Billy Wright's comic book collection - one of the best and least known in the business

Many collectors, inspired by stories about great auction sales for the early appearances of the great superheroes such as Superman and Batman, rummage through their attics in the hope that some uncle or cousin might have mysteriously stashed away a paper nest-egg.

Well, it doesn't tend to happen like that. These days the most valuable comics are generally in expensive collections already, like Nicolas Cage's (or in a few cases, the original buyer-at-10c already knows what he has, even if his family don't understand).

But one exception was the experience of the nephew of one Billy Wright who wasn't even known to his family as a great comic book collector. When he died aged 66, his wife casually divided up an old stash of them in boxes between her nephews, who she knew liked comics, with no idea of their value.

Following a conversation with a co-worker, one of the nephews realised that at least one of the comics (Captain America #2) was valuable, and started doing a little research. He couldn't believe what he found.

Action Comics #1
Action Comics #1 from the Billy Wright Collection

In amongst the 300 books are 45 of the 100 most desired comics around, including 5 of the 6 most coveted overall - all unrestored. Collectors will be familiar with most or all of the issues:

Leading the way is a copy of Action Comics #1 graded good/very good at 3.0, published by what would become DC in 1938, creating the caped superhero as we know them in the form of Superman. This is expected to bring $325,000+.

Action Comics #1 no doubt encourage issue 27 of Detective Comics which introduced Batman (or 'The Bat Man') in 1939. There is a copy in the collection graded at 6.5 - very high for the famously vulnerable issue - which is expected to achieve $325,000 and also an incredible copy of the caped crusader's first standalone comic Batman #1, published in 1940 (graded at 8.5) and listed here at $125,000.

Batman Detective Comics #27
Batman's debut in Detective Comics #27

The other two high-flyers are both debuts from the same time period: Marvel Comics #1, interesting for its title alone, was the debut of the Human Torch amongst others in 1939 and All-American Comics #16 introduced the Green Lantern in 1940. Graded at 8.0 and 7.5 respectively, they are both expected to achieve $125,000.

The auction begins tonight (February 22) in California lasting for three days. It also offersthe original published Bill Watterson cover art for the Calvin & Hobbes 1989-1990 18-month calendar from the collection of Rick Marschall.

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