The 10-cent comic book in which Superman made his 1938 debut sold for 619,000 times its original price Saturday, fetching $61,900 at a Sotheby's auction.

Steve Geppi, owner of Diamond Comics Distribution and a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles, bought the comic book, known formally as Action Comics No. 1, Sotheby's said.The catalog described the comic as "arguably . . . the most important comic book ever published."

No one knows how many of the comic books still exist, but a Sotheby's spokeswoman said experts estimate there are about 50.

An Action Comics No. 1 that was in pristine condition sold for $82,500 in 1992, a record for comic books. Saturday's book sold for less, Sotheby's said, because it had been partially restored.

The Superman of Action Comics No. 1 wore a scriptlike "S" on a yellow background on his chest, rather than the shieldlike emblem he opted for later in his career.

The second comic book in which the superhero appeared, Action Comics No. 2, sold for $16,100.

An edition of Marvel Comics No. 1, in which the Human Torch made his first appearance in 1939, sold for $21,850.