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Batman No. 1 to go on sale at auction

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm •  Published: August 2, 2010
Comic book collector Mike Wheat poses with a book showing the cover of  Batman No. 1 in front of boxes containing tens of thousands of comic books at his Fairbanks, Alaska home. Wheat has put his copy of the 1940  Batman No. 1 on the auction block through Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries, where it's expected to fetch more than $40,000. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, John Wagner)
Comic book collector Mike Wheat poses with a book showing the cover of Batman No. 1 in front of boxes containing tens of thousands of comic books at his Fairbanks, Alaska home. Wheat has put his copy of the 1940 Batman No. 1 on the auction block through Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries, where it's expected to fetch more than $40,000. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, John Wagner)

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A longtime Alaska comic book buff is selling one of the gems in his vast collection, a rare copy of Batman No. 1 published 70 years ago.

Mike Wheat of Fairbanks has put the 1940 comic book on the auction block through Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries, where it’s expected to fetch more than $40,000. Online bids already have climbed to $35,000 for the book, believed to be one of fewer than 300 still in existence.

Online bids will compete with a live auction set for Thursday.

The second and fourth Batman issues also will be part of Thursday’s auction. They are expected to bring more than $5,000 combined.

Wheat, a retired city wastewater treatment plant operator, said he considers the Batman comics an investment. He said it feels like the right time to sell.

“I just decided it’s time for someone else to have it,” he said.

The Batman No. 1 comic book was discovered after local businessman Ron Jaeger bought an old dresser at a garage sale in the early 1970s, then kept it in storage for a few years. When Jaeger finally brought it out, he noticed one of the drawers didn’t slide easily.

Three comic books and a few old issues of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner were tucked beneath the drawer and a quarter-inch piece of plywood. The haul included a copy of Batman No. 1, Superman No. 17 and an old issue of a Red Ryder Western comic.

Wheat already had a reputation as an avid comic collector in 1974, and Jaeger sold him the comic books for $300.

The auction house has handled many copies of Batman No. 1, but Wheat’s copy is notable because the low humidity and cool temperatures in Fairbanks have kept the paper in excellent condition, said Barry Sandoval, director of comic auctions and operations at Heritage. Old comics were printed on cheap newsprint, but the pages in Wheat’s copy remain white and crisp.

“If we got a Batman No. 1 from Texas or Louisiana, if you opened it up after 70 years the pages would start to crumble,” Sandoval said.

The condition of comics is graded on a scale of one to 10. Wheat’s copy has been graded a 5.5. That’s a middling score for a newer comic, but impressive for a vintage copy.

“I see how most comics from that era look,” Sandoval said. “Most 70-year-old comics are in pretty rough shape.”

Batman No. 1 was the first solo spin-off for the character, who made his first appearance in 1939 as a character in Detective Comics No. 27. The debut includes the original appearances by two of Batman’s key foes, the Joker and Catwoman.

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Online:

http://www.ha.com

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by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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