The biggest movie blockbuster this year is not so far away.
Star Wars seventh installment The Force Awakens
hits movie theatres in time for this Christmas. It would
be fair to say the J.J. Abrams reboot should be, well,
excellent. He yanked Star Trek from mediocrity, and the Star
War trailers are tremendous.
But let's step back to time long, long ago, when in 1977
Marvel boss Stan Lee turned down an offer to publish a comic
based on the movie a few months before the release of the first
film. He was antsy about taking on an unproven product. His then
editor in chief Roy Thomas talked Lee into snaring the rights
to publish the comic that ran for 107 issues, three annuals and
four Treasury Editions.
It was a good thing Lee let Thomas talk him into taking on
the tie-in. Financially the series saved Marvel in 1977, which
was seeing its financials wobble as the comics business weakened.
Issues 1 to 6 adapted the first Star Wars movie, while issues
39 to 44 retold The Empire Strikes Back.
Expect the hype attached to The Force Awakens to drive demand
and prices for that original series into warp (am I mixing up
movie franchises here?).
Of course, this is about comics, and of course, it's not
simple for collectors. Marvel printed second printings of some
editions, which are not as valuable or desirable as first prints.
Also, Marvel printed variants of some of the first editions,
with a 35-cent cover rather than the normal 30-cent cover which
is very desirable. It's important to know the differences so
that one doesn't get stung.
Issues 1 to 4 have the variant covers with 35-cent prices,
testing limited markets to see if the market would accept a price
increase. The print runs were significantly smaller and unwittingly
created a future collectable. The price was raised to 35 cents
starting with the fifth issue.
The differences in the collectable market value between the
regular issues and the variants are light-years apart. The regular
1 goes for about $350 mint in the retail market, while the variant
1 is worth about $3,500 in mint, if you can find one. It's believed
the press run was as small as 1,500 issues, compared to more
than 100,000 for the regular issue.
Many of the variant #1s appear to have been slabbed, that
is, the grade certified and stored in sealed plastic containers,
and sold at multiples of the guide value. For example, a graded
9.0 edition sold at auction for $7,767 in May.
Similar story for the second and third issue, about $50 mint
for the regular issue, and about $350 for a mint #2 variant.
The fourth regular issue is valued at about $40 mint but about
$350 for the variant. Slabbed copies sell for even more.
Sales for the Star Wars comic surpassed Marvels expectations
in 1977 and 78, and demand called for second prints. The
issues, both 30-cents and 35-cents are marked as reprints, some
with the word Reprint on the upper left hand corner
of the cover or in the indicia that states, This is a reprint
of a previously published issue.
They have value, about $20 in mint for #1.
a debate as to which issues were reprinted. The Overstreet guide
says issues 1 to 9 had reprints, but some dealers say only issues
1 to 6 were reprinted. A reprinted issue will have the statement
that it is a reprint.
Check before you buy.
There are four treasury editions and the first three were
also issued under the Whitman label as well as the Marvel label.
Does it affect the collectable market price for Whitman editions,
which had a smaller print run? Hmmm, is all I can say.
One last collecting tip about the original Marvel series.
The other really, really collectable issue in the series is the
last regular edition, #107, published in 1986. The series
popularity waned and distribution shrunk. Indeed, thats
what makes this issue so valuable. I've only handled one copy
of this issue. Prices range in the mint to mint-plus categories
of between about $100, to a certified 9.8 out of 10 that sold
in 2009 for $657 at auction.
To use a word no one in the Star Wars universe utters: Wow.
1 - Cover of Star Wars 107, the final issue of the series
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting
comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker
really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit
in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on
his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great
metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a
little bit of history the past three decades.