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Rare copy of 1st comic book featuring Superman fetches record $3.2M in eBay auction

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - A rare, nearly flawless copy of Superman's comic-book debut has sold for a super-powered price: $3.2 million.

New York comics dealers Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo said Monday they submitted Sunday's record-setting bid in the eBay auction for Action Comics No. 1, the 1938 book in which the superhero first appeared. It's believed to be the highest price ever paid for a comic book, surpassing $2.1 million for a similarly high-quality copy of the same book in 2011.

"It's hard to believe that a kid's 10-cent comic could be worth that much money, but it is Superman. That's an iconic thing," Fishler said. "It's the first time anybody saw what a superhero was like."

EBay confirmed the price but said it couldn't yet disclose the buyer's name.

Created by Cleveland teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action Comics No. 1 introduces the Man of Steel's Kryptonian backstory, earthly role as reporter Clark Kent and identity as a champion of the oppressed. It's seen as the dawn of the comic book superhero, paving the way for a roster of now-famous characters.

About 100 to 150 copies are believed to exist, only a handful of them in top condition. The book just sold got a seldom-seen 9.0 on a 10-point scale used to measure vintage comic books' condition.

It was kept for decades in a cedar chest in the West Virginia mountains by a man who had bought it off a newsstand, seller Darren Adams recently told The Washington Post. Adams, a Federal Way, Washington-based collectibles dealer, didn't immediately return a call Monday from The Associated Press.

After the original owner died, a collector bought it from his estate and built a similar cedar chest to store it, Adams told the Post.

Fishler and Zurzolo own ComicConnect.com, which auctioned the 2011 record-setter and a slightly less well-preserved Action Comics No. 1 for more than $1 million in 2010. The rising prices have been fueled by superhero movies and growing interest in comic books as investments — "an alternative place to put money that has a cool factor to it," Fishler said.

Sunday's sale also marks a high point for San Jose, California-based eBay, which Adams selected to sell an item often handled by specialty dealers and auction houses. Gene Cook, the online marketplace's general manager of emerging verticals, said the sale demonstrates "how eBay plays a role in popular culture by connecting shoppers to must-have merchandise."

Some of the proceeds will go to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, in recognition of the late "Superman" movie star.

Fishler said he and Zurzolo have no specific plans yet for their new-bought copy but couldn't resist it, despite the price.

"It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up," he said.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @jennpeltz.

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