BY MATT TUCK
Everyone wants a piece of the X-Men, and their Bronze Age keys are getting pricier by the day. While the major keys have hit the ridiculous phase, there are still some good deals, especially if you aim for the mid-grades, but they won't stay that way for long.
Everything from the Chris Claremont era is on fire, and for good reason. While the Silver Age may have the debut of the X-Men, the most famous X-Men stories and characters came from the Claremont era, which started in 1975. As fans wait for the mutants to arrive in the MCU, those issues are feeling the heat. That’s why the major keys, like Giant-Size X-Men #1 and X-Men #94, have gotten so far out of reach. Fear not, budget-conscious buyers, for there is hope.
For the most part, all of the near-mint grades, namely those 9.8s and 9.6s, are already over inflated. Luckily for you, there are mid-grade copies that are sorely undervalued compared to the price explosion of, say, GSX #1.
The other plus side with a deeper dive into the Bronze X-Men is the number of new characters Claremont was debuting month after month, especially his lesser-known cosmic creations. With Marvel Studios farming so much of the intergalactic side of the comics, it stands to reason that many of these characters, particularly anything tied to the Shi’ar, could spike at any moment. That leaves a number of unappreciated firsts just waiting to be discovered by the MCU, which is why now is a good time to invest in these 10 Bronze X-keys.
10. X-MEN #137
This issue has been famous for years thanks to that awesome John Byrne cover art and the conclusion of the Dark Phoenix saga. What will make collectors more interested in this one has little to do with the X-Men.
In X-Men #137, we see the first appearances of Raksor, a Skrull, and Bel-Dann, a Kree. In later issues, these two would represent their races and battle to end the long-standing Kree-Skrull war. That means we could see both Raksor and Bel-Dann in the upcoming Disney+ series Secret Invasion or possibly on the big screen in either Captain Marvel 2 or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Outside the 9.8, this issue’s fair market values have not felt the heat from all the X-Men news and rumors. Considering the ballooning prices for all those classic 1970s X-Men issues, $550 for a 9.8 X-Men #137 is not terrible, but there are better deals to be had. The 9.6, for one, last sold for $190. That could change in a hurry if either Raksor or Bel-Dann are rumored for the MCU, so don’t wait too long to get your copy.
9. X-MEN #117
Here is a villain I would not be surprised to see in the MCU - the Shadow King.
In the X-Men lore, Amahl Farouk was the first major roadblock for Professor X on his road to creating his School for Gifted Youngsters. What makes me think Amahl is a prime candidate for Marvel Studios is that he has never been featured in a movie before, which would give Kevin Feige and crew a clean creative slate. It helps tremendously that the Shadow King is directly linked to Storm’s origin, and I feel certain that she will return to movie screens in some fashion.
What is great here is that, even at a 9.8, this grade consistently sells between $400-$500. If that is too much for you, there are plenty of options. At the current prices, you can have as high as a 9.0 for under $100. Considering you are getting a first appearance, that is a bargain.
8. X-MEN #133
More collectors are turning their attention toward this issue in recent months simply out of necessity. Everything from the top to the bottom of the Wolverine keys has blown up after all the rumors that just won’t go away. After the Princess Bar was featured in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the gossip has been ignited. Will he get his own Disney+ series? Will Hugh Jackman return to the role? There seems to be more rumors by the day, and it all adds up to ever-increasing prices for those key issues.
While this is not Wolverine’s first cover appearance, it was the first time he graced the front of a comic by himself (minus the Hellfire Club’s henchmen being murdered). This is never going to compete with the likes of Incredible Hulk #181, but it presents an affordable alternative to the collector on a budget, at least for mid and lower grades. The last 9.8 to sell online went for $1,300, which makes an 8.5 with its $103 three-month average much more tempting.
7. X-MEN #104
Here is a good key to own, particularly if you are looking to save a few dollars. For one, it is an homage to X-Men #1 as the new team faces off against Magneto. The real selling point is that X-Men #104 has a couple of key appearances. First, there is the debut of the X-Men’s very own version of Star Lord, Corsair, who happens to be the leader of the Starjammers and the father of Cyclops and Havok. As the Starjammers are connected to the Shi’ar Empire, whom I fully expect to see in the MCU, this issue also features the second appearance of the Shi’ar queen, Lilandra. She could be the real hidden jewel in the ‘70s X-Men comics, what with so many cosmic Marvel movies and Disney+ series on the way.
Since this is not one of the more popular X-Men comics, you can spend under $300 and get all the way up to a 9.2. For $155, you can still get an 8.0, which is a good deal at this point.
6. X-MEN #125
Talk about a comic that flies under the radar. I predict we will see a lot of Moira MacTaggert in the MCU, and that could mean we will see her villainous son made of pure light, Kevin, aka Proteus.
Back in X-Men #125, he was simply known as Mutant X, and he was considered one of the most powerful mutants on the planet. He even has reality-changing powers, which could make him a threat to the entire Marvel Universe. That would upgrade this from a minor to a major key virtually overnight.
As it stands, this one is widely overlooked and perfect for today’s list. Even though the 9.8 is on the way up, the last sale was for $500, which is not bad considering this issue’s potential. If you downgrade to a 9.6, you can have one of your own for $175 on average. For that matter, you can get a 9.0 for less than $100.
5. X-MEN #107
Many collectors are seeing the potential of the Starjammers in the MCU. Frankly, they could slide into the current plans seamlessly alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. In many ways, they are another version of Star Lord and the gang, and that could actually hold them back. Because they are so similar to the GOTG, they may not fly into the MCU anytime soon now that I think about it.
While the Starjammers may be too close to the GOTG to make it into the MCU just yet, there is another first in this cosmic issue: the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. Between the Starjammers and the Shi’ar, my bet is the latter has the better chance of making it into live action in the near future.
Like most of the Bronze Age X-Men comics, especially those with first appearances, the near-mint grades are seeing record figures. Again, it is the mid-grades that have not gotten out of reach, and those are the ones to watch. For an X-Men #107, you can have a 7.0 for around $120 based on the most recent sale from March.
4. X-MEN #121
There has been a lingering theory for years that Marvel Studios is considering putting Alpha Flight in the MCU ahead of the X-Men. There could be validity to this. After all, Captain Marvel has been a member of the team in recent years, and they have even moved more into the cosmic realm, which has been the dominant focus of the MCU for years now. More importantly, it would give Marvel something that Fox never used in its X-Men movie franchise.
Because of these rumors and speculation, collectors have been targeting their first cameo appearance in X-Men #120. While those can go for as much as $4k for a 9.8, the cheaper option is the following issue, X-Men #121. In this issue, you get the first full appearance of the team complete with Vindicator in his “Captain Canada” costume on the cover art. The best part is that its FMV is a fraction of X-Men #120’s. For $250, you can own as high as a graded 9.2.
3. X-MEN #96
Only recently have comic readers begun to truly appreciate Moira MacTaggert. For decades, she was the friendly human scientist, always overshadowed by her on-again, off-again love interest, Charles Xavier. Overall, Moira was not an important character in the grand scheme of things, and it reflected in the prices for her first appearance in X-Men #96. If anything, what made this issue collectible was it being an early issue in the Chris Claremont era. Then came Moira X.
When Jonathan Hickman rewrote the X-Men’s history, he reimagined Moira as a mutant with a unique ability. She had the power of reincarnation, and she remembered every detail of her past lives. That makes Moira a lynchpin for the X-Men universe because she knows more about the state of mutantkind than even Charles because she has lived it all the failures.
Moira’s increased importance makes her a prime candidate for being in the MCU, and that is why you will want to add her first appearance to your collection. Up to a 9.2, you can expect to stay close to $400, and that could be a steal if she has a featured role in Marvel Studios’ X-Men franchise.
2. X-MEN #131
We are in the age of the first cover appearance, my friends. When it comes to collecting key issues, most collectors put a character’s first cover art at the top of their wish lists. That is why this issue should be at the top of yours.
Plastered on the front of this issue is Emma Frost back when she was the heinous White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Since the early 2000s, she has been given a much bigger role in the X-Men comics and has become an immense fan favorite. I predict that Marvel Studios will have plans for her in the upcoming X-Men relaunch with her playing a critical part of the team. That will elevate all her key issues, and X-Men #131 could become the best Emma Frost key to have in the future.
Considering the White Queen’s popularity, this issue is surprisingly affordable. Granted a 9.8 will cost you $2,000, a 9.6 is hovering near the $400 mark while the 9.4 last sold for just $180. The real value starts at the 9.2, as anything from that grade and below is averaging less than $100 at the moment.
1. X-MEN #129
This could very well become the biggest X-Men key outside the likes of Giant-Size X-Men #1 and X-Men #94. It all depends on what Marvel Studios has in store for the mutants, but I imagine we will see both Emma Frost and Kate “Kitty” Pryde taking prominent roles on the team, which is why collectors are aiming for their first appearances. And here we have both conveniently collected in one issue.
It is hard to call anything that is bordering on being a $10k comic as reasonably priced. When it comes to the higher grades of X-Men #129, they certainly are not undervalued. That is why I am advising that you target the mid-grades, which are still affordable when you take those high-end grades into account.
Considering this issue has two characters’ first appearances, spending $350 for a 7.5 with so much potential for growth could prove to be a bargain. If you aim for the 5.0-6.5 range, you can keep your investment dollars to a minimum as those generally sell in the vicinity of $150-$200 based on recent sales. Even for lower grades, you will want to move quickly after a 3.0 sold for $169 on April 22.
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.