First Issue of The Shadow Sets $156,000 World Record in Pulp Magazine Auction at Heritage

A scarce first edition of The Shadow, published in April 1931 sold for $156,000 Thursday 20th May at Heritage Auctions, setting a world record as the most expensive pulp magazine ever sold.

The rare book, graded in “Fine-minus” condition, claimed top lot honors in a 586-lot special sale of rare pulp magazines and related collectibles.

“The price realized for The Shadow No. 1 is the highest recorded for a pulp of any kind,” said Rick Akers, Consignment Director of Comics at Heritage Auctions. “I expected it might pass $50,000, but things got pretty exciting when it surpassed $100,000, with heated live bidding.”

“The consignor contacted me after the auction and said he was thrilled with everything from start to finish with Heritage Auctions and the results,” Akers said.

The online auction featured a 100 percent sell-through rate and realized $636,648, nearly three times expectations.

Akers said the sale recorded a large number a unique bidders, which means new people are coming into pulp collecting.

“Heritage offered a copy of Weird Tales No. 1 at auction a number of years ago, and it sold for less than $10,000,” Akers said. “Thursday, it sold for $36,000, so that shows how far the category has grown.”

This first issue of The Shadow was an instant hit (the series would ran for 325 issues over 18 years) and it is widely considered one of the most influential magazines ever published. It is the very first “hero pulp,” and is credited as influencing the development of superhero comic books, which introduced characters such as Batman and Superman which appeared several years later.

Collecting pulp magazines has been an established hobby for more than a century. The publications hit their stride during the 1920s and 1930s. The “pulps magazine” moniker is derived from the cheap paper made from wood pulp, on which the inexpensive fiction magazines were printed.

The sale set several auction records for pulp magazine titles.

A 1923 first edition, second-state copy of Weird Tales sold for a record $36,000. The rare variant second-state copy, in attractive Very-Good plus condition, is one of the longest-running and considered among the most influential pulp horror titles ever published.

A 1933 first edition of Doc Savage, offered in very good/fine condition, sold for $33,600, shattering the previous auction record paid for the magazine.

The copy is the nicest of the five Heritage experts have seen to date, only three of which are unrestored. The previous auction record for a first edition of the title was set by Heritage in December 2020 when a copy sold for $22,800.

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

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