Canadian Newsstand Edition

Welcome to CPV Price Guide #4!

By Benjamin Nobel, December 2020

Hi everyone, this is my market report for the 2021 edition of our CPV Price Guide, marking our 4th edition!

I’m thrilled to welcome Tim Bildhauser to the advisory team this year; Tim was formerly with CBCS as their International Comics Specialist, he is a renowned expert in his niche, and he was instrumental in making possible CBCS’s 2018 labeling change for how they treat Type 1A price variants. If you like those “75¢ Canadian Price Variant” labels (versus the old highly-misleading “Canadian Edition” treatment) then please give Tim a thank-you the next time you see him, for the key role he played in making that happen. And surely the fact that CBCS “took the lead” on improving their Type 1A labeling helped, in turn, towards ultimately convincing CGC to follow suit as well (they too changed to “Canadian Price Variant” labeling, in 2019).

A big thank-you as well this year to all the fantastic contributors towards our Market Reports & Articles section, your insights are so valuable, from Salvatore Miceli’s observations about Cartoon Books, to Tony LeBlanc’s great article From a Seller’s Perspective, and James Gilbreath’s insights into Collecting CPVs for Profit. And many more authors contributed some incredibly insightful stuff; you should definitely check out their full reports here.

And one more thing before I dive into my own report: Applause and congratulations to the two recipients of this year’s John Verzyl Overstreet Advisor Award: Michelle Nolan, and our CPV team’s very own Doug Sulipa! Below is from pages 94-95 of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #50:

The John Verzyl Overstreet Advisor Award is presented annually to Advisors whose knowledge, contributions, ethics, and reputation are held in the highest esteem by their peers. As mentioned in the above-pictured award presentation pages, Doug Sulipa has most certainly influenced and advanced the worlds of comic books, their creators, and their fans, by actively sharing his knowledge with others.

I’ve said this before about Doug and I’ll say it again: he has contributed absolutely encyclopedic knowledge towards our CPV guides; there’s that old saying about super-knowledgeable people, and it certainly applies to Doug, that he’s so knowledgeable about comics that he’s probably forgotten more about comics than I’ll ever know!! To think that as a Senior Overstreet Advisor he’s been contributing to the Overstreet guide since edition #2 in 1972 and now they are at guide #50… Remarkable contributions over the decades, that most certainly have greatly enriched the perspectives of comic book enthusiasts everywhere.

So I say Bravo Doug!! Well deserved! We never could have created and contributed our CPV guides to the hobby if it were not for you, Doug; I am so glad to see you getting this award! And I’m glad to see others in the hobby, such as Steve Borock, applauding you as well:

“On a great note, speaking of John Verzyl, I would like to congratulate my longtime friend and hobbyist, Michelle Nolan, and fellow hobbyist and friend, Doug Sulipa, on being picked this year for The John Verzyl Overstreet Advisor Award. This is a real honor and well deserved by these two fantastic hobbyists who have done so much for our hobby spun out of their love for it. It’s not easy to win this prestigious award, so CONGRATS!”
— Steve Borok, CBCS President; OPG #50 page 107

OK, on to my report for the 2021 Edition of our CPV Price Guide! In today’s age of a zillion-and-one different 1-in-whatever “manufactured-rarity” retailer incentive variants we could choose to take home, many of which collectors are asked to shell out $25-$50+ to own, it is so nice by contrast to have a universe of “naturally-occurring” Type 1A price variants within the world of 1980’s (and 1990’s) newsstand comics, where we can hunt down the dramatically-more-rare cover price variant newsstand copies of some incredible books from our childhoods — many of which we can often land for that same $25-50 cost (or even much less)!

The rarity characteristics of CPVs have been easy for most collectors to grasp, but meanwhile hard for certain critics to understand and embrace; yet I think the thought process is really quite simple and can be understood after learning just two “big-picture concepts.” The first of those concepts is understanding how small the population of Canada actually is, compared to the United States, both today and historically. One collector likened the comparison to that of a mouse versus an elephant!


Canada looks huge on a map!
Understanding this disparity in population size is not necessarily a “natural instinct” for most Americans, because when we look at a map of North America, Canada seems absolutely huge by total land area… But the reality is that there are far fewer people living on that huge land area up in Canada versus the number of people living within the borders of the USA — looking up the actual population data, we can see that the USA:Canada population ratio actually works out to about 90:10. This statistic surprises a lot of American collectors, who generally just haven’t put thought into it before.

Another way to think about this, is that California alone overtook Canada by population size, in the year 1982 (which happened to be the year our “price variant window” opened for our 1980’s CPVs). Google presents a nice chart of this size comparison, when you search on the phrase “population of Canada“, citing Statistics Canada, the US Census Bureau, and the World Bank as data sources — I’ll repeat their chart below:

If market size difference by population was truly one of the primary drivers of 1980’s CPV rarity characteristics, then it would be natural for us to also expect that the 90:10 USA:Canada population ratio would similarly be a rarity driver for comics of other decades as well where there was a distinct version created specifically for distribution in Canada. For example, according to this Statistics Canada page, the 1950-1960 population count was approximately 13.7 million to 17.9 million people living in Canada. Meanwhile, the US Census Bureau reports on this page that the 1950-1960 population count in the USA was 151.3 million to 179.3 million.

So as a ratio of USA:Canada by population, we’re once again looking at approximately 90:10 here during this 1950’s decade. Said differently, comparing the 1950’s population of the two countries with a pie chart, the two “pie slices” of the population pie are a monster-size slice taking up 90% of the pie representing the USA, and a tiny sliver of a slice taking up the remaining 10% of the pie representing Canada. And this 10% figure happens to be exactly the number that Overstreet Advisor Ivan Kocmarek cites for the Canadian reprint period lasting up to 1954, in his OPG #50 market report (highlight and bold added for emphasis):

“There does seem to be a resurgence of interest in comics from the Canadian reprint period that came after the period of original Canadian war time comics (1941-46). This reprint period, in which American comics were published in Canada as reprints and mash-ups, ran from 1947 to about the period of the Comics Code (1954). These comics were published at about 10% of the rate of publication of their American Golden Age counterparts and correspondingly are difficult to find, yet crop up in the market in greater number than the original Canadian war time comics and at prices that are more attainable than those original Canadian war time comics.”
— Ivan Kocmarek; OPG #50 page 139

In the quote above, Ivan also mentioned the 1941-1946 period of “original Canadian war time comics” as well. Looking into the population data, the 1940 census numbers are even more stark as far as the population difference, with Canada at approximately 11.38 million people versus the USA at 132.2 million. The Canadian War Exchange Conservation Act dubbed US comics as ‘non-essential imports’ during war time, meaning that from 1941 to 1946, imports of US comics into Canada were banned. The “Canadian Whites” originals filled that hole, and those comics happen to be a specialty of Walter Durajlija, who wrote about them for our 2019 guide here and included a very memorable chart which I’ll repeat below:

“In the case of both the Canadian Whites of the 1940’s and the Canadian Price Variants of the 1980’s, collectors should keep in mind the relative size of the market where these comics were distributed: By population, you can fit about ten Canadas inside the United States!”

— Walter Durajlija, Canadian Whites and Type 1A Variant Perspective

The portion of CPV rarity characteristics that were “market-size-driven” really should be just as easy for collectors to grasp as it is for these comics of the 1940’s and 1950’s, because the purpose for creation, behind all of these various groups of comics distributed in Canada, was essentially the same: that the population of Canada demanded comics to read! And the last word in that sentence (the word “read”) brings me to the second of the two “big-picture concepts”: By the 1980’s, Marvel and DC were actually selling comics through two distinct channels instead of just one: the historical newsstand channel, and the newly-invented direct sales channel.

Comics printed for the direct sales channel were sold on a discounted but non-returnable basis to specialty comic shops, and this type of comic — known as a “direct edition” — was “multi-country” in purpose, with one print run batch covering all three of the USA, the UK, and Canada, in one fell swoop (if you took home one of these in the 80’s in Canada, your direct edition copy was indistinguishable from the ones sold in comic shops in the USA, because they came out of the same print run batch):

But, if you instead shopped at your local newsstand in Canada during the 1980’s, then you would have taken home a Canadian Price Variant, because during the “price variant window” instead of placing a large-print US price and a small-print CAN price on a single newsstand batch (as they would eventually do), Marvel and DC ran off two different single-price newsstand batches during the window! [Note: there have been a great many anecdotal reports of “imperfect distribution” near the border, where the 75¢ type was for sale in the States and the 60¢ type was for sale in Canada — but for the “big-picture-thinking exercise” we need to think about the publisher’s intention (the market they had in mind) when they sized the print run batches, and the 75¢ newsstand type was intended for newsstands in Canada.]

And that is the second big-picture concept needed to understand the main rarity drivers of Marvel and DC’s 1980’s CPVs: the variants were sold not to the entire Canadian comic book market (which was already just the size of California alone so that alone would already have made them incredibly interesting given the 90:10 population ratio — which is before considering the “Quebec Effect” which makes the skew even more extreme), but rather, they were sold just to a portion of the Canadian comic book market… The newsstand portion of that already-tiny 10% pie slice!

But we must also keep in mind that this wasn’t a just a “simple division” of the market into the two distribution channels, rather, it was a sorting of the market: comic shops tended to serve collectors who would take home their direct edition copies and preserve them in plastic bags in the hopes of future collectible value. Meanwhile, newsstands tended to serve readers, who paid their 75¢ purely as an entertainment purchase, to actually read the comic! A collector preserving these price variant newsstand comics was the exception, not the norm.

So it is really the intersection of these two different “big-picture” rarity drivers — (1) the market size difference by population, and (2) the newsstand-exclusivity of the price variants — that drives them to be the most rare of the three first-print types published, not by a little, but by a country mile when it comes to high grade collectible condition. Which makes collecting them a challenging and in turn rewarding endeavor.

But pick your spots… the CPV window was multi-year and multi-publisher and as a result there are over 5,000 issues with variants in our latest guide, many of which are issues where the baseline direct editions have very little value. Had the price variant window been shorter and had the number been, say, just 50 issues with variants, then perhaps it would be the case that finding any Canadian Price Variant comic would be an incredible find… But with so many thousands of issues with variants, my advice is to think about the CPV rarity characteristics in the context of driving your collecting decisions within the 1980’s issues you have already chosen to collect due to their appeal: first select the issues that appeal to you, and then target the CPVs for those issues (although that being said, there are also a handful of CPV titles that are so impossible to find that after so many years of looking unsuccessfully, I would call them incredible collectibles just based on their rarity alone; like the Zatanna Special variants — if they really do exist that is, as I think they must!).

A few of the high grade CPVs I personally landed this year were Incredible Hulk #300 ($1.25 variant) for a winning bid of $23.12, Thing #35 (95¢ variant) for a winning bid of $32.05, and Fantastic Four #258 (75¢ variant) for a winning bid of $14.41.

When I compare these example wins against today’s modern “manufactured-rarity variants” competing for my collecting dollars, the prices I was able to pay for these CPV examples feel to me like a relative bargain by contrast, for what is truly a purely naturally-occurring type of cover price variant — with rarity that came on its own arising from the distribution circumstances, with that extreme relative rarity only to be “discovered” by collectors decades later.

Unlike today’s modern 1-in-whatever cover artwork variants which are treated as coveted collectibles to preserve and protect from the get-go by those who buy them, the initial typical buyers of our CPVs paid cover price for them as an entertainment purchase! Those buyers may not have even kept the books, let alone preserve their condition! The contrast against today’s modern cover variants, which have been cooked up by publishers to appeal directly to (and make money off of) collectors, could not be more stark!! Can you imagine one of today’s retail incentive variant buyers actually reading the variant they just paid $25-50 (or more) for? No way! When thinking about these modern manufactured-rarity cover artwork variants, we should expect that excepting accidental damage, every single copy printed is now out there somewhere in a collection with its high grade condition being preserved.

I recently was doing a CGC census lookup for Marvel Comics #1000, and I was astonished how far that page scrolls down, with cover variant after cover variant… it is hardly possible to count them as you are scrolling without getting dizzy and losing track of how many you have counted, so I did a “find-in-page” on “Country/Variant” and the web browser counts forty-one occurrences. And the census entry page for Amazing Spider-Man #800 has even more: fifty-nine occurrences! That’s literally 100 different cover variations across just two modern issue numbers.

The publishers need to sell comics, and I get it; but for my collecting dollars, the true treasure out there is the naturally-scarce comics, not the myriad different cover variants (each one “artificially-rare”), of today’s modern comics. I really like how Dr. Steven Kahn put it, in his OPG #50 market report, discussing this very topic:

“I don’t begrudge these companies for trying to make a profit. I do, however, resent when a company creates demand by calculus, whether it’s through variant covers, special editions and the like. In the long run, value is rarely created and the collector is left holding the bag. Just think for a moment about comic books in general. Where has lasting value come once first appearances are removed from the equation? What has risen to the top was certainly not intentional. Value came when the company made a small change that was not expected to be noticed. It was usually due to a mistake in manufacturing a book or an attempt to test something new. Sometimes it came from reducing production. The most valuable Bronze Age comic today is a 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1. Recently, later prints of popular issues have taken off. Look at the third print of Hulk #377 as a prime example of that. Fifth prints of Superman, Man of Steel #18 are what people are now looking for. Newsstand variants are also stirring the pot these days. Double covers, printing errors, and the like are what caused prices to rise, not calculation by the company as to how to make more money. Created scarcity seldom translates into long term value.”
— Dr. Steven Kahn, Inner Child Comics And Collectibles; OPG #50 page 135

Just as the 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1 is 100% identical to its regular 30¢ counter-parts except for the cover price, so too are our CPVs 100% identical to their regular US newsstand counter-parts except for the cover price. And just as the 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1 had “naturally-occuring rarity” due to its distribution being geographically restricted to certain test markets within the full North American market for comic books, so too did our CPVs have geographically targeted distribution to a vastly smaller market area. And just as the initial buyers of the 35¢ price variant of Star Wars #1 had no clue they had just been sold something different or special, so too did the initial buyers of our CPVs have absolutely no idea there was anything different or special about the copy they picked up from their local newsstand in Toronto, or Montreal, or elsewhere…

And since knowledge of CPVs is still not fully widespread in the hobby sitting here in 2020, many sellers who own CPV treasure actually have no clue they are selling something different or special — and all too often they will simply turn to the corresponding page of the Overstreet guide, find the 9.2 guide value for the issue number in general they are selling, and then use that guide value as their asking price (as the seller of The WaWa collection did when forming their asking price for their collection)!

Tim Bildhauser remarked in his latest report that in 2020 he saw more mis-listed CPVs than ever before, saying:

“Oddly enough, I probably saw more ungraded CPVs listed for sale that weren’t notated as such than I can recall ever seeing before, most commonly with the .75 cover price books.”
— Tim Bildhauser, Amazing Spider-Man #238 Remains the King of CPVs

Think about the unbelievable opportunity this situation affords us as collectors today: with some “hunting effort” we can land the dramatically-more-rare CPVs, at direct edition prices, for issues we already wanted to collect on the merits of the underlying issues… in this way we get Two Ways To Win instead of just one — the underlying issue itself may rise in value if we chose wisely, and, we may see collectors of the future willing to pay ever larger premiums for the CPVs on account of their extreme relative rarity.

What would drive a future expansion of CPV premiums from today’s levels?

For one thing, collectors are waking up to the appeal of newsstand comics in general, like never before. As Bill Alexander remarked below, sites like GoCollect are now starting to separately track newsstand sales, which in turn are opening collectors’ eyes to the ever-growing market premiums being paid for the best-grade newsstand copies:

“Direct edition copies are perhaps 50X to 100X times easier to find in high grade compared to their newsstand counterparts. As an example, GoCollect now separately reports newsstand sales for many comics, and for Uncanny X-Men #266 gives a current 9.8 newsstand value of $900 based on 88 recorded sales. They meanwhile give a 9.8 direct edition value of $475, based on 5,989 recorded sales.”
— Bill Alexander, Market Report + Dell and Archie CPVs 1951-1959

As more and more collectors become newsstand-aware, it is only natural that they are going to notice the existence of CPVs when searching for newsstand copies of those issues where CPVs exist as a collecting choice… And having already made the decision to collect newsstand over direct edition for relative rarity reasons, such a collector will certainly recognize the appeal of CPVs as an even-more-rare newsstand version they can go after! One way the expansion of the collector base for CPVs will become evident, is by seeing a rising percentage of new online CPV sales going into the hands of US-based collectors. As Tony LeBlanc reports, that percentage has been rising notably, but still has a lot of room to run:

“I started classifying comics as CPVs about 12 years ago. At first, I was surprised to see that roughly 80% of all my sales were predominantly from fellow Canadians. Now that CPVs are more mainstream, I would estimate that about 65% of my CPV sales goes to the States and this percentage continues to rise.”
— Tony LeBlanc, From a Seller’s Perspective

With each passing year, more and more people are becoming interested in CPVs… One way I know this for certain, is from our own guide usage statistics: Each edition of our CPV guide has gotten more hits than the prior year’s edition; and with the launch of our 2020 edition the guide was “carved out” from the blog itself, onto its own domain (cpvpriceguide.com) with its own separate stats, giving me even more usage data than before. Overall, between the November 2019 launch of the new domain and the end of November 2020, that new domain has gotten 1,054,018 total hits over the course of that first year, and that number has recently been increasing by an additional hundred thousand plus hits with each passing month:

Among other things, carving out the guide onto its own domain also allowed us to have individual pages for each and every issue in the guide. What this means for usage statistics is actually pretty interesting, and I’d like to share some additional statistics with you now. Suppose, using the prior editions of our guide, you had wanted to look up the value for, say, New Mutants #18 (1st appearance of the new Warlock, and a book where as of this writing the top CGC grade is below 9.8). To do that, you would have clicked to the New Mutants page. As far as usage statistics go, I would have seen, simply, another hit to the New Mutants page. I wouldn’t have been able to know that you were interested in issue #18 specifically.

But now, with individual click-through pages for each issue, we’re able to see not just the hits to our page for the New Mutants title, but also the hits to the individual guide page for issue #18 specifically. These hits in part come from people who went to the New Mutants page and then clicked through to issue #18, but we’re also seeing people come to individual issue pages directly, coming from search engines. All together, these usage statistics paint an interesting picture of which particular issues (and titles) are being looked up the most out there.

The most looked-up title in our 2020 guide is Amazing Spider-Man. I’ll bet that surprises no-one. Other top titles won’t surprise you either: Batman, Uncanny X-Men, Detective Comics, and Thor. But how about this one among the top titles: Master of Kung Fu. Surprised? I was at first. But then I realized that the surprisingly-high number of hits to that title may be driven by interest following the movie announcement.

And to me, even more interesting than the hits-by-title data, is the individual hits by issue, which I view as being, in essence, a measure of popularity. I ranked each of the issues in our 2020 guide by their individual hits, and I found it particularly interesting to compare the hit rank, versus the value rank… here’s what that comparison looks like:

IssueHit RankValue RankDifference
#1#32
#2#108
#3#96
#4#117
#5#5
#6#1812
#7#1912
#8#6▼2
#9#1▼8
#10#3525
#11#165
#12#2▼10
#13#5441
#14#4▼10
#15#15
#16#4125
#17#203
#18#8▼10
#19#3213
#20#5333

So to explain what you’re seeing above, I’ve taken the 20 most popular issues in the guide and ordered/ranked them by number of guide lookups in the past year. The first column is the picture of the issue, the second column is the popularity/guide-lookup rank #, the third column is the value rank #, and then the final column shows you how much higher or lower the popularity rank is, versus the value rank. So over the past year, Amazing Spider-Man #238 was the most looked up issue in the guide (versus #3 for value), Amazing Spider-Man #252 was the second most looked up issue in the guide (versus #10 for value), Secret Wars #8 was the third most looked up issue (versus #9 for value), etc.

I find this comparison very interesting (and I hope you do too), and perhaps the biggest stand-out here is Web of Spider-Man #1, which is wildly popular on hits as the #13-most-looked-up issue in the entire guide, versus #54 in value. Similarly, Batman #404 is the #20-most-looked-up issue in the guide, and sits down at #53 for value. ASM #265 marks another stand-out. Does this popularity portend future upward movement in value for these issues? Time will tell!

What factors drive the hits/popularity of different CPV issues? As part of the Bronze and Copper ages, part of the answer — whether we like it or not — may be movie hype and speculation (and when speculators go after particular issue numbers, that inevitably impacts the market value of the price variants of those same issue numbers). As Marc Sims of Big B Comics put it in his OPG #50 market report:

“Bronze and Copper Age sales in my view are, more than any other sector of the market, driven by speculation and movie/TV hype. This also means that there is a big focus on CGC 9.8 copies. The two seem to go hand in hand. I have said it many times in my reports over the years, and I will say it again. I think it foolish to pay huge premiums for 9.8 copies when you can have a nice tight 9.4 for a fraction of the price. More often than not you are paying for an arbitrary .2 or .4 on a label, not the comic itself. Always buy the book, not the label!”
— Marc Sims, Big B Comics Barrie; OPG #50 page 161

I really like Marc’s advice here about the relative value of lower-than-9.8 copies. Witnessing some of the sales in the CPV niche in 9.8 over the past year, versus the same issues in 9.2-9.6, it really is quite remarkable how much more money people are willing to pay for that 9.8 label. Yet, one of the things I’m sure many of us have all experienced, when having a book re-graded (whether switching from one grading company to another, or getting an already-graded book signed under Signature Series, or just “trying for an upgrade” by having an already-graded book re-graded) is that 9.6’s often become 9.8’s, and 9.8’s often become 9.6’s (or even lower!), sometimes in seemingly arbitrary/luck-based fashion.

Most of us seem to try to continually upgrade our collections of CPVs, trading out of lower grades and into even-better copies, but perhaps it is time to have a serious conversation about the merits of the idea of purposely downgrading, i.e. selling 9.8’s for the huge market premium, and holding onto (or acquiring new) near-mint-range copies of the same issues? This strategy might be especially rewarding when there is a surge of TV/Movie-driven demand for a given issue. I haven’t done this myself, but it is something to think about!

As far as specific books with future TV/movie potential, Angelo Virone has some great discussion in his report here. There were also a lot of titles and issues that were specifically mentioned in Overstreet #50 market reports in connection with movies and/or television. One example of such an issue with a CPV is Star Wars #68, which Joseph Fiore reported on as follows:

“The hit TV series The Mandalorian has created a seemingly unending buzz of interest for Boba Fett’s first appearance in comics, original art, and toys. … I can’t seem to ever stock enough copies of Marvel Star Wars #42 or any 75¢ cover priced copies of #68.”
— Joseph Fiore, ComicWiz.com; OPG #50 page 124

Thor #337 was another issue getting specific mention in the OPG #50 market reports, for example in Steve Mortensen’s report:

“Marvel and DC Canadian variants have also sold well. Thor #337 Canadian Variant sold in CGC 9.8 for $700 in October of 2019 while a U.S. edition sold in November of 2019 for $480. Canadian variants generally sell for 50-100% more than their U.S. counterparts.”
— Steve Mortensen, Miracle Comics; OPG #50 page 147

Recent strong sales of Thor #337 are no doubt driven by Beta Ray Bill’s first appearance, with speculation about future Thor movies. In Russ Bright’s market report, he mentioned Moon Knight books as another character being increasingly sought after:

“Fringe characters (Moon Knight, Werewolf by Night) are more sought after than ever. Some of this can be expected by the age of the consumer. The average comic book consumer is in their mid 30s to mid 40s which leads to… Strength in ’90’s comics!”
— Russ Bright, Mill Geek Comics; OPG #50 page 108

His point about age groups is a great one; certainly part of the growth in demand for Bronze, Copper, and now early Modern age keys is driven by nostalgia for comics (and cartoons) experienced during childhood, by people who now are reaching the age where they have extra income. And as an adult, a collector is more likely to comprehend the direct edition versus newsstand difference, and what that means for the specific copies they should target when re-collecting old favorites (which naturally will lead them to discovering newsstand comics and in turn CPVs). This same age group also has nostalgia for the video games of their childhood too, a trend mentioned in multiple OPG #50 market reports, including the report by Doug Sulipa, who wrote:

“WATA has started to professionally grade video games, with many already bringing record prices. This trend has transferred into all the video game related comics. Blip is now a red hot title from Marvel. All the Nintendo titles (Mario, Zelda, Game Boy, etc.) now sell Raw in the $10 to $40 each price range, and $100+ graded by CGC. Other titles to buy now while they are still cheap are: Atari Force, Double Dragon, Knuckles, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Figher, and Tomb Raider.”
— Doug Sulipa, Doug Sulipa’s Comic World; OPG #50 page 166

Another trend that received a fair amount of attention in the Overstreet #50 market reports, which certainly seems like it has “spilled into” the CPV niche as far as creating additional demand, is the growing cohort of collectors who specifically look outside of US borders for different versions of key issues. One Overstreet Advisor who wrote about this niche was Timothy Kupin:

“The market that seems to be gathering a lot of new interest is the foreign comic book market. It’s also the niche market that I find most interesting. I’ve been accumulating foreign comics or international editions for decades now and until five years ago had no idea how many people worldwide were international comics collectors. I have personally paid real money for a number of international editions of key comics. I’ve also begun doing what a lot of the international collectors are doing and that is actively putting together redundant cover sets. For example, I have Conan #1 from seven countries in ten different editions.”
— Timothy Kupin, Koops Comics; OPG #50 page 139

His note about “redundant cover sets” echoes what Tim Bildhauser has talked about in the past [here, for example], which is that one of the main “styles” of collecting comics that has grown in popularity in recent years is assembling what is referred to as a “set” for any given targeted issue.

A “set” collector targeting Amazing Spider-Man #239, for example, will want all the different types they can possibly find: sometimes all three of the US-published types — the direct edition type, the 60¢ newsstand type, and the 75¢ newsstand type (the CPV) — but also any foreign-published editions they can find as well that match up (books published in Mexico, Australia, etc.).

What more dealers are beginning to realize, is that if they were to have in their inventory, say, a L’Incroayble Hulk #39, that this book is the French Canadian “match-up” comic to Incredible Hulk #180 — so at a show, if they put that French Canadian book up next to their regular copy of Hulk #180, potential buyers looking for #180 are now potentially going to be curious, and ask, “what’s that other one next to it?” This sales technique is starting to really catch on, with Tim Bildhauser reporting in his OPG #50 market report that he has noticed more dealers doing this at the many comic cons he attended throughout 2019:

“As anyone that reads the market reports knows, mine is focused on international editions. During the course of 2019 I attended 30 conventions throughout the year and I can’t recall a single one of them where there wasn’t at least a couple of dealers with a few books on their wall from various countries outside the States.”
— Tim Bildhauser, CBCS International Comics Specialist; OPG #50 page 104

Putting up key books grouped “in sets” of different versions next to one another, sounds like a smart move for dealers looking to tap into this growing collecting style. An “eBay equivalent” sales technique would be either to (a) group books into sets and create a listing for the full set, or (b) still sell the books individually but list the international book not titled as, say, “L’Incroayble Hulk #39 Fine Condition” (which nobody would ever find if their keyword search is “incredible hulk 180”), but rather, as, e.g. something like “Incredible Hulk #180 French Canadian Version, L’Incroayble Hulk #39 Fine Condition” — which collectors looking for Incredible Hulk #180 will then see in the search results; and some percentage of people will inevitably be curious and click through.

The keywords included in a listing title in general are incredibly important to online selling, as Jef Hinds discussed in his OPG #50 report:

“A word on the proven importance of keywords in online listings. There are collectors of everything. Keywords having to do with professions and sports and others greatly increase the chance of a sale. Especially good ones I have found are Golf, Chess, Dentist, Baseball, Tennis, Skiing, etc. There are many more.”
— Jef Hinds, Jef Hinds Comics; OPG #50 page 129

When it comes to keywords people are using in their titles when listing Canadian Price Variant newsstand comics, I notice that “CPV” is increasingly present in titles — when I search eBay today on just the keyword “CPV” in the Comics category, there are 1,180 results. I hope that use of this CPV keyword continues to catch on, over on eBay and elsewhere. Perhaps it will become one of those abbreviations that eBay “learns” over time (e.g. eBay has learned “TMNT” — whereby if your title has “TMNT” in it but not “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, eBay will still show your listing to people searching on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” … this TMNT shortcut can save a lot of space in the title for other important keywords; eventual similar treatment of “CPV” by eBay would be fantastic for that same reason).

A new feature that eBay recently introduced is the ability to place a buy-it-now item on sale to the specific users who have added it to their watchlist. [If you have ever added a comic to your watchlist, and some time later an email appeared in your inbox where the seller sent you a special discounted offer, they used that feature.] If you come across a book that interests you, but find yourself thinking that the price is just a little too high, I recommend adding the book to your watchlist anyway — because you never know, the seller might send you one of these special offers. And if they check a certain box when doing so, then you can in turn send a counter-offer and get a negotiation rolling.

This really isn’t all that different from the “best-offer” listings which are already widely in use… But something to know about this new feature, is that in the eBay Sold Listings section, while you can easily identify which ones were best-offer-accepted listings, there meanwhile is currently no way to know if a buy-it-now listing was actually discounted by way of one of these offers. In other words, at present, eBay will show a “slash” through the asking price of a best-offer-type listing where an offer was accepted, but will show the un-crossed asking price for all buy-it-now listings regardless of whether they were sold using this new discounted-offer feature or not. Thus, an unfortunate side effect of this new eBay feature is that we must keep in mind that some portion of buy-it-now sales shown to us by eBay may actually have gone for a lower price than the number shown. Fortunately, results of auctions still remain a reliable indicator for true eBay sales prices.

Another factor that has recently come into play with eBay sales is state-level sales tax. As far as reported prices, eBay is showing the price before sales tax. So in actuality, the all-in cost of the comic could be notably higher. This was mentioned in quite a number of Oversteet #50 market reports. For example, Conan Saunders wrote as follows:

“The largest impact on comic sales in 2019, if not specifically comic prices, was South Dakota v. Wayfair, a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to charge sales tax on purchases from out of state sellers. … I’ve heard from several sellers both inside and outside of comics that their eBay sales have faced a significant headwind over the second half of 2019, and I think a big part of that is buyers responding to unexpected new sales tax charges.”
— Conan Saunders, Lone Star Comics; OPG #50 page 157

Alex Reece also had a particularly good discussion of the impact:

“Overarching all of this is something of greater importance than movie hype or even internal market patterns. What I am referring to is the landmark Supreme Court decision that allows states to collect sales tax from large internet companies, even if they do not have a physical presence in said state. At the time of my writing, 42 out of the 50 states have enacted laws based upon this ruling. This affects a vast majority of comic buyers, and is going to affect prices of comic books. We have already seen it. Many of the bigger companies, including the auction houses, are now forced to collect sales tax from everyone who lives in one of those states, and buyers are forced to build the tax into the cost of their purchase. For example, if a buyer was willing to buy a book at auction for $1,000 before the new law, he may now only be willing to purchase it for $910, as he has to factor in the new 10% tax rate of his state. He is still paying close to $1,000 for the exact same book, but the sold price of the book is now reported at $910 instead of $1,000.”
— Alex Reece, OPG #50 page 155

Perhaps driven in part by this new sales tax situation, I keep hearing the word “Instagram” from collectors lately. One said to me, “Ben, Instagram is becoming the new eBay.” Market report contributor James Gilbreath reported earlier this year that his list of Instagram followers to his cpvkingcomics account crossed over the 3,000 mark (and I just looked today and see that now it is above 3,400).

As always, it is interesting and exciting to see how the comic collecting landscape changes and evolves over time. The year 2020 sure has fallen under the category of “interesting times” and to everyone reading this I wish you good health and prosperity in the new year!

Finally, I want to end this market report by sharing page #100 of the Overstreet Price Guide #50 — thank-you to Overstreet Advisor Bill Alexander for honoring me with the invitation to contribute to his market report — here it is below:

Happy Collecting! 🙂

– Ben

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