By selling for $175,000 at auction, the cartoon “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” has achieved the distinction of becoming the highest-priced single comic ever sold. Originally published by The New Yorker on July 5, 1993, this cartoon gained viral popularity in the 1990s, a time when platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and even the iPhone did not yet exist. Created by the talented cartoonist Peter Steiner, it struck a chord with people worldwide and was widely acclaimed for its brilliant portrayal of internet anonymity.
The original drawing had remained out of the hands of eager collectors for nearly three decades until this past weekend when it was sold for an astounding $175,000 to an anonymous bidder. It was expected to fetch only $50,000; however, according to Heritage Auctions, the buyer had been attempting to acquire it from both the magazine and the artist since its initial publication. This sale not only marks the highest price ever paid for a single-panel cartoon but also sets a new record for Peter Steiner.
Reflecting on his creation, Steiner shared, “I didn’t always have enough ideas, so sometimes I would just draw a picture and try to dream up a caption for it. I was surprised when they picked that one out of the batch.” Ironically, the work he considered “a little bit lame” was one among more than 430 cartoons he contributed to The New Yorker, clearly standing out as the most remarkable.
In 1993, when the cartoon was published, most people had never even used the internet. Bob Mankoff, the former cartoon editor for The New Yorker, commented, “But I think part of its success comes from the fact that we’re all living in the world that that cartoon foreshadowed. There’s a way that a cartoonist’s antenna can sort of tap into the zeitgeist, and a good cartoon compresses the message as simply as possible.”
Meagen McMillan, Heritage’s Senior Director of Illustration Art, expressed excitement about the auction’s results, saying, “We are thrilled with the results of this auction and cannot wait for the next!”