By Benjamin Nobel, May 17, 2017
Welcome back! This is “Part II” of my look at Marvel’s 1990’s-era AUS price variants (Australian newsstand editions), a fascinating “class” of first-print, US-published cover price variants targeted to the Australian market — specifically to Australian newsstands. Before reading on, make sure you have read Part I, which introduced you to this “class” of comics using the mega-key that falls within the variant publication window: Part I: New Mutants #98 — $1.50 Cover Price Variant.
One of the interesting observations we explored in Part I, is how these comics are identical to the rest of the print run on the inside (including the all-important indicia page), but carry a different cover price — as well as a later cover month — on the outside. Because the batch of newsstand comics produced for the Australian market would likely have spent so much time traveling in a container (probably on a slow boat), the cover month for the 1990-1994-era AUS price variants was set three months later than their North American newsstand counter-parts — so for New Mutants #98, we saw that instead of February on the cover, the variants show May. And although the indicia of the variant copies still reads February, CGC catalogs the variants by the May cover month, resulting in a second census entry under a different issue date:
And then at the time of my Part I post, we saw how CGC did not indicate anywhere on the label of these variants, that the indicia month within was actually February. I mentioned how I was going to suggest an improvement to CGC when submitting my own copy, and I am pleased to be able to report that CGC has edited their Key Comments notes across New Mutants #98 and other AUS price variant examples as well, in order to include the indicia month information on the label. Public thanks to CGC for this great improvement — because it helps collectors who may be unfamiliar with this “class” of comics to grasp that they were indeed manufactured right along with the rest of the print run. Once encapsulated, that indicia information is then forever out of view and buried within the slab, so including it on the label is an important improvement.
Here is how the CGC census lookup for variant copies of New Mutants #98 looks today, which you can compare against the screenshot from my Part I post; notice how the Key Comments note now ends with “Indicia reads 2/91” and my copy has brought the total on record up to 6 from the previous 5:
Other Keys Beyond New Mutants #98
Although New Mutants #98 is the mega-key within the Type 1A AUS price variant window, many other interesting comics with AUS variants are confirmed to exist as well, including some other really important keys I’ll present below.
Confirming the existence of AUS price variants case-by-case from the 10/90 to 1/94 window (and the 2/96 to 11/96 window) is incredibly difficult: there are some which I expect should exist, such as Iron Man #282, but I’ve had my eyes peeled for going on six months and have yet to spot a single copy [10/26/2017 Update: Thank you to Paul Nicholls who confirmed the existence of the Iron Man #282 variant and supplied a photo! Paul also mentioned Silver Surfer v3 #44 (1st appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet) as another critically important key to list as falling into this Type 1A Cover Price Variant window].
But it makes sense that these AUS cover price copies should be next-to-impossible to find as a “class” of variants, because Australia is such a small market by population, in contrast to North America. And that small population percentage is then applied only to the newsstand slice of Marvel’s comic books… where we see a 1990 newsstand rarity estimate of 15% and a BPA audit revealing 14% newsstand sales by the beginning of 1999.
So dividing up the newsstand pie slice by market size to reveal just the Australian newsstand copies within that already-small newsstand slice, we’d get to a minuscule percentage of total copies sold of a given issue being our AUS price variants — in the Part I post, I penciled out a range of 0.87% to 2.61%, before the high destruction rate that newsstand comics are notorious for. That math makes for a huge number of “regular” copies you’d have to scroll through before you spot 1 AUS variant copy… and in so many cases, you can scroll completely through every single copy on eBay and find zero AUS variants. Despite this extreme rarity level, through my own hunting and with the help of readers (thanks for all your help!!) I was able to confirm the existence of the following interesting keys and picture them here:
Amazing Spider-Man #344 (1st Cletus Kasady appearance)
Amazing Spider-Man #360 (1st Carnage in cameo)
Amazing Spider-Man #361 (1st full Carnage appearance)
Amazing Spider-Man #362-363 (Carnage storyline)
Amazing Spider-Man #365 (1st appearance of Spider-Man 2099)
Uncanny X-Men #282 (1st Bishop appearance)
New Mutants #99 (1st appearance of Feral; X-Men #138 cover swipe)
New Mutants #100 (1st appearance of X-Force)
Iron Man #281 (1st cameo appearance of War Machine)
Iron Man #282 (1st full appearance of War Machine)
X-Force #11 (1st appearance of “real” Domino)
X-Force #15 (Deadpool vs. Cable)
And here are a few other interesting comics, just to give you some more ideas…
I always find it interesting to compare and contrast different kinds of variant comics, when considering their relative value — and during the 90’s while this AUS price variant window was open on newsstands, there were meanwhile some well known X-Men variants that were sold in conjunction with an X-Men board game. Many buyers of these board games got a variant copy of X-Men #11 included, with a silver background on the cover; and there were other variant issues distributed with the board game as well: X-Men #’s 297, 303, and 307.
The X-Men #11 variants are not especially difficult to find out there as judged by eBay availability — for example at this particular moment in time, if I wanted to buy a nice NM-range copy of the silver/Pressman-board-game variant of X-Men #11, I could go onto eBay and I’d have eleven copies to choose from including three CGC graded copies above NM in grade:
Those are some high price tags! Which goes to show how hungry collectors are to own variants… the variants they know about. In the sold section of eBay I found two recent Pressman X-Men #11 listings, both of which described the offered copies as NM- and one of which had availability of two copies:
The Pressman variants are indeed interesting for context here… because these X-Men issues with Pressman variants also fall within our AUS price variant window by publication date. So we have a nice contrast looking at market values for these Pressman variants that collectors are already aware of and out there looking for — i.e. we can think about the following question: if NM- Pressman variant copies of X-Men #11 are going for $30-40, what should AUS price variant copies of the issue go for?
Looking today on the CGC census, there are 53 Pressman copies of X-Men #11 on record, but zero AUS variant copies. Looking today on eBay, I find only one AUS price variant copy of the issue in the “sold” section (and only one currently-active listing); the sold copy was described as VF+, and take a look at the price the seller decided to ask for their copy on a buy-it-now — you can really see the relative value here (even with overseas shipping cost we’re talking about a fraction of the cost of a Pressman variant):
And VF+ is actually a very strong grade in the context of these variants as newsstand exclusives (and with the associated typical poor handling and high destruction rate that newsstand comics are notorious for). The more typical condition you’ll find out there among AUS variants is more like this:
Finding stickers affixed to the front covers of AUS price variants is a very common occurrence and is reflective of how the comics were treated — as something to read, with no thought given to preservation of collectible condition. Another common occurrence you’ll see out there is a newsstand marking in the upper left corner of the front cover in pen (the number portion of these markings appears to have to do with the month) — here are a few examples below with such markings (when submitted to CGC, the following showed up as Grader Notes: “small writing top left of front cover“):
I haven’t been able to confirm sightings of AUS variants for all of the other X-Men issues that also have Pressman variants, but based on the AUS variant publication window they likely do all indeed exist for each of the issues that have Pressman variants; here below is confirmation of the existence of an AUS price variant for one of the others, X-Men #307:
Similar to Pressman variants as a simultaneously-existing variant “type” that we can use for value comparison, another “type” of 1990’s variant has to do with the common use of holograms on comic book covers during the 90’s: sometimes, these holograms took on different shades of color when they were manufactured. Collectors, being ever eager to seek out rare variant versions of a given comic, have identified blue holograms as more desirable and rare. For example, consider X-Force #25:
As you can see above, these “rare blue” hologram copies are asking quite a bit (and that first listing also touts an orange tinted version). And toggling over to the “sold” listings, we can see that such copies described as having blue holograms are indeed finding buyers willing to pay a considerable premium over what the “regular” copies sell for:
And as you already guessed, these blue holograms aren’t the only variant version out there of the issue… because there indeed exists an AUS price variant for this hologram issue as well (and check out the high cover price Australians were asked to pay to get their hands on one of these cool hologram covers, at a whopping $5.60):
And X-Force #25 isn’t the only hologram example; one of those sold eBay listings we saw earlier mentioned “Like Wolverine 75” in the title, and indeed, that’s another one where collectors are paying a premium for blue hologram copies. And it is also an example where an AUS price variant exists (and look what a high cover price Australians were asked to pay for this one!):
And AUS price variants exist for other hologram issues as well, including Amazing Spider-Man #365 which we saw earlier (first appearance of Spider-Man 2099 — and yes, the 2099 titles also have AUS price variants), and Spectacular Spider-Man #189 (and once again, an abnormally high cover price associated with the hologram cover; and once again a sticker affixed to the cover of this particular example):
Hologram covers are arguably a big piece of “1990s comic book memorabilia” and it is interesting to consider the little-known AUS cover price variant hologram copies in contrast to the blue hologram versions that collectors are already out there looking for today and paying premiums for as rare variants — because between the tiny percentage of total copies that the Australian newsstand market represented, the notorious high newsstand destruction rate, and the abnormally high per-issue cover price these hologram issues were consistently given (potentially deterring a lot of would-be buyers from opening their wallets), finding these surviving AUS cover price variant hologram covers in high grade is beyond challenging… and there are several other hologram issues I haven’t included here simply because after nearly six months of looking, I’ve yet to see a single copy come up for sale (not even a beaten-up reader copy which would at least confirm their existence).
A similar category to holograms (in the sense of sometimes creating variant versions known to collectors today) was “foil” covers with known manufacturing errors; one example being Silver Surfer #50:
Here’s a recent sale of a Silver Surfer #50 error copy in the “sold” section of eBay:
In the context of this “known variant” that collectors are already out there looking for, it is interesting to consider the little-known AUS price variant of the same issue:
Between Pressman variants, blue hologram copies, and foil errors, these other 1990s variants help calibrate a sense of what kind of potential the AUS price variants have as a “class” of variant comics if collectors broadly start to become aware of their existence (and their extreme rarity) and begin actively looking for them. Today, the awareness of their existence has got to be extremely low out there… I count myself among those who until recently had no idea whatsoever that AUS price variant newsstand comics even existed.
Even with the current low level of awareness of this “class” of variants, a recent sale of the “mega-key” example (New Mutants #98) shows their market value potential… Since the time of my “Part I” post, we have seen one New Mutants #98 copy described as the AUS price variant hit the “sold” section of eBay, with an impressive price result. The one sale was this one screen-captured below, described as VG/FN, and I can tell from the sold listings section sorted by order of highest to lowest sale price, that this variant copy fetched a higher sale price than the three books pictured below it in the following screenshot, which are: (runner-up-#1) a CBCS 9.0 copy signed by Rob Liefeld; (runner-up-#2) a CBCS 9.4 Direct Edition copy; (runner-up-#3) a CGC 9.4 Direct Edition copy.
A dramatic price difference for sure, when a raw VG/FN AUS price variant copy of New Mutants #98 beats out these slabbed Near-Mint-range direct edition comps… Which prompts one to wonder: what would a Near Mint variant have sold for? What would the one single CGC 9.4 variant copy presently in existence today have sold for (as of today, 9.4 is the top grade)?
And what would a near mint AUS variant copy of New Mutants #98 sell for in the future if more collectors begin to realize they actually exist and then come to comprehend their rarity as newsstand exclusives targeted to the relatively-tiny-by-population Australian market? I can’t imagine knowledge of these variants is currently very widespread… the tiny numbers and the principle of “out of sight, out of mind” has kept them nearly-invisible (the current grand-total six CGC graded copies of the New Mutants #98 AUS variant stands in stark contrast against the 12,611 CGC graded “regular” copies presently in existence… in fact, 765 “regular” copies of New Mutants #98 have been graded since year-end 2016 alone).
And if that’s true that awareness of these AUS price variants is indeed on the low side today, then that means we presently have a nice window of opportunity to hunt for AUS price variants while they are still broadly under the radar and can sometimes be found out there for “regular price” listed on eBay.
Hopefully the example comics I’ve talked about today give you some other good ideas for AUS price variant comics to collect beyond the mega-key presented in Part I. And although I’ve only focused on the first “window” (1990-1994) in this post, there are also confirmed 1996 AUS price variants out there too. Below is a list a reader shared with me, of Amazing Spider-Man Australian newsstand comics they had personally collected and verified to date:
|Confirmed Amazing Spider-Man Australian Newsstand Editions|
|Issue No.||Indicia Date||Cover Price (AUS)||Cover Date|
[Thank-you to the reader who contacted me and shared the above!] These are their confirmed hits, and it is possible others exist outside of this list, for example Amazing Spider-Man #340 seems like it should fit into the window. Here’s a picture of one of the AUS price variant ASM examples from 1996 ($2.00 AUS price in UPC code box):
And I’ll end this post with a few more example AUS variants just to give you a further sampling of what’s out there. Happy Collecting! 🙂
[9/2019 Update: Australian Price Variants Part III!]