Nicolas Cage’s love of comic books is fairly well known. The star of Ghost Rider and Kick-Ass once owned the legendary Action Comics No. 1, featuring the first appearance of Superman. What happened to this specific issue is quite wild, and the story even features a connection to the hit A&E series Storage Wars. Here’s what happened.
A Very Valuable Comic
Action Comics No. 1 was originally released in 1938 for just 10 cents a copy. The first appearance of Superman was an immediate hit, Only 100 copies are believed to still exist, and pristine copies are even rarer still. Copies with a grade of 9.0 or higher only go to auction once every couple of years.
Cage, a lifelong comic book fan who once nearly played Superman, purchased a copy in 1997 for $150,000. Three years later, on January 21, 2000, this issue was stolen. It, along with a copy of Batman’s debut in Detective Comics No. 27, was ripped off the walls of Cage’s home. The comic was ensured, so Cage got reimbursed, but it’s still rather terrifying, and a shame that a piece of history would go lost like that.
What happened next, no one knows. For ten years the comic was nowhere to be found. In April 2011, the issue was shockingly rediscovered in an abandoned California storage locker, though the issue with the first appearance of Batman has still never been recovered.
This is when this story goes from strange to bizarre. The person who bought the locker needed help, so they turned to Dan Dotson, the man that ran the auction where the abandoned storage locker was sold. Dotson, in turn, directed the man to Mark Balelo. Both Dotson and Balelo starred on Storage Wars, a show all about appraising valuable contents inside abandoned storage lockers. Balelo tragically passed in 2013, but Dotson can still be seen running the auctions on the latest season of the hit.
Cage Wanted It Back
Cage sold his comic book collection for $1.6 million in 2002, which is about $2.4 million in 2021 money. He famously tore through over $150 million on goodies like these. The Moonstruck star wanted the issue of Action Comics returned to him, but it doesn’t seem like that was meant to be. Because Cage had been paid by his insurance company for the loss, ownership of the book was in question. Eventually, the comic went to auction, sold by an unnamed buyer that might have been Cage, or might have been the buyer of the storage unit. It became the first comic to ever sell for more than $2 million, going for a record $2,161,000 in November 2011.
The holy grail of comic books is presumably resting on someone’s shelf today, as it’s not popped up in any public auctions or sales since. From a newspaper stand during the Great Depression to a $2 million dollar auction, this pristine comic book has seen an incredibly strange history.