By Jon McClure; As published in the Overstreet Price Guide #50
Greetings from Astoria Oregon!
Here’s a few sales from late 2019: Wartime Romances #5 (Matt Baker cover) VG+ $450, Tomb of Dracula #1-70 average F/F+ $895, Green Mask #10 VG- $69, Fast Willie Jackson #1 F+ $65, Crime Smashers #11 VG+ $159, Buffalo Bill #7 VG- $59, and Strange Planets #1 NM- $59. Low to mid-grade Marvels sold in antique malls at 150% Guide or higher. Double to triple Guide was not uncommon to receive from speculators and collectors looking for undervalued and overlooked titles. Comics sell in person that won’t move online. DCs were sluggish in general except for key issues and large runs sufficiently discounted. Sales in general were steady, with Marvel titles leading the pack as usual.
The best definition I know for a “Variant” comic book is (1) any non-standard edition created for distribution with a unique purpose, (2) anything reprinted for distribution under the same title with some changes to the cover and/or contents, and (3) any non-standard edition created for distribution in an unplanned or imperfect way. The primary characteristic of a Variant is a strong similarity to the “regular” or standard edition.
Here’s a list of the five unique types of Type 1 variants that exist:
• Type 1: Test Market Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)
• Type 1A: Foreign Distribution Variants (UK Pence, Canadian $, Australian $, L Miller Indicias)
• Type 1B: Reverse Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)
• Type 1C: Variant Covers
• Type 1D: US Cents Price Font Variants
Type 1: Test Market Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)
Cover Price Test Market Variants with regional or otherwise limited distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. Such Variants exist because publishers want to test the market prior to raising prices. The indicia and all aspects of the book, except for the cover price, are identical to regular editions.
Type 1A: U.S. Published Foreign Distribution Variants (UK Pence, Canadian $, Australian $, L Miller Indicias)
Cover Price Variants intended for foreign distribution with limited regional distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. In the majority of cases, the indicia and all aspects of the book are identical to regular U.S. editions except for the cover price. In some instances other alterations may be present. These may include missing or different cover dates, regional indicia details and variant company logos. Other minor alterations may also be present.
Note: The definition of Type 1A has been updated for clarification purposes to accommodate new variant discoveries.
Type 1B: Reverse Cover Price Variants (US Cents Priced)
Cover Price Reverse Variants with regional or otherwise limited distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. Reverse Variants exist because material is accidentally printed with a lower price than intended, a mistake not always sufficient for the publisher to destroy otherwise salable goods. The indicia and all aspects of the book are identical to regular editions, regardless of whether it is intended for U.S. or foreign distribution, and the primary characteristic is that there is another version with the same cover logo and markings and the correct cover price. The Gold Key 30 cent and Whitman 40 cent Price Variants are perfect examples.
Type 1C: Variant Covers
Cover Variants with limited or standard distribution, published simultaneously with standard or “regular” editions. This type of Variant exists because publishers choose to experiment with the market without making widespread appearance changes to their logos or regular editions, or to capitalize on current popularity. The indicia and all aspects of the book are identical to regular editions except for the front, inside, and/or back cover deviations, with Variant covers sometimes noted inside. If one book has two different covers, it may be impossible to identify a “regular” edition beyond “cover 1a, 1b,” etc. DC’s Fury of Firestorm #61 and Justice League #3 Superman Logos Variant are good examples. A good multiple cover example is DC’s Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1; The Walking Dead #100 is another solid example. Many contemporary publishers produce multiple different covers for their titles, and Type 1C is the most commonly used variety.
Type 1D: US Cents Price Font Variants
As of last year (2018), a new Type of variant has also surfaced, brought to my attention by UK based researcher Steve Cranch. Type 1D is defined as “Cover price variants with a unique price font. All aspects of the book are identical to regular editions but with a unique style of cover price.” There are 13 such variants currently proven to exist; they are Marvel U.S. Ten Cent Price Font Variants. Because no copy can be yet said to be the primary copy, all are “variants” in their own right, and can be catalogued as cover 1, 1a, 1b, etc. Twelve of thirteen known examples have two unique 10 cent fonts, and the 13th is a key issue, Rawhide Kid #17(8/60), which contains an origin story with Jack Kirby art, and which has three different ten cent fonts, not to mention a Type 1A 9d price variant! I know many of you may be thinking I’m splitting hairs, but we’re talking about original copies of the same books with different and identifiable characteristics on the covers.
There are three unique cents fonts known: 10 cents in bold with a slashed c, a ’slim font’ 10 cents with a small c next to the 10, and a slim font 10 cents with a big C next to the 10. In most cases, the slim font mirrors that of the Type 1A 9d copies raising the possibility of a link between the two. The cents font variations begin when the UK 9d prices are introduced; up until that point, all Marvels had the standard bold 10 / slashed c cents font.
Why do these variants exist and which copy was printed first? Might they have played with the appearance of a few books as an experiment of sorts, just for eye appeal, or on a whim, or due to some error? Or, given the timeline link to the 9d UK copies, could the additional cents fonts indicate some other purpose like foreign distribution – Canada perhaps – especially because of the example of Rawhide Kid #17? For the record, I believe all Type 1D 10 cent font variants should be valued equally in respect to scarcity and potential interest until more is known.
The 13 known Type 1D variants were published from June 1960 to February 1961 inclusive, and more variant examples may exist. Issues with font variants include Battle #70(6/60), with Kirby and Ditko art, Journey Into Mystery #60(9/60), 64-65(1-2/61), with Kirby art in #60 and #64, Rawhide Kid #17 (origin by Kirby), Strange Tales 75-77(6, 8, 10/60), 81(2/61), with Ditko art, Tales To Astonish #14(12/60), 16(2/61), with Kirby and Ditko art, and Two-Gun Kid #54-55(6, 8/60), with Kirby art. Although Steve is not the first to notice the font differences on Marvel covers, I believe he is the first to research and document the extent to which these variations exist.
For the remainder of my report, limited spatially because this is the 50th Annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, please go to rarecomicsblog.com.
By Jon McClure; Remainder of OPG #50 market report:
Marvel Type 1 test market cover price variants continue to break record sales results. Publisher experiments in the 20th century repeatedly birthed Type 1 cover price variants immediately before universal price hikes, such as the shift from 10 to 12 cents per copy that occurred in January 1962 from Marvel and DC, and the 25 cent to 30 cent shift famously embodied by the Marvel variants cover dated 4-8/1976 and from 30 to 35 cents for variants cover dated 6-10/1977. Archie and Charlton also played with 15 cent variants in the beginning of the 12 cent era. Despite much heckling back in the day from fellow advisors and critics, when I discovered and publicized the existence of the Marvel cover price variants in Comic Book Marketplace #51(8/97), such comics have soared in popularity and value. For a history of comic book variants from the Golden Age to the present, as well as a list of known variants and a detailed lexicon of variant types, with examples that continue to evolve and expand, refer to my article from 2010 in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #40, “A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books,” pages #1010-1038. An updated version is in progress for the 51st Annual OPG. All variant types and publishers are represented into the early 1990s.
Marvel Type 1 test market cover price variants are among the hottest Bronze Age books pursued by collectors and speculators. The key books listed by the Guide in the top 10 Gold, Silver and Bronze Age categories are there due to consistent sales and demand, and currently five of the top ten Bronze Age comics are 35 cent variants. The ratio of regular 30 cent copies of Star Wars #1 in CGC 9.4 NM to 9.8 NM/M (there are over 2000) to the 35 cent variant of #1 is 200 to 1, according to the CGC census. Roughly twenty certified 35 cent copies exist in NM 9.4 or better, of which two certified copies exist in CGC 9.6 NM+ condition to date, despite the fact that the CGC census says there are three; a processing error mis-identified a reprint with a 35 cent cover price, which sold on eBay in 2018, at many times its value due to inept misrepresentation and lack of understanding by the bidders. The highest graded examples of Marvel variants are bringing record prices at auction, on the rare occasion they come up for auction at all, especially the western and horror titles that had the lowest distribution. Sales were slow for Marvel western and horror titles back in the day, hence their cancellations in 1976-1977.
Tip Top Comics #56(12/40) has surfaced as a 15 cover price variant, bringing other United Features’ titles and all issues from December 1940 (and months before and after) into potential variant territory. It is a Type 1A variant as Golden Age books were universally 10 cents unless a giant size. The best place to find variants is where you have already found one. Captain and the Kids #1(1938) exists as a Type 2 Variant dated December 1939 that reads “Reprint” on the cover. True Comics #60(5/47) has surfaced this year with a Type 1A 15 cent cover price. Other issues show small and subtle differences that make them variants. For example, #57(2/47) has gray and blue cover variants, and #29(11/43) has two versions: The regular copy has a ten cent price that stands alone, but the second copy has “cc” under the price. Additional examples likely exist within this title.
On another note, I.W./Super comics have not shown any appreciable interest yet, including the variants, despite my article in the OPG #47, “The Strange Story of Israel Waldman and the I.W./Super Comics Mystery,” pages #1169-1180. Such books have been overlooked for decades but I believe their day will come.
Archie 15 cent Type 1 cover price variants exist for issues from March 1962 to April 1963, and they now have over 80% confirmed to exist, so I feel confident that all 112 issues will eventually surface. Doug Sulipa and I estimate that such 15 cent variants are about 500-1000 times scarcer than their 12 cent counterparts. Regular 12 cent sci-fi monster issues from 1961-1962 sell for about 2-4 times guide, so the 15 cent variants of these books should logically be higher in value. It’s difficult to nail down actual worth when such items rarely change hands, and the listings do not appear in the guide yet, although collectors and dealers are well aware at this stage. I believe all 15 cent Archie Type 1 cover price variants have enormous investment potential, especially the three super-keys: Archie’s Madhouse #22(10/62), Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #75(3/62) and Josie #1(2/63). March 1962 to April 1963 is the time period where all Archie titles had a 15 cent counterpart.
Forty one different Type 1 Charlton 15 cent test market cover price variants from March 1962(20 titles) and April 1962(21 titles) are potentially hiding out there. Currently Fightin’ Marines #46(4/62), I Love You #39(4/62), LI’l Genius #37(3/62), Six-Gun Heroes #67(3/62), Space War #15(3/62), Sweethearts #64(3/62), Texas Rangers #32(3/62), and Timmy The Timid Ghost #31(3/62) are the only eight examples confirmed to exist. Such 15 cent variants are so scarce and unknown to collectors that no sales have yet to bring a premium due to the fact that almost no one is looking for them and dealers are unaware. Real value is difficult to judge without any money changing hands. I find such cusp era variants interesting and hope collectors will share acquisitions with me so I can continue to disseminate all Variant information. You can reach me at jonmcclurescomics.com with these or other variant discoveries.
Type 1A cover price variants simultaneously published for foreign distribution are increasing in demand according to Doug Sulipa. Bronze and Copper Age Marvel and to a lesser extent DC Type 1A Canadian cover price variants are now routinely selling for 150-500% Guide, and select CGC high grade key issues of popular characters have been bringing 200% to 1000% of guide; such Type 1A books are at least 10 times scarcer due to low print runs. Canada’s population is about 10% of the US population, thus about 10% of all Print Runs are Canadian copies, however roughly 80% of the surviving copies are Direct Editions, bought in comic shops and saved by collectors. “Type 1A Canadian Newsstand Cover Price Variants from the 1980s were easily our #1 bestselling variants of the year,” according to Sulipa. “Demand for them continues to grow at an accelerated rate, with many record-breaking sales taking place in 2019. In record numbers, collectors are learning about the scarcity and appeal of this type of price variant.”
Most of the Newsstand editions were bought by non-collecting readers, with a much lower survival rate, and most are well read FA/G to FN/VF copies. Most VF/NM or better Type 1A Canadian Newsstand Cover Price Variants are roughly 50 to 300 times scarcer than their US Direct Market counterparts in high grade; randomly checking the CGC census will substantiate this for most items. High grade examples from the Silver and Bronze age of Type 1A variants are scarcer; this is largely due to damages that occurred in transit, and in particular water damage found on pence editions shipped overseas. Such difficulties predate contemporary standard procedures like simultaneous off-site printing, a reality that renders the concept of origination meaningless, at least for modern books. Marvel collectors dominate about 75% of the Type 1A Canadian cover price and British pence variant market, while DC and the others split the remaining 25%, with non-DC books accounting for less than 10% of total sales, a ratio that steepens when you hit the 1990s, when Type 1A cover price variants that don’t say Marvel or DC have yet to show much interest outside of key issues.
Only five Type 1A DC pence issues exist from the early Bronze age: Action #402(7/71), Adventure #408(7/71), Detective #413(7/71), Flash #208(8/71), and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #139(7/71). Action #402, Detective #413, and Flash #208 have Neal Adams covers, and the Flash issue is a 52 page giant, so such books have attractive qualities beyond just being Type 1A variants, and can bring 300% guide or more than cents editions, especially in high grade. The bulk of DC Type 1A pence issues exist from February 1978 to September 1981 and are more common.
Dell Canadian and U.K. Type 1A cover price editions are being collected more, and currently sell at at a modest premium of 125-150% of standard cents editions. The first published Canadian price variant Dell Giants were Bugs Bunny’s Christmas Funnies #2(11/51) and Walt Disney’s Christmas Parade #3(11/51). Western Publishing’s Type 1A 75 cent cover price variants of 60 cent Whitmans from 1984 sell briskly at 300-400% Guide due to extremely low print runs, according to Doug Sulipa. Whitman pre-pack comics dated 8-12/1980 are red hot sellers due to scarcity and bring $80-$500 or more in Very Fine or better condition for the finest examples. Refer to my article, “The Whitman Mystery,” in Comic Book Marketplace #85-86(9-10/01) for the strange story behind what caused the scarcity of Gold Key/Whitman comics dated 1980-1984 and their untimely demise.
Type 1A variants are drawing the attention of collectors and investors like never before. I have long argued that Type 1A variants of all eras would climb in interest due to scarcity. The scarcity of Canadian newsstand cover price variants versus simultaneously published U.S. direct editions is a chasm of difference, roughly 50 to 1 by comparison! Even “newsstand variants,” the newsstand edition of comics extending into the 1990s, have come to bring a premium of up to 1000% or more due to scarcity, as print runs descended year by year. Comiclink sold an Amazing Spider-Man #238(3/83) Type 1A CGC 9.6 for $2300 in August 2018; such items rarely surface.
CBCS and CGC now label Type 1A books “variants” on the labels, which 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 cpvpriceguide.com. The Guide contains only Marvel, DC and Archie at this juncture, beginning with books cover dated 10/82 and ending with issues cover dated 9/88 for DC and 8/86 for Marvel. Key issues in the top ten include Batman #357(3/83), Swamp Thing #37(6/85) and Amazing Spider-Man #238(3/83), the latter key issue burdened with an insert, an unusual conundrum.
Early Marvel Direct Sale Editions are scarcer and sell for an average of 200-500% of regular newsstand editions according to Doug Sulipa; such books were sometimes erroneously referred to as “Marvel Whitmans” due to their simultaneous distribution in department and drug stores in Whitman bags. Early Marvel Direct Market Editions have a duality of purpose, and thus have the unique honor of being “special market editions” that required a secondary market to help justify the cost of their existence in smaller print runs. The Direct Sales market was in its infancy, and Marvel wanted to monitor retailers’ return credits, hence the confusion surrounding the odd but necessary difference in appearance between such books and their newsstand counterparts. Short gaps in production occurred from 2/1977 to 5/1979, as it cost less for Marvel to roll the dice against bogus returns than over-produce books erratically purchased by chain retailers. All early Direct Market Editions were produced except for the cover dates 1-3/1978, 7/1978, and 3-4/1979, and such comics are sought after largely by hardcore Marvel completists.
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; 1147 comics out a possible 1702 have been confirmed to exist based on 101 known titles. 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 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 relatively 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 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).
For those of you who collect Type 1A pence price variants, here’s an update on Silver and Bronze Age gems from UK researcher Steve Cranch who is in the process of documenting all known first printing pence price variants for all US published comics. Seven publishers are known to have pence variants as follows:
• Archie – 24 issues confirmed of a potential 46 issues within the date range of March 1960 to August 1960 inclusive. All issues have 9d printed prices. 11 titles confirmed.
• Charlton – 476 issues confirmed of a potential 833 issues within the date range of April/July 1960, January 1961 to December 1963 inclusive. All issues have 6d or 9d printed prices. 75 titles confirmed.
• DC – 840 issues confirmed. The inclusive date range is July/August 1971, February 1978 to September 1981. All issues have 5p, 7 1/2p, 12p or 15p printed prices. 75 titles confirmed.
• Dell – 212 issues confirmed of a potential 424 issues within the date range of April 1960 to July 1961 inclusive. All issues have 9d, 1/- or 2/- printed prices. 40 titles confirmed (where Four Color and Dell Giants represent one title each).
• Gold Key – 120 issues confirmed of a potential 171 issues within the date range of April 1973 to November 1975 inclusive. All issues have 6p, 7p or 8p printed prices. 8 titles confirmed.
• King Comics – 20 issues confirmed of a potential 24 issues within the date range of August 1967 to November 1967 inclusive. All issues have 10d printed prices. 6 titles confirmed.
• Marvel – 3,019 issues confirmed, with only one or two more expected to exist. The inclusive date range is May 1960 to December 1981. All issues have 9d, 10d, 1/-, 6p, 7p, 8p, 9p, 10p, 12p, 15p, 20p, 30p or 40p printed prices. 118 titles confirmed.
Another new Type 1A group of books has surfaced — L. Miller indicia variants. Such books fall under the expanded type 1a category as they are cover price variants and non-cover price variants with a unique indicia with regional or otherwise limited distribution. When Marvel pence priced copies first began in May 1960, all copies were previously assumed to have been distributed by Thorpe and Porter, carrying T&P indicias accordingly for the first 4 years. It has since been discovered that the UK distributor L Miller & Co also distributed a handful of Marvel titles from May 1960, and these books have unique L Miller indicias.
Steve Cranch initially contacted me to discuss these 26 previously unknown L. Miller Silver Age Marvel comics in 2018. The books range from May 1960 to August 1961 inclusive and 24 out of a potential 26 have been proven to exist, with the remaining two expected to be proven. L. Miller (a UK distributor) indicia variants are currently confirmed to exist for Amazing Adventures #1-4(6-9/61), with Kirby and Ditko art, Gunsmoke Western #58(5/60)-60, (#61 awaiting verification) 62-65(7/61), with #59, 62-65 sporting Kirby art, Rawhide Kid #17(8/60)-23(8/61), all with Kirby art, Two-Gun Kid #54(6/60)-57, (#58 awaiting verification) 59(4/61), with Kirby art in #54-55, 57-59, and Wyatt Earp #29(6/60). The title Kid Colt Outlaw, from the same time period, was skipped entirely by L. Miller despite being the only other major Western title of the time. All 9d copies of Kid Colt Outlaw in the L. Miller date window have Thorpe & Porter indicias.
Uniquely, the Type 1A L. Miller variants with cover dates 5/60 to 8/60 are priced 9d and those dated 9/60 to 8/61 are priced at 10c instead of 9d. The latter books are identical in appearance except for the indicia. All confirmed issues of such Type 1A variants were printed in the U.S. and with the exception of Two-Gun Kid #55, carry an additional line of indicia data indicating that the books were “Exclusively printed for L Miller & Co. (Hackney) Ltd. 342 & 344 Hackney Road, London, E.2.” My speculation is that Marvel probably didn’t bother with changing the plates for the price change, or just forgot, hence the 10 cent covers for later L. Miller issues.
Marvel pence variants – understanding the differences: There are no known Marvel books with printed pence prices prior to May 1960. With the exception of the aforementioned L Miller copies, every Marvel pence variant from 5/60 through 11/64 inclusive, plus every Marvel pence variant from 1961 (with the exception of August 1961 for some depraved reason), plus every Marvel pence variant from 1962 to 11/64, are all going to have some variation of the Thorpe & Porter line included in the indicia. Some have the entire cents indicia removed and replaced with a Thorpe & Porter line, some have the Thorpe & Porter line in an added sentence, and some have it as an added paragraph/line.
Amazing Fantasy #15(8/62), the first appearance of Spider-Man, exists as a Type 1A 9d cover price variant with a missing cover date and a Thorpe and Porter indicia, and there are three differences to the cents/regular edition: (1) the cover price difference (9d for the pence version), (2) the date omitted (no “Aug” on cover) from the pence version and (3) the indicia of the pence version does not match the regular edition, because the pence version has the line about Thorpe & Porter included. The indicia on both the regular and pence copies say September in the indicia, although the regular edition has an August cover date. There are many examples from the Golden and Silver age of mis-numbered and contradictory dates. CGC lists the pence edition as September due to the missing cover date, essentially defaulting to the indicia. Both versions were printed on the same presses at the same time, so this disparity should hopefully not create the false impression that the pence copy is a reprint.
Other new Type 1 variant finds as of 2018: Steve Cranch has documented some modern Marvel newsstand cover price variants as well. During the months of October 1999 to February 2000 inclusive additional single price $2.29 and $2.49 variant covers of regular $1.99 newsstand books have been found to exist, making three different prices of newsstand copies. A total of 32 variant $2.29 / $2.49 copies have been found to exist covering six titles. The current titles with one or both variant prices confirmed are Amazing Spider-Man #10-11, 13, Cable #72-74, Fantastic Four #23-24, 26, Hulk #8-10, Mighty Thor #17-19, and X-Men #93, 95-96. The $2.29 / $2.49 price variants only appear to exist where the regular newsstand price was $1.99 – the regular $2.99 double sized issues within the range have no variant prices confirmed, hence the breaks in sequence. Such variants indicate a further Type 1 variant market test by Marvel in line with the more widely known 30 and 35 cent price variants.
Vast numbers of Type 1C cover variants are published today, and are fare for many titles such as The Walking Dead (now completed). Modern cover variants can bring serious money, some of which are slabbed 9.8 signature series variants. Variant comics are now used to entice completists as well as provide options for a “favorite” cover when collecting a title, and many popular artists contribute to that end that do not normally create material for the various titles. A myriad of publishers employ this strategy to boost their bottom line as the term “variant” is now a household term to most collectors. There are more variants (mostly Type 1C) published today than at any time in comic book history.
Happy hunting to collectors and completists everywhere!