this 1939 release, which is the first comic book published by Marvel.  This particular copy of Marvel Comics #1 is known as the Pay Copy because it originated from the estate of Lloyd Jacquet, the founder and editor of Funnies, Inc, the "packager" that put this issue together for Marvel.  Jacquet used this copy of the issue to record payments to contributors, including amounts, dates, and check numbers.  Marvel Comics #1 includes work by Bill Everett (Sub-Mariner), Carl Burgos (Human Torch), Ben Thompson (Ka-Zar), Paul Gustavson (the Angel), and a cover by Frank R. Paul.  It is the first appearance of the Golden Age Human Torch, and technically the second appearance of the Sub-Mariner, after Funnies Inc's Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1, a planned theater giveaway that was produced in extremely limited quantity.

Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy (Marvel 1939).
Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy (Marvel 1939).

The sales history of this particular copy provides us with a fascinating snapshot of the top end of the vintage comic book market.  This copy was sold Diamond Comics Distributors founder Steve Geppi in January 2002 to collector/dealer Jay Parrino for a then-record $350,000.  At the time, this was the highest price ever paid for any comic book, a record that would stand for the next eight years, until an Action Comics #1 CGC 8.0 became the first comic book to surpass the million-dollar mark in February 2010.  But in the meantime, the Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy had been sold by its owner at a loss in 2007 for $204,999.99.  By 2010, the same year that copies of Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27 had both surpassed the million-dollar mark, the Pay Copy was sold again at a slightly-improved $227,050.00.

At that time, many industry observers expected the first appearances of Batman and Superman to continue to pull away from the first Marvel comic book in terms of market value.  But of course, Marvel's strength as a mainstream global brand has increased dramatically since 2010 — and perhaps perceptions of Marvel Comics #1 are coming back around.  The CGC 9.4 Windy City copy sold for $1.26M in 2019.  Notably, a significantly lower grade copy of Marvel Comics #1 CGC 2.5 sold for an impressive $363,527.65 in tonight's auction as well.  Of course, the Sub-Mariner is widely expected to hit the Marvel Cinematic Universe sometime soon, and no matter what your thoughts are on the distribution of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1, Marvel Comics #1 also remains a highly important Sub-Mariner key. Notably, there are both October and November cover-dated versions of Marvel Comics #1, with the October version being far rarer.  The Pay Copy is a November version.

Meanwhile, the top of the market has continued to climb as an Action Comics #1 CGC 8.5 sold for $3.25M in 2021, while an Amazing Fantasy #15 CGC 9.6 (the first appearance of Spider-Man) went for a record $3.6M last year as well, achieving the current highest price ever paid for a comic book in the process.  But on a personal note, if I absolutely had to choose a single comic book to own regardless of price or value, it would be the Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy.  It represents a unique combination of historically important factors that I have always loved.

For your historical interest, here's the little-seen payout data recorded by Lloyd Jacquet in this copy:

7/25/39 Burgos (Human Torch)…check #106…$128.00…16 pages
7/31/39 Thompson (Kazar)……..check #108…$120.00…12 pages
7/31/39 Gustavson (Angel)…….check #109…$64.00…..8 pages
7/31/39 Everett (Sub-Mariner)..check #110..$83.25/96.00.12 pages
7/31/39 Dixon (Jungle Terror)…check #111…$48.00…..6 pages
7/31/39 ? (Burning Rubber)….check #113…$ 5.00……story
7/31/39 ? (Burning Rubber)….check #114…$ 3.00…….illo
7/31/39 Paul (Cover)…………check #115…$25.00…….cover
no date Mahon (Masked Raider)…check #202…$72.00……8 pages

Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy (Marvel 1939).
Marvel Comics #1 Pay Copy (Marvel 1939).

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Mark SeifertAbout 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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