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Spec Alert: Durge Keys

durge star wars

 

BY MATT TUCK 

The scramble for Star Wars: Republic #51-52 is about to intensify, and I anticipate we will see some insane figures very soon. If that is too expensive for you, put Doctor Aphra #11 on your June pull list. Here’s why.

In 2003, as part of the original, hand-drawn Clone Wars cartoon, Star Wars introduced a bounty hunter named Durge. He looked more like a medieval knight with a sci-fi twist, riding a Star Wars motorcycle and carrying a lance. The latest news is that he will officially become part of the current Star Wars canon, which is going to cause a spike in Durge’s key issues.

NEWS AND SPECULATION

Marvel announced that this June, Durge will make his canonized debut as part of War of the Bounty Hunters crossover. That is going to propel Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #11 to the top of the sales charts as Durge makes his grand entrance. I predict that this will be a sellout with multiple prints and covers. Because Durge is being advertised on the front of the standard edition, the collectibility for the likely subsequent printings will depend more on print runs than the covers.

The timing of Durge’s introduction is auspicious, and introducing him directly into a Boba Fett-centric story arc raises questions. Is Marvel using War of the Bounty Hunters to get heat on Durge and reintroduce him to audiences? With the Book of Boba Fett on the Disney+ horizon, not to mention the third season of The Mandalorian, it would seem that is precisely what is happening. That will cause inevitable jumps in fair market values for Republic #51 & #52.

Not that any Star Wars comics need reason to get even more expensive. The Mandalorian completely changed the game for all things Star Wars, and virtually every Star Wars comic on the market has gotten a significant boost. This massive Star Wars boom has basically put every key issue from 1977 to the Modern Era, at least in high grades, into the same price category as many Silver Age keys from other franchises. 

That being said, investing in any era of Star Wars, be it the Marvel runs or the Dark Horse years, requires a similar approach to buying Silver Age keys. In other words, even for minor first appearances, as an investor, you have to expect to pay triple digits. 

STAR WARS: REPUBLIC #51

If you can get a high-grade copy for less than $300, this could pay dividends in the near future. Not only do you get the first appearance of Durge, but Ahsoka’s sith nemesis, Asajj Ventris, made her debut in these pages. That is why the 9.8 grade has been earning $267 on average since last year. With the news of Durge appearing in Doctor Aphra #11 making the rounds, we will see a spike in the coming days and weeks. There is too much live-action potential for both Durge and Asajj for this comic to stay under $300 for long. 

Personally, I would aim for the 9.6. There is hardly any difference between the two grades, but for 0.2 less on the grade, the fair market value dips to $83, but it won’t stay that way for long. 

STAR WARS: REPUBLIC #52

Modern collecting is moving more toward those first cover appearances as the major keys. Once again, a single issue gives us both Durge and Asajj’s debut cover, which makes this a great investment. 

At a 9.8, Republic #52 averaged $265 a year ago. For the past 90 days, it has surpassed the first appearance and has a 90-day FMV of $305. Only days ago, however, it reached new records after sales of $325 and $330, both on March 13. 

Again, I urge you to look closer at the slightly lower grades. Where the 9.8 will cost you over $300, the 9.4 presents beautifully in a slab and has a 90-day average of $176. 

THE MANDALORIAN EFFECT

I mentioned this in “When Being a True Comic Fan Pays Off,” and it echoes in this massive Star Wars explosion: it pays to be a diehard fan.

Since last summer and fall, the secondary comic market has experienced a boom like we have not seen before, and it comes from the popularity of the MCU and The Mandalorian. Especially when it comes to Star Wars, getting your hands on the most minor of keys is an expensive venture. If you were a longtime Star Wars comics collector, this is your reward for being a fan even when there were no real profits to speak of.

Much of the reason issues like the special edition of Clone Wars #1 and, to a lesser extend, Republic #51, are so valuable is because hardly anyone wanted them 20 years ago. The print runs were relatively low, and the sales were mediocre at best. Back in 2003, collectors were not lining up at their LCS for the first appearance of Durge. Outside the hardcore Clone Wars fans, I doubt many hobbyists thought twice about this issue. 

Now that we are firmly in the new age of Star Wars collecting, any character with even the slimmest of chances to appear in one of the many live-action shows gets a fire lit under it. While not all these issues are necessarily rare, the smaller print runs do make the higher grades harder to find than a mass-produced, established fan favorite like Amazing Spider-Man, for instance. 

With the overwhelming popularity of The Mandalorian and the anticipation for the other live-action Star Wars series, all it takes is for collectors and investors to get an inkling that a new character is coming to the screen, and they are all over it. Unless you want to miss out on the next big thing, then you have to grab every speculative issue as early as you can because you don’t know which one will become a thousand-dollar comic. 

REWARDING THE OLD FANS

Again, the biggest winners in this are the most deserving: the true Star Wars fans. If you bought these runs for the love of Star Wars, then you were not expecting anything like this. They were not investments; they were comics to be enjoyed. 

If you are new to comic collecting, the lesson here is simple: collect what you love. Sure, it never hurts to grab a first appearance for cover price, but the best advice is to collect what you enjoy. With today’s comic market, virtually everything has the potential to be the next big hit.

Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.



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