By Benjamin Nobel, September 22, 2019
Hi everyone, welcome to “Part III” of my coverage of Australian Price Variants (nowadays fondly called “APVs” by collectors). Time flies: I find it hard to believe it has been almost three years since I started working on “Part I” (an introduction to this type of variant using one specific key — New Mutants #98 (1st Deadpool appearance) — as the example comic) and over two years since I posted “Part II“, but here we are in September of 2019, knocking on the door of 2020… and a lot has happened since Part II (new APV information and events) that you should know about: so it is time for Part III, to catch you up! 🙂
The format of this post is bring you up-to-speed on a number of APV-related things I consider newsworthy, with the assumption that you’ve already previously read parts one and two for background (so please check those out if you did not read them originally). I’m going to touch upon the positive CBCS and CGC labeling changes, the (ongoing) research efforts of Steve Cranch, an “APV Top Ten List” I compiled working off of Steve’s research, APV print run information brought to light by a local expert in Australia, APV discussions in Overstreet #49, the recent explosion in realized APV sales prices, and, finally, a bunch of interesting APV tidbits.
CBCS & CGC Price Variant Recognition
We’ll start with the big news out of the top two grading companies, CBCS and CGC: the new labeling convention is to call these Australian Price Variants on the labels now — CGC will label this way as of May 2019 and CBCS began labeling this way as of October 2018. Here are some example labels:
For both of the big grading companies to have started recognizing our variants as price variants on the labels is a huge step forward. The old labeling convention of “Australian Edition” while at least “breaking them out” distinctly on census, had improperly conflated these books with the actual Australian Editions that exist out there (i.e. local reprints from a completely different publisher); the new price-variant-labeling therefore helps collectors to better understand that the indicia (and interior pages) of Marvel’s 1990s APVs are 100% identical to the rest of the print run having been published in the USA by Marvel Comics as true first print copies, making APVs true variants of the original first printing! This new price variant labeling also means that third party auction sites like ComicLink will now list them as “Australian Price Variant” in their marketplace (because they go according to what is on the label); so overall this labeling change is a great step forward for APVs.
The only remaining slab-related confusion surrounds the cover month versus indicia month difference (recall from parts I&II that the cover month on the 1990-1994-batch of APVs is three months advanced from the indicia month): CGC originally had cataloged the variants into their census by the cover month and then, later, began to point out the indicia month on the right-hand side of the label. But we’ve noticed that newly-added census entries these days are being cataloged by the indicia month and the right-hand side of the label is being used to point out the variant cover price… I’d rather they were consistent and did them all the new way and go by the indicia month so I hope in time they will go back to the older entries and “move them over” to the indicia month in their system (because having some APVs cataloged one way and some the other way seems like it will be confusing to collectors).
Steve Cranch’s (Ongoing) APV Research
Our hobby is incredibly lucky to have researcher Stephen Cranch among us contributing to our knowledge base. I had the pleasure of working with Steve — and seeing his superb research files — when we worked together on our issue guide to Pence Price Variants (Marvel & DC) last December. Let me tell you: Steve’s spreadsheets are amazing. So I was absolutely thrilled when Steve told me he was taking on the task of documenting APVs. Here’s a zoomed-out look of one of his APV sheets just to give you a sense:
To date (as of this writing) Steve has documented 1,091 confirmed APVs across 95 titles (and another 55 magazines across two titles, Conan Saga and Savage Sword of Conan); this list of what’s confirmed keeps growing so the list of comic books I’m about to share below will probably be out-of-date by the end of the week (if you can help fill in any of the gaps please let us know!), but at this particular snapshot in time here is the range of what might exist (left column) and what has actually been confirmed (right column):
[UPDATED the table below, November 2019 — now up to 1,269 confirmed APVs across 103 titles and another 72 confirmed APVs across 3 magazines!]
|Title / Expected AUS Issue Range||Confirmed AUS Priced Issues|
|2099 Unlimited (1-3)||1-2|
|Adventures of The X-Men / Adventures of Spider-Man (Flip-Book) (1-8)||3, 6|
|Alf (34-50)||35, 37-46|
|Amazing Spider-Man (340-385, 408-417)||341-384, 408, 410-417|
|Amazing Spider-Man Annual (1993 Only) (27)||27|
|Avengers (325-370, 395-402)||325-363|
|Avengers (1996) (1)||1|
|Avengers West Coast (63-102)||63-92|
|Barbie (1-35)||1, 3, 11-19, 21-25|
|Barbie Fashion (1-35)||1-3, 12-13, 35|
|Blaze: Legacy of Blood (1-2)||1|
|Bruce Wayne: Agent of Shield (1)||1|
|Cable (1-7, 28-37)||2-6|
|Cable – Blood and Metal (1-2)||1|
|Captain America (378-423, 448-454)||378-423|
|Captain America (1996) (1)||1|
|Clive Barker – Ectokid (1-5)||1-2, 4|
|Clive Barker – Hokum & Hex (1-5)||1-3|
|Clive Barker – Hyperkind (1-5)||1-3|
|Clive Barker – Saint Sinner (1-4)||1-2|
|Conan The Barbarian (237-275)||237-248, 250-251, 253-254, 256-275|
|Conan Saga (43-82)||43-45, 47-49, 52, 55, 57-73, 75, 77-81|
|Conan the Savage (7-10)||7-10|
|Daredevil (285-324, 349-358)||285-314|
|Darkhold – Pages From the Book of Sins (1-16)||1-5|
|Disney Comic Hits (5-14)||13|
|Doom 2099 (1-13, 38-44)||1-12|
|Fantastic Four, The (345-384, 409-416)||345-367, 369, 371-374|
|Fantastic Four, The 1996 Series (1)||1|
|Generation X (12-21)||12-21|
|G.I. Joe (105-144)||105-143|
|Ghost Rider, The (6-45, 70-75)||19-29, 31-44|
|Ghost Rider Annual (1)||1|
|Ghost Rider / Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1-18)||1-12, 14-16|
|Incredible Hulk, The (374-413, 438-447)||374-412, 447|
|Incredible Hulk Annual, The (19)||19|
|Independence Day (0-2)||1|
|Infinity Crusade (1-6)||1-6|
|Infinity War (1-6)||2-6|
|Iron Man (261-300, 325-332)||261-299|
|Iron Man 1996 Series (1)||1|
|Lethal Foes of Spider-Man (1-4)||1-4|
|Marvel Tales (242-281)||242-280|
|Marvel Versus DC (2-3)||2-3|
|Midnight Sons Unlimited (1-4)||1|
|Morbius The Living Vampire (1-17)||1-12|
|New Mutants, The (94-100)||94-100|
|Nightstalkers (1-15)||1, 3-5|
|Night Thrasher (1-6)||1, 3-5|
|Night Thrasher: Four Control (1-4)||2-4|
|Punisher, The (41-86)||41, 43-81, 84|
|Punisher 2099, The (1-12)||1-10|
|Punisher Annual, The (6)||6|
|Punisher Holiday Special (1-2)||1|
|Punisher: The Origin of Microchip (1-2)||1-2|
|Punisher Summer Special (1-3)||3|
|Ravage 2099 (1-14)||1-12, 14|
|Ren & Stimpy Show, The (1-14, 39-44)||12-13|
|Sabretooth (1-4)||1, 3|
|Savage Sword of Conan (178-217)||178, 180-188, 190-216|
|Secret Defenders, The (1-11)||1-10|
|Sensational Spider-Man, The (1-10)||4-10|
|Silver Surfer (42-88, 113-122)||42-87|
|Silver Surfer Annual (1993 Only) (6)||6|
|Silver Surfer / Warlock: Resurrection (1-4)||1-4|
|Spectacular Spider-Man (169-208, 231-240)||169-207, 231, 234-238, 240|
|Spectacular Spider-Man Annual (1993 Only) (13)||13|
|Speed Demon (1)||1|
|Spider-Man 1990 (3-42, 65-74)||32, 34-37, 39, 41, 65, 67-74|
|Spider-Man 2099 (1-15, 40-46)||1-15, 42-46|
|Spider-Man Classics (1-10)||1-9|
|Spider-Man Unlimited (1-3, 11-14)||1-3|
|Star Trek Voyager (1)||1|
|Stryfe’s Strike File (1)||1|
|Tekworld (1-17)||1-4, 7|
|Thor, The Mighty (424-470, 495-502)||425-469|
|Thor, The Mighty Annual (18)||18|
|Transformers: Generation 2 (1-3)||1|
|Uncanny X-Men (269-308, 329-338)||269-307, 329-338|
|Uncanny X-Men Annual (17)||17|
|Venom, Funeral Pyre (1-3)||1-3|
|Venom, Lethal Protector (1-6)||1-6|
|Venom, The Madness (1-3)||1-2|
|Warlock Chronicles (1-6)||1-6|
|Web of Spider-Man (69-108)||69-108|
|Web of Spider-Man Annual (9)||9|
|What If… (18-57, 82-91)||18-39, 41-56, 84-91|
|Wolverine (32-77, 98-107)||48-56, 58-76, 98-107|
|Wolverine and The Punisher: Damaging Evidence (1-3)||1-3|
|X-Factor (59-98, 119-128)||59-97, 119-128|
|X-Factor Annual (8)||8|
|X-Force (1-30, 51-60)||1, 3-29, 51-60|
|X-Force Annual (2)||2|
|X-Men (1-28, 49-58)||1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 2-26, 49-58|
|X-Men Annual (2)||2|
|X-Men 2099 (1-4, 29-35)||1-3|
|X-Men Adventures (1-15)||1-14|
|X-Men Unlimited (1-3, 10-12)||1-2|
At this point we’re probably years away from being able to do a similar full issue guide to APVs, like the work we did for Pence variants. But, Steve’s research is to a point where we have a pretty good idea of all the variants that might be out there. And based on that universe of issues, I gave a shot at compiling an APV Top Ten list, something that collectors have been asking me for and I’m happy to now supply!
The 2019-2020 Top 10 Australian Price Variants
So here’s what I’ve done: This list is not based on APV sales data… in a perfect world it would be, but the reality is that there are so few of these APVs out there that as far as sales data is concerned there just isn’t enough of it.
Instead, I’ve taken the following approach: based on the universe of issues Steve has uncovered to date, I looked up all the corresponding OPG #49 “baseline values” in 9.2 to determine a list of the top most highly valued issues that could have APVs (i.e. either confirmed or possible). Overstreet is still arguably our hobby’s biggest name today in the Price Guide sector so I figured this was the best starting point.
But, because I find that Overstreet isn’t always on the mark, I next took those top identified issues and I next looked up two “second opinion” guide values for each issue as well, using both ComicsPriceGuide and ComicBase values in NM. Interestingly, the values sometimes varied widely — the 1st appearance of Infinity Gauntlet for example is valued in OPG #49 at $80 in 9.2 while ComicBase only has it worth $50 in 9.4. Given the range of opinions, I used the average of all three price guides to then rank the issues by highest to lowest baseline average guide value. Here are the resulting Top 10 APVs for 2019-2020 (and runners-up) from this exercise:
#1: New Mutants #98 (1st appearance of Deadpool)
#2: Amazing Spider-Man #361 (1st appearance of Carnage)
#3: Transformers #80 (Scarcer final issue)
#4: (UNCONFIRMED) Alf #48 (I hadn’t encountered this issue before but all guides are giving it a high value due to a “risque” cover of Alf holding a seal — one listing I saw called it the “seal love” issue; the APV is still UNCONFIRMED as of this writing)
#5: Silver Surfer #44 (1st appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet)
#6: Iron Man #282 (1st appearance of War Machine)
#7: Transformers #79 (2nd to last issue in title)
#8: Transformers #78 (3rd to last issue in title)
#9: Conan the Barbarian #275 (Scarcer final issue; Overstreet lists as Low Print)
#10: Amazing Spider-Man #344 (1st appearance of Cletus Kasady)
Selected Runners Up (in no particular order):
• What If #49 (What If Silver Surfer Possessed The Infinity Gauntlet)
• X-Force #11 (1st appearance of Neena Thurman as Domino)
• Amazing Spider-Man #360 (Carnage cameo)
• Amazing Spider-Man #345 (Cletus Kasady)
• New Mutants #100 (1st X-Force)
• Silver Surfer #45 (Origin of the Infinity Gems)
• Uncanny X-Men #282 (1st appearance of Bishop)
• Transformers #71-77 (Last issues in title; #76 still UNCONFIRMED as of this writing)
• G.I. Joe #139-144 (New Transformers; #144: Origin of Snake Eyes; 143-144 still UNCONFIRMED as of this writing)
• Amazing Spider-Man #362-363 (Carnage)
• Amazing Spider-Man #365 (1st appearance of Spider-Man 2099)
• X-Force #19 (1st Copycat)
• Incredible Hulk #377 (1st all new Hulk)
• Venom: Lethal Protector #1
• Amazing Spider-Man #346-347, #375 (Venom)
• Uncanny X-Men #183 (Bishop)
• X-Force #15
• Silver Surfer #50
• Incredible Hulk #376 (Green vs Gray)
The above runners-up list would have also included X-Force #2 (2nd Deadpool appearance) except for a find from Paul Nicholls which I’ll share later in the “APV tidbits” section of this post, which is pictures of X-Force #2 with a price sticker, strongly suggesting there may not have been printed price variant copies of that one.
Before we move to the next section (on print runs), here are some example pictures from the Top 10 and Runners Up!
Australian Price Variant Print Runs
⚠️Orange Cat Warning⚠️ — Did you know that only 20% of orange cats are female? (Read more!) In this next section there will be some discussion of rarity estimates for both Australian Price Variants and Canadian Price Variants; if you are “allergic to cats” (if this kind of comic book rarity discussion offends you), you may want to avert your sensitive eyes and skip to the next section.
“Don’t miss the forest for the trees.”
I mentioned this philosophical quote in a past post, The Orange Cat Phenomenon; it fits perfectly here too
At the time of my Parts I & II posts, APV print run information was unknown. But we did have a lot of information that squarely pointed to their relative rarity, such as: (1) we knew APVs were exclusive to Australian newsstand distribution, (2) we knew Australia represented just 5.8% of the newsstand market size by population using 1990 population data for the USA, Canada, and Australia, and (3) various comic book experts have provided the hobby with Newsstand Rarity Discussions & Estimates which all pointed to the fact that by the 1990’s, the vast majority of Marvel’s sales were Direct Edition copies (as opposed to Newsstand copies).
Based on the above points, both myself and Overstreet Advisor Bill Alexander had independently come up with some estimates for APV rarity at time of original distribution. For example, with regard to point #2 (market size difference by population), we put ourselves in Marvel’s shoes and concluded that when sizing the print run batch to be sent to Australia, Marvel was much more likely to be motivated by the number of people who could be potential customers, versus, say, some random irrelevant stat like the number of Sugar Maple trees in the country. In this exercise, Marvel’s x-ray-vision-superpower is to be able to see wallets. And wallets reside in the pockets of customers; customers are people; and people make up the population. Point being: both Bill and I independently concluded it was prudent and reasonable to use the market size difference by population as one of our main “guideposts” along the path to understanding the likely rarity.
Many comic book experts have done a similar population-size-informed analysis when it comes to Canadian Price Variants — for example, the legendary Doug Sulipa (Senior Overstreet Advisor since guide #2 in 1972), who is among the biggest experts you could possibly ask for when it comes to comic books (and with expert local knowledge too being based in Canada), has done Canadian Price Variant estimation work where he takes ~10% of the print run for Canada — corresponding directly to the population size difference — in his CPV rarity analysis:
Canadian Price Variant Rarity Explanation by Doug Sulipa:
I find it interesting, that in the eight years since I made my very first blog post, I’ve had the opportunity to see a spectrum of collector reactions to discussions like Doug’s CPV rarity estimates above, and discussions like my own (and Bill’s) APV rarity estimates… On the one hand, there are those collectors who love seeing thoughtful estimations like these and they see the forest … they get the “big picture” and nail the take-away.
The take-away such readers of my Part I and II APV posts would have gotten was: APVs are a clearly-more-rare-than-regular-copies-by-some-wide-margin 1st print variant that, with time and effort, can be acquired in the marketplace at “regular price” when sellers do not realize what they own. In other words, readers falling into the “seeing the forest” end of the spectrum would have gotten the key point I was trying to make: that APVs were low-hanging-fruit for the “Two Ways To Win” collecting approach that I’ve been advocating / harping on for years on this blog. (If you’re going to collect a given issue anyway, why not have two potential ways to win instead of just one?)
On the other hand, on the other end of the spectrum, there are some collectors out there who get so focused on the trees that they miss the bigger picture… they miss the whole forest. Such a tree-focused reader might stop at some detail — some tree — such as a given newsstand:direct-edition percentage/split number given by an industry expert and ask in outrage: how could anyone possibly know that the figure is precisely 50% newsstand in 1985 or 15% newsstand in 1990? Why not 14% in 1990? Or 16%? Or 20%?
Such a person tends to easily get caught up in some detail — some tree — like how even though there is a massive population difference looking at the US Census / World Bank population data, we don’t actually know the per-capita comic book consumption difference… In other words, we don’t know if Australian citizens on average consumed more or fewer (or equal) newsstand comics, versus US citizens (or Canadian citizens). Someone even once forwarded me a counter-argument they saw posted online against CPV rarity estimations — and I swear I’m not making this up — where the anonymous critic argued that while it is true Canada has only about 10% of the population of the USA they produce more maple syrup in Canada than over in the much-larger-by-population USA and therefore the very idea of using population as a guidepost to thinking about the likely difference in comic book distribution quantities between the two countries is off-base! (I kid you not, someone actually made this maple-syrup-production argument and it appeared not to be just a joke!)
Point being: for some small portion of collectors out there, rarity estimates — even exceptionally reasonable and thoughtful ones — are just never going to be good enough. And that’s why it is so exciting that a local expert in Australia has emerged, with actual, known, APV print run information! I’ll share his information in a moment, but first, let’s re-visit my own estimate (and Bill’s) that we penciled out back in 2016 when working on the Part I post about New Mutants #98, and lets “see how we did” with our estimations, versus the newly released / now-known print run information. A lengthy discussion about how I approached the likely rarity culminated with this ultimate conclusion/estimate:
“According to this source, New Mutants #98 had a print run of 275,000 copies. Apply our estimated variant percentage range just discussed, and we’d be in the neighborhood of 2,400 to 7,200 copies with the variant $1.50 AUS cover price. [By the way, Bill Alexander shared with me that he independently arrived at his own estimate for this issue, of 3,225 copies]. And this is before considering buyer behavior — that notorious-newsstand-destruction-rate variable would be in play with these.”
So that’s what we had each independently penciled out back then, as our estimates: Bill independently came in at 3,225 and the midpoint of my 2,400 to 7,200 range was 4,800.
How did Bill and I do compared to “the answer”? Enter Joseph Italiano, of Alternate Worlds, in Australia! We had an incredibly informative discussion in the Comments Forum section of my Part II post, where Joseph had shared with us this article he published, which we then discussed at length.
Bottom line: The actual print run numbers for AUS variants according to Joseph Italiano were between 2000 and 4000 copies per book — information which is based not only upon information received from his Marvel rep and the distributor (“NDD”) at the time, but also because there were certain issues where Joseph himself personally ordered the entire run (wow!), so thus would be personally-1st-hand-knowledgeable about just how many APV variant copies were shipped to Australia because for certain issues he bought them all! (Impressive!!)
So there you have it: we no longer need to rely on estimates for APV rarity, because we now have actual print run information shared by a local expert. It turns out Bill’s estimate of 3,225 was so close to the later-revealed real numbers it is almost uncanny! And my own range was not too shabby either! 🙂 Some readers will surely conclude that’s because we were thoughtful and reasonable in our estimation work; others might say we both just had a “lucky guess” or that a stopped clock is right twice a day… but either way, I’m thrilled that we (as a hobby) have the fortune to have moved past “just estimates” to now have actual known print run information shared by a local expert.
I’d encourage you to read Joseph’s full article, and here in this post I’ll touch upon just one of the other key pieces of information he revealed: when it came to the manufacturing, the APVs were collated first, before the other types (before the US newsstand and Direct Edition types). The main reason for this, as he explains in the article, is because of the long shipping time: they needed to print the APV batch first in order to rush them off to the boat!
“The APV books were collated first, before any other editions. This was so the lag time between US editions release and Australian edition release would be reduced. As soon as these books were printed, they were shipped, while the regular US editions were yet to be completed. … Print runs for APV for the Australian newsstand market was 2000-4000 per book.”
— Joseph Italiano, Alternate Worlds, Australian Price Variants: What Are They?
For anyone out there who still looked at the three-month-advanced cover month we see on APVs and doubted the indicia, this information from Joseph should put to rest any concerns about whether APVs truly have an equal claim compared with the other types, of being true first-print copies — and in fact, some might argue that APVs have even more of a claim as first print copies having been completed and put on a boat before the other types were yet to be completed! (Personally, I still go by the indicia and thus consider APVs and each of the other 1st print types to all have “equal claim” on being first print originals, and thus variants of the first printing).
That 2000-4000 known print run information shared by Joseph is really a huge APV milestone, wouldn’t you agree? Because there’s no doubt about it: known amounts shared by an in-the-know expert are more compelling than even the most thoughtful of estimates, because at the end of the day, there will always be some collectors who detest estimates due to the unknowns. So, this new APV information shared by Joseph Italiano is great news and an absolutely huge milestone… and big news even for those of us who already had reached the correct collecting conclusion based on thoughtful estimates.
Of course, we’ll still need to use estimates if we want to come up with likely numbers for the surviving APVs of a given issue. In Doug Sulipa’s Canadian Price Variant rarity walkthrough shared earlier, he had pegged newsstand survivorship at 25%, and then of those survivors had pegged 10% in strict VF or better. But over in Australia, it is possible the newsstand survival rate was even lower, according to Joseph Italiano who says, “… most newsstand sales were to casual readers. The remaining non-sold copies were pulped. Estimates (depending on title) suggest that most books had a survival rate of 5%-10% and those that did survive are usually in low grade condition.”
Using a more-conservative 25% survival rate against the 2000-4000 copies initially distributed would bring us to a range of 500-1000 survivors; a 10% survival rate would bring us to a range of 200-400; at a 5% survival rate we’d be down to just 100-200. So we’re talking about likely typical survivorship numbers here in the hundreds of copies per APV issue. Another helpful tool will be the CGC census (and CBCS census when it gets released): it will be interesting to watch the APV census numbers accumulate over time. Right now, as of this writing, Amazing Spider-Man #361 for example has 14 APV copies on record to date in VF-and-higher; New Mutants #98 has 19 APV copies on record to date in VF-and-higher.
Overstreet #49 APV Discussions
The Overstreet #49 guide, in addition to helping me in the Top Ten exercise earlier, provided some interesting Australian Price Variant discussions in the Market Reports section. For one, Tim Bildhauser, International Comic Specialist at CBCS, wrote about the CBCS decision to begin labeling Type 1A price variants with price variant labels (reiterating what was said in CBCS’s October announcement), and in addition, Tim also wrote the following about APVs:
“I’ve seen growing interest in the Canadian, Australian, & U.K. price variants, especially on keys. There were two Australian price variant copies of New Mutants #98 that sold this year that broke the $1,000 price point.”
— Tim Bildhauser, Overstreet #49 Market Report
A lot of people read Tim’s reports; now those readers know New Mutants #98 APVs have been fetching big premiums over direct editions. In the OPG #49 market reports section we also heard from Senior Overstreet Advisor Jon McClure (whose reports are another in the “don’t-miss” category), who issued an updated version of his Type 1A Price Variant definition — among other things, the updated version clarifies that APVs are indeed intended to be included in the Type 1A category (missing or different cover dates are now explicitly allowed). Jon also went on to say as follows:
“First printing Type 1A single priced Australian price variants exist for Marvel comics published between October 1990 to January 1994 and February 1996 to November 1996 inclusive. The majority of titles produced by Marvel during this period are believed to have Australian priced copies. The confirmed range for Amazing Spider-Man is issue #341 to #384, #408 and #410 to #417. A $4.75 Australian priced Annual #27 also exists making 54 books for that title alone.
The Australian copies produced 1990-1994 have amended cover dates that are three months later than their US counter-parts to account for the shipping time to Australia. The indicia are unchanged, meaning the Australian price variant for an issue published in October of 1990 will carry a cover date of January; an issue published in January 1994 will carry a cover date of April. CGC catalogs the variants by their cover dates instead of the indicia dates but also mentions the indicia date on most labels.
The Australian price variants were printed on the same presses at the same time as their other first print counterparts, so this catalog date versus actual publication date disparity should hopefully not create the false impression that the price variants with different cover dates are reprints. The later 1996 price variant copies meanwhile have the same cover dates as their US counterparts.
The Australian Type 1A price variants are as legitimate as their Canadian and UK Pence price variant cousins. Although they are less well known with few collectors currently seeking them out, I expect that to change. People collect what they know about, and Marvels are the most pursued comics in the hobby.
Three example Australian Type 1A price variant keys are New Mutants #98 (2/91 indicia; May cover date), Amazing Spider-Man #361 (4/92 indicia; July cover date), and Iron Man #282 (7/92 indicia; October cover date).”
— Jon McClure, Overstreet #49 Market Report
Hearing Jon state that APVs are “less well known with few collectors seeking them out” (but he expects that to change) should definitely make those of us who have a multi-year head start on collecting these (those of us who “saw the forest”) feel great about what we’ve been able to accumulate into our collections! Especially our wins on books that were “mis-listed” (where the Australian seller did not realize they owned anything different or special and priced their listing for sale at “regular price” in line with the going rate for the prevalent direct edition)!
But those mis-listed collecting opportunities in the APV niche are getting fewer and further between… and those of us who hunt for them are probably feeling increasingly willing to pony up a premium to land an elusive variant we’ve been hunting for. And that brings me to the next section, the recent explosion in realized sales prices for APVs. Tim Bildhauser had made reference to New Mutants #98 in his OPG #49 report, mentioning how two New Mutants #98 APVs had broken through the $1000 mark; and recently I searched eBay’s sold listings section on a search for “Australian Price Variant” to look for other sales examples, and in the next section I’ll share what I found.
Recent explosion in APV realized sale prices
A recent search on eBay’s sold listings section over at eBay.com.au for the search term “Australian Price Variant” revealed a number of recent sales at realized prices that represent premiums that have exploded past direct edition comps. Here is a screenshot (prices shown in the screenshot below are in Australian dollars — for reference, at the current exchange rate today, $500 Australian dollars converts to about $340 US dollars):
To summarize what is shown in the screenshot above:
Venom Lethal Protector #1 (described as NM) = AU $500.00
Amazing Spider-Man #361 (described as NM-) = AU $350.00
Transformers #80 (described as VF) = AU $200.00
New Mutants #100 (described as VF/NM) = AU $150.00
Amazing Spider-Man #362 (described as NM-) = AU $120.00
Amazing Spider-Man #363 (described as NM) = AU $100.00
Amazing Spider-Man #345 (described as NM-) = AU $100.00
Amazing Spider-Man #365 (condition unspecified) = AU $80.40
Those are some strong recent realized prices there for the APVs relative to where direct editions of the same issues in the same grades have been selling! For instance, for comparison, here’s a recent direct edition comp for the Venom in grade described as NM+:
Comparing the recent Venom sales for the APV versus the direct edition, it occurs to me that the APV has exploded past the direct edition by such a degree that perhaps what we should really start comparing the APV against is the “black cover” / error copies, which OPG #49 lists at a $600 value in NM- and in Near Mint and higher frequently sells for quite a bit more these days… such as this recent comp below:
Isn’t it remarkable that in the past two years we’ve seen APVs go from low-hanging “two-ways-to-win” fruit — with variants obtainable in the marketplace at “regular prices” — to a situation where the Venom #1 APV is actually chasing the black cover error variant copies in recent sale value? Where will we be in another two years, or another five, should Jon McClure’s “I expect that to change” prediction about low APV awareness comes true?
With grading company recognition, newfound print run knowledge reflecting a minuscule “supply side of the equation,” and continued growing collector awareness of the existence and appeal of APVs, it sure seems likely that the “demand side of the equation” will only grow as time passes. Low supply + growing demand certainly explains the strong realized APV sales prices we continue to witness.
In fact, even in the time during which I’ve had this very post “in draft” I am seeing more sales that are noteworthy enough they should be mentioned! Here are a few new ones from 9/20:
X-Force #1 (described as VF+) = AU $150
Amazing Spider-Man #375 (described as VF-) = AU $120
Spectacular Spider-Man #189 (described as VF) = AU $80
And now for some cool APV tidbits!
The Silver Surfer #50 $1.50 APV cover price was an error
Sharp-eyed collectors may have noticed that the APV for Silver Surfer #50 is actually the same as its “regular” counterpart, at $1.50 in both cases:
So what happened? Joseph Italiano supplied the answer: “Short version, it’s an error. They forgot to change the price to the Australian equivalent. The local distributor still gets their percentage, but Marvel makes less.”
X-Force #2 with Australian price sticker
X-Force #2 has to date remained UNCONFIRMED as an APV; and Paul Nicholls recently discovered and shared this X-Force #2 Direct Edition with AUS Price/Month Sticker, strongly suggesting that a printed price variant version of this particular issue may not exist (they may have just used direct edition copies and slapped these stickers on them… but keep looking for the APV in the wild because who knows, still a small chance it might exist in tandem, we’ve seen bigger comic book surprises before!):
Keep your eyes out for Double Covers!
Double covers are a fun manufacturing-error rarity to look out for in general, where CGC will add a special remark on the label. The intersection of one type of rare occurrence (double cover) with APV rarity, makes for possible-one-of-a-kind-level rarity… And Paul Nicholls had the great luck of finding one of these special copies for Amazing Spider-Man #345!:
X-Men #1 variations
“Regular” copies of X-Men #1 were released with four different cover artwork variations… and it turns out APVs were also given the same variety of covers:
X-Force #1 with trading cards
X-Force #1 was manufactured in a sealed plastic bag, with different trading cards inside, and the APVs were done the same way — Paul Nicholls has confirmed that he has seen APVs with five different trading card versions, including Deadpool.
Neat side-tidbit: many of Marvel’s comics of this time period were printed in Canada — not just APVs but the entire print run (direct editions and regular newsstand copies included). X-Force #1 makes for a particularly visible example of this, because instead of needing to look in the indicia for that information, we can see “Printed in Canada” right on the outside of the bag in the lower right corner.
We now know what newsstand markings “N2” etc. mean
Joseph Italiano provided the answer on this mystery: “G’Day all, the “N#” was not done by the distributor, but by the average newsagency (retailer). Australian newsstands sell US, UK and Australian magazines. Cover months are pretty much useless as an indicator as to when to return the books, since most foreign books come via sea (2 month journey). It was standard (before the Marvel price variants), for the newsgency to write a “return date” on cover of the magazines. The return date was a basic code. The letter “N” refers to the distributor the book is to be returned to (NDD in this case), (there are multiple newsagency distributors) and the “number” was the month the book was to be returned. Old habits die hard. (FYI: Original Australian comics rarely had dates or even issue numbers. The newagency return code is one of the few ways to actually date a book)! Despite that fact that one of the major reasons the AUS variants changed the cover month and price to avoid newsagencies writing on the book, it usually did not work.”
That’s it for Part III! I hope you have enjoyed this update on Australian Price Variants! If you can help turn any of the “Unconfirmed” examples into “Confirmed” please do let us know!
Happy Collecting! 🙂