In this article I want to discuss the frequently overlooked, but highly collectible, Silver and Bronze Age Star Trek comics by Gold Key. These are comics you should keep an eye out for. They began publication in the Silver Age, a time when science and scientific themes were on the rise in comics. In fact, one of the reasons I like Silver Age comics so much (even though I’ll be the first to admit that they’re not for everyone), is the role played by science in the stories from this era. Can it be a coincidence that, at the height of the Silver Age – in the mid-nineteen sixties – Gene Roddenberry came up with his iconic sci-fi series ‘Star Trek’?
In 1967, Gold Key comics acquired the rights to release the Roddenberry produced CBS television series ‘Star Trek’ in comic book form. These became the very first ever Star Trek stories told in comics. So popular and well written were most of these Gold Key Star Trek comics that they are constantly republished down to the present day.
Moreover, Gold Key’s Star Trek series showed that Trek comics had an audience. This, in turn, helped insure that, after Gold Key lost the rights to publish them, Star Trek stories would continue in comic book form, eventually published by just about every single major, and even many of the minor, comics publishing companies.
Gold Key published their Star Trek comic up until 1979, ending the run with issue #61. Like the later Bronze Age Marvel Star Wars comics, Gold Key Star Trek was not considered official or ‘canon’ among Trekkers. However, again very similar to Marvel Star Wars, they were consistently fun and inventive.
The first nine issues of Star Trek were published with glossy photographic covers, and are also worth most today but not all nine bring equally lucrative returns. The most valuable are issues 1 and 3 especially those with accompanying glossy photographic back covers (although Overstreet does not view either these or the non-photo on back cover versions as variants). And while issue #1 is always worth some money – even in low grade – issue #3 is worth slightly more to some collectors if it has the back cover with the photo instead of advertisement.
It’s important to note that some of the free-wheeling liberty taken by the writers and artists of the earliest issues was due to their having had no contact with the television show except through promotional material. This often led to some interesting inventions, for example, everybody knows the famous voice over narrative by William Shatner that begins every episode of original Star Trek; the “Space, the final frontier…” etc. speech. In the Gold Key Comic, we find the following on the inside cover of the first issue: “This is the Enterprise a ship of Star Fleet. It’s five year mission in space: to probe the far reaches of the galaxy, to search the unknown and unlock its mysteries, to boldly go where no man has gone before!” At least it keeps the famous split infinitive at the end. Written by Dick Wood and illustrated by Italian artist Alberto Gioletti, Star Trek #1 is the most valuable issue in the Gold Key run. This is as it should be since this comic represents the first time Star Trek was given comic book treatment. In high grade, this comic is worth anywhere from $1000.00 to $40, 000.00 (the first and only 9.8 graded copy I know of sold on a Comic Connect Auction for $40,500.00 on October 1, 2015: set phasers for stunned!). Best returns have been on 4.5 grade with a positive (+136.8%) return on investment, but this statistic is influenced by a signature series signed by most of the original cast, that sold on on March 9, 2018 for $1,300.00 – five times the average price for this grade.
After 1979, Gold Key would lose the license to publish Star Trek and the rights fell to Marvel Comics. Since the ‘Star Trek’ brand was then owned by Paramount, Marvel was not allowed to have their comics take place using costumes and motifs of the original series and had to base their stories on the later Paramount movies. That meant that, for a long time, lovers of original Trek in comic book form only had these Gold Key stories to recreate the magic of the television series (well, there was also a short-lived animated series running from 1973-1975 and voiced by the original cast). Issue #3 carries on the Gold Key stories and although there are still idiosyncrasies regarding details (the fact that most of the crew of the Enterprise wears lime green uniforms is notable), the writers and artists had probably seen the TV show at this point and smaller details and characterization slowly began to improve. As in the case of the first issue, there is only one listed 9.8 sale of this comic on GoCollect.com, a Heritage auction sale on November 2013, with a final price of $4,182.50. Otherwise, best returns have been on 6.0 graded copies.