Man of steel is good as gold for Minnesota man

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 12, 2013 - 8:50 PM

A 75-year-old comic book plucked from the walls of a western Minnesota house sold at auction for $175,000.

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Lucky find: ‘‘I knew it was worth money, but I had no idea how much,” said David Gonzalez

David Gonzalez has long been a fan of Superman.

“Come on, everybody knows he’s the man,” the 34-year-old home construction and remodeling worker from western Minnesota said Wednesday. “He’s always the man.”

More so for Gonzalez than most.

On Tuesday, the father of four from Hoffman, Minn., learned he would receive a hefty check after a 75-year-old Superman comic book he found while gutting an old house in nearby Elbow Lake was sold in an online auction for $175,000. (The auction house takes 10 percent, leaving Gonzalez with $157,500.)

Making the news even sweeter was the possibility of more green to come: Earlier in the day, Gonzalez’s wife, Deanna, discovered a second comic book featuring the superhero in debris piled outside the Elbow Lake house that they are renovating. That book, wet from rain and missing its cover, shows “Superman fighting dinosaurs” and appears to be nearly as old as the 1938 Action Comics #1 book Gonzalez found in January amid the paper that a former owner used to insulate the home’s ceiling and walls. It also promotes the introduction of another superhero, named “Batman,” in an upcoming issue.

Gonzalez, who bought the house in December for more than $10,000, said Wednesday that he has contacted a collector to determine the book’s value and whether it also should be put up for auction.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s not in the best shape, but it’s readable.”

Gonzalez’s first find, featuring a cover of Superman lifting a car, was the comic book that first introduced the superhero to readers.

Vincent Zurzolo, a co-owner of ComicConnect, a New York City online auction house that sold the comic book Tuesday, would not identify the buyer, but said he was from the United States and had been looking for an unrestored copy of that comic book for several months.

Zurzolo said the winning bid was one of 51 submitted since the comic book was put up for auction May 20.

Bidding started at $100 and reached $101,000 the first day. Over the past few weeks, “it just slowly moved up from there,” he said, leveling off at $155,000 Tuesday morning, the final day of bidding.

During the closing hours, however, “it ticked up a bunch,” Zurzolo said.

Because of a tear on the book’s back cover, which happened after Gonzalez grabbed it from his wife’s aunt amid the excitement of his discovery, the book’s condition was downgraded to 1.5 on a 10-point scale and its pre-auction price estimate was listed at $125,000 to $150,000 — about $75,000 less than what it might have been without the tear.

That it ended up selling for more was due largely to the unusual story behind its discovery, Zurzolo said.

Gonzalez said the comic book and insulation fell to the floor after he began poking at the home’s ceiling, damp from a leaky roof, and it collapsed.

Zurzolo described the comic book, which was untouched for decades, as “a virgin comic.”

Gonzalez said Wednesday that while the tear might have cost his family $75,000, “We don’t cry about it. We don’t feel upset about it. I don’t think money brings you happiness.”

Gonzalez said he plans to donate $10,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The remainder will be banked and used at a later date to help pay college expenses for his four children, now ages 6 to 9.

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