$130 Check DC Used to Buy Superman Now Worth $40,000+

Slate's Culture Blog
April 2 2012 9:00 AM

Buy the Check That Bought Superman

Superman check
A still from the promotional video "The Check That Bought Superman"

In 1938, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, budding comic book artists, sold the rights to one of their creations to Detective Comics, Inc., for $130. That sale led to copyright battles that are still being waged in U.S. courts today. Why? Because that creation was Superman, one of the most valuable cultural properties in the world.

So valuable, in fact, that people are willing to pay big money just to own the check that Detective Comics (known today as DC Comics) used to buy the character. The check, which is being auctioned by ComicConnect, is actually for $412; it was used to pay Siegel and Shuster for several bits of work, which are detailed on the left. First item: Superman, $130.

The check that bought Superman
The check for $412 with which Detective Comics paid Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for Superman, among other items

According to ComicConnect, the check was rescued from "piles of court papers and corporate records" by a DC Comics employee in 1973, after one of the many lawsuits stemming from that original sale. The employee, they say, kept it safe in a dresser drawer for the next 38 years.

As of this writing, bidding on the check is, after 18 bids, near $40,000; with another couple weeks before the sale, that figure may go quite a bit higher. Ironically, the check is now worth a great deal precisely because it was worth so little at the time.

Siegel and Shuster check
The double signatures of Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster on the back of the check paid to them for Superman

And the document does contain some nice details. The most striking: Whoever at DC Comics wrote out the check didn't know how to spell Siegel and Shuster's names, so the men double-signed the check on the back, using both the incorrect spellings provided on the front as well as the correct spellings. This detail seems so perfectly symbolic of the whole transaction that, were one to write a novel about Shuster and Siegel, people wouldn't believe it. (By the way, if you're thinking of writing such a novel: It's been done.)

Learn more about the check in ComicConnect's somewhat hyperbolic promotional video below. (Via Illustration Art.)

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.



The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The Feds Have Declared War on Encryption—and the New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You

It spreads slowly.

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative


Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Activists Are Trying to Save an Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?