The Trouble with “Famous First Editions”

Every few weeks I receive an email from someone claiming to have an “original” Batman #1, Detective #27, Action Comics #1 or Superman#1 and wanting to know how much it’s worth.  My first question is always, “What are the dimensions of your book”.  In each instance but one, the reply has always been, “10 X 13 1/2 inches.”  My response?  “Sorry, you have an over-sized Famous First Edition with the outer cover removed.  Your book has little value on the collector’s market.”   Normally these emails are from people who know little about comics and are curious if they have “won the lottery” by finding an original rare comic book from the Golden Age.  The other day, however, I received an email from a reader of the blog who asked me the same question, got the same answer (the book in question was 10 X 13 1/2 inches), but who proceeded to relate that this particular book was used to fraudulently induce a well known charity (I won’t name it here) to purchase this book for $3,000.  Of course, the book was worth perhaps a few dollars, maybe slightly more.  Having heard that story, I decided that a “primer” on the DC Famous First Edition comics was in order.  Hopefully this will prevent confusion in the collector market in the future.

FFE C-26 (Action Comics #1)

FFE C-26 (Action Comics #1)

Between 1974 and 1979, DC Comics published some really great Golden Age reprints called Famous First Editions.  These books were treasury sized (10 X 13 1/2 inches) and were unique in that they reprinted every detail (including ads, etc.), cover to cover, of many of the key DC Golden Age books.  They were different from the originals because (1) they were much larger than their Golden Age counterparts, and (2) they each had an outer cardboard cover that clearly identified the book as being a reprint and “limited collectors edition”.  With the outer cardboard cover removed, these books could be passed off as an original except for the larger size.  Unfortunately, over the years some unscrupulous types have removed the cardboard covers and tried to pass these off as original Golden Age books.  Recognizing the potential for this fraudulent activity, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide has for years printed a warning along with the description of the original book to make certain it is clear that these reprints exist and look like the originals.  Overstreet has also indicated that with the outer cover removed, these books have little or no value.  Caveat Emptor!

FFE C-28 (Detective Comics #27)

FFE C-28 (Detective Comics #27)

The Famous First Edition (“FFE”) series was part of the larger Limited Collectors’ Edition series started by DC in 1973 (The series was later changed to All-New Collectors’ Edition in 1978).  These were all treasury sized books and are currently highly sought by collectors.  The numbering of these books can always be found on the outside cover and starts with a “C” or an “F”.  The first three issues in the FFE series carry the “C” prefix, with five carrying the “F” prefix, followed by the final issue again having a “C” prefix.  Several of these issues were also printed with a special hardbound cover and dust jacket.  Following is a complete list of the FFE issues published by DC:

  • C-26 – Action Comics#1 (also in hardbound)
  • C-28 – Detective Comics #27 (also in hardbound)
  • C-30 – Sensation Comics #1 (also in hardbound)
  • F-4 – Whiz Comics #2(#1) (also in hardbound)
  • F-5 – Batman #1 (also in hardbound)
  • F-6 – Wonder Woman #1 (also in hardbound)
  • F-7 – All-Star Comics #3
  • F-8 – Flash Comics #1
  • C-61 – Superman#1 (this had a slipcase edition of 250 copies signed by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman’s creators).
FFE C-30 (Sensation Comics #1)

FFE C-30 (Sensation Comics #1)

These are great Golden Age reprints, especially in the larger format.  As mentioned above, anyone not familiar with comics should be careful not to confuse these reprints with a rare Golden Age original.  Additionally, if purchasing one of these books for your collection, you should make sure it is complete with the outer cardboard cover.   As stated above, Caveat Emptor!  If in doubt, have the book reviewed by an expert.

FFE F-7 (All-Star Comics #3)

FFE F-7 (All-Star Comics #3)



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About Bill Jourdain

Bill is the host of the Golden Age of Comic Books Podcast. Learn more about Bill in the "About Bill" page to this site.
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25 Responses to The Trouble with “Famous First Editions”

  1. Ray Brott says:

    Where can i purchase just the dust jackets for the hard cover famous first editions? Have them all, but no dust jackets.

  2. That’s a great question, but I don’t know the answer. Maybe eBay?

  3. Pat Curley says:

    You’ll be hard pressed to find the dust jackets without the book, and since the dust jackets are generally the most valuable part of the book, you probably won’t find it worthwhile.

    I see these books come up for auction on ebay all the time as something “from my grandfather’s attic.” DC did not copy the cover perfectly, so there are a couple mistakes you can look for; IIRC there’s glare on the front fender of a real Action #1, but not on the FFE. Of course, some sellers will even post a cover of a real Action #1 and not the comic they’re sending you.

    To me, an obvious red flag on the charity buy would be that they were getting the comic for $3000; unless it’s coverless and missing a wrap or two, that’s a ridiculously cheap price. They probably thought they were getting a steal. The old adage applies: you can’t cheat an honest man.

  4. Shaun Broussard says:

    What were the dimensions of original golden-age Marvel comics?

  5. Robert L. says:

    Back in the late 70’s to early 80’s, I remember as a kid that my older cousin had a coffee table sized hardbound book of DC’s First Editions of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Lantern etc. Is this the series of books that this article is referring to? I just remember one big book that had all the originals not a series of books.

  6. Manzel Moore Jr says:

    I happen to have a collection of comics over the years and my wife and I saw that one of my collection was, indeed, the “famous 1st edition” of Action comics #1. Not the comic, the reprint.
    They still have the cardboard covers and are whole and from 1974. While it may not be considered in “Mint Condition” it is certainly not falling apart as I have a respect for all comics.
    I say “they” because I have Action #1 (C-26)1974, and Superman #1 (C-61)1978.

    If you know anyone who has an interest in obtaining these issues, please contact me.

  7. Bob says:

    @Robert L.: The book you remember was probably “Secret Origins of the Super DC Heroes” from 1976. See http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Origins-Super-DC-Heroes/dp/0517524899

    It reprinted the origin stories of several well-known DC heroes. The Famous First Edition series, however, reprinted the entire comic books, including advertisements and lesser-known characters like Chuck Dawson (a cowboy hero), Scoop Scanlon (a crusading reporter), Zatara (a crimefighting magician), and Pep Morgan (a boxer), each of whom debuted in Action Comics #1 along with Superman.

  8. Bob says:

    @Shaun Broussard: Up until the late 1950s, most comic books measured about 10 inches high by 7 1/2 inches wide. Today’s comics are the same height, but about 3/4 of an inch narrower.

  9. Vivek Rao says:

    Hi Bill, you mentioned that the 1973 FFE series is currently sought after by collectors. I have 3 of the 4 reprints that you have shown images of in your post. How much would these reprints be worth? They are not in mint condition, but aren’t too bad either. Would be great if you could give me some sort of a ball-park estimate.

    regards,
    Vivek.

  10. @Vivek You may want to check the 40th edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. This will give you a ballpark estimate, depending on the condition of your books.

    Bill

  11. Heidi says:

    @Bill,

    Hey,

    Are their covers for the 1973 FFE series that protect the condition of the item? I asked a few comic book sellers/dealers… the best answer I received is: Giant sized Ziploc Bags, sealed as air tight as possible… any other recommendations would be peeeeerrrrrrrfect!

    THANKS!

  12. @Heidi –

    I have seen treasury sized comics bags. You may want to check with E. Gerber products to see if they sell them.

  13. Jacelien says:

    Hi Bill,

    I’ve got 4 0f the hardcover comic books. C-26/C-28/C-30 and F4 the funny thing is, is that the ISBN number for the Golden and Bronze mint edition are the same? How could this be? And are they worth anything?
    I would appreciate an answer.
    Regards, Jacelien

  14. Seline says:

    Hello Bob and Com.
    I recently purchased the Famous First Edition #C-28 comic with hardcover at an estate sale it is signed and dated with an a typical bob kane sketch of batman on the blank leaf page. The local comic dealer suggested it would be worth buying a copy if just for the dust jacket to place on the signed one with drawing. Any luck Ray? And would you suggest this action as well with the resale value be worth the purchase price of comic and dust jacket? I am an a fine art dealer and mainly work in Modernist art 1890’s – 1960’s, when I have had original comic book art I have never got much for it the most exciting was the final pencil spiderman cover but a “Super Spidey” so not by Stan Lee. Sketch with marvel stamps and sealed certificate but it was only worth a couple hundred dollars (ten years ago). I have been passing up original comic illustration art ever sense until this one as I thought the reprint of the comic might be of some value?
    Any advice??

  15. Pat Curley says:

    Seline, the best way to find out prices on that sort of stuff is by checking Ebay; if you are registered with them (free) you can search past auctions. Ditto with Heritage Auctions.

  16. christopher pullen says:

    my uncle has a 1939 batman comic thats larger than a regular comic book. can anyone tell us if its the first batman comic and if not what is the value of this comic book… It is from 1939!! So has to be worth more than nothing..thanks.

  17. sandra says:

    I have a comic that i found in a storage locker that i bought. DC (oversized)famous 1st editionlimited collector’s golden mint series. superman c-61 32219 $2.00 1979 it has a thin cardboard type cover( not just shiny paper) looked on ebay and found a range of prices for the same book from $8-$99. not familiar with comics so any help is greatly appreciated. the barcode is 7098932219. don’t know if this info helps.

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  19. Luis F Hernandez says:

    I have a Limited Collectors’ Edition “The Return of Tarzan”, 32159, C-29, 5-part novel copyright 1974, printed in USA; also a Famous First Edition Limited Collectors’ Bronze Mint Series, “Wonder Woman” No. 1 January, C-30, C32170, copyright 1974, printed in the USA; also a Limited Collectors’ Edition “Justice League of America”, C-46, 32130, copyright 1976, printed in the USA. The Wonder Woman has the bronze colored cover while the other two books never had a exterior cover. I bought these in the PX when my dad was stationed in Frankfurt , Germany. All three are in good condition. I am curious as to what they are worth. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  21. Tony says:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/171678793120?rmvSB=true Batman #1 just sold for $9,500. There is no red building in the lower left hand corner and the other buildings have been moved up. That is a famous first edition with the outer cover removed.

  22. Jim Mourgos says:

    I realize a lot of these comments are several years old now, but if folks would stop thinking comics are their highway to riches and just enjoy them, they’d be a lot calmer about the whole issue (pun intended).

    A comic book is worth as much as collectors are willing to spend. The Overstreet Price Guide is not a sales catalogue but a GUIDE.

    Resale value is based on age, condition, and demand. True Romance comics for example are not in as high demand as superhero comics are, yet both printed in the 1940s.

    To an earlier post, the first Batman appearance was Detective Comics 27. These comics are rare because many were pulped to support the war effort, thus their rarity.

    Today’s comics are barely worth the paper their printed on, typical copies at $4 a copy and resale value maybe 50 cents if you’re lucky.

  23. Tony Ortega says:

    I am absolutely sure the Famous First Edition of Batman #1 was never published in a hardcover version by Lyle Stuart. Overstreet’s Price Guides have been perpetuating that myth for years. I believe the next edition will finally correct that mistake. I’ll be happy to supply you with the evidence supporting my findings.

    Please correct your listing, so others using your it for reference won’t make the mistake of wasting their time searching for a non-existent book.

    Have a wonderful day!
    Tony Ortega.

  24. alexis says:

    i have a reprint 1974 ACTION COMIC which was signed by both siegal and shuster in 1981. how much would it be worth as i wish to sell it.
    many thanks Alexis

  25. Bob says:

    There are other difference besides the size. The original Action #1 cover was cut a little lower, and the car’s fender had a white reflection on it; it was colored solid green in the FFE reprint. On the original Detective #27, Batman’s rope went all the way to the top of the cover, the roof has two pipes on it instead of one, and Bob Kane’s signature is on the bottom; not in the reprint.

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