Wizard World, Philly’s annual touring comic-and-cool-stuff convention, is in town this week, running from Thursday through Sunday at the Convention Center. Headliners this year include Jesse Eisenberg, Paul Bettany (Vision in The Avengers franchise), Chuck Norris and John Cusack. If you’re into such things as Dr. Who there are two companions here this week, no doctors, and if the Bryan Singer X-Men is/were your thing, Famke Janssen is here.
The list of celebs isn’t great — there’s no Captain America, Bucky and Falcon like last year — but there is the cast of Riverdale, two members of the Guardians of the Galaxy (none of the major characters), a ton of horror faves and I walked past Ralph Macchio who was sitting around waiting for people to make “sweep the leg” and “wax on, wax off” references he has to pretend to laugh at all weekend long.
There are a lot of photo/autograph VIP packages to spend your money on — Chuck Norris will run you 400 bucks — but we went looking for rarer finds this year. We wanted to find the most expensive thing you can buy at Philly Comic-Con. And we found it, and a whole lot more.
You can buy a conserved copy of Action Comics No. 1 from June 1938. That’s the first appearance of Superman, and this version will run you $750,000.
“It’s a 7.0 conserved,” Mike from Dave & Adam’s comics explained of the rating. “It’s close to the original. It’s not perfect. It’s been made so that it won’t get any worse. It’s nothing that changes the structure and the integrity of the book. If this were unrestored it would be worth about $2 million. This one is worth $750,000. And it’s a really good investment.”
There are few items quite that expensive, but looking for the holy grail of comics did present some other fun finds. This is an inexact list of some of the other rare, weird and super expensive toys, books and collectibles you can buy this week, and the stories around them.
If you’re paying cash, you’ll need a lot of it.
Frog Thor statue – $190
Our first find when we entered the convention floor was a toy shop selling mostly Funkos and other popular toys — who needs 50 fidget spinners!!!! — but the toy that caught the eye was up on a top shelf. Frog Thor: Frog of Thunder. It’s $190, and not even close to the most expensive toy at the convention. But, come on, if you find Frog Thor, you include Frog Thor.
Moon Knight’s first appearance – $1,500
Wade’s Comic Madness is stationed right near the entrance, which is a prime location for a rare-finds shop. It’s also right next to the music stage, which is not great for haggling. We asked if there’s a good market for high-end comics at these conventions, and he told us there is.
“People go to Amazon to buy toilet paper, but when you buy a comic online there’s a level of handling you don’t have when you come to a convention.” Collectors, he said, like to see the book in person and ensure nothing will go wrong in the shipping process. His highest-ticket item wasn’t that expensive. It’s Werewolf by Night No. 32, featuring the first appearance of Moon Knight, and he’s selling it for $1,500.
Batman No. 47 – $5,900
Harley Yee is a comic purveyor from Detroit who is in Philly for his first time as a vendor. He has many comics that are well over $1,000, with his biggest ticket item being Batman No. 47, which includes the origin story of the caped crusader. It originally sold for ten cents. Now, it goes for $5,900. Yee told us he’s sold to all ages of collectors, mostly of an older group looking for rare finds, but he’s seen a younger generation getting into collecting, including a 14-year old kid who bought an X-Men No. 1 from him for $5,000.
Star Wars Dollar – $7
This isn’t an expensive gift, but the markup is incredible. Still, it’s not as good as selling a ten cent comic for tens of thousands of dollars.
Bob Kane framed Batman print – $8,995
Choice Art Group has a vast collection of original art, all framed and signed. They have a Snoopy drawn by Charles Schultz running for just under $3,000 and a Jessica Rabbit in a frame for about $1,700. But the most expensive item they have in Philly this week is a Bob Kane framed Batman print. Kane was one of the creators of Batman, which makes this a really neat addition to any collection. The pricetag makes me think it’s not an original — rare as it may be — but more of a very high-quality print in a really big frame.
This tiny dog – Not for sale
This is a tiny dog. He is not for sale. But his owner leaves him out on the table so people like me come by and then he springs out from behind you to pitch his daughter’s sci-fi book. Seriously, it’s a TINY dog. He’ll get a lot of people with this pitch.
Batman cover art – $12,000 and $9,000
One shop is selling tons of original pages from dozens of artists. Original pagers are oversized, so when the books are made the art is crisp and clear on the smaller comic pages. The Artist’s Choice is selling pages from $5 all the way up to $12,000 for a cover of Batman No. 23 by David Finch and Danny Miki. That book just went on sale. Yikes.
Artist’s Choice reps a lot of comic artists and told us the convention is “a roulette wheel” for selling to collectors. “It varies from show to show.”
A real human skull – $8,000
You can buy a fake carved human skull. Or, if you ask nicely, Zane Wylie of RealHumanSkull.com will pull out a real one for you to photograph and, potentially, purchase. This one costs $8,000. It’s real. A real human skull.
The Batcycle – $35,000
I asked one of the artists selling prints if he knew of any big-ticket items. “You can buy the Batmobile, I think.” And off I went. Eric Sellin wasn’t selling, but when we asked him how much this Batcycle might cost, he said he built one for a guy for $35,000. Holy sidecars, Batman! That’s not a bad deal.
The Back to the Future Delorean – Not for sale
Terry and Oliver Holler travel around the country with their replica time machine they built several years ago, raising money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Their car is not for sale, but Terry told us she once had an offer on the street in New York, where a man pulled out a giant wad of bills and said he wanted to buy it. When they asked how much he was holding, actually interested in selling, he panicked, likely realizing how much money he had just pulled out on a New York City street, and politely declined the transaction.
When we asked how much it costs, she said to make an offer, before saying they have a $1 million hazardous/accident policy and a $100,000 policy should it need to be replaced. So…a million bucks and you can travel back in time.
Willy Wonka – $4,000
Nate Michaels is an artist from Kentucky who has prints and originals for sale this week. His most expensive piece is not the Chris Cornell original he has on display. It’s Gene Wilder, who died a year ago this August, as famous chocolatier Willy Wonka. Michaels said it took him 70 hours to make and it will go up in a gallery in Louisville if he doesn’t sell it in the next month.
Ravager – $3,000
This was just creepy. It’s the Ravager from a small indie label called Mess Bucket Comics. They’re selling the bust for $3,000 but are in the process of making latex masks people can buy for Halloween, or to scare the heck out of kids in the neighborhood on a regular day.
Wolverine’s Arm – $750
This isn’t super expensive but it’s certainly the most dangerous toy we found, and that includes all the fake swords. This is a lifesize replica of the bones and claws of Wolverine. Yes, this is better than the $700 Walking Dead set we also saw. No, it’s not awesome enough to buy.
Neal Adams signed Batman print – $2,500
Do you love Batman? How about a print from the man many consider the best Batman artist ever? It’s $2,500 and one of a number of prints for sale.
Neal Adams painting of Batman and TMNT (variant cover) – $55,000
Do you want something a little more exciting? Well, Neal Adams is in Philly, signing autographs and doing commissioned sketches. When we asked his assistant for the most expensive item up for sale, he walked us over to Adams, who has a book of originals chained down. He joked it was chained through his Achilles tendon so nobody could steal it without taking him with them. I think he was joking.
Inside the book are numerous sketches and originals of Batman, Superman and tons of other characters. But in the back, he has a painted cover he was asked to do of Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Unlike most of his regular ink drawings, Adams painted this one. He’s asking $55,000 for it, but the explanation of how he made it was free.
“It really sort of becomes a joy,” he said. “One of those things you do at 4 o’clock in the morning…when you can quietly play with your tools and your toys.” He said he considers the regular drawings he does work, but the painting, where he said he can leave it for a bit and come back to it, take his time and actually enjoy the process, is the reason to do what he does.
If there’s one thing you do this weekend, find his table and spend a few minutes listening. Ask to see the painting, buy a print — he has some for sale for $30 he’ll sign — and soak in the history.
X-Men No. 1 – $23,000
For half the price of a painting, you can walk around the corner to Reece’s Rare Comics to buy X-Men No. 1 for $23,000. Reece’s is a family-run shop and I asked one of the sons how Philly is as a convention. “It’s okay,” he said with a tone that didn’t sound like it was okay. “We’re a boutique inside a destination,” he explained, saying the people who come for celebs don’t really want to buy thousand dollar comics. He said most people are interested in the “flea market stuff,” that includes cheap books and Star Wars toys.
Detective Comics No. 31 – $50,000
Detective Comics No. 37 – $39,000
High Grade Comics has some really rare finds, including two old Detective Comics from 1939 and early 1940, selling for tens of thousands of dollars. It’s hilarious, because when you sell a $50,000 book and around the corner is one for more than 10x that price, you don’t seem so excited to talk to a guy doing a story on the most expensive things at the convention. “Go to Dave & Adam’s,” more than one shop owner said. “They’ve got the really expensive stuff.”
Superman trading cards – $6,000
Before the final stop at Dave & Adam’s, there was one shop selling tons of rare items, including a full pack of Superman trading cards from the original TV show — he’s selling them for $6,000 and got an offer a few minutes before we walked over for $4,000. He’s confident the packs will sell, they’re just working on a price.
Frank Sinatra photo – $8,000
The Incredible Hulk – $4,500
The most expensive item he had was not the $4,500 issue of The Incredible Hulk that had the first appearance of Wolverine. It was a simple photo of Frank Sinatra, signed. “This is going for up to $12,000 on ebay,” the owner told us. “I have it for $8,000.”
Human Torch – $8,000
Another card shop that seemed uninterested in their big-ticket items — ”Dave & Adam’s has the expensive stuff” — did stop long enough to show us a copy of The Human Torch from Fall 1940 they’re selling for $8,000, in which he teams up with the Sub-Mariner to take on the Nazis.
Amazing Fantasy No. 15, the first appearance of Spider-Man – $60,000
If you do nothing else after talking to Neal Adams on the floor of Wizard World, stop by Dave & Adam’s and ask to talk to Mike. He’s a trip, and he’ll walk you through all his expensive comics that are, frankly, the reason for going as much as the movie stars.
He showed us Amazing Fantasy No. 15, the introduction of Spider-Man, which he’s selling for $60,000. “You start today with a $5,000 deposit,” he said as if I was actually going to do this,” and by the time you pay it off we can buy it back from you for a profit.”
Mike said the value of rare comics has gone up immensely over the years, and books that were once a few thousand dollars are now going for hundreds of thousands, or even millions.
Action Comics No. 1, Superman’s first appearance and the first “superhero” comic – $750,000
“There were heroes in comic books, but officially Superman was the first superhero, and this is his first appearance,” Mike pitched. “They weren’t actually sure how popular he would be so they did put him on the cover, but it was at the last minute. No. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 don’t have him on the cover. Not until No. 7 did he appear again, then No. 10, but by a year later he was so popular he was on every issue.”
The shop bought the book for more than a half a million dollars, and while he admits it’s an item to put in a display at conventions to get people talking — and writers writing — he is confident he’ll sell it. “I’ve had offers for well over $500,000 for it,” he said. “At the last show in Miami we were at last week someone wanted to buy it, but…they gotta come up a little bit more to make it work.”