There are thousands of collectors of Superman memorabilia around the world. You can find them in groups on Facebook, in comic book stores and even at the Superman Museum in Metropolis (I’m not kidding), Illinois. One of these collectors recently purchased a high-grade Action Comics #1 (June 30, 1938) by Joe Shuster for over $3 million. (Sorry if your mom threw out your copy!) This issue featured the first appearance of Superman and sold for 10 cents at the time.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to collect Superman coins, medals and even paper money. There are many fun collectibles available under $50 and, of course, the sky is the limit.
One of the newest Superman collectibles doesn’t even show the “man of steel” – rather it depicts the two creators of the comic book hero – writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster – who were boyhood friends in Cleveland. The state of Ohio even honors Superman on its license plates.
Jewish-American Hall of Fame
The Jewish-American Hall of Fame celebrated the induction of Siegel and Shuster in 2021 by issuing limited edition art medals (made in high relief, with antique finish) in an unusual rounded trapezoidal shape. Made from bronze, pure silver and gold-plated pure silver, they quickly sold out. These are the only numismatic items ever made featuring Siegel and Shuster.
Jerry Siegel was born on October 17, 1914, in Cleveland, Ohio; his parents were Jewish immigrants who had fled antisemitism in their native Lithuania in 1900. Joe Shuster was born in Toronto on July 10, 1914; his father was from Rotterdam and his mother had come from Kiev (now Kyiv). The family moved to Cleveland in 1924, where he became friends with Siegel in high school. They shared a love of science fiction, adventure fiction and movies.
Stay in the Know
You never know when a country is going to issue a new Superman coin. When they do, the coins are often quickly sold out to collectors on the mint’s mailing list – and then the only way to obtain the coin is to pay a premium price on eBay. But there is an easy way to learn about new Superman coins if you have a computer. Go to google.com/alerts, specify your email address, and indicate that you want alerts for “Superman coin,” “Superman medal,” or “Superman token.” Then, anytime there is news about a Superman coin, medal or token issued anywhere in the world, you will receive a message.
After developing the comic strip characters of Superman, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, etc., Siegel and Shuster began a six-year quest to find a publisher. Eventually, they sold their concept to DC comics for just $130. Superman began as one of several anthology features in the National Periodical Publications Action Comics #1 in June 1938. Superman proved so popular that National launched his own self-titled comic book, the first for any superhero, premiering in the summer of 1939. And the rest is history.
The fact that Joe Shuster was born in Canada may explain why Canada has produced more Superman commemorative coins than anywhere else.
Canada Issues Superman Coins
In 2013, Canada issued Superman commemorative coins in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Superman’s first appearance in a comic book. They range from a half-ounce silver $15 face value to a 12-gram, 14-karat $75 coin. These coins are colorful and feature inscriptions in the Kryptonian language from Superman’s home planet, as well as English and French on one side.
The other side features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Again, in 2016, Canada issued one-ounce pure silver coins featuring Superman. In addition to the regular bullion pieces, Canada issued glitzy coins in color with crystals (for more money, of course).
Making Superman Stand Out
Superman’s artistic creator, Jerry Siegel, said they needed to make Superman stand out, so they gave him a big S, long boots, a cape, and tights –all in bright colors. In Action Comics #1, Superman’s symbol was the letter “S” with red and blue on a shape that resembled a shield. The symbol was modified a few issues later in Action Comics #7 (DC, 1938). This was the second time Superman appeared on an Action Comics cover and the first time his name appeared on a cover. The symbol varied over the first few years of the comics, many times appearing simply as an “S” within an inverted triangle. The shield did not become diamond-shaped until the 1940s animated cartoon serials produced by Max Fleisher, where it was black with a red “S” outlined with white or sometimes yellow.
Niue Issues Superman Coins
Other countries, besides Canada, have jumped on the Superman bandwagon. In 2018, in celebration of the 80th anniversary of Superman’s first appearance in a comic book, the island nation of Niue issued a collection of six, five-gram pure silver coin notes featuring images of iconic Superman comic book covers over the years 1939 to 2017; each has a one-dollar face value.
In 2021, Niue issued coins in the shape of Superman’s emblem; each contains one troy ounce of pure silver. Since Niue is a member of the British Commonwealth, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II is featured on one side. There are two more Superman coins issued by Niue, including one in the shape of an ingot and a “Chibi” Superman.
The “Chibi” Superman coin differentiates itself in two ways – the unique shape and the portrayal of a very young Superman. According to Wikipedia, “Chibi is a Japanese slang word describing something short (a thing, an animal or a person).
The term is widely used in Japan to describe a specific style of caricature where characters are drawn exaggeratedly. Typically these characters are small and chubby, with stubby limbs and oversized heads to make them resemble children. This style of artwork has since found its way into anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese graphic novels).”
This story about Superman coin collecting previously appeared in COINage magazine. Story by Mel Wacks, NLG. To subscribe to COINage magazine click here.