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Holy windfall, Batman! Caped Crusader comic from 1940 sets new auction record with $2.2 million

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Jan 14, 2021, 4:31 PM EST (Updated)

Never underestimate the popularity of Gotham City's Dark Knight. Fans are willing to spend a Bruce Wayne-like fortune for rare Batman memorabilia.

Heritage Auctions confirmed Thursday that a Batman #1 from 1940 (the debut issue in the hero's very first ongoing series) set a new world record this week with a massive $2.2 million sale during the first session of the Comics & Comic Art event. That makes it 1) the most expensive Caped Crusader comic ever purchased and 2) the most expensive comic book Heritage Auction has ever sold. The previous record-holder was also a Batman #1, which netted $567,625 at the Dallas-based auction house in 2013. Pitting Batman and Robin against Doctor Hugo Strange, the comic also featured the first appearances of Catwoman and the Joker, as well as a 2-page reiteration of the hero's origin story.

"We knew when the book came in that it was beyond special, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime offering — from appearance, its blindingly bright cover to its white pages, to provenance," Heritage Auctions Senior Vice President Ed Jaster said in a statement. "As I like to say, this is just a breathtaking book in so many ways. So we are not at all surprised that this has become a record-setting issue. But we are extraordinarily proud and honored to have brought it to market, to have done justice to its owner and to have found it a new home."

Credit: DC Comics

William Giles provided the lucrative item (rated with a 9.4 from the Certified Guaranty Company), which he inherited after his father's death in 2019. His dad, Billy T. Giles, bought the comic for $3,000 from Willie Patterson, owner of the Camelot Bookstore located in downtown Houston.

"It was time for somebody else to have it," William said in a statement of his own. "Dad would have been glad his story is being told — ecstatic, really. What he did to get that book and how he took care of it. He always knew it was the finest and would have been so happy it has been recognized as the very best. So I am thrilled that I can use it to honor my father. Sure, I am a little sad seeing the book go. But I wish the new owner the best and hope he or she enjoys it as much as I have."

Aside from the big first issue news, the opening of the Comics & Comic Art sale (running until this Sunday, Jan. 17) set a second Dark Knight milestone with $132,000 being paid for a Detective Comics #359 from 1969 (it famously marked the debut of Batgirl). According to Heritage, that total is "the most ever paid for a Batman title published from the mid-1950s until 1970, during DC Comics' Silver Age."

Credit: DC Comics