Are Conan the Barbarian Comic Books Worth Anything?

In 1970, Marvel Comics launched a monthly series about Robert E. Howard’s most famous character – Conan the Barbarian. Although it never became a mainstream title, the series lasted for a good two decades, ending in 1993 after an amazing total of 275 issues and 12 Annuals. The series, penned mainly by Roy Thomas, although not exclusively, received several awards during the 1970s and marked a period when sword-and-sorcery, a subgenre of (low) fantasy, was still very popular. In today’s article, I am going to talk about the historical importance of these comics today. 

Depending on the issue and the availability of the original comic book, Conan the Barbarian comics can be pretty valuable and can go for several thousand dollars per issue. Most issues are available for a relatively reasonable price – taking into account the age of the comic book and its rarity – but they can be pretty valuable. 

In today’s article, I am going to discuss the historical value of the Conan the Barbarian comic books published by Marvel Comics from 1970 to 1993. You’re going to find out some basic information on the series, but also whether some individual issues are worth anything in 2021 and whether they have any financial value. If you’re a fan or a collector, this article is certainly going to be of interest to you, so relax and enjoy the text!

A brief history of the Conan the Barbarian series

Roy Thomas, one of Marvel’s editors at the time, obtained the rights to the Conan stories from Howard’s estate because he was aware that Conan was one of the most demanded characters to appear in comic books, alongside Doc Savage, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saga, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. In 2010, Thomas said the following:

“I put together a memo for publisher Martin Goodman saying why we should [license a character]. … I hadn’t read a lot of Howard, I bought a couple of the books for the Frazetta covers, but I’d never really read them. When Goodman gave us permission to license a character, we figured we couldn’t afford Conan….. By that time, there’d been about half a decade of Conan coming out in Lancer paperbacks, so we figured no sense going after that, there was no way we were going to get it. I knew Lin Carter slightly, who had authored a character called Thongor, who was half Conan and half John Carter of Mars… Lin was great, but his agent kept wanting us to offer more money than the $150 per issue that Martin Goodman had magnanimously said we could pay for rights.”


The issue of money was a big one, especially when the price was upped to $200, which caused problems for Thomas, as it meant that they could not pay John Buscema, Thomas’ first choice artist. Buscema recalled these events in an interview for Comic World in 1995:

“I was approached by Roy Thomas with the project to do Conan. He mailed a couple of the paperbacks to me and I read ’em and I loved ’em. I told Roy, ‘This is what I want, something that I can really sink my teeth into. . . .’ [A]t the time, Marvel was owned by Martin Goodman, and he felt that my rate was too high to take a gamble [with] on some new kind of [project]. It wasn’t a superhero or anything that had been done before. The closest thing to that would be Tarzan. Anyway, he had no confidence in spending too much money on the book, and that’s where Barry Smith came in — [he was] very cheap. I know what he got paid, and I’d be embarrassed to tell you how much it was, because I’d be embarrassed for Marvel.”

Conan the Barbarian finally came out in 1970 and the rest is history. The comic book was never a major mainstream hit for Marvel, but it did earn enough money for it to be published for 23 years. In his book, Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, comic book historian Les Daniels had this to say about Conan the Barbarian, and with it I am going to close this section of the article: 

“Conan the Barbarian was something of a gamble for Marvel. The series contained the usual elements of action and fantasy, to be sure, but it was set in the past that had no relation to the Marvel Universe, and it featured a hero who possessed no magical powers, little humor and comparatively few moral principles.”

Credit Marvel Comics

What is the worth of Conan the Barbarian comics?

You may be surprised that originally, Conan the Barbarian issues were sold for only 15¢, while the later issues were sold for US$1. Yeah, you could actually get a whole issue of a comic book for less than one dollar and that was the price these comics went for initially. Now, as it usually is with rare things, their value increases over the years, especially if they’re in good condition. 

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Now, if you look up Conan the Barbarian comic books online, you’ll see that some issues can get pretty prices. Of course, this all depends on the importance of the issue (#1 always costs more, as well as some special issues or annual issues), its availability (rare issues are always worth more), its condition (the better the condition, the higher the price), its story (important narrative segments are always pricey), and the demand (issues that are demanded more are also more expensive).

All of this means that there is no general rule related to the price or the actual worth of Conan the Barbarian issues and that we cannot tell you or give you a formula for the worth of your comic book or the comic book you’re after. 

What we can tell you is that the issues can get pretty pricey. You’ll certainly have to cash out several dozen dollars, up to a hundred, for example, but that’s the price of the less important issues. Rarer and/or more important issues cost more and can go from several hundred dollars to even several thousand dollars. 

For example, Conan the Barbarian #1 starts from roughly US$500 and goes as high up as almost US$5,000, which is an amazing number if you ask me. Still, if you go further along the publishing line, you’ll find that the later issues can be bought quite easily for very little money. If, for example, you want to get your hands on Conan the Barbarian #273, you can get it for just US$6, while Conan the Barbarian #266 would cost you only US$2. Of course, if the edition you’re buying is signed or special in some way, you’ll have to pay around US$100, which is still not that much for an individual issue, but when compared to the regular prices of the later issues, it’s still relatively pricey. 

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A general conclusion is that Conan the Barbarian comic books have some value and that they can be pretty pricey, but there are a lot of factors to consider here and I just cannot give a general estimate on their value besides what I’ve said at the beginning of this sentence. 

What Conan the Barbarian comics are worth money?

Now, in this section, I am going to give you a list of some of the most valuable Conan the Barbarian comic books and their prices. This is purely informative and you’ll have to contact each individual seller for the exact price, but you’ll at least know the estimate you’ll have to deal with. 

The most expensive issue is, of course, Conan the Barbarian #1, published in 1970. Written by Roy Thomas, this was the first appearance of Conan the Cimmerian in Marvel’s comic books and its historical importance explains its value. A poorly preserved issue can be obtained for US$10, but if you want a well-preserved, mint condition issue, you might have to pay between US$4,000 and US$5,000. 

Conan the Barbarian #2 and #3 are also quite important and pricey. Both written by Roy Thomas, they continue the story presented in #1 and are likewise historically important because they helped establish Conan as a comic book character. As far as #2 is concerned, a poor condition issue will cost you only US$5, but if you want a mint condition edition you could pay up to US$2,500. Issue #3 is somewhat cheaper, also going for just US$5 for a poorly kept issue, but going up to US$1,500 if you want a mint condition issue. 

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The first Red Sonja issues of the series can go for several hundred dollars, usually between US$600 and US$800. The Savage Sword of Conan #1, a storyline in which Conan got the “grown-up treatment”, can go as high as US$450-500, depending on the condition. 

Giant-Size Conan issues, which ran from 1974 to 1975, can also cost several hundred dollars, with #1 – of course – being the most expensive.