Ian Levine is known for many things, as a record producer and pop mogul, working with Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Bananarama, Kim Wilde, Billie Piper, Simon Cowell, producing Take That's first singles. As a big Doctor Who fan, Ian Levine is known for working on the TV show as a Continuity Advisor, composing the theme tune to K9 And Company, commissioning an animated reconstruction of the never-filmed Shada, rescuing a number of Doctor Who stories from being destroyed and inspiring the character Abzorbaloff. But a third-string to his bow is his DC Comics collection, believed to be the most complete collection outside of Warner Bros' own vaults, with every issue published by DC – or National Allied Publications that preceded it in name – from 1935 to 2016.
The Ian Levine Collection features over 40,000 issues including Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman, and Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman, among many other landmark issues. And is announced today to coincide with the 31st anniversary of the publication of Detective Comics #27. Oh yes, and it will be sold as a single lot. No breaking this one up. Frankly, this is a unique situation, and a unique collection to be offered for sale in this, or any other fashion.
Richard Austin, Head of Sotheby's Books & Manuscripts Department in New York, stated "The Ian Levine Collection is the holy grail for comics collectors. Amassed over decades of hunting, Levine's collection embodies the passion and fandom that has defined comics culture for generations, which today is best encapsulated not through printed issues but popular superhero films that regularly break box office records. Featuring some of the most valuable individual books as well as extremely rare promotional issues, the Levine Collection includes all the DC heroes that are among the most recognizable and versatile pop culture touchstones in the world."
Levine was first introduced to DC when he began reading The Justice League of America as an eight-year-old in 1960. Upon discovering London comic shops Dark They Were and Golden Eyed in 1972, Levine realized it was possible to find long-out-of-print issues and discontinued titles such as The Justice Society of America, a Golden Age forerunner of the Justice League, thus sparking his half-century of comic book collecting.
For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet (including the discussion forums of Certified Guaranty Comic, a comic book grading service that sponsors Bleeding Cool) and dealer, advisor, author of The Comic Book and one of my old comedy writing partners Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition of owning every comic book DC Comics had published at that time. In 2010, Levine's collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen's publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.
The Levine Collection is highlighted further by hundreds of rare promotional comics by DC artists and writers, featuring various DC (or DC-inspired) characters endorsing various consumer goods and corporate entities; a number of "ashcan" issues (intended to establish copyright but not available for sale), as well as many foreign reprints, British comic books featuring appearances by DC characters, and anthology reprints in proper book form.
The auction record for a comic was achieved in 2014 when Action Comics #1 sold for $3.2 million. The record for an issue of Detective Comics #27 was reached in 2010 for $1.075 million. This complete collection will sell for much, much more.