Giant-Size Conan #1, Marvel Comics, September 1974.
This week’s Undervalued Spotlight shines on Giant-Size Conan #1.
Giant-Size Conan #1 features the first comic book appearance of Belit, the Shemite pirate known as the Queen of the Black Coast. Belit’s literary debut was in Weird Tales from May 1934, the pulp featured one of my favourite Conan stories The Queen of the Black Coast. She’s a stand-out character, Conan #58 and #59 with the great Buscema art and containing Belit’s origin story are also worth owning.
I’m a lifelong Conan fan, I’ve read all the original Robert E. Howard stories and even liked the L. Sprague de Camp stuff. Of all the Conan movies the first half of the first Conan with Arnold was the best, it was hardcore, unfortunately, the second half turned into a buddy comedy and things just got worse from there on movie-wise. The Conan TV show in the late 90s was meh but I do hear that Amazon streaming is making a new series?
Jason Mamoa’s stint as the Cimmerian missed the mark but I wonder now that he is a superstar thanks to Aquaman whether they will try again? Or does Disney make a new movie with a new actor?
The latest Conan news that’s got me excited is that Marvel is taking back the Conan rights, I think this is a great opportunity to bring one of my favourite characters back to the fore. Even more exciting is Marvel’s audacity with their Avengers: No Road Home event this spring, the story brings Conan into the Marvel U continuity. Check out a cover to #6, Conan and Scarlet Witch!
Getting back to Belit, she is one of the main characters in the whole Conan saga, right up there with Red Sonja. Any success with Marvel shoehorning Conan into their continuity will surely mean good things for Belit, she’s too strong a character to leave behind.
Copies can be had on the cheap, the book still populates half-off bins and CGC 9.2 copies go for below Guide, a CGC 9.4 should set you back $75 while a CGC 9.8 might cost you $400 (17 copies at 9.8 as of this post).
My preference would be a 9.8 but a tight, crisp 9.4 that’s on register and square is a safe and strong play.
The 48th Overstreet price break for this book is $25/$40/$55 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.
Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:
- First appearance Belit
- Cheap and attainable
Only because it’s you Walter. I took your word for it. I give it two years.
Lots not to like about this one. Main argument is “first appearance” of an at best second-string character, nowhere to be seen on the cover, whose actual first appearance was in 1934 as you point out. This is not a newly discovered first appearance – it has been used as the argument for this book for at least fifteen years. Again as you point out, Conan has been outside the continuity for very strong historical reasons (and also probably legal reasons), so the idea that Disney is going to come to the rescue is a pretty long shot. There are a gazillion copies of this book out there and you probably can find a solid VF copy for $15. Good cover but not a standout. Etc. and etc.
But. One thing that you don’t point out it that this is a “Giant-Size XX #1”. IMHO this is a collecting strain similar to the DC 100 Page series, and that adds support. (I recall my excitement on buying “Super-Stars” on the newsstand – I think I still have my battered copy.) And it is not “XX”, but Conan, and there are a lot of folks who would rather have that name than many of the others in the GS pantheon. The possibility of a true add into the continuity is really enticing – Kang recruits Conan to depose Thanos… I don’t think Belit is a short-term play but that doesn’t hurt, another embedded lottery ticket.
Now the numbers. This book has gone NOWHERE for fifteen years – the historical GPA high sale in 9.8 is 2005 ($460) (with Heritage noting only two copies in 9.8 at that time), in 9.6 is 2007 ($185). Not promising. But the flip side – given the key characteristics (Conan, Marvel, GS, #1) the numbers argue for a price floor. The 9.8 has been floored at $200, so in today’s market I think that argues for about $300. For 9.6s the floor is now maybe $100 and the combined population of 9.8s and 9.6s is 4x the population of 9.8s alone, which argues for the relative value of the 9.8s. So I see an asymmetric payoff – if you buy the 9.8 at your $400, I think your downside is about $100 but your upside is multiples of this.
While there are a gazillion copies out there, how many 9.8s are there? I am guessing multiples of the current population, but we can set a ceiling based on GS X-Men #1, of which there are about 150 in the census, with any decent copy probably graded by now. That book was in demand within a couple of years of publication (I got mine for $1.50 in 1978 or so), which says to me that many copies were well cared for. GS Conan was in demand – never? So my guess is that many of what would have been 9.8s have been beat up in the bins. I am willing to buy that there are at least 3x of the current population out there, but given the current price distribution, these are fairly unlikely to be graded due to the downside cost of a non-9.8 outcome. This tells me maybe one new 9.8 coming each year until the price really goes up – and of course if the price goes up, it was a good pick to begin with.
So: I am not a huge fan but I am giving this a thumbs up (only in 9.8) and my entry point is $389 all in. Importantly “WHITE pages”. I don’t know about you, but when I look at very high grade GS X-Men #1 (sadly my $1.50 copy is not in this category), that “WHITE pages” has a strong aesthetic impact. My limited research suggests little pricing difference between ow/w and w copies, but I think there is a discernible price hit for any copies ow or below. In the case of GS Conan #1, I think this distinction was the tipping point to buy at this level.
As I said, I will reevaluate in two years (barring any huge changes). If I am lucky at that point all eight-year-olds will be wearing “The Groot and Conan Power Hour” t-shirts and I will have another piece of retirement in the bag.
I feel better, I just sold my graded 9.0 for $45.
Funny, I was trying to figure out how to suggest Conan 58 in a spotlight but don’t see email on this site as it is the first Belit comic book appearance not this GS. I bought a few copies of the GS slabbed but when I finally read a raw, I was surprised…Belit’s name is used but no drawing with her anywhere..,.this is much, much weaker than the Hulk 180 vs. 181…Conan 58 is Hulk 181 equivalent. Would welcome someone double checking my memory but moral is read the book not OPG…and buy Conan 58 over this one…may take a while but perhaps the OPG error will be fixed
Well, as I said above, the Belit thing wasn’t a big factor in my decision, but this page seems to get to the point:
Of course the link is all messed up because of the accents So use this to get to the page that the kind soul added accents to:
Anyway, the argument seems to be around whether the character pictured is intended to be the character we’re looking for. I would point out that Superman had blonde hair on the cover of New York World’s Fair Comics, and that isn’t hurting the value of that book any.
Great add-ons and insights fellas. Funny Chris but I was running out of steam last night writing this, too much club soda too early in the process, but one of my additional points was the Giant-Size collecting strain so good call.
Good point on the Conan #58 Mark. Conan #58 is a great pick up.
Great link Chris, it shows what I remember – small drawing of Valeria not Belit. I don’t have the GS book handy but I believe Conan reels off a few old flame names of which Belit is one. Great to see a source with the key distinction outlined, Love this feature so Walter, you have Conan 58 to feature next time you are in a pinch! Not sure when Belit will get her due in comic valuation but she drives up the price of Conan original art for sure.
Two items to add in regards to Belit. First, the appearance in GS1 is a flashback in Conan’s memories so while technically the first appearance, it’s pretty weak. I support Conan #58 for Belit’s first appearance (mentioned by others above), which includes a great cover as well. Second, if you read the latest Conan book from Marvel, there is a house ad in the back for a Belit solo mini-series. This could be a great jumping on point for new readers and since Marvel doesn’t have the rights to Red Sonja (yet), Belit will most likely be the female focus for a bit.
I’ve always wondered why Conan is so collectible. I see people bidding very high for high grade early Conan issues.
The movies haven’t helped the interest much have they?
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