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Original Superman comic sells for record sum

It's a bird! It's a plane! Actually, that high-flying object is Superman eclipsing a record price for a comic book sold at auction.

A 1938 copy of Action Comics #1, the first comic book to introduce Superman, has sold for $3.2 million, according to a statement from eBay (EBAY), which ran the auction. The buyer is ComicConnect, an online marketplace for comic book collectors.

The previous record had been set in 2011 with another copy of Action Comics #1, which sold by $2.161 million. While the issue originally sold for 10 cents when it was first published, Action Comics #1 is now viewed as the Holy Grail for comic book collectors, with only 50 unrestored original copies believed to still be in existence, according to eBay.

Following Superman's first appearance in the pages, the character went on to hold a cherished place in American pop culture, celebrated in film, television and video games.

"There was no such thing as a superhero" before Action Comics #1 was published, ComicConnect chief executive Stephen Fishler told CBS MoneyWatch. "It paved the way for everything that came afterward. The ability to buy any [Action Comics #1] is an opportunity that is very difficult to pass by."

Before Action Comics #1, there were no superheroes, Fishler noted. "There was no character who would put on a costume and fight crime," he said. "This paved the way for Spiderman, the Hulk, the Avengers."

More collectors and investors are being drawn to comics as an alternative investment.

"They want to put their money into a hard asset, something that has a cool factor, something with historical significance, not an obscure coin," Fishler said. "It's iconic, and everyrone knows what this is."

As for his plans, he said ComicConnect will at some point put the issue up for sale. "We'll find a happy buyer for it," he said. "It could be an investor, or a hard-core comic collector who has been trying to buy" a copy of the issue.

Early comic books are rare because many of them were tossed out or given away during paper drives in World War II, according to a video about the issue posted on Pristine Comics' website. Pristine Comics owner Darren Adams said its original owner had bought the issue in 1938 from a newsstand and stored it in a cedar chest in his West Virginia home. That proved to be ideal, giving the comic book a dry, dark storage place.

After changing hands twice over the next several decades, Adams said he bought it from a dealer who had held it for 30 years. "I knew right then there was something extremely special -- not just a copy of Action Comics #1, but THE copy of Action Comics #1," Adams said in the video. "The emotion was overwhelming."

The copy is graded 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, according to a rating from the Certified Guaranty Company.