The $412 check written in 1938 by Detective Comics to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for, among other things, the rights to Superman sold last night at auction for a whopping $160,000. The piece of paper has been described as “the most important $412 in comics history” and “possibly the most important pop-culture artifact known to exist.”
“The concept of the superhero was born with Superman,” Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of auction website ComicConnect, told Reuters. “That $130 check essentially created a billion-dollar industry.”
Signed by Publisher Jack Liebowitz, it included $130 for the Man of Steel, with the remaining $282 serving as payment for stories contributed to Detective Comics, Adventure Comics and More Fun Comics. Liebowitz misspelled the last names of both Siegel and Shuster, leading them to endorse the check twice.
Written March 1, 1938, the check was key to several legal and moral disputes, the first beginning barely a year after its signing. According to ComicConnect, it was among a box of old court documents handed over to DC Comics by its legal team in 1973 during a lunch celebrating what everyone thought was the final victory in their decades-long fight with Siegel and Shuster for the Superman rights.
A DC employee who was told by an executive to throw out the papers fished the check out of the trash and placed it in a dresser drawer, where it remained for 38 years. The check was sold on behalf of the heirs of the employee.