The letters column in the February 1960 comic book Superman No. 135 carried the following request:

Dear Editor,

Insomuch as your office can’t supply back-numbers of your various Superman magazines, would it be possible for you to print my address so that readers who have old issues can swap or sell them to me?

To which Superman publisher DC Comics, Inc., responded:

Sorry, but old issues of used magazines are known disease-carriers, so we can’t encourage such swapping.

Looking back, this wasn’t a totally ignorant counter on the part of DC’s editors. Now Sotheby’s presents “DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection,” a private sale comprising every issue of every DC Comics issue published from 1935 to the end of 2014.

DC (which originally stood for Detective Comics) is best known for igniting a golden age of comic books with its introduction of a slew of celebrated superhero characters: Superman in 1938, Batman and Wonder Woman closely following in 1939 and 1941, respectively, and a host of other heroes and villains, from the Green Lantern to the Flash and the Joker. Starting in the early 70s, DC became one of the first comic-book publishers to release stories that dealt with real-world issues ranging from racism to drug addiction. Throughout all of this DC drove a fundamental change in the identity of the comic book: what began as entertainment for children became a reflector of global popular culture, a classic American art form, and, in many cases, a collector’s item. Forty thousand DC Comic treasures are available now, and they’ve all been carefully sterilized. —Julia Vitale