Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 1
There are few creators who are as enjoyable to collect as Robert E. Howard. His works have been published and adapted in various forms and in numerous media for over eight decades. Howard items have an incredibly broad range in scarcity and value so that any collector on most any budget can usually find a niche within the hobby that suits their tastes and resources.
Out of all the REH collectibles out there, however, there is nothing – at least in my opinion – quite like the original pulp magazines. To be able to hold in your hands one of these relics of a bygone publishing era and read one of Howard’s yarns as his first generation of fans would have done is a special experience indeed. The primitive line drawings that comprise the interior illustrations, the smell of the pulp paper, the letters from readers arguing the tastefulness (or lack thereof) of Margaret Brundage’s latest racy cover – all these things help to connect the modern collector with that earlier time when Two-Gun Bob was still alive and well and furiously pounding away on his Underwood.
|First issue of Weird Tales from March 1923.|
Though his works were published in numerous pulps, the magazine in which Howard appeared most often and with which he is most closely associated is of course Weird Tales. The next two parts in this series will focus on this publication and its collectability. Published monthly beginning with its first issue in 1923, Weird Tales featured stories of speculative fiction with a supernatural or ‘weird’ element. H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Otis Adelbert Kline and Seabury Quinn were all contributors in the magazine’s early issues. The first few issues were oversized (referred to as “bedsheets”) and are quite scarce today. Copies rarely come up for sale and when they do they command premium prices in all grades.
|Left - July 1925; Right - August 1925 issue.|
The following month saw the publication of Howard’s second story, a werewolf yarn, “In the Forest of Villefere.” This issue is also fairly uncommon and Very Good copies tend to sell in $400-600 range. In the February 1926 issue Wright published “Wolfshead”, Howard’s sequel to “In the Forest of Villefere.” This issue is significant for being the first time a Howard story was featured on the cover of a pulp magazine. Noteworthy covers are always desirable and covers that feature Howard stories are certainly no exception. As Howard’s first cover appearance, this issue is certainly one of the most collectible of REH pulps. Very Good copies usually sell for around $600-800.
It would be nearly a year before Howard saw his fourth story in print. “The Lost Race” appeared in the January 1927 issue, along with the H.P Lovecraft story “The Horror at Red Hook.” This issue generally sells for around $300-400 in Very Good Condition.
|Left - February 1926 issue; Right - January 1927 issue.|
|August 1928 issue featuring "Red Shadows."|
1929 was a prolific year for Howard in the pages of Weird Tales with a story or poem appearing in ten out the twelve issues. Most of these issues are actually quite affordable compared to the earlier scarcer issues or even the later Conan issues. They can often be found in Very Good condition for $150 to 200. Notable issues include January and June with the Solomon Kane yarns “Skull in the Stars” and “Rattle of Bones” respectively.
|August 1929 issue with "The Shadow Kingdom."|
The year closed out with Howard’s longest work to that point, the novella “Skull-Face.” It was serialized in three parts in the October, November, and December issues. Again these issues are fairly inexpensive – around $150 to 200 for Very Good copies.
|The June 1930 issue with "Moon of Skulls."|
1931 saw a number of well-known Howard yarns see print including “The Children of the Night” in the April-May issue and another Solomon Kane story “The Footfalls Within” in September. The Irish renegade Turlogh Dubh O’Brien made his debut in print in the October issue with “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth” and November featured “The Black Stone,” one of Howard’s contributions to what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos. A second Turlogh yarn, “The Dark Man,” made the cover of the December issue and was Howard’s fourth cover appearance. These issues tend to for about $150-200 in Very Good, with "The Black Stone" and "The Dark Man" issues sometimes selling for more.
|December 1931 issue.|
Finally, the November 1932 issue featured one of Howard’s best known and most popular stories, the Bran Mak Morn yarn “Worms of the Earth.” It also featured the first in a series of stunning covers by the legendary illustrator John Allen St. John. St. John is best known for doing many of the iconic dust jacket covers for the Edgar Rice Burroughs books and his work for Weird Tales is perhaps only slightly less famous. Unfortunately for REH fans, St. John was not illustrating “Worms of the Earth,” but rather the first installment of Otis Adelbert Kline’s serialized novel, The Buccaneers of Venus, a sword-and-planet tale in the style of Burroughs’ Barsoom novels (later published in book form as The Port of Peril). This issue tends to sell for around $200-250 in Very Good condition.
|November 1932 issue featuring "Worms of the Earth."|
For fans of weird fiction these early issues also chart the birth and development of the genre as H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, Frank Belknap Long, and of course Robert E. Howard honed their craft. In the next installment of this series I will discuss the subsequent phase of Howard’s tenure at Weird Tales from a collector’s standpoint, beginning with the December 1932 issue and the first appearance of a certain Cimmerian.
Collecting Robert E. Howard Pulps - Part 3
All but two of these images are courtesy of a long-time private collector who graciously allowed me to use them for this article (thanks BZ). The exceptions are the August 1928 and the December 1931 issues which are my own.