Billy Wright Comic Book Collection

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2015-06-26 11:20:18

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Billy Wright Comic Book Collection

The Billy Wright Comic Book Collection is a renowned collection of Platinum and Golden Age comic books collected in childhood by Billy Wright of Lynchburg, Virginia.

 

Background

Billy Wright was born in 1927, and began collection comic books at the age of nine. Most of his comic books were purchased from drugstores and news stands between 1938 and 1941 – key years which saw the Golden Age of comic books begin with Action Comics #1 and the birth of Superman in June 1938.

An only child, Wright’s mother kept the majority of his childhood possessions including his comic books and games. Although he ceased collecting comic books in the 1940s, he carefully stored his collection and maintained in throughout his adult life.

Billy Wright passed away in 1994, and his comic books remained stored on the shelves of a basement closet until the passing of his wife Ruby in 2011.

Discovery

The collection was discovered in 2011 by Michael Rorrer, whilst clearing out the former home of his Great Aunt and Uncle in Martinsville, Virginia. Upon discovering the books, Rorrer initially had no idea of their value. After discussing them with a work colleague, he began to research the titles along with his mother Lisa Hernandez and was shocked by their rarity and potential value.

They contacted Lon Allen, Managing Director of the Heritage Auctions comic book department, who flew out to view the books in person.

“Well I really was blown away,” says Allen, describing the moment he saw the collection for the first time. “It was really amazing to see that many key issues in nice shape with white pages, along with really rare books like the Hit Comics #5 and Amazing Man #5 that you just never see in any condition. Seeing those in high grade, a whole table full as the family had the twenty best books laid out on the dining room table, it was mind-blowing!”

“I think they were just beginning to have an inkling that these were extremely valuable. They had gone from thinking these are cool, they shouldn’t be thrown away and they have some value to suddenly realising that wow, maybe these are worth a hundred thousand dollars. But I don’t think they had any idea that they were talking about millions.”

The collection was catalogued and submitted to the grading company CGC, who gave it a pedigree. The term is reserved for original owner collections of exceptional quality, and is usually given only to larger collections - but the sheer number of key and highly important titles combined with the top condition and white pages of the majority of books meant the Billy Wright Collection was considered amongst the best ever discovered.

Contents of the collection

In all, the collection contained 345 comic books dating from the 1930s through to the 1940s.

It featured an amazing 44 titles on the Overstreet list of the Top 100 Golden Age Books, with nine of these the highest-graded or joint highest-graded copies in existence. A further 13 copies were amongst the five highest-graded of their kind in existence

The collection also featured 67 #1 issues and 33 #2 issues – a remarkable number of ‘key’ titles for Golden Age collectors. These included the debuts of characters such as Superman (Action Comics #1), Batman (Detective Comics #27), the Green Lantern (All-American Comics #16), the Justice Society of America (All Star Comics #3) and the first ever Marvel comic book featuring the Human Torch and the Sub-mariner (Marvel Comics #1).

Other rare and important titles within the collection included:

  • Action Comics #6 CGC VF+ 8.5
  • Adventure Comics #40 CGC VF 8.0
  • All-American Comics #17 CGC VF/NM 9.0
  • All-American Comics #19 CGC VF+ 8.5
  • Captain America Comics #2 CGC NM 9.4
  • Marvel Mystery Comics #4 CGC NM- 9.2
  • Marvel Mystery Comics #5 CGC VF+ 8.5
  • Marvel Mystery Comics #10 CGC NM 9.4
  • USA Comics #1 CGC NM- 9.2

Each of these books appears in the Overstreet Top 100 list, and is recognised as the highest-graded copy on the CGC Census Report (as of February 2012).

Auction sale

In February 2012 the Billy Wright Collection was placed up for sale through Heritage Auctions in New York. Every book in the collection sold, achieving a combined total of $3.5 million with numerous examples far exceeding their estimates.

The auction, which took place from February 22 – 24, brought a record result of $8.9+ million making it the single biggest comic book auction ever held.

Standout sales from the Billy Wright Collection included:

  • Detective Comics #27 CGC FN+ 6.5 – sold for $522,812.50
  • Action Comics #1 CGC Gd/VG 3.0 – sold for $298,750.00
  • Batman #1 CGC VF+ 8.5 – sold for $274,850.00
  • All-American Comics #16 CGC VF 8.0 – sold for $203,150.00
  • Captain America #2 CGC NM 9.4 - $113,525.00

 

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