Now that The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi have come and gone from Disney Plus, Star Wars fans find themselves in the middle of a “summer freeze” with no new live-action content coming until Andor premieres at the end of August. These periodic short lulls in new streaming content (combined with a general dip in the overall comic market) offer some attractive buying opportunities for Star Wars comic book collectors interested in adding a few key issues to their collections.
Whether you are a rabid Star Wars fan who wants to “buy-and-hold-forever” like me or if you are just searching for some long-term investments and under-appreciated books to eventually re-sell, I compiled a list of key Star Wars books to put on your radar (along with some Honorable Mentions). I will also preface this list by mentioning that I put my “money where my mouth is” since I purchased almost all of these picks over the last few months!
Star Wars #35 (May 1980) – An Undervalued Gem
Star Wars #35 (May 1980) from the original Marvel run is often overlooked by collectors that are focused on Issues #1, #42 (first Boba Fett) or other pricier options. CGC labels this book as the first face-to-face meeting between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in comic books (non-canon). I have absolutely fallen in love with the cover, and this is the type of book that passionate Star Wars fans can be proud to own and hold forever.
This book is also particularly difficult to find in a high grade. I recently picked up two copies in a CGC 9.8 after noticing that there are only 57 on the CGC census (56 blue label, 1 signature series). With a 9.8 ratio of 21.2%, this book is a no-brainer for Star Wars fans that want a secondary key without paying the Star Wars #1 or #42 price tags.
GoCollect lists the FMV of Star Wars #35 in a CGC 9.8 at $550, although I managed to snag my most recent copy for $364 in a stealthy auction. Given the scarcity of 9.8s available, consider this one in a 9.6 as well (FMV of $325 and 92 copies listed on the CGC census).
Honorable Mention: Star Wars #21 is labeled by CGC as the first non-adaptation solo story for Darth Vader. This issue also features an epic cover, with Darth Vader overlooking many of the main heroes. This book is also easier to find and less expensive in a high grade than #35. The CGC census lists 86 in a 9.8 grade. There are another 105 in a CGC 9.6, with the FMV at $120.
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire #1 (April 1996) – Will Disney Ever Explore the Criminal Underworld?
Disney and Lucasfilm missed a golden opportunity to explore the rich criminal underworld within the Star Wars Expanded Universe during The Book of Boba Fett. The series was the perfect opportunity to bring back some of the original bounty hunters (such as Bossk, 4-LOM, and Dengar) from The Empire Strikes Back or to provide casual fans with an introduction to some of the seedy criminal organizations from the Expanded Universe novels and comics (such as Crimson Dawn and Black Sun).
Shadows of the Empire is the ideal novel to eventually adapt into either a live-action series or a movie, and issue #1 in the comic adaptation should be on any Star Wars fan’s radar. This comic features the first full appearance of Prince Xizor (who runs the Black Sun crime syndicate) as well as the first cameo appearance of the reluctant hero Dash Rendar. Coincidentally or not, Marvel’s recent Crimson Reign comic series mentions Prince Xizor in issue #1, so Black Sun and its loathsome leader are now officially back within current Star Wars canon.
Prices for this book have dropped with the recent overall market dip, and I was fortunate enough to add a newsstand edition in a CGC 9.8 – no easy feat for a mid-1990s book! The direct edition has sold for as low as $180 on eBay at the end of May.
GoCollect lists the FMV in a 9.8 grade at $220, with a 90-day average of $247. With some patience and an eagle eye, collectors should be able to pick up a direct edition Shadows #1 in a 9.8 grade for $200 or less.
Honorable Mention: Darth Maul made a surprise cameo appearance at the end of Solo: A Star Wars Story as the leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. I could see Lucasfilm bringing Darth Maul back in some sort of series along with Emilia Clarke reprising her role as Qi-ra.
With all of that said, consider any of the first three books in the adaptation of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. Issue #1 is Darth Maul’s first cameo. Issue #2 features his first full appearance, and issue #3 is Maul’s first comic book cover appearance. I lean towards issue #3 (June 1999), and both cover variants are readily available in a high grade.
Star Wars: Thrawn #1 (February 2018) – The Origin of a Future Superstar
Long-time Star Wars fans know all about Grand Admiral Thrawn and his less-than-casual name-drop in Season Two of The Mandalorian. With his heavily-rumored appearance all but a certainty for the upcoming Ahsoka series, his first appearance comic (Star Wars: Heir to the Empire #1) has reached stratospheric price heights. Grand Admiral Thrawn could see a spin-off series or movie adaptation if the character is well-received by mainstream audiences.
For those collectors on a tighter budget and priced out of Heir to the Empire #1, I consider Star Wars: Thrawn #1 from February of 2018 to be an absolute bargain (in the standard cover by Paul Renaud). This series serves as an adaptation of the excellent recent series of novels by Timothy Zahn that detail Thrawn’s origin story. Prices in a CGC 9.8 have settled in at an FMV of $220 according to GoCollect sales data, with a 90-day moving average of $202. Despite being a fairly new release, issue #1 has a relatively paltry 50.7% 9.8 ratio (217 Universal Label CGC 9.8s of the 428 total in the CGC census).
Honorable Mention: Thrawn #6 from the same series is a must-have book for any die-hard Star Wars fan. This comic features the first face-to-face meeting between Thrawn and Darth Vader, and these two villains engage in a unique rivalry in Zahn’s novels as they vie for Emperor Palpatine’s attention and resources within the Empire. This book also offers the first appearance of Admiral Ar’Alani of the Chiss Ascendancy. In the event that Disney and Lucasfilm come to their collective senses and give Thrawn his own series or movie, Ar’Alani will almost certainly see screentime given her important role within the novels.
The market seems to agree with my assessment of issue #6 since the book commands prices that are on par with issue #1. The 90-day moving average of $204 closely mirrors the price of issue #1, most likely due to a smaller print run and relative scarcity. There are only 53 Universal Label 9.8s on the CGC census out of 94 total graded copies.
Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures Annual 2021 – The Calm Before the Storm
For a universe as popular and as well-known as Star Wars, creating a new era from scratch has been surprisingly smooth since Cavan Scott, Charles Soule and the other authors launched a series of tie-in novels and comics last year. Phase II of The High Republic universe begins later this fall, and live-action content (either on Disney Plus or in theaters) is an eventual foregone conclusion. The recent comic book market drop has certainly affected High Republic keys, and now might be a great time to pick up The High Republic Adventures Annual 2021.
This book is absolutely loaded with first full appearances, including Loden Greatstorm, Porter Engle, and Indeera Stokes, all of which play important roles within the Phase I novels. The most notable first appearance in HRA Annual 2021, however, is Bell Zettifar. Bell Zettifar is a Jedi Padawan just coming into his own in the latest High Republic novel, The Fallen Star, by Claudia Gray. I consider Zettifar to be Luke Skywalker in The High Republic universe, and this character has a bright future.
While we are probably a minimum of two to three years away from seeing live-action High Republic content on Disney Plus or in theaters, HRA Annual 2021 is a must-have book. GoCollect lists the 90-day average for the standard cover at $138, which is an absolute bargain given the bounty of first appearances in this comic.
My preferred variant for HRA Annual 2021 is the That Dude Books edition (either the full-color or “color splash” variant) featuring Bell Zettifar and his charhound (named Ember) on the cover.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #2 features the first full appearance of the primary villain within The High Republic novels, Marchion Ro. Prices have come back down to Earth after spiking earlier this year when Marvel released the Eye of the Storm comic series that delves into Marchion Ro’s origin story. Marchion Ro will absolutely serve as this era’s main villain, and the writers continue to flesh out his background and leaving Star Wars fans wanting more.
While there is a brief lull in new live-action Star Wars content, collectors looking to add key issues should give these picks a closer look. With Andor, Ahsoka, and Season 3 of The Mandalorian right around the corner, now may be an excellent time to enjoy this “Summer Freeze” in Star Wars comic book prices!
About the Author: John Rula runs the “Action Figure Grader” YouTube channel, which covers vintage and modern Star Wars action figures and comics. With a background in investment banking and real estate investing, John likes to cover Star Wars collectibles investing with an eye towards the broader economic outlook.
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