Direct Edition vs. Newsstand Edition Comic Books

$2.99 Newsstand Edition CGC Census Variants, and, “Partial Cover Price Variations”

By Benjamin Nobel, June 12, 2017

A different cover price between two copies of the same issue number of a comic book is something all collectors can naturally (and quickly) comprehend and relate to: if the cover price on certain copies is different from the rest of the print run, that very clearly makes those copies different from the rest of the print run. It is the kind of difference between two comics that hits you right in the wallet, and one that is also easy for even a novice collector to spot with their eyes very clearly: everybody and their grandmother knows how to read a price tag and can tell if two cover prices differ.

For most modern comic book issues, the newsstand edition and direct edition copies carried identical price tags on their covers.  For example, below are pictures from two copies of Amazing Spider-Man #492 (v2 #51) side by side, zoomed in on the UPC codes.  As you can see, the cover prices between these two examples are the same: $2.25 US ($3.75 CAN) in both cases.

Amazing Spider-Man #492, Newsstand vs Direct Edition

The copy at left is a newsstand copy, while the copy at right is a direct edition copy.   Both carry bar codes, and if you look closely you’ll see that the bar codes are clearly different (publishers always needed newsstand copies to be distinguishable, because only newsstand copies were returnable).  And even without reading the bar code numbers, you can see how the direct edition copy actually says “Direct Edition” on it while the newsstand copy does not — so you can tell the two types apart by those words as well.

Given the choice of either of these above copies in the same grade and same cost, those of us in the “newsstand preference camp” would choose to collect the left copy as the “no brainer” more-rare and therefore more-preferable choice.  But many collectors out there today, if you showed them the above picture, they would look at these two comics, shrug their shoulders, and say, “both of them have bar codes — so… what’s really the difference??”  [If any collector friends of yours are in that shoulder-shrugging category, I hope you will encourage them to read this post, or, read my separate post entitled Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference which is a better “introduction” to the difference for those who haven’t put thought into it before].

Amazing Spider-Man (“ASM”) #493 (v2 #52), and #494 (v2 #53) follow the same pricing as issue #492 across newsstand and direct editions (i.e. the pricing is the same by type at $2.25 US, $3.75 CAN).  But that pricing is about to change… here’s the next issue, #495 (v2 #54)… notice that the direct edition copy (at right) is still $2.25 US ($3.75 CAN), but the newsstand copy at left is priced higher, at $2.49 US ($4.00 CAN):

Amazing Spider-Man #495 Cover Price Comparison

Newsstand copy (left) carries a higher cover price!

The above pair of pictures is a completely different story when it comes to explaining to our fellow collectors that the newsstand version is different from the direct edition version.  Because here, we don’t have to talk about bar codes, we don’t have to talk about how newsstand copies were returnable, we don’t even have to talk about how newsstand copies are more rare, in order to show a fellow collector that the two are different…  All we have to point out is the higher cover price on the left copy and then “SNAP!” they immediately “get it” that they’re looking at two different versions.  Because when the price tag is different, everybody and their grandma will tell you they are indeed different. And everybody and their grandma will all very easily and very clearly be able to articulate how they are different: one version cost one amount, the other a different amount. Simple. Clear.

And now that we have everybody and their grandma seeing the two comics above are different, we can proceed to tell everybody and their grandma that the higher cover price type is more rare than the lower cover price type.  They’ll find that out on their own if they actually try to look for the higher cover price type in the marketplace (they’ll quickly discover it is extremely difficult to find), but it also helps to tell them what was going on at the time of publication at Marvel to explain why it is so much harder to find.  With issue #495 of ASM, we’re at a publication date of 8/2003.  And here’s what was happening on the business side at Marvel, when it came to the 2003-era distribution numbers for newsstand versus direct edition comic books:

Marvel 2003 Newsstand Percentage: 4.25%

This is a slide from Newsstand Rarity Discussion & Estimates where I have collected quotes and graphics related to the discussion of relative newsstand rarity over the years, compared to direct edition copies.

That 4.25% number is a stunner… especially given how from that starting point, newsstand comics were absolutely notorious for getting beaten up: newsstand comics were poorly preserved, while direct edition comics were well preserved.  So the surviving numbers of newsstand comics of that 2003 era are bound to be a whole lot lower than the original time-of-distribution numbers.

“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

And the newsstand numbers at Marvel would continue to shrink as the years ticked by: for 2005, we see a published estimate from Chuck Rozanski at 2% newsstand (versus 98% direct edition) at Marvel.   Late modern direct edition comics, at these overwhelming-majority-levels, are clearly “the standard edition” out there for any given issue… said another way, the direct edition comics are the “regular” copies of any given issue.  Meanwhile, their incredibly-low-distribution newsstand counter-parts are the small minority… and so to have members of this small minority also stand out further in being “non-standard” by being cover price variants of the issue number is exciting for the hobby indeed!  [Think about it: “Two cover price types, one being a tiny fraction of the total sold” — the same could be said of the 35 cent variants of 1977… but unlike those bronze age rarities which are widely known among collectors today, you, reader, are among the earliest collectors in the hobby to be aware of late modern cover price variants found exclusively on newsstands… awareness has already been growing but in the big scheme of things is still practically non-existent at this point, with Overstreet making no mention of them in the guide yet (arguably, only after Overstreet starts breaking them out will the awareness level reach its maturity), and ComicsPriceGuide hasn’t broken them out yet either… but “stay tuned”…]

The 2003-2006 Cover Price Variant “Window”

Before, we saw that ASM #495, published in August of 2003, marked the beginning of this particular “cover price variant window” at Marvel. Continuing on to examine the next issue, we see that the higher $2.49 cover price continues for newsstand copies of ASM #496.  Then, Marvel raises the newsstand price again, and goes up to $2.99 at ASM #497 (Direct Edition pricing meanwhile holds at $2.25 — I’ll share a full spreadsheet at the end by the way, as well as reference photos where I drew the newsstand cover price numbers from, for those who want to really pore over the cover price data):

Amazing Spider-Man #497 cover price difference

At #497, Marvel raises the newsstand price up to $2.99 US, and holds direct editions at $2.25.

So now we’re up to $2.99 on newsstands (versus $2.25 for direct editions). This pricing then continues for awhile, with the exception of #500 which was priced higher at $3.50 US ($5.75 CAN), and for that issue Marvel applied the same pricing across newsstand and direct editions.  But then at #501 they’re right back to $2.99 on the newsstand copies (versus $2.25 on direct editions), and that pricing continues until issue #521 — then, the $2.99 newsstand price holds, but they raise direct editions up to $2.50:


That $2.99 newsstand vs. $2.50 direct edition pricing then holds until issue #531, published June of 2006, when Marvel catches up the direct edition pricing to $2.99… and thus our “$2.99 Newsstand Edition window” of higher-cover-price newsstand copies closes and the prices between the types are back to being the same:

At #531, prices are back to the same.

At #531, prices are back to being the same across newsstand and direct editions, at $2.99 US ($4.25 CAN).

During that cover price variant publication window I just walked through, notice there’s a big key: ASM #529…  And I’m sure you’re wondering: how does CGC treat these higher cover price copies, do they consider them to be distinct variants?  Do they “break out” such copies on census?

CGC Newsstand Treatment: What Attributes Are “Variant-Worthy”?

When it comes to how the biggest comic book grading company, CGC, views the newsstand vs. direct edition distinction today, the present “default” newsstand treatment policy by CGC is to essentially “waive away” the newsstand difference as unimportant and simply lump the two types together as one and the same… Unless there is some bigger difference between the types that they consider sufficient reason to “break out” the newsstand copies.  Unfortunately, for the vast majority of comic books, there is no bigger difference… so even though we can tell the two types apart, CGC lumps them together by issue number and so we cannot count how many of each type have been graded to point out the relative rarity on census (nor see the grade breakdown by type, nor be able to quickly spot which slabbed copies of ours within the CGC box are the newsstand copies from the top of the slab).  Bummer.

So as you can imagine, for a newsstand-focused collector, finding the special “variant-worthy” attributes where CGC does break out newsstand copies is really exciting!  What are the various “variant-worthy” attributes that cause CGC to deviate from their default policy, and actually “break out” newsstand comics as distinct variants on census?  The “special” attributes some newsstand copies have where this big “authority” in the hobby will concede “yes, these are indeed different” and give them a distinct entry on the census?  I’ve observed the following main categories (there could also be other attributes too that I haven’t encountered yet, so don’t treat this as an “exhaustive” review):

  • Manufacturing differences — for example if newsstand copies of a given issue were manufactured with cheap newsprint paper, while direct edition copies of the same issue were manufactured with heavy glossy paper, that’s apparently considered a variant-worthy attribute by CGC: i.e. CGC is known to “break out” such newsstand copies as distinct census variants.  Example: Spawn #9 Newsstand Edition copies were manufactured with newsprint paper instead of glossy, and are broken out on census as a distinct variant (1st Angela appearance — now part of the Marvel universe as Thor’s sister).  Another example in this manufacturing-differences-category: Spawn Batman Newsstand Edition copies were manufactured with a regular paper cover instead of card stock, and are broken out on census as a distinct variant (Frank Miller / Todd McFarlane collaboration, Miller’s return to Batman, and considered a companion piece to his 1986 work, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns).
  • Artwork differences — when the newsstand copies carried a variation of the artwork, or completely different artwork, CGC is known to “break out” such copies. Examples include Savage Dragon #10 (alternate cover artwork was used on the newsstand edition), and WildC.A.T.S #2 (where direct edition copies had a “prism” cover, and the newsstand copies got a regular-paper-adaptation of the artwork).
  • When the UPC identifies the comic as a different title than it is — if newsstand copies of a given issue of, say, Amazing Spider-Man, actually carry the UPC code for, say, Sensational Spider-Man, that’s apparently considered a variant-worthy attribute by CGC: i.e. CGC is known to “break out” such copies.   Another example outside of the ASM title: X-Men Origins: Deadpool #1 newsstand copies carry the Incredible Hulk UPC code (Origin of Deadpool retold; “From Russia with Love” movie poster homage cover) and are broken out on census as a distinct variant.
  • Cover price differences — the category that relates to this post…  If the cover price of newsstand copies is different, that’s apparently considered a variant-worthy attribute by CGC: i.e. CGC is known to “break out” such copies.  And throughout this blog I’ve covered many “classes” of newsstand-exclusive cover price variants all recognized by CGC in this way as distinct census entries, including the 75 cent newsstand-exclusive cover price variants of the 1980’s at Marvel and DC (also 95¢ and $1.00 variants of the 80’s, these too found exclusively on newsstands), AUS cover price variants of the 1990’s, and $3.99 Newsstand Edition variants of the 2000’s at Marvel (and then later on, the $3.99 Newsstand Editions and $4.99 Newsstand Editions from DC).

Last year, back when I introduced you to $3.99 Newsstand Editions as a then-brand-new “class” of CGC-recognized variants, at that time of CGC’s great decision to “break out” those $3.99 cover price newsstand comics (where their prevalent direct edition counter-parts carried a $1 lower cover price at $2.99), there was discussion at CGC about whether to instead apply the treatment they had used for Amazing Spider-Man #529…

Because back in 2006, CGC appears to have treated that one as a “one-off” when it was pointed out to them — and back then, instead of “breaking out” the $2.99 copies of ASM #529, CGC’s solution was instead to make a Key Comments label note pointing out they exist.  In retrospect, that initial decision was the wrong one for the hobby — imagine for some contrast if CGC had decided to treat other “classes” of cover price variants this way, for example suppose on copies of Star Wars #1 from 1977 that CGC had decided to “lump together” both cover price types by issue number and then simply place a label note stating that 35 cent copies exist, on all copies.  That’s effectively what they’d initially done for ASM #529 (emphasis on initially).

Here’s how CGC labels for ASM #529 had looked under this initial treatment:

Prior CGC treatment was to lump together newsstand and direct edition copies by issue number, and then point out in the key comments note that newsstand editions exist with $2.99 cover price.

Prior CGC treatment was to lump together newsstand and direct edition copies by issue number, and then point out in the key comments note that newsstand editions exist with $2.99 cover price.

As you can see, the label note for all copies simply included an indication that “newsstand editions exist with $2.99 cover price.” But as you must have already guessed by now, that was only their initial treatment…  That old way of thinking has gone the way of the Dodo, and CGC has since decided to “break out” those $2.99 copies they once merely referenced in the note.

And that is great news for us to have another big ASM “key” issue in the hobby where CGC recognizes newsstand copies distinctly from their prevalent direct edition counter-parts.  And so it gives me great pleasure to be able to point out the below census screenshot to you, showing how CGC now applies the same basic treatment they used for the $3.99 “class” of variants, for Amazing Spider-Man #529 too, “breaking them out” on census distinctly as “$2.99 Newsstand Edition” variants on census as you can see below:

CGC has started to

CGC has started to “break out” newsstand copies of Amazing Spider-Man #529, on account of the higher cover price, denoting them “$2.99 Newsstand Edition”

For anyone who hasn’t seen what a newsstand copy of this issue looks like, here’s a picture below: it looks the same as the standard copies, except instead of the expected $2.50 cover price that the vast majority of copies carry, the rare newsstand copies instead are priced at $2.99, making them a cover price variant of the issue number:

Rare $2.99 Newsstand Edition CGC-graded copy of Amazing Spider-Man #529

And that ASM #529 issue is the biggest key I’m aware of with newsstand copies falling within the 2003-2006 $2.99 cover price variant window.  And although I haven’t checked every other title, it does appear that the higher newsstand cover price phenomenon extends beyond ASM and that it was done this way on other titles as well — but these variations can be spotty (like we saw for ASM #500 for example which was priced the same across both types despite falling within the window), so I wouldn’t want to make an assumption about all other titles or about specific issues within other titles without verifying each.  But here’s just one example within another title outside of ASM, to show you the higher $2.99 price on a newsstand copy; New Avengers #1:


Partial Cover Price Variations

The New Avengers title was fortunate to have some absolutely phenomenal artists contribute to its success, and some of the cover artwork in the series really blows me away — one example issue being New Avengers #26, featuring what I consider the greatest Scarlet Witch comic book cover of all time, a “painted cover” by the incredibly-talented Alex Maleev:

Newsstand copies of New Avengers #26 have a higher CAN price than direct edition copies.

Newsstand copies of New Avengers #26 have a higher CAN price than direct edition copies.

But aside from its stunning artwork, this comic makes for a good example to illustrate “Part II” of this post. [The purpose of Part I was to share with you how CGC now “breaks out” $2.99 Newsstand Edition copies of ASM #529 (consistent with their treatment of $3.99 Newsstand Edition comics they will apparently break out newsstand copies for any issue with this higher $2.99 cover price phenomenon; another $2.99 Newsstand Edition example you’ll find on census today is X-Men #451), and to show you the “cover price variant window” that ASM #529 is a part of, where the US cover price on newsstand copies is higher than the US cover price on direct edition copies for a considerable stretch, not just the one issue.]

Well, to start off “Part II” of this post, check out below how the cover price compares between newsstand copies vs. direct edition copies of New Avengers #26:

Newsstand copies of New Avengers #26 had a 13% higher cover price in a restricted geographical subset of the broader North American market.

Newsstand copies of New Avengers #26 had a 13% higher cover price in a restricted geographical subset of the broader North American market.

As you can see, the US price is the same… but Canadians meanwhile had to pay a 13% higher price to own a newsstand copy, versus a direct edition copy! There is a partial difference in cover price here!  And that’s what I’m going to explore for “part II” of this post.

To explore this phenomenon more fully by publication window, next I’ll take you back over to the Amazing Spider-Man title (where this kind of research is easier), and I’m going to jump to issue #544.  Notice below how Canadians were asked to pay $1 more to own the newsstand version, versus the direct edition, of this issue:

ASM #544: Canadians asked to pay $1 more for a newsstand copy than a direct edition copy.

ASM #544: Canadians asked to pay $1 more for a newsstand copy than a direct edition copy.

And I want to pause here to make sure I emphasize exactly what I’m pointing out… I’m not pointing out that the CAN price tag is higher than the US price tag — we all know that currencies fluctuate against one another and at different times Marvel needed to charge more in Canadian dollars than in US dollars, for their comics.  That’s not what I’m pointing out.  What I am pointing out is how the CAN price is higher on one type versus the other type, for the same issue.  So for issue #544 above, Canadians had to shell out an additional $1 per copy to buy the newsstand version, versus the direct edition version, of the very same issue number.

An interesting phenomenon, wouldn’t you say?  What was Marvel “up to” here? Just when you might be thinking “well, perhaps there were additional costs to Marvel associated with Canadian newsstand distribution” or something along those lines to justify the higher newsstand price Canadians were asked to pay versus direct edition copies, here’s where things start to get bizarre:  Because for the very next issue, #545, Canadians were asked to pay less money to own the newsstand version, than the direct edition!  Check it out:

ASM #545: newsstand copy was cheaper for Canadians than direct edition copy!

And this pricing held for issue #546 as well.  Sharp-eyed readers will also notice that in the picture below for #546, the newsstand copy (at left) does not have the numbers “02457” along the bar code at the bottom… it carries the numbers “02199” instead:


Indeed, that’s not the “Amazing Spider-Man” code you’re seeing on the newsstand copy.  That’s one of the instances I touched upon before where the UPC code actually identifies the book as a different title than it is (which was one of the attributes identified as “variant-worthy” in CGC’s eyes, i.e. the precedent for copies like this is that they’ll “break out” such copies).  The code you’re seeing on the #546 newsstand copy is actually the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man code (and the words “Frndly Nbhd Spider-Man” appear along the left-hand side of the code box).

This is the earliest ASM issue with an alternate title’s code on it that I am aware of (it could also very well be the case that there are variations of earlier examples and I simply haven’t had the luck of seeing them).  And with this issue, Marvel appears to start the “code cycling” (such beautiful weirdness — read my separate post about this strange-but-true phenomenon here), where the next issue, #547, I’d therefore predict would have the “Sensational Spider-Man” code on it.

I’d also predict #547 to be the first of the ASM $3.99 newsstand editions (a cover price variant window where newsstand copies were priced at $3.99, while direct edition copies were priced at $2.99). I have to resort to the word “predict” because I’ve found that Sensational-coded newsstand copies of Amazing Spider-Man are darn near impossible to actually find (I couldn’t even find a picture of a #547 newsstand copy to confirm the cover price let alone an actual listing for sale)…  If your experience matches mine, you’ll be out there looking for ASM newsstand copies of this time period only to find that every third newsstand issue from this point on — the ones with the Sensational code which include some important keys like #601 and #607 — become frustratingly impossibly difficult to find out there in the marketplace.

And as we saw from the Q&A with the Doc Collection seller, there’s a reason for that: the particular newsstand where The Doc acquired their collection (a drugstore), simply didn’t order the Sensational Spider-Man title.  Probably there were other outlets like it that simply didn’t order the “lesser” Marvel titles.  So at the time of distribution, if you wanted to buy a copy of Amazing Spider-Man with the Sensational code on it from your closest newsstand, it wasn’t enough that newsstand copies of the issue number existed… you needed to also find a newsstand outlet that carried that alternate title in addition to the Amazing Spider-Man title. With a situation like this it is easy to see how the number of newsstand copies sold carrying alternate codes was likely a stair-step lower than those newsstand copies carrying the “right” code (the actual Amazing Spider-Man code).

So from issue number #547 forward, finding a picture of a newsstand copy for every issue isn’t something I’m going to even bother to attempt.  I’ve even heard of ASM completists placing bounties as much as $500-per-copy for anyone who can produce some of these Sensational-coded newsstand copies, such as #559. Who knows what month (or even what year) this post would have been delayed to, had I waited to actually lay eyes on a #547 to confirm the cover price instead of just predicting it… So I decided to proceed without it.

[11/8/2017 Update!  Huge thanks to a very helpful reader who found a picture of a newsstand copy of ASM #547 for me and shared it with me!  The picture quality isn’t the best but we can still see that it indeed has the Sensational Spider-Man code on it (with “03503” along the bottom), and it indeed carries a $3.99 cover price instead of the regular $2.99 price tag found on Direct Editions:]


But I did find pictures of every newsstand ASM issue going backwards from #546, down to #492 where this post started off its look at the cover prices, and from examining all the cover prices in this range, the “Partial Price Variation” phenomenon actually spans a fairly large window.  And what I find particularly fascinating, is how we see instances where Canadians were charged less to buy a newsstand copy versus a direct edition (like we just saw above), then there were other instances where Canadians were charged the same to buy a newsstand copy versus a direct edition copy, and, finally, instances where Canadians were charged more to buy a newsstand copy versus a direct edition copy!

I showed you #544 earlier (an oversized issue), where the CAN price on newsstand copies was $5.75, while the CAN price on direct editions was $4.75.  From our look at the $2.99 US cover price variant window, we saw that at issue #531, the direct edition pricing “caught up” with newsstand pricing at issue #531.  At that issue, as we saw before, the pricing across both types was $2.99 US, $4.25 CAN.  And that pricing holds… until #535.  At that point, Marvel decided Canadians still needed to pay $4.25 for a newsstand copy, but $3.75 for a direct edition.  Here’s #535, published 11/2006:

ASM #535:  $4.25 CAN (newsstand) vs $3.75 CAN (direct edition)

ASM #535: $4.25 CAN (newsstand) vs $3.75 CAN (direct edition)

And this partial cover price difference at $4.25 CAN on newsstand copies, versus $3.75 CAN on direct edition copies, continues through, until #544 which we saw earlier (published 11/2007).

And this higher newsstand pricing for Canadians appears to have been applied across other titles as well; an example of a key comic in another title within this window is Captain America #25 (published 4/2007; Death of Steve Rogers):

Captain America #25 Newsstand

Newsstand copies of Captain America #25 have a higher CAN price than direct edition copies.

The above pictured copy is a newsstand copy; here’s a close-up look at just the cover prices, comparing newsstand versus direct edition.  As you can see, Canadians were charged 21% more for a newsstand copy versus a direct edition copy:

Newsstand copies of Captain America #25 had a 21% higher cover price in a restricted geographical subset of the broader North American market.

Newsstand copies of Captain America #25 had a 21% higher cover price in a restricted geographical subset of the broader North American market.

What Was Marvel Doing?

In Part I of this post we’ve seen cases where the US price tag was higher on newsstand copies versus their direct edition counter-parts — and established that such a variance in cover price is considered a “variant-worthy attribute” at CGC where they will deviate from their standard newsstand treatment and instead will “break out” the newsstand version as its own distinct variant entry on census, because the newsstand copy is a higher cover price variant of the issue number by its US price.

And in Part II of this post, we’ve now also seen cases where the US price tag was the same across both types but the CAN price was different… a “partial” cover price variation.  Even more fascinating for these “partial” cases where the US price was the same but the CAN price was different, we saw cases where Canadians were charged more to buy a newsstand copy versus its direct edition counter-part, and also saw cases where Canadians were charged less to buy a newsstand copy versus its direct edition counter-part!  So what was Marvel doing?

I don’t really have a definitive answer as to just what Marvel was doing when they chose to vary the newsstand-vs-direct prices in this way for Canadians, but I do have an observation: By charging these different cover prices between the types within Canada, for different issues, Marvel undoubtedly gained sales data: they could compare how well the different issues sold on newsstands in Canada.

So my observation is that because Marvel’s newsstand distribution was already a tiny fraction of their total sales in this time-frame, and within that tiny newsstand market they had two price tags which they could tweak (US and CAN) and cause prices to be partially and/or fully different from what was charged on the direct editions, they effectively had the perfect setup for price experimentation. They didn’t need to create a new “small test batch” of copies to test market reaction to different prices (like they did in 1977 with 35 cent variants), because their newsstand comics were already a small batch which they could use to test reactions to different prices.

Regardless of what Marvel might have been doing with these partial cover price variations, they’ve left us with an interesting batch of newsstand comics that have a difference from their direct edition counter-parts that goes beyond the bar code. For the partial cover price variations, we have something additional that we can point out to a fellow collector who might otherwise have shrugged their shoulders and might otherwise have said “both of them have bar codes — so… what’s really the difference??”  Because for these issues with different CAN pricing, we can point to the price tags and illustrate how one type has a partially different cover price than the other type.

As for CGC treatment, I do not know how they would consider this “partial price difference attribute”… in other words, is it a “variant-worthy” attribute in CGC’s eyes?  Does “partial cover price variation” rise to the level of “partial cover price variant” with its own unique census entry?  I do not see any evidence that any of these are broken out as of today… but I also do not know if they’ve considered these as a group / as a “class”…  It is equally possible nobody has “presented” them to CGC and asked them to break them out.

If somebody were to ask them today, it would be in the context of the strong trend in the hobby today to embrace newsstand comics — and the grading industry does very clearly seem to be on a track of “let’s slowly warm up to newsstand comics” today.  CGC’s competitor CBCS, for example, announced they’ll be recognizing newsstand comics broadly for every issue published during certain years.  And even at CGC, we saw how ASM #529 newsstand copies with their $2.99 cover price only just began to be broken out (as of only last month!)…  Not to mention the $3.99 “class” of cover price variants, a group CGC only first considered and decided upon last year.

So maybe in the context of this overall “mega-trend” in the hobby of growing awareness among collectors about newsstand desirability relative to direct editions, maybe grading companies like CGC and CBCS have “toggled” their stance on newsstand comics:  from a stance of looking for any reason to say no to breaking out newsstand comics, over to a stance of warming up to reasons to say yes to breaking out newsstand comics. And arguably this partial cover price difference, if nothing else, is something concretely different that goes beyond “the norm”… something beyond the normal newsstand-vs-direct-edition-difference…


In other words, perhaps it could be a reason to say yes to breaking out another group of newsstand comics.  But I’m not going to be the one to ask them…  You all remember the game show “Press Your Luck,” right?  I feel like I’m overdue for a whammy.  So someone else had better do it!

I hope you have enjoyed this look at $2.99 Newsstand Edition variants as well as newsstand comics with “partial cover price variations,” and I wish you Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben

p.s. And now for anyone interested in poring over the data for the ASM comics in the range covered in this post, I present below my spreadsheet and my source images (just newsstand copies are shown; there was no need for me to collect pictures of the direct editions as they are so very easily found).

ASM #492-546

Issue Newsstand US Newsstand CA Direct US Direct CA
492 2.25 3.75 2.25 3.75
493 2.25 3.75 2.25 3.75
494 2.25 3.75 2.25 3.75
495 2.49 4.00 2.25 3.75
496 2.49 4.00 2.25 3.75
497 2.99 4.75 2.25 3.75
498 2.99 4.75 2.25 3.75
499 2.99 4.75 2.25 3.75
500 3.50 5.75 3.50 5.75
501 2.99 4.75 2.25 3.75
502 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
503 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
504 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
505 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
506 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
507 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
508 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
509 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
510 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
511 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
512 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
513 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
514 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
515 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
516 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
517 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
518 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
519 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
520 2.99 4.25 2.25 3.25
521 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
522 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
523 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
524 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
525 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
526 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
527 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
528 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
529 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
530 2.99 4.25 2.50 3.50
531 2.99 4.25 2.99 4.25
532 2.99 4.25 2.99 4.25
533 2.99 4.25 2.99 4.25
534 2.99 4.25 2.99 4.25
535 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
536 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
537 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
538 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
539 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
540 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
541 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
542 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
543 2.99 4.25 2.99 3.75
544 3.99 5.75 3.99 4.75
545 3.99 3.99 3.99 4.05
546 3.99 3.99 3.99 4.05
547 2.99 3.05
548 3.99 3.99 2.99 3.05
549 2.99 3.05
550 3.99 3.99 2.99 3.05
551 3.99 3.99 2.99 3.05

$1.99 Newsstand Editions, Anyone?

Wow, you read all the way to the end, I’m impressed!  Thanks for letting me hold your attention this long; you must be an avid newsstand collector and cover price variant enthusiast like me!  Here’s a “bonus section” for you 🙂

Clearly, between $2.99 Newsstand Editions and $3.99 Newsstand Editions (and $4.99 Newsstand Editions and even $6.99 Newsstand Editions in spots), Marvel gave us a lot of newsstand-exclusive cover price variants of their issues that are now CGC-recognized as distinct variants on census.  A question you might have after seeing this pattern: going backwards in time further, did Marvel give us any $1.99 newsstand comics priced higher than their direct edition counter-parts?

Why, yes!  To show you these within the Amazing Spider-Man title, let me start just before the cover price went up to $1.99, with Amazing Spider-Man #420, which was still priced at $1.50.  Sharp-eyed readers will notice that this issue has a partial cover price variation in that the newsstand copy was less expensive for Canadians than the direct edition copy:


And then at issue #421, the cover price went up.  Ah, but check out what Marvel did here… on the newsstand, the price went up to $1.99 (one ninety nine), but on direct editions the price went up to $1.95 (one ninety five):


That same $1.99 vs $1.95 pricing continues at #422:


And #423 and #424 are the same way:



In July of 1997 was the “minus one”/flashback issue, and it follows the same pattern:


But this fairly short $1.99 cover price variant window now comes to a close, with #425 from August 1997 priced equally at $2.99 for both types (although it does have that partial cover price variation phenomenon, with a cheaper Canadian cover price on newsstand copies), and then at #426 the price drops to $1.99 for both types:


Note: the cover prices are on the back cover of issue #425.


But as you can see, although the US prices are now equal, the partial cover price variation continues, with newsstand copies less expensive for Canadians than direct edition copies.

The Amazing Spider-Man $1.99 newsstand edition cover price variant window from March 1997 through July 1997 appears to extend to other titles as well, with other titles having variants beginning with different start dates, for example here’s Deadpool #2, published in February of 1997:


Note too that Deadpool #1, from January 1997, while priced $1 higher, has the same four cent (US) difference (the Canadian price also differs, in the other direction, by 10 cents):


Deadpool #3, 4, 5, and 6, published in March, April, May, and June 1997 continue the pattern:





The July 1997 issue for Deadpool is the “-1” flashback issue and it too continues the pattern:


And then just as with the Amazing Spider-Man title, July 1997 has the last of these; here’s the subsequent Deadpool issue, #7 from August 1997, where as you can see the direct edition price has been raised to the matching $1.99, thus closing the cover price variant window:


The beginning of the $1.99 cover price variant window appears to differ by title, for example examining the Uncanny X-Men title I found the first of these at issue #337 from October of 1996:


In between those $1.99’s and the later comics I covered in this post, there’s also these other fascinating variations pointed out to me by a reader, including ASM v2 #10, #11, and #13 — Marvel sure was one heck of an experimenter with prices, and who really knows what other crazy variations are out there to discover!

Happy Collecting again! 🙂

– Ben


One thought on “$2.99 Newsstand Edition CGC Census Variants, and, “Partial Cover Price Variations”

  1. Steve says:

    What a great article. You have a great eye for spotting these quirks Ben. I applaud all the research and hard work that went into documenting these differences. Keep digging my friend! There are others who find it all as interesting as you do 😃


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