Under the Influence

The super valuable treasure one man found in the walls of his home

Back in the 1930s, it was common to insulate homes using newspaper. But when one man renovated his house, he came across something completely unexpected.
Back in the 1930s, it was common to insulate homes using newspaper. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Back in 1938, American writer Jerry Siegal and Canadian artist Joe Shuster created Superman.

They introduced their superhero in Action Comics, issue #1. Superman became incredibly popular - then moved to radio, then television and eventually, motion pictures. But that first comic book - Action Comics #1 - has been called "the most important comic book in the history of comic books" because Superman was the archetype for all other superheroes to come. That first issue is extremely rare and prized by collectors. A pristine copy recently sold for $3.2 million.

David Gonzales was a home contractor in Elbow Lake, Minn. Population 1,200. For years, he would tear down old walls and put up new ones for his customers. He had a fun habit while renovating homes — he would leave a quarter between the walls, hoping that sometime in the future someone would find the tiny treasure with the date on it.

In 2013, he purchased his first home for $10,000 and it was in dire need of restoration. As he was tearing down the walls, he noticed the old house was insulated with newspapers — which was common practice back in the 1930s when the house was first built.

As he removed the newspapers from between the walls, he noticed what looked like a comic book stuck between the pages of the newspapers. When he pulled it out and looked at it, he saw he was holding a copy of Superman Action Comics #1, dated 1938.

So Gonzales went home and looked it up on the Internet. That's when he realized Action Comics #1 was valuable. His Superman comic was not pristine, as it had stood between the walls for seventy-five years. The cover had a rip, the pages were yellow from age. But Gonzales eventually put it up for auction — where it sold for $175,000.

Someone had either tucked that comic book between the newspaper pages as insulation, or like David Gonzales, they had left it there hoping someone in the future would find the tiny treasure with the date on it.

That tiny treasure was worth 16 times the cost of David Gonzales's house.

For more stories from Under the Influence, click or tap the "Listen" tab above to hear the full episode. You can also find us on the CBC Listen app or subscribe to our Podcast.

Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search the hashtag: #Terstream.

Terry O'Reilly leaning against his 1969 Airstream trailer turned mobile recording studio a listener dubbed the "Terstream." (Terry O'Reilly)


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