Last week I got my copy of the Overstreet Price Guide (OPG) #49. I have fond memories of using the Overstreet guides as a kid to value my childhood collection from year to year, but the truth is that as an adult this is only the 3rd OPG I’ve acquired since I got re-hooked on comic book collecting back in 2003 (my 2003 plan to sell off my childhood collection “backfired” as it ultimately got me instead re-hooked on the hobby!).
The first OPG guide I acquired as an adult was a used copy of #40 which I picked up several years ago for the sole purpose of reading Jon McClure’s variant article on a recommendation from Bill Alexander (this was before I met Jon and before he put his article online); I next bought OPG #48 in order to have the market reports in print written by my fellow CPV guide collaborators where they would be mentioning our guide; and I bought #49 for the same reason — but across these past two consecutive years of buying the Overstreet guide to read my collaborators’ market reports, I’ve come to really enjoy reading the full market reports section!
But absent these above reasons, I don’t think I’d be acquiring new OPG guides; and I know there are many collectors out there who don’t bother buying the OPG guides anymore but instead simply check sold listings on eBay/etc. to gauge issue values. I even had a conversation not long ago with an eBay buyer who won one of my listings, where we had gotten into chatting about comics (as so often happens), and I had casually mentioned how the variant they had won from me wasn’t even listed in Overstreet yet. Their reply? “What’s Overstreet?” I kid you not! So for those out there reading my blog who might not be picking up Overstreet these days, I thought I’d make this post to share some short selected excerpts that relate to CPVs, and I’d recommend eventually picking up a copy of the Overstreet guide just to access all these wonderful reports in full!
In last year’s market reports section, I thought there was some particularly great discussion of the Newsstand vs. Direct Edition distinction, prompted in part by CBCS becoming the first of the two main grading companies to “break out” the types distinctly. This year, I was wondering what kind of buzz there would be surrounding CPV’s in the market reports following CBCS becoming the first of the two main grading companies to formally recognize Type 1A price variants as price variants on their labels (CGC finally started doing the same in May, which I expect will be discussed in next year’s Overstreet market reports!). And indeed, there were some great CPV discussions and mentions this year! I’d like to discuss a few selected excerpts:
Conan Saunders, MyComicShop / Lone Star Comics
“We received multiple mentions of the growing recognition of Canadian price variants, including a request that Overstreet provide more coverage of Mark Jeweler, Whitman, and Canadian price variants. We have expanded coverage of these variants within our own inventory database and have done well with them.”
— Conan Saunders, Lone Star Comics; OPG #49 page 209
And later, on page 210, in the section written by Buddy Saunders, he specifically mentions that Lone Star Comics will be expanding their selection of Canadian (as well as U.K.) variants! Some of you might remember a collection from many years back that had appeared on MyComicShop which had some stunning-condition CPVs in it — if memory serves it had been called the “WaWa Collection” and it featured NM-range copies of many issues that I’d been hunting for in high grade for years but had never found until that collection went up for sale — and for many of those issue numbers I haven’t seen copies in such high grade ever since!
I don’t know how they ever found that collection but I know that MyComicShop has a reputation for having an extensive network of buying partners… So the thought of MyComicShop actively looking for more great CPV collections makes me excited! 🙂 I for one still have so many variants that I’ve yet to land (or even set eyes on), and others in my collection that I’d love to be able to upgrade, and I’m sure many of you out there are in the same boat… so I hope MyComicShop succeeds in shaking some great CPV’s “out of the woodwork” for all of us, through their collection-buying efforts! But as hopeful as I am that they’ll succeed in sourcing some great new CPVs for their catalog, I also find myself wondering where they’ll actually find them?
Another market report, written by Jay Halstead of “ICE” (icomicexchange.com), described just how things have changed as far as CPV availability — and my own experience hunting for “mis-listed” variants is in-line with what Jay describes, where it used to be the case that with patience I could consistently find CPVs where the seller did not realize they owned a variant, listed their variant for sale as a “regular” copy (no indication anywhere in the title or description that the book was a variant, but the picture clearly showed the price variant) and then priced their CPV copy for sale at “regular price”… but over the years (and especially in the last year) such opportunities have become fewer and further between. Here’s a couple of excerpts from what Jay had to say (and I’d encourage you to read his full report for more details!):
Jay Halstead, ICE
“… [T]he difference between when I started [collecting CPVs] and the last year or so is, now, I look for high grade and WOW, what a difference. You’d think these were part of collections and would be attainable, but I’m telling you, they’ve really dried up in grade! I go through every bin, every box at many cons, and they are still readily available in VG, but in better than VF+ they are nowhere! Now I know a lot of this has to do with hoarding, and holding out until collectors/dealers feel they’ve gained enough value that they can start salting them out into collectors’ hands again, and I would believe that if I weren’t a dealer and getting into rooms before everybody else does. I’m going through dealer inventories when the lids are just being taken off the boxes and there isn’t anything to buy! I believe we (Canadians in general), just took them for granted, at least I know I did. Now that there is demand from south of the border, I’m looking at possibilities I have to start paying real money for some of these (I’ve always paid no more or no less for Canadian price variants, now, on keys anyways, there is at least a 20-50% mark-up everywhere I go)!”
— Jay Halstead, ICE; OPG #49 page 125
Wow: that’s some excellent “boots on the ground” insight there from Jay! Another report, from Marc Sims of Big B Comics, echoed the strong demand out there for CPVs: Marc talked about how in his prior report he had mentioned having boxes-worth of availability of Canadian Price Variants and was immediately inundated with calls and emails as soon as the prior guide was released! That small mention was ultimately the equivalent of an advertisement, generating such strong interest, but what Marc wrote in this year’s report — excerpted below — reveals that collectors were hoping there were keys in those boxes, but that those boxes aren’t filled with keys:
“Canadian Price Variants (CPVs) continued to show strong demand both at home and to collectors in the US. I casually mentioned in last year’s report I have boxes and boxes of CPVs (still true) and was immediately inundated with calls and emails as soon as the Guide was released. Unfortunately most collectors were laser focused on just the big keys, which pretty much sell as soon as I get them, but I am seeing a few more CPV completists these days. Hats off to them I say, as that is a major undertaking and a good life goal.”
— Marc Sims, Big B Comics; OPG #49 page 216
Jim McCallum of Guardian Comics also mentioned strong CPV demand in his report, and I really liked how he called them “natural variants” (contrasting against the great many manufactured rarities we see these days). He also referenced the general Newsstand vs. Direct Edition distinction broadly, which I feel is a huge “mega-trend” that will naturally produce increasing numbers of CPV collectors — i.e. since there are more and more newsstand-focused collectors, and since the Marvel & DC price variants of the 1980’s were newsstand exclusives, CPVs are “riding the wave” of increased awareness of newsstand comics broadly. Here’s a short excerpt from Jim’s report:
“Another huge area of demand appears to be coming from the natural variants, Newsstand vs. Direct Market, Canadian Price Variants, 35¢ cover variants, National Diamond Sales insert/Mark Jeweler insert and similar. Collectors are constantly asking us to find them more. With the use of social media platforms, learning about and obtaining these has never been easier, but lead to more costly comics as more and more continue to want these unique books.”
— Jim McCallum, Guardian Comics; OPG #49 page 174
Dr. Steven Kahn, of Inner Child Comics and Collectibles, also made mention of newsstand desirability in his (excellent) market report. Here’s an excerpt, and I’d highly encourage reading his full report — I especially enjoyed his writing, both this year and last!
“Price variants from the ’70s held no premium for years until the public responded to their rarity. Actually, 2 of the top 3 most valuable Bronze books today are price variants (Star Wars #1, Iron Fist #14). Other variants, such as newsstand editions (especially in high grade), Mark Jeweler’s inserts, or any low run prints are picking up as well.”
— Dr. Steven Kahn, Inner Child Comics and Collectibles; OPG #49 page 161
Continuing the newsstand theme for a moment, in last year’s OPG (#48), Steve Ricketts of CBCS said as follows in his market report:
“Newsstand and Direct variants are quickly gaining popularity with the mainstream collectors. CBCS has seized the reins on this niche of the hobby, by being the only grading service to identify Newsstand and Direct Edition copies in the variant field of the label on books from 1977 through 2000. Once the CBCS census goes live, it will be interesting to see the numbers that have been submitted. In the late 1970’s, Direct Edition comics were less common than Newsstand Editions. As years progressed, Newsstand copies became more and more scarce, with the Newsstand copies of some comics being incredibly hard to find. The hobby will start to learn more about the scarcity of each issue in the coming years. More information is better for everyone, especially involving something that was hiding right under our very noses.”
— Steve Ricketts, CBCS; OPG #48 page 179
I am greatly looking forward to the CBCS census eventually being launched online, allowing us to examine the relative rarity by issue: we’ll be able to see the comparable Newsstand count versus Direct Edition count, for specific issues! Even though the CBCS-graded copies are just a silver of what’s out there for each issue, the relative rarity of the types on census will tell us a lot — just like election polling and television ratings are done by polling just a sliver of the population. But in the meantime there are lot of other ways we can study newsstand vs. direct edition rarity, such as reading newsstand rarity discussions and estimates and also studying relative rarity within the marketplace — as Ben Labonog did in his OPG #48 market report:
“Earlier in the year, I went on a brief run on buying solely newsstand editions of some 1980s keys: Daredevil #158/168, Wolverine #1-4, Amazing Spider-Man #238/252/300, Hulk #340, etc. It was fun and a new challenge for someone used to hunting for Timelys. The newsstand editions vs. direct editions piqued my interest, and so I decided to do a random, one time eBay sampling count of some newsstand keys from the early ’80s to the early ’90s. In most cases, the sample size on eBay was 200+ copies but a few books had sample sizes of 100+ copies. Here’s what I found — all %’s represent the percentage of newsstand copies on eBay for that particular books: Daredevil #168 (56%, 1981), Wolverine #1 (35%, 1982), ASM #238 (40%, 1983), Secret Wars #8 (16%, 1984), Hulk #340 (13%, 1988), ASM #300 (20%, 1988), New Mutants #87 (10%, 1990), X-Men #266 (8%, 1990), Silver Surfer #44 (12%, 1990), New Mutants #98 (13%, 1990), Infinity Gauntlet #1 (8%, 1991). Although the data is small and just a random sampling, it does support the theory that late ’80s/early ’90s newsstand copies are scarcer than early ’80s newsstand copies. This would make sense as local comic shops began appearing in the ’70s and ’80s. This meant less and less newsstand copies were being printed and distributed to grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, etc. through the 1990s. The direct edition copies were printed in masses and sold at local comic shops. Newsstand editions are commonly found beat, and much tougher to find in high grade. Direct editions are more commonly found in high grade because customers, who bought them from their LCS, were typically collectors who took very good care of their comics.”
— Ben Labonog; OPG #48 page 154
I think that with CPVs, continued growth of investor interest benefits not only from the underlying “mega-trend” of increasing “newsstand awareness” among collectors, but also from an interest in “foreign comics” — which of course CPVs are not because they are instead US-published Type 1A variants, I repeat, not foreign editions, but, historically both CBCS and CGC (up until their respective labeling changes) have labeled Type 1A variants as [Country] Edition, leading many collectors who only look into them “at a glance” to falsely conclude they are foreign editions. And yet, this may have actually drawn certain collectors to CPVs because at the same time newsstand awareness has been increasing so strongly in the hobby, there’s also been a concurrent growth in interest in foreign editions! In his OPG #48 market report, Joseph Fiore of ComicWiz.com touches upon both of these factors; he also talks about the trend of collectors demanding super-high grades (9.6/9.8) for CPVs when the reality is that very few actually exist in the top grades; here’s an excerpt of his discussion:
“The one trend I have noticed which is of some concern are requests seeking out not only key issues, such as the 75¢ price variant of Amazing Spider-MAn #238 (first Hobgoblin), but a request for unheard of high grade examples only. I think I’ve received over a dozen inquiries for a CGC 9.6 copy, but this is a CPV that too infrequently shows up in 9.6, and you’re always holding some hope the Tattooz haven’t been removed regardless of grade. I think CPVs’ overlooked history might lend to a growing and sustained interest if enough people spend time to understand why the exist, their production numbers compared to US newsstand and direct editions, and if they don’t get too hung up with having a “best copy.” I also see the growing trend of collectors seeking US newsstand issues working to reinforce the aspects that have drawn collectors to CPVs. Foreign edition key focus collectors are also entering the mix looking for key CPV issues, but are seemingly more reasonably content finding 5.0 to 8.5 copies or “budget” copies.”
— Joseph Fiore, ComicWiz.com; OPG #48 page 133
When I think of foreign comics, my mind immediately goes to the person I’d consider the foremost expert in the hobby today in the niche: Tim Bildhauser of CBCS. In last year’s report, Tim mentioned that foreign comic book sales had been higher than ever in both price and volume; and in this year’s report he had a great discussion of this niche of the market. He also took the time to make mention of CBCS’s great decision to start labeling Type 1A’s as price variants, saying:
“After much consideration and discussion, the decision was made at CBCS to change the phrasing on the labels of Canadian Newsstand, Australian Newsstand, and U.K. price (both Shilling and Pence copies) books. Previously we had been notating them as Canadian, Australian, and U.K. Edition which, while not wrong, doesn’t explain clearly what makes them different from their U.S. counterparts. Going forward they’ll be notated as “(insert cover price) Canadian, Australian, or U.K. Price Variant.” This gives them a more accurate description of what exactly sets them apart. I’ve seen growing interest in the Canadian, Australian, & U.K. price variants, especially on the keys. There were two Australian price variant copies of New Mutants #98 that sold this year that broke the $1,000 price point. U.K. price variants seem to be shaking off the stigma that’s plagued them for decades and buyers are starting to pay equal, and in some cases, higher prices…”
— Tim Bildhauser, CBCS; OPG #49 page 105
In his report last year, Brock Dickinson mentioned pence and Canadian price variants as lesser-known price variants getting increased attention:
“While the 35¢ Marvel test price variants of the 1970s have been well-known for many years, there is an increasing fascination with other price and distribution variants in some portions of the marketplace. The 35¢ variants remain very hot and the earlier 30¢ Marvel price variants also gathered steam this year. At the same time, a number of other variants began to gain increased attention, and experienced some substantial price increases. This trend was probably led by Canadian cover price variants, which can credibly be argued (although actual print run data is scant) to represent about 2% of total print runs for some Copper age books. This makes these books elusive (especially in high grade), and in NM- or better these books will often command 200% to 1000% of current Guide prices. There was also strengthened interest in early direct market books, late newsstand editions, Whitman variants, and UK pence price variants, all from the 1970s and 1980s, and Marvel Pressman and DC Universe cover logo variants from the 1990s. Many of these books are extremely scarce, but so little is known about supply and distribution that prices can still vary widely. Nonetheless, there is a clear market trend to increased value for these books, and the 35¢ Star Wars #1 variant is a clear indication of how far these trends can go over time.”
— Brock Dickinson; OPG #48 page 116
The comparison to 35¢ variants is apt — and when I think of 35¢ variants my mind immediately goes to the person I consider the foremost expert on them: Jon McClure. Before Jon’s 1997 article in Comic Book Marketplace, only a select few of these variants were known to collectors, and seemingly little-to-no attention whatsoever was paid to their rarity characteristics as a “class” of comics. That all changed with Jon’s efforts to research how they came to exist and the extent of their existence, discovering hundreds of variants and writing about them extensively. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to work with Jon on our CPV guide, to hear first-hand the parallels he sees between Type 1 and Type 1A cover price variants, and of course when it comes to the Overstreet guide it is great to read his extensive market reports! I highly recommend reading Jon’s full report; you can also reach out to Jon via jonmcclurescomics.com. He talks about variants so extensively that it is hard to choose just one excerpt to share… but I’ll share this one below:
“CBCS’s groundbreaking decision to call Type 1A books “variants” on the labels is a positive step forward in understanding what they are and how to discuss them intelligently. Check out the free new online Price Guide for Type 1A Canadian cover price Marvel and DC comics from the 1980s at rarecomicsblog.com.”
— Jon McClure, jonmcclurescomics.com; OPG #49 page 177
🙂 Definitely read Jon’s whole report if you have picked up a copy of OPG #49 — or reach out to him on his site — because literally all of it is relevant and important reading if you are a Type 1A collector and there’s too much to quote here without going on for pages and pages. My fellow pence price variant issue guide collaborator Steve Cranch is mentioned in Jon’s report as well (go Steve)! 🙂 Something else to read from Jon is his market report from our 2019 CPV guide which you can find online here. And then I’ll just mention one more thing from Jon’s report… he mentions his OPG #40 article on page 176 and then says, “An updated version is in progress for the 50th annual OPG.” Woo hoo! Another spotlight variant article from Jon McClure, in next year’s OPG! Now I know for sure that I’ll be buying next year’s Overstreet! 🙂
My other fellow guide collaborators also put out great reports; and I was very happy to see that Bob Overstreet quoted Paul Clairmont within his main market report! Paul wrote a fantastic report — thanks Paul for the shout-out in the beginning! It has been great working with you as well! 🙂 Here’s a short excerpt from Paul’s report and then I highly recommend reading the full report in OPG #49 — you can also reach out to Paul at pnjcomics.com:
“…[S]ales [of Canadian Price Variants] were the strongest we have ever witnessed in our six years of business in 2018. We posted some of the sales results earlier in this report but keys had a very short shelf life and we had our best results by being “first to market” with many of the single highest graded copies.”
— Paul Clairmont, pnjcomics.com; OPG #49 page 112
You can also find Paul’s 2019 CPV guide market report, online, here. And I actually want to also quote Paul’s #48 market report too below, in an insightful section where he talks about modern age newsstand comics in general, and the treasure-hunt aspect of finding them in dollar bins where the dealer doesn’t realize/recognize the newsstand vs. direct edition distinction:
“People have started to hunt down newsstand copies in this era as a way to enhance their treasure hunting. There is a premium being paid for Image newsstand books such as Spawn #1. What makes this area interesting is that it is relatively new so there is no exact checklist of what was distributed in newsstand format. You can bet the numbers are low so finding them in high grade out in the wild on your adventures might be like spotting Sasquatch. Most dealers don’t make the distinction between newsstand and direct of this era so they are most likely populating the $1.00 and $2.00 bins at this time. Likely, that is where many will remain as its another niche area but Spawn #1 is a fine example of an issue that certainly garners higher premiums.”
— Paul Clairmont, pnjcomics.com; OPG #48 page 111
The thrill of the hunt! The joy of finding at “regular price” that rare variant you’ve been hunting for! That’s definitely what’s driven me to love CPV (and newsstand) collecting.
And it has been the thrill of my “collecting career” to collaborate with others in the hobby who are also passionate about the same niche collecting areas, and work with them on writing articles/guides. I feel that collectively we’ve made a real impact on the hobby in the Type 1A variant niche and contributed something great; and I am so happy that my collaborators are seeing a positive impact on their businesses — while for me comics is just a hobby, for others on our guide team comics is how they make a living, and I am very happy when I see these friends succeed in business! I’ll end this discussion with an excerpt from Doug Sulipa’s OPG #49 market report — I’ll say here once again that I hope you read Doug’s full report (you can also contact him at dougcomicworld.com) and I also hope you’ll read Doug’s 2019 CPV guide market report online here as well.
“The Canadian Newsstand Cover Price Variants are now officially recognized as Variants on the CBCS labels. Since the online Price Guide went live last year, demand has gone up around 400% and record prices are being set every week. Do an internet search for “2019 Price Guide for 1980s Marvel & DC Newsstand Canadian Cover Price Variants (Type 1A).” Archie comics might be added in next year’s Guide. When Gemstone published an article in the Scoop online e-newsletter, there was yet another big spike in demand.”
— Doug Sulipa, dougcomicworld.com; OPG #49 page 223
I hope all of these excerpts were helpful to see and have encouraged you to read the full market reports! 🙂 There are more excerpts that I could quote too but I’ll leave it there. And I’ll make one last mention that our CPV guide has a whole market reports section with many great articles you can read online (here).
Happy Collecting! 🙂