What is the Most Expensive US Comic Book Art Sold At Auction?

What is the most expensive US comic book art sold at auction, and how much are original comic illustrations worth?

Top five most expensive original US comic art sold at auction as of 2020:

  1. Frank Frazetta $5,400,000 for Eerie #23 cover art, Egyptian Queen, May 2019 
  2. Frank Frazetta $1,792,500 for Death Dealer #6 cover art, May 2018 
  3. Robert Crumb $717,000 for Fritz the Cat cover art, May 2017. 
  4. Robert Crumb $690,000 for Your Hytone Comix “Stoned Agin!” inside back cover original art, December 2019 
  5. Todd McFarlane Amazing Spider-Man #328 cover art $657,250, July 2012

See the full list below, or browse the Heritage Auctions Hall of Fame Highlights for Comics & Comic Art

What determines the value of comic book art?

According to Heritage Auctions comics expert Xavier Chavez:

“The greatest determining factor in evaluating what a piece of comic art will be worth is the market. It determines what artists are the most sought-after, which pieces from what titles or stories are considered the most iconic, and how much collectors and investors alike are willing to pay for said piece of art. Since we are discussing collectibles that are one of a kind, the criteria used to arrive at a value are similar to illustration and fine art.

The worth of a piece can be estimated with range of value determined by past sale results, but there is one factor that can drive prices up and that is nostalgia. With comic book art unlike fine art, nostalgia can be a huge influence to a collector and what they are willing to spend. For example, if the cover to the first comic book they read comes up for sale, or their favorite page from a memorable story, this can contribute to the final price of a piece and a reason why we are seeing such record prices.”

Xavier Chavez, Heritage Auctions

What’s comic art worth?

Check the Heritage Auctions Comic Book Value Guide to find your comic or comic art value in three easy steps: 

  1. Check the list of valuable and collectible comics and art. 
  2. Look up the value of similar lots sold by Heritage Auctions.
  3. Request a free auction evaluation when you’re ready to sell.

Why collect comic book art?

Some collectors of comic art may have started collecting comic books, or still do, but others are fine art fans. The Forbes article 4 Factors Behind American Collectors’ Growing Interest In Original Comic Art states one of the reasons for the surge in collecting original comic book art is the fact that old comics books are often discovered in estate sales, attics, and even inside walls. When this happens it can reduce the value of all known copies (with the exceptions of blue chip comic books such as Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, or Marvel Comics #1) whereas there’s only one original art piece for a comic cover or interior page. So collecting original comic art helps protect your investment in the long term. 

Other reasons stated include the high price of collecting high-end or rare comic books, the genre has been opening up to fine art collectors, and it’s easier to display a piece of comic art than a comic book.(1) 

Is collecting original comic art getting more popular?

Valuations are going through the roof according to an article in The Star. Interest in original comic art is exploding as a result, turning what was once a niche hobby into a full-blown industry. 

“Comic art has certainly gone up in value as a lot of people have converted from collecting comic books to the art itself,” Singh says. “There’s a much bigger buying pool than there used to be.”

Peter Nowak, The Star (2)

In a Forbes article, Adam Rowe looked at the comic art market over the past two years:

“Heritage’s record-setting $58.5-million-worth of total comics sales in 2018 wasn’t the only indicator of comics’ rising valuations that year. A 1990 Frank Frazetta work, Death Dealer 6, went for $1.79 million at a May 2018 auction, becoming the most valuable piece of American published comic book art ever sold at a public auction. “After that sale,” Heritage notes, “many experts had speculated that it could be many years before that 2018 record, which had nearly tripled the previous record for a piece of comic book art, would be broken.”

But one year later, at a May 2019 auction, the record was not just broken, it was destroyed. Once again, it was a Frank Frazetta work, this one a 1969 piece titled Egyptian Queen and originally used as the cover to the horror comic magazine Eerie #26. The item sold for a stunning $5.4 million, setting a new record more than three times higher than the one set twelve months before. The entire May 2019 auction realized $15,121,405 in sales, setting another world record for sales at a single comic art auction.” 

Adam Rowe, Forbes (1)

Does comic art appreciate in value?

In February 2020 an article in comicartfans.com traced the appreciating value of a piece recently resold at auction.

“The high ticket item of the week was a Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia Skull the Slayer #8 Cover, which was listed at $15,000 by Albert Moy. This same cover sold at Heritage in November 2016 for $7,767 with BP, and again in May 2019 for $9,600 at Heritage again. That just goes to show you the overall increase in sales for this period of art continues to be increasing at a steady and consistent rate.” (3)

Comicartfans.com February 10, 2020

List of highest prices paid for US comic art at auction

Highest price ever paid for a piece of American comic art at auction.

  1. Frank Frazetta $5,400,000 for Eerie #23 cover art, Egyptian Queen, May 2019 
  2. Frank Frazetta $1,792,500 for Death Dealer #6 cover art, May 2018 
  3. Robert Crumb $717,000 for Fritz the Cat cover art, May 2017. 
  4. Robert Crumb $690,000 for Your Hytone Comix “Stoned Agin!” inside back cover original art, December 2019; broke record price for an interior piece of comic art. 
  5. Todd McFarlane Amazing Spider-Man #328 cover art $657,250, July 2012; later tied by record price for highest panel page by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel The Incredible Hulk #180 Final Page 32: The First-Ever Appearance of Wolverine Original Art (Marvel, 1974), May 2014. 
  6. Bernie Krigstein Impact #1 complete 8-page story Master Race original art $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage for an EC complete story. November 2018.
  7. Neal Adams Batman #251 cover The Joker original art $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage for a piece of DC art. November 2019. 
  8. Frank Frazetta $552,000 for Famous Funnies #209 cover art, Feb 2019 
  9. Robert Crumb $525,800 for Zap Comix #1 cover art, August 2017. 
  10. Frank Miller $478,000 for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 cover art, August 2013. 
  11. John Romita Sr. $478,000 for Amazing Spider-Man #100 cover art, February 2018. 
  12. Frank Miller $448,125 for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 page 10, May 5, 2011. 
  13. Neal Adams Green Lantern #76 Cover Green Arrow Original Art (DC, 1970) sold for $442,150.00, November 2015.

Why Heritage Auctions to buy or sell original comic book art?

Heritage is the Comics and Comic Art Auction Leader

Heritage Auctions now has a 60% market share in comics and comic art — three times the volume of any other comic auctioneer.

In May 2019 Egyptian Queen, one of the most famous piece produced by Frank Frazetta, sold for $5,400,000 – setting a world auction record and smashing his previous record of $1,792,500 for Death Dealer 6 – in Heritage Auctions’ blockbuster $15.2+ million Comics & Comic Art Auction held in Dallas. 

Learn More About Collecting Original Comic Art

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Sources:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2020/02/15/4-factors-behind-american-collectors-growing-interest-in-original-comic-art/#62d4456b9741
  2. https://www.thestar.com/business/2019/12/27/zowie-original-comic-book-art-is-suddenly-selling-for-millions.html
  3. https://www.comicartfans.com/Blog.asp?bId=156

Posted by Heritage Editorial

This article was written as a collaborative effort by multiple experts within the category at Heritage Auctions.

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