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.
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!
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).
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.