Call of Cthulhu was the first horror roleplaying game. The first edition of Call of Cthulhu was written by Sandy Petersen and published by Chaosium in 1981. Unlike many of the RPGs from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, CoC is still in print. But early editions of the game and its supplements are highly sought after collectibles.
Starting a Call of Cthulhu Collection
One approach to starting a Call of Cthulhu collection would be to start with the core rules. Just collecting all of the various editions of the games would cost a little bit of time and effort. At least a dozen different editions have been published between 1981 and 2006.
The first edition of Call of Cthulhu was released as a boxed set that was two inches deep. This is possibly the most difficult edition to find. I found a copy of the 1st edition from Waynes Books that you could order via Amazon for $150. (I remember that the original box cost $20, which seemed like a fortune to the twelve year old version of myself in 1982.)
A “designer’s edition” was published in 1982. This was identical to the boxed set, but only 200 copies were printed in this edition. They were signed and numbered by Sandy Petersen, and the designer’s edition included a copy of the Shadows of Yog-Sothoth campaign, also written by Sandy Petersen. (See our article about limited edition RPGs to collect for more information on that subject.)
The second edition of Call of Cthulhu was almost identical to the first edition, but the box was only an inch deep. This edition is much easier to find, although it’s still a high-priced collectible. I’ve seen this edition fetch $80 if it’s in really good condition, but a beat up copy can be found for $30 or so. (Troll and Toad and Waynes Books both had copies available when I wrote this.)
The third edition of Call of Cthulhu was released in 1986. There were actually two third editions–one was a boxed set that looked a lot like the 2nd edition; the other was a hardcover book with 192 pages. I’ve seen this one sell for around $100 in good condition, but a more worn copy can usually be found for $40 or even less if you’re watching for it on eBay.
The fourth edition of Call of Cthulhu was released in 1989. Like the third edition, Call of Cthulhu 4th edition had 192 pages. I’ve seen copies of this available for sale in good condition for around $50 on the Internet.
The fifth edition of Call of Cthulhu was published in 1992. This edition had 240 pages. The hardcover of this edition in excellent condition can be had for $150, but you could find a used or worn copy for considerably less.
Call of Cthulhu “5.5” was published in 1998. Call of Cthulhu “5.6” was published in 2000. I’ve also seen these two editions referred to as Call of Cthulhu 5.6 and 5.61. These editions had 288 pages.
A 20th anniversary edition of Call of Cthulhu was released in 2001. This edition sold new for $190. It had a dark green leather cover with a red Elder Sign. You can find good condition copies of this edition available for $250 online, and if you don’t mind a bit of wear and tear, you can get a copy for close to the original cover price.
Another edition that was released in 2001 was the Miskatonic University edition. The Miskatonic University edition of Call of Cthulhu is almost identical to the 20th anniversay editon, but there were 300 copies printed, and each of these are signed by the four authors: Charlie Krank, Lynn Wyllis, Dustin Wright, and David Mitchell.)
The sixth edition of Call of Cthulhu was released in 2004. This is one of the larger rulebooks for the game, at 320 pages. The 6th edition of the Call of Cthulhu game is easy enough to find, and it’s still in print. I wouldn’t pay more than cover price for this edition.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Call of Cthulhu, a celebratory edition was published in 2006.
And a 30th anniversary edition of Call of Cthulhu is now available too. It’s not a new edition, but it’s the 6th edition set of the game in a new binding. This one retails for $65, but I don’t know how collectible it will be. You have to think that at some point no one is going to need yet another special edition of the game, especially if it’s just a new binding. That being said, it is a beautifully bound book.
Collecting Call of Cthulhu Supplements, Adventures, and Related Products
Having a complete collection of the various editions of the rulebooks is cool, but one of the nice things about collecting Call of Cthulhu is that so many other products are available to collect.
Many of the early Chaosium products for the game are rare and collectible. But sometimes Chaosium will publish new editions of these older books, which makes the older editions less desirable to some collectors.
Shadows of Yog-Sothoth and Beyond the Mountains of Madness – Examples of Collectible Call of Cthulhu Adventures
For example, the first edition of the first campaign for Call of Cthulhu, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth (1982), is rare enough, but it’s been reprinted and republished. On the other hand, Beyond the Mountains of Madness is a long adventure that’s never been reprinted or republished, so it’s still collectible and expensive.
When I wrote this, I found a copy of Shadows of Yog-Sothoth in fair condition available from Noble Knight for just $18. (I’m sure in mint condition it would be worth much more.) Troll and Toad had two copies, both in fine or near fine condition, and they were priced in the $22 and $25 range.
Even though Beyond the Mountains of Madness was published 17 years later, making it almost two decades newer, it’s still more collectible than Shadows. The lowest price I could find for a copy of this one anywhere online was $100, but copies in good condition were selling for quite a bit more than that.
Through the years, Chaosium has published dozens of adventures for Call of Cthulhu. Some of these are more collectible than others, as the two examples above would indicate.
Pagan Publishing Adventures and Other Companies
But Chaosium has allowed other publishers to use their license to produce adventures, supplements, and even magazines focused on the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game.
One of the more popular and expensive Call of Cthulhu publications from Pagan Publishing is a magazine called Unspeakable Oath. Only 17 or 18 issues have been published, and the later issues are easy enough to get hold of. But early issues are rare and sought after.
Another newer Call of Cthulhu magazine that might be a collectors item in the future is Worlds of Cthulhu.
Delta Green is a series of modern day Call of Cthulhu adventure and campaign supplements with a distinct background. At one time, the print run for these, and the lack of supply, made Delta Green one of the most collectible RPG supplements ever. Reprints of some of these books have made them less desirable.
The first sourcebook, Delta Green, was originally published in 1997. A sequel, Delta Green: Countdown, was published two years later, in 1999. The first sourcebook was re-released in 2007.
A series of Delta Green chapbooks was also released. These are highly sought after and hard to find. These include:
- Delta Green – Eyes Only: Machinations of the Mi-Go
- Delta Green – Eyes Only: The Fate
- Delta Green – Eyes Only: Project Rainbow
The material in these three chapbooks was re-released (with additional material) in 2007. But the original chapbooks have retained their value on eBay.
Besides the gaming products that are available. two collections of short stories and two novels have been written in the Delta Green setting.
Other Call of Cthulhu Themed Games
Chaosium has been pretty easygoing with the license for H.P. Lovecraft‘s creation, and various other game publishers have released versions of Call of Cthulhu using different game mechanics.
One of the earliest of these is a GURPs sourcebook for Cthulhutech, which you could describe as a mashup of the cyberpunk genre with the Cthulhu genre. Another early example of this is the d20 version of Call of Cthulhu, which featured a well-writtent set of rules and a new campaign setting called Nocturnum.
More recent books include Trail of Cthulhu, which uses a system called the “Gumshoe” system to resolve in game situations. Shadows of Cthulhu is Call of Cthulhu using the True20 system. (The True20 system is a spinoff of Mutants and Masterminds.) Realms of Cthulhu uses the Savage Worlds system from Pinnacle Entertainment. (They’re better known as the publishers of Deadlands and Deadlands Reloaded.)
What Else to Collect
Brevity prevents me from listing all of the items that a Call of Cthulhu collector might be interested in, but collectors will also want to find copies of H.P. Lovecraft’s original collections of fiction, published after his death by Arkham House. Other publishing houses have published collections of fiction inspired by various aspects of the Cthulhu Mythos. Chaosium has published their own line of fiction.
Cthulhu Dice and Miniatures
Through the years, various companies have produced dice especially for use with the Call of Cthulhu system. Companies have also produced miniatures for use with the game. These items are often prized by collectors.
Cthulhu Boardgames, Card Games, and Toys
Arkham Horror and Mansions of Madness are two boardgames based on the Cthulhu Mythos that are also collectible. Fantasy Flight Games publishes both of these games currently, but an earlier version of Arkham Horror from 1987 is rare, especially a copy in good condition. Arkham Horror also has several expansions available from Fantasy Fight Games, and these are the collectors items of the future.
Another boardgame based on Call of Cthulhu called The Hills Rise Wild is hard to find and expensive, but the artwork is beautiful. If you can afford a copy, it’s worth finding and buying.
At least two Cthulhu Mythos card games have been published, one a collectible card game called Mythos and another, more recent card game called Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game.
Various companies have also created multiple plush toys of Cthulhu himself and some of the assorted creatures from the books. You can find Cthulhu with a Santa hat, Cthulhu in a Hawaii shirt, or even a plus shoggoth to add to your collection.
Collecting materials related to the Call of Cthulhu game can keep you busy for literally years.