Comic Book Collection to Sell for $2M: Inside Michael Rorrer's 'Jaw-Dropping' Find

 
on February 22 2012 12:10 PM

A jaw-dropping comic book collection featuring early editions of Superman, Batman and Captain America, is expected to fetch over two million dollars today in New York City.

It has been coined the Billy Wright Collection, and boasts an astonishing 345 titles.

But for Michael Rorrer, the man who discovered his great uncle's collection, the discovery that these comic books were worth anything came as a tremendous shock.

'I couldn't believe what I had.'

Michael Rorrer and his brother Jonathan were once told by their great aunt Ruby that they might one day inherit her husband's Billy Wright's comic book collection.

So when the 31-year-old California was cleaning out his great aunt Ruby's home in Virginia after her death, he wasn't surprised to find hundreds of comics neatly stacked in the basement closet.

When it came to the comic books' value, however, Rorrer assumed that they were worthless.

His mother, Lisa Hernandez, helped him divide the comics into two boxes--one for him, one for his brother--and Rorrer quickly forgot about them.

But when his portion arrived in California in the fall, Rorrer happened to mention to collection to his co-worker. One of the titles he mentioned was a Captain America No. 2, a 1941 issue featuring the hero confronting Adolph Hitler.

Rorrer didn't know it, but he was in possession of one of comic history's most iconic issues, one which inspired portion of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning love letter to comic books, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It was worth around $100,000.

Rorrer's friend at work asked him if his collection included Action Comics No. 1, Superman's first appearance.

I went home and was looking through some of them, and there it was, Rorrer told the Associated Press.

Once he realized how valuable some of the comics might be, he called his mother, who still had his younger brother's box with her. They went through the comics together, checking off issue after issue on a list of the most valued comic books in the world.

Rorrer was in shock.

I couldn't believe what I had sitting there upstairs at my house.

'The scope of this collection is dizzying.'

Michael Rorrer's great uncle Billy Wright had managed to assemble a comic book collection that included some of the most prized issues ever published. He had also kept the bulk of them in remarkably good condition.

The significance of the find is staggering for people like Lon Allen, the managing director of comics for Heritage Auctions, the Dallas-based auction house behind the New York City sale.

This is just one of those collections that all the guys in the business think don't exist anymore, Allen told the AP. It was kind of hard to wrap my head around it.

Wright's comic book collection includes 44 of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide's list of the top 100 issues from the Golden Age of Comics, from 1938 to 1950.

The scope of this collection is, from a historian's perspective, dizzying, J.C. Vaughn, associate publisher of Overstreet, said.

Some of the collection's most notable pieces include the Captain America issue, that first appearance of Superman (expected to sell for about $325,000), and Detective Comics No. 27, worth about $475,000, the 1939 issue that introduced the world to Batman.

The core of Billy Wright's collection is from 1938 to 1941.

Wright Had 'Knack' For Comic Collecting

Allen called the collection jaw-dropping, and told the AP that Rorrer's great uncle seemed to have a knack for collecting the comics that would turn out to be the most valuable.

In the early days of comics publishing, Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President of Heritage Auctions, noted, a print run might have been in the hundreds of thousands, maybe even the millions.

Yet only about 100 to 1,000 of a given issue of any comic survived...It's a miracle that even one of these has made it.

But Hernandez, 54, says she isn't surprised by her uncle's two million dollar collection, despite him never mentioning the gold mine before he died in 1994 at age 66.

Billy Wright was a smart man with a habit of storing keepsakes. According to Hernandez, Rorrer also found board games from the 1930s among the priceless comic books. Many of them were still in their original boxes.

Other comics in the priceless collection include the debut of Green Lantern in All-American Comics No. 16 (first bid at $125,000), Marvel Comics No. 1 ($125,000), and a run of Fantastic Four comics that include the first appearance of Doctor Doom ($55,000).

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