Inherited comic-book collection found in closet fetches $3.5 million at auction

This handout photo shows the CGC-Certified 3.0 copy of Action Comics #1.Michael Rorrer, 31, was cleaning out his great-aunt's Virginia home after her death when he stumbled upon a stack of 345 comic books in a basement closet.

Yesterday, the bulk of that comic book collection sold for about $3.5 million.

"It was amazing to see what they went for," Rorrer said.

It wasn't until a coworker mentioned that it would be "quite something" if Action Comics No. 1 was among the comics Rorrer inherited — after Rorrer's initial discovery, his mother shipped him a box of half the comics, unaware of their value — that Rorrer realized the comics might be worth something.

Sure enough, that coveted issue was there.

Rorrer called his mother, who still had the other half of the collection, ready to be sent to Rorrer's younger brother. The pair went through the comics together, "checking off issue after issue on a list of the most valued comic books in the world."

Rorrer had no idea that his great-uncle Billy Wright had assembled such an incredible collection of comics over the course of his life, including "some of the most prized issues ever published."

"This is just one of those collections that all the guys in the business think don't exist anymore," Lon Allen, managing director of comics for Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, told MSNBC.

Among the auctioned off comics was a 1939 copy of Detective Comics No. 27 — the issue featuring the debut of Batman — that fetched $523,000, including a buyer's premium, and a copy of Action Comics No. 1 — Superman's debut — that sold for $299,000.

"The scope of this collection is, from a historian's perspective, dizzying," said J.C. Vaughn, associate publisher of Overstreet, acknowledging that Wright's collection contains 44 of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide's list of top 100 issues from the Golden Age of comic books: the late 1930s to the late '40s.

Rorrer says that his great-uncle, who died in 1994, never mentioned the impressive collection he began at the age of 9.

The most valuable 227 comic books were auctioned off yesterday. The remaining comics will be sold in online auctions this weekend and are expected to bring in about $100,000.

(CP Photo, handout from Heritage Auctions)