The Shadow knows ... how to set a world auction record.
A scarce first edition of The Shadow, published in April 1931, recently sold for $156,000 at Heritage Auctions, setting a world record as the most expensive pulp magazine ever sold. Rare and graded in “Fine-minus” condition, it claimed top-lot honors in a special sale of rare pulp magazines and related collectibles.
“The price realized for The Shadow No. 1 is the highest recorded for a pulp of any kind,” said Rick Akers, consignment director of comics at Heritage Auctions. “I expected it might pass $50,000, but things got pretty exciting when it surpassed $100,000, with heated live bidding.”
“The consignor contacted me after the auction and said he was thrilled with everything from start to finish with Heritage Auctions and the results,” Akers added.
This first issue of The Shadow was an instant hit (the series ran for 325 issues over 18 years) and is widely considered one of the most influential magazines ever published. It is the first “hero pulp” and is credited as influencing the development of superhero comic books, which introduced characters such as Batman and Superman, who appeared several years later.
The 586-lot online auction featured a 100-percent sell-through rate and realized $636,648, nearly three times expectations.
Akers said the sale recorded a large number a unique bidders, which means new people are coming into pulp-magazine collecting, which has been an established hobby for more than a century. The publications hit their stride during the 1920s and 1930s, and the “pulps magazine” moniker is derived from the cheap paper made from wood pulp, on which the inexpensive fiction magazines were printed.
A copy of Weird Tales No. 1 that Heritage offered at auction a number of years ago and that sold for less than $10,000, was another record breaker at this sale, after fetching $36,000. "That shows how far the category has grown,” Akers said. The 1923 first edition second-state copy of Weird Tales, a rare variant in attractive Very-Good plus condition, is one of the longest-running and among the most influential pulp horror titles ever published.
Another record breaker was a 1933 first edition of Doc Savage, offered in very good/fine condition, which sold for $33,600, shattering the previous record paid for the magazine. The copy is the nicest of the five Heritage experts have seen to date, only three of which are unrestored. The previous auction record for a first edition of the title was set by Heritage in December 2020, when a copy sold for $22,800.
For more results, visit Heritage Auctions.