Action Comics #1

This blog entry is a contribution by local collector and friend Peter Jones. Some of you may know Peter from encounters at Comic Conventions or AACC meetings of old. Peter’s tale is probably one of the best we will feature due to the book the story is about–ACTION COMICS #1! I’ll let Peter take it from here…
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that Action Comics #1 is a “Holy Grail” for many comic collectors and the ever-increasing prices on that book keep it out of the hands of most. In the past I’ve attempted to take a cheaper route and collect poor man’s copies of some of the big keys. I call books that are assembled from parts of more than one copy “Frankenstein” books. They are also known as “married” copies which make them sound ever so…..genteel. Sometimes I fill in the missing parts of an incomplete copy with color Xeroxes to make a readable book; these I call “cyborg” books.
My overall success rate in this kind of endeavor has been extremely low and I’ve essentially abandoned such projects over the years, but I’ve had some requests to share the following story. My memory of some of the details is a little vague, but it goes something like this: I put out feelers for a low-grade incomplete copy of Action #1. I reckoned that in the best case I could assemble a complete copy and in the worst case I might only end up with a coverless and incomplete Action #1, at least with the Superman story intact, which would still be pretty cool. To me, having the world’s worst copy of Action #1 was still preferable to having no Action #1. A few separate Action #1 wraps sold for decent money on ComicLink recently, so I guess there are other collectors who feel the same way. This was pre-eBay, so that meant putting occasional ads in CBG and calling dealers and other collectors. It’s difficult to find parts, and empty covers are scarcer than coverless copies. I also wasn’t surprised to find that a seller’s radar goes up when I ask for an incomplete book or just a centerfold or a cover. They rightly surmise that I’m trying to complete a comic and they adjust the price upward, if they even have a part that I need. Comic collectors can be a suspicious and cantankerous lot sometimes, and the other Dr. Frankenstein’s out there zealously guarded their scraps of key books. Typical conversations inevitably veered towards what they might get from me rather than what I could pry out of them. It really didn’t go very well. Somehow I heard of an antiques auction, not even a comic book auction, somewhere on the East coast, where an Action #1 missing the cover, first wrap, and centerfold was offered. I called the auction house and they said it had already been sold but I managed to track down the buyer and ask if he was interested in selling it. He wasn’t, but he wished me luck. I heard that a lot. Eventually, one of my ads in CBG got me a phone call from someone who had a copy that was missing one page but was otherwise solid and fairly attractive. The inside cover of Action #1 offered a contest where kids were encouraged to carefully color the first page of Chuck Dawson (a b/w strip), tear it out and mail it to National Comics. The best colorists would get some sort of prize. It made me wonder if there are more than a few copies out there that are missing that page. Anyway, this copy was not inexpensive but it was heavily discounted. I agonized and passed on it, but on further reflection, (and some manipulation of my financial resources), I called the seller back and went for it. Any regrets I had evaporated when I held the book in my hands. I couldn’t believe I truly owned an Action #1, even with a page missing.
I had moved into the eBay age by now, searching for an incomplete copy with the page I lacked. Finally, a hideously thrashed one surfaced. It was missing the cover, at least one outer wrap, and the centerfold, pretty much the most crucial parts that any other bottom-feeder like me would want, but it had my needed page. There were indeed a lot of other bottom-feeders out there and the competition was fiercer than I expected. I was very determined though, and I won it. It turned out the page I wanted was in decent shape, too. With a little reluctance I took a razor and cut it out. The spine was already split about half-way down, so the extraction didn’t take much effort, although I offered a silent prayer for forgiveness from the comic book gods for desecrating even such a wretched Action #1 corpse as this one. I laid the page inside my first copy and beheld a complete Action #1. A Frankenstein book, yes, but un-restored, and likely the only one I’ll ever own. I barely refrained from shouting maniacally “It’s alive! It’s alive!” In case anyone wonders what I did with the rest of the second incomplete copy, I used my Famous First Edition reprint of Action #1 to make color Xeroxes of all the missing parts and assemble a readable cyborg book, which I sold to another collector (with full disclosure, he knew what he was getting). That almost entirely paid for the cost of obtaining the page.

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