By Benjamin Nobel, July 6, 2016
In a previous post, I had mentioned finding out that a January 1998 article by Jon McClure in issue #55 of Comic Book Marketplace magazine is widely credited by collectors as the “catalyst” for widespread awareness of 35¢ price variants.
I tracked down a hard copy of this magazine issue (published too early for the content to be online it seems, as I could not find it). As it turns out the article in that issue is actually “Part II”… It is entitled “The 30¢ Price Puzzle: Making sense of Bronze Age Marvel Price Variants.” Part I is said to be in issue #51 of the same magazine (I have yet to acquire a hard copy of that one).
As a big fan of 75 cent variants for their relative value and incredibly low distribution numbers, this article was an interesting read for me on a few levels. For one, it has clearly gotten a whole lot easier for collectors to research comics since 1998! The article mentions how over the years, in different Overstreet price guides, they started mentioning 30 or 35 cent variant copies of one particular specific issue or another (presumably as they were discovered/confirmed to exist, and/or as market values warranted Overstreet “breaking them out”). The article also highlights a long list of comics that “might” have price variants and then confirms ones that were actually verified. (That would have been so much easier to research in this day and age, by looking through eBay listings in order to verify variant existence).
And to further highlight the “technological state” of the comic collecting world in 1998: the page to the right of the article is an advertisement page, and the advertiser who bought the ad space lists a phone number… and under the phone number the ad says “Sorry, no answering machine!” Isn’t that a funny sign of the times? I’m trying to remember what speed dial-up modem I had back in 1998 in order to connect to America Online (remember all those CD-ROM disks we used to get in the mail?). Anyway, point is, we certainly are in a much different era sitting here today in 2016, one where information is far easier to research and also easier to share with other collectors!
A few notable passages from the article that I want to quote:
“Of the eight 35¢ variants and five 30¢ variants noted in Overstreet #27, four of them are Star Wars #1-4, three are X-Men #98-99, and #106, and the eighth is Iron Fist #15. That’s right, two out of three are popular, high visibility, high demand comics. Only four others have been noticed and referred to by Overstreet in the last 20 years!”
What a strong parallel to the Canadian price variants, of having been overlooked, wouldn’t you agree?! Interesting too that issue #100 wasn’t mentioned back then, that is one of the more highly valued 30 cent variants today, and apparently wasn’t even shown in the guide back then (unless the article has a typo and 106 is meant to be 100 — similarly, I have to wonder if Iron Fist #15 was meant to say #14 as the 1st appearance of Sabretooth — I honestly don’t know the history of what used to be considered “key” back then having only gotten drawn back into our hobby in 2003, so seeing these issue numbers surprised me). Another passage that shows a strong parallel to our 75 cent variants:
“It makes sense that variant comics have remained virtually unknown until now, when you consider that they are nearly impossible to notice or detect unless you know what to look for.”
Not many collectors today know how to spot the 75 cent and other Canadian price variants… and I think this statement is also applicable to newsstand comics broadly (the difference between newsstand vs. direct edition comics is not something the typical collector seems to even think about today let alone understand and look for). And here’s yet another quote that I find particularly interesting because it actually mentions the existence of 75 cent variants, but only with one example comic where such a variant exists (showing the state of knowledge about these back in 1998):
“And we haven’t yet investigated the 75¢ price variants that are known to exist (see the Thor #338 variant listed in Overstreet). There’s obviously much more of the price variant puzzle left for collectors to explore.”
So at the time this article was written — the article widely credited by collectors as the catalyst for widespread awareness of 30/35¢ price variants — even the author of the article himself hadn’t yet begun to investigate just what these 75¢ variants even were, apparently knowing at the time only the fact that one existed and was mentioned in Overstreet.
The remark here by McClure about “75 cent variants” (as his chosen phrase) also helps explain why that exact term is often used to describe this “class” of Canadian price variants despite the fact that the variant price is different depending on the “regular” price of the given comic (X-Factor #6 at 95¢ and Secret Wars #8 at $1.00 being two examples where the variant price is not in fact 75¢). This also reflects how little must have been known about these at the time, because a more broadly encompassing term to cover those higher price examples would have been more appropriate to select.
And then one final passage from the article to show just where the state of the collector’s market for 30/35¢ variants was at the time — that time being over two decades after original publication of those comic books:
“Although some may not agree, I personally feel variant comics are highly collectible. I also believe that the majority of variants will prove hard-to-find. Perhaps they are scarce and seemingly undervalued because few have been paying attention to them and even fewer have documented them. As the emphasis on Bronze Age continues to grow, I feel certain all that will change.”
Looking at where 35 cent variant comics are valued today, such as the Star Wars variants, it is hard to believe that back in 1998 the author of that article would begin that above statement with the qualifier “although some may not agree.” I personally feel this exact same sentiment that Jon McClure expressed about 30/35¢ variants being highly collectible, about the 75¢ variant (and other Canadian price variant) “class” of comics. (And I feel the same way about late modern $3.99 Newsstand Edition and other “broken out”/CGC-recognized newsstand variants).
More of my posts on the subject of 75 cent variants:
- 75 Cent Variants (Canadian Newsstand Editions)
- D.C. Comics Canadian Editions — 2-7% of Distribution
- Canadian Price Variants — How To Spot Them
Happy Collecting! 🙂