Canadian Newsstand Edition, Rare Comics To Collect

Marvel Graphic Novel #4 — $5.95 Cover Price Variant (1st New Mutants Appearance)

By Benjamin Nobel, December 14, 2016

CGC

Marvel Graphic Novel #4 variant: CGC “breaks out” the cover price variant for this issue with the notation “$5.95 Cover Price”.

The credit for 1st appearance of the New Mutants isn’t held by a regular-sized comic book… Rather, it is a graphic novel, by the name of “Marvel Graphic Novel,” issue #4. If you submit one of these to CGC, you do so under their magazine tier. Here’s something interesting you may have noticed, if you’ve looked to collect this book: there is a $5.95 cover price variant.  Shown at right is an example CGC label (note the part of the label I am pointing out with an arrow). CGC denotes these variants with “$5.95 Cover Price” (and counts them separately on their online census).

Having noticed this variant out there in the marketplace, you’ve probably then wondered: what is this variant?  And just how rare is it (and why)?  By the end of this post you will have learned the answers to these questions. First, I need to give you some background knowledge.

Background Information

Long-time readers of this blog already know all about 75 Cent Variants (Canadian Newsstand Editions) over in the comic book category.  To summarize and give you the “cliff notes version” as relates to this post:

During a particular publication “window” in the 1980’s, we find that all direct edition copies of Marvel’s comics carry multiple prices on the cover, with a US price in bold and a smaller Canadian price underneath [learn the difference between direct edition and newsstand copies if you’re not already in the know].  This is because in the 1980’s, the currency exchange rate moved fairly sharply, and publishers started to demand a higher price if the buyer was paying in Canadian currency.

BUT: for newsstand distribution, there was a “window” of time where, instead of placing both prices on all newsstand copies (as they eventually did), Marvel instead printed out two batches, one batch for each price tag.  [These were manufactured simultaneously on the same equipment, here in the USA, and simply involved a change of the black/key plate — the rest of the book itself, including the all-important indicia page, is fully identical across the different versions].

“Comic Book Collectors, by and large, have understood for years and used the term ‘Canadian Edition’ to refer to comic books printed with a different (usually higher) price to be distributed in Canada. Most collectors understand that these books were PRINTED ALONGSIDE their USA counterparts, along with Direct Edition copies that have both prices listed.” ~Brad Bradley, Modern Age Finalizer, CGC

new_mutants_1_variant

Example copies of New Mutants #1: the top copy is part of the large batch priced at 60 cents, sized to serve the newsstand portion of the US market. The bottom copy is part of the small batch priced at 75 cents, sized to serve the newsstand portion of the small Canadian market.

The larger newsstand batch was destined for distribution on US newsstands, and the smaller batch was destined for distribution on Canadian newsstands [the distribution appears to have been “imperfect” in that various readers have shared their personal experience with me, of their having consistently found the Canadian type on newsstands in towns in the USA close to the border, and also that the US type was regularly found in Canada — it makes sense that having two types would have “strained the newsstand distribution logistics” in this way, where the different types “spilled over,” especially along the border].

Why would the Canadian newsstand batch have been smaller, you ask?

Because Canada is a dramatically smaller market by population size.  In the 1980’s, Canada’s population represented about 9.8% of the total North American market for Marvel’s English language comic books (the USA being the other 90.2% of that market).  So when they sized the different print run batches, they had this market size discrepancy in mind — along with the fact that part of that Canadian market would be purchasing the direct edition version (the kind sold in comic shops), so the newsstand demand was only a portion of that 9.8%…

What kind of portion are we talking about, you ask?

Sometime during the mid-1980’s, around 1985/1986, industry insiders and book authors have told us that direct edition sales began to surpass newsstand sales at Marvel.  If you think about how this would have divided the comic book market in general, and the Canadian comic book market specifically, at the 50/50 point as applied to the Canadian market, that 9.8% figure starting with population size, would then have been divided in half: i.e. we’re now assuming 4.9% direct edition sales at Canadian comic shops (those copies being identical to the direct edition copies sold in the USA), to 4.9% newsstand sales (those copies being the variants), with those halves totaling to 9.8%. (Thinking about the 50/50 point, whenever that happened to have precisely occurred, makes for easy math we can do in our heads; the rarity before and after is then some percentage more or less, depending on how we divide up that market between direct edition and newsstand [here’s a discussion of how it might have broken down year by year during the variant window]).

1980's Canadian Price Variant Rarity Illustration

1980’s Canadian Price Variant Rarity Illustration

So for the newsstand-exclusive cover price variants over in the world of comic books published by Marvel, we’re starting from that ballpark 4.9% figure at time of original distribution (give or take, depending on how close we are to the 50/50 point chronologically, i.e. how we split up the 9.8% starting point into direct:newsstand), and other variables would then play into the surviving rarity ratio (leading to the relative numbers of each type that we therefore observe on the CGC census sitting here today in 2016) — variables like how well each particular issue sold through on the newsstands (the newsstand model called for unsold copies to be returned to the publisher for a refund), and the fate of the newsstand returns (often they were recycled/pulped, but other times the publisher re-sold the returns into a secondary market, such as Whitman packs, or test-marketing US reaction to a higher cover-price-point — the returned Canadian newsstand copies already had a higher price tag number on their covers so they were perfect for this task).

And then there’s the critical variables of the behavior of the staff and the behavior of the buyer, i.e. how they treated the comics. At newsstands, the staff had no training to preserve condition or handle the comics with care — they were simply treated like the magazines next to them on the rack (a publication meant to be read). Meanwhile over at the comic shops, store owners were careful to preserve collectible condition, knowing that the pristine condition was important to their customers. And that’s true: the customers at comic shops tended to be collectors who cared greatly about condition… Bagging and boarding the treasures they took home from the comic shop was the common behavior. But over at the newsstands, the typical buyer wasn’t a collector, but rather was a reader. Newsstand comics are notorious for being “read to death” and often simply discarded.

notorious-newsstand-grades

“Our experience has shown that the comics sold in comic shops had a 90% probability of being put into a plastic bag and preserved, while comics purchased from newsstands had a 90% probability of either being read to death, or thrown away.” ~ Chuck Rozanski

So with the newsstand-exclusive cover price variants in the comic book category we see very low variant percentages showing up on the CGC census.  An example of a particularly abundant supply of cover price variants relative to the total CGC has graded, is issue #252 of Amazing Spider-Man.  In other words, this particular issue is a stand-out for having a relatively high percentage of variants show up, versus the percentage we see for other comics in the 1980’s price variant category — which may very well have to do with those variables I talked about, like the fate of the newsstand returns.

And that relatively-ultra-high percentage we see in the census numbers for ASM #252 — want to guess what the figure is?  About 2% variants, to 98% “regular” copies.  Based on the distribution math at time of publication we’d expect somewhere around 5-6% of that issue to be variants, before those other variables play into things, and the “notorious newsstand destruction rate” variable may be partly responsible for slicing the percentage down further from there (versus direct edition copies which were meanwhile extraordinarily well preserved).  It is also possible that the newsstand-to-direct-edition ratio tilted differently in Canada… the largest city there, Toronto, has a population that is only about a third of the population of New York City for example — so with smaller cities, the concentration of newsstand outlets across Canada versus comic shop outlets could very well have differed as compared to the US market, resulting in a different ratio there (but absent perfect information such as that data, I believe the starting-point assumption I’ve argued here is reasonable and if anything probably conservative, i.e. understating the expected rarity instead of overstating it).

[ Related post: Amazing Spider-Man #252 75¢ Canadian Edition Variant: CGC Census Rarity Over Time ]

Marvel Graphic Novel #4 —$5.95 Cover Price

Marvel Graphic Novel #4 with $5.95 cover price, manufactured in the USA but sold into the Canadian market. Magazine tier at CGC and distributed not like a comic book, but as a graphic novel. Instead of a direct edition and two newsstand editions, there were just 4.95 and 5.95 copies of the 1st printing.

Marvel Graphic Novel #4 with $5.95 cover price, manufactured in the USA but sold into the Canadian market. Magazine tier at CGC and distributed not like a comic book, but as a graphic novel. Instead of a direct edition with both US+CAD prices and two newsstand editions (one for each price) like what we see for New Mutants #1, there were just 4.95 and 5.95 copies of the 1st printing of Marvel Graphic Novel #4.

So now with this background information laid down, let’s turn our attention to Marvel Graphic Novel #4. That one is not in the comic book CGC tier, it is in the magazine tier, and when it came to the distribution, it was also different than how they distributed their comics:  There weren’t multiple prices on some copies, but one price on others, like we see on their comics of this time period…

There weren’t two distinct distribution channels to “sort” the buyers of Marvel Graphic Novel #4 into a mostly-collector-group (as was the case with direct edition comics), versus a mostly-reader-group (as was the case with newsstand comics).  Rather, these were graphic novels, and distributed as such.  And for the pricing, the U.S. copies simply carried a single price of $4.95 on the cover, while the copies destined for Canada carried a $5.95 cover price.

If we think about what this might mean for the rarity percentage that we’d expect to see showing up in the CGC census data for variant copies of Marvel Graphic Novel #4, I’d propose we consider the following observations:

(1)  Since the price variant was distributed the same way as the “regular” copies, the buying groups of each type would have been similar in their collector:reader ratio.  Therefore we’d probably not see a meaningful difference in “destruction rate” between the cover price variant and the regular copies, because the behavior of the buyers who took each type home would have been similar.

(2) Since the distribution was that of a graphic novel, there was no division of the Canadian market between direct edition and newsstand the way there was with comics. Therefore we’d probably see the ratio of cover price variants be closer to the full 9.8% of the market that Canada’s population represented, for graphic novels.

Based on these two observations let’s make a prediction: We’d probably expect about 9.8% of CGC submissions of Marvel Graphic Novel #4, to be the $5.95 cover price variant that was produced for the Canadian market.

As I type this sentence on December 14, 2016, looking at the present CGC census data, there are a grand total of 431 first print copies of Marvel Graphic Novel #4 that have been turned in to CGC for grading. Based on the logic I’ve argued above, our prediction would be that about 9.8% of those copies would be the $5.95 cover price variant, or 42 copies, versus 389 “regular” copies.

Does our prediction match the reality? Here’s a screenshot of today’s census data. As you can see, there are 41 variant copies and 390 regular copies. We came pretty darn close!

marvel-graphic-4-variant

CGC census data as of this writing for Marvel Graphic Novel #4, showing the number of “regular” 1st print copies in the top section and the number of $5.95 variant copies in the second section.

If you have recently collected the $5.95 cover price variant for Marvel Graphic Novel #4, now you know why it has the rarity it does. And by collecting this highly interesting variant, you’ve just stepped through the open door to a whole category of even-more-rare cover price variants (due to the same phenomenon causing your Marvel Graphic Novel #4 to be so rare, but then also applying newsstand-exclusivity to the equation). For example, next, you should try to hunt down a 75 cent copy of New Mutants #1 (their second appearance, and also featuring the origin of Karma), and compare how difficult it is to find one, versus finding your Marvel Graphic Novel #4 variant.

For most collectors today, as you step through this door, you’ve found a world of rare cover price variants that you probably didn’t even know existed before (they are rarely in the marketplace in any great number, and when they do appear their listings are often not titled in a way that you’d ever find or notice them, so the principle of “out of sight, out of mind” definitely applies here).

If you’re interested in further exploring the world of rare 80’s cover price variants you just stepped into by collecting your $5.95 copy of Marvel Graphic Novel #4, may I suggest the following links to read next:

Happy Collecting! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Marvel Graphic Novel #4 — $5.95 Cover Price Variant (1st New Mutants Appearance)

  1. Sean says:

    Love the article – do you see the $5.95 Canadian variant becoming more sought after and not only rising in value but maintaining that value? Would it perhaps be on some level with the Star Wars 35 cent variant?

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    • Thanks Sean!

      Yes, personally I do expect the $5.95 Canadian variant to become more sought after and rise in value, and that’s because we have a concrete upcoming catalyst for increased interest in the 1st appearance of the New Mutants: the upcoming movie. No guarantees of course, but that’s the way I see it playing out: that as more collectors want to own the 1st appearance, they’ll then be typing ‘Marvel Graphic Novel #4’ into eBay. And because the $5.95 variant is actually so much easier to find (as compared to the newsstand-exclusive cover price variants in the comics category), I think that means people will actually notice the existence of the variant.

      For many of the newsstand-exclusive variants they are simply not out there to be noticed… I think that’s holding them back. I was just noticing the other day how there were zero 75 cent cover price copies of Web of Spider-Man #1 on the market for example — the way I see it, that actually works against collector awareness. People won’t seek what they don’t know about. And growth in awareness is what is needed to drive the price higher in the future, towards the premium that their rarity would arguably “deserve” on paper.

      Marvel Graphic Novel #4 variants have a strong advantage in that department: with the newsstand variable absent, the percentage of the total sold that were variants is much higher, so that means there’s more of a chance people will actually find one when they go looking to collect this graphic novel, which is excellent for growth of awareness of its existence!

      Regarding the second part of your question (about the 35 cent variant Star Wars comics), one thing I’d point out is that for some of them, the CGC census rarity percentage is in a competitive range to the Marvel Graphic Novel #4 variant: case in point, issue #4 of Star Wars has 582 copies on census with 30 cent cover price, and 61 copies with 35 cent cover price, for a grand total of 643 total copies graded as of this writing. As a percentage, 61 out of 643 is ~9.5%. So looking at the observed CGC census rarity, we’re right in the same “neighborhood” with rarity percentage in the high single digits, similar as compared to the Marvel Graphic Novel #4 variant.

      Those Star Wars variants, however, have had decades of being broken out in Overstreet and decades of widespread awareness among collectors (a 1998 article is considered “ground zero” for 35 cent variant awareness)… But the way I see things, separating market value out of the decision-making, it is really a collecting question of A vs. B — which version would you go for [which is the most rare] in an A vs. B scenario, i.e. if you were given the choice of two similar grade and similar priced copies, but one was “regular” and the other was the variant, which would you prefer given all you know about them? And then how you answer that question — how the collecting community at large answers that question — drives the value to its natural conclusion after the passage of enough time.

      There was a day long ago when 35 cent variant comics were still under-the-radar — so think about that A vs. B choice back then, supposing you knew that mathematically the 35 cent copies had to be more rare than the 30 cent copies (distributed only to certain areas and that meant the rarity percentage was lower for the 35 cent copies). Even without the market price telling you the answer, the choice should have been crystal clear. Coincidentally, I just today published a discussion of this very A vs. B point towards the end following post — I’d encourage you to take a look: https://rarecomics.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/nice-book-too-bad-its-a-direct-edition/

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, very glad you enjoyed my article 🙂

      – Ben

      Like

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